GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns (Rise Above Records RISECD208)

Heathen HymnsI have opined before that Galley Beggar’s albums, though excellent in themselves, never quite reflect the live feel of the band. The last album Silence And Tears went some way to redressing this imbalance, but their latest offering, Heathen Hymns, is much more in line with their live performances.

The opener ‘Salome’ is seasoned with eastern spice and is taste of the new direction that Galley Beggar is taking. A progressive rock feel with hints of early Pink Floyd in the mix. The mood and drive continues much in the same vein for ‘Four Birds’.

Back to their traditional folk roots for ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’, though the latter stages of the track has power building as it soars ever skywards before returning to its folk foundation. The middle section of the album is firmly in folk-land. Good tracks all, my favourite being the violin driven ‘Moon And Tide’ and Maria O’Donnell’s pure voice is admirably suited to this style of music.

The penultimate track is my personal pick of the crop. A traditional folk tale given the Galley Beggar prog rock treatment.  Cascading guitar echoing into the stratosphere, inducing flashbacks of psychedelia to this enthralled listener.

The album ends with ‘My Return’ which, in places, has a very similar feel to ‘Salome’. Tasty violin on the bridge of this track and, once again, there is that underpinning of power lurking beneath.

Overall an excellent addition to Galley Beggar’s discography and one I can heartily recommend. If this is your first taste of Galley Beggar, it should leave you wanting more.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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Artists’ website: http://www.galleybeggar.com/wordpress/

‘Moon And Tide’ – official video:

MERRY HELL – A Grand Night Out (Focal Media)

MERRY HELL A Grand Night OutThree albums to the good and a growing reputation, Merry Hell, have seen fit to release a live DVD. Having seen the band perform live and reviewed their last excellent album The Ghost In Our House and other stories…, I slipped the DVD into the player with some anticipation. I was not disappointed.

The selection of songs come from across the three albums and with exception of the elusive ‘No Money’, which I have yet to catch live, all my favourites are in evidence.

The first thing that hit me was the high quality of the sound recording. I actually wondered, initially, if the track was overdubbed, but could see after a few minutes that it was the actual live soundtrack. The performance starts a little restrained and then eases into more comfortable delivery. Not unusual for any live show.

So, what we have here is Merry Hell moving from jig, to light folk to Celtic rock and all colours between. Top of the list, for me: ‘Let’s Not Have A Morning After’, ‘There’s A Ghost In Our House’, ‘The Butcher And The Vegan’ and ‘BLINK… and You Miss It’. Although, I am sure you will all have your own favourites if you are a fan. If you have never heard any of Merry Hell’s music you really are missing out on some damn fine folk/folk rock.

Not seen Merry Hell live? Well, here is the next best thing. Support the band, buy the DVD and have a Grand Night In.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the DVD then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need via the folking store as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘The Baker’s Daughter’:

CANNED HEAT – Songs From The Road (Ruf Records RUF 1218)

CANNED HEAT Songs From The RoadBack in the dim and distant past, in another life, when I was just getting into blues and rock, I encountered the delights of those “Kings of Boogie”, Canned Heat. It’s great to know that 50 years on they are still turning out their unique brand of blues and boogie.

Here is a live compilation of tracks that include the chart hits from their heydays and a whole lot more. If you are a fan you will be familiar with ‘On the Road Again’(the opener), ‘Time Was’, ‘Going Up the Country’, ‘Amphetamine Annie’, ‘Rolling and a Tumbling’ (their first recording) and, of course, ‘Let’s Work Together’. The CD would be worth getting, for those tracks alone.

However, in the mix is not only slick blues and driving boogie, but a surprising amount of jazz too. Just listen to ‘Don’t Know Where She Is’ to see what I mean. Most of the lead vocals are provided by Dale Spalding, who also provides plenty of fat blues harp throughout. Renowned, in the past for their protracted boogie tracks on their albums, they don’t disappoint with the last track ’Euro Boogie’. Thirteen minutes of pure legendary Canned Heat.

As ever, in the Songs From The Road series, this CD comes with an accompanying DVD. This time there are a couple of extra smooth blues tracks that don’t appear on the CD; ‘I’m Her Man’ and ‘Have a Good Time’.

The CDs that I have heard in this series, so far, have all been worth listening to, and this album is no exception. Slap it into your player, volume up to 11, close your eyes and let the boogie take you.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://www.cannedheatmusic.com/

It’s an old film but who cares? ‘Let’s Work Together’:

MAWKIN – The Ties that Bind (Good Form Records MKN004)

TheTiesThatBindHere we have a traditional Celtic folk album, filled with traditional folk offerings, but a peppering of other influences, such as Cajun, blues and country. Mawkin are a home grown five piece band, formed in 2002 and they have been earning themselves a reputation for turning out traditional folk, but with a contemporary cutting edge.

From the outset of the stomping ‘I Can Hew’, you are invited to stamp your feet and dance. There are quite a few danceable tunes on the CD. Not least of these, is the ‘Frenchy Set’, which comprises of three tunes delivered at jig-pace and like many of the tracks, there are some rousing vocals to sing along to. You even have the obligatory drinking song in the aptly titled ‘Jolly Well Drunk’.

No new compositions on the album. They are all traditional tunes given the Mawkin treatment. The band sounds like it is enjoying itself and the songs are such that you can join in the fun by singing to the roaring choruses. The musicianship is exemplary, the arrangements and production expertly handled and not a bad song or filler on the album.

If you are a fan of traditional folk music, you have probably already encountered Mawkin. If you haven’t, there is a hole in your collection!

A thoroughly enjoyable collection of tunes and I’ll bet the band has them jigging in the aisles when they play live.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://www.mawkin.co.uk/

‘Jolly Well Drunk’ live:

MICKE BJORKLOF & BLUE STRIP – Ain’t Bad Yet (Bluesland/Hokahey)

MICKE BJORKLOF & BLUE STRIPThis is the sixth album by Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip, who hail from Finland. It is all top notch blues-rock delivered in a confident and polished manner.

The opening track ‘Last Train to Memphis’ comes hurtling out of the station at a steam driven pace and sets the mood for what is to follow. Swampy slide guitar abounds in the following track “Troublemaker”. There’s a growling guitar intro to ‘Rain in Jerusalem’ and Micke’s voice punches out lyrics. The title track is a slow blues ballad with a spartan feel in comparison to the rest of the album. ‘Rat Chase’ has a funky groove to it and breaks the mould of the more traditional songs on here. The CD concludes with one of my personal favourites ‘Blame it on the Bright Lights’ and then the chanting slow burner ‘In Chains’.

All the members of the band are on form and there are some particularly tasty guitar licks and blues harp playing. Plenty of variety in the styles of blues being played here and there isn’t a poor track amongst them.

The band formed in 1991 and the current line-up has been together for fifteen years and it shows in the professionalism and production of this offering. Only eleven tracks, so, not the longest album in the world, but they are all quality.

If you like the blues, this is definitely one for your collection.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.mickebjorklof.com/en/

Album trailer – filmed in Wales!

THEA GILMORE – Ghosts & Graffiti (FullFill Records FCCD 165)

THEA GILMORE Ghosts&GraffitiA mixed bag, jam packed with 20 tracks from the talented Miss Thea Gilmore. Some older tracks and some brand new tracks to encounter. The songs are often woven around intelligent, inventive and sometimes just plain strange lyrics; as in the case of “Razor Valentine”.

Not all the tracks hit the mark in my opinion, but there is such a rich selection that a small wobble here and there is no big deal. There are an array of guest artists on the album, such as Joan Baez, King Creosote and The Waterboys, adding variety and counterbalance to the songs. From upbeat rocking style to mournful ballad (and even, dare I say it, folk) [yes, you dare – Editor], this album covers the ground in style.

It’s incredible to think that some of the tracks on this album stretch back some 17 years and yet still come over as relevant. Age has not dated them.

Stand out tracks, for me? The opener ‘Copper’, ‘Start as We Mean to Go On’, ‘Coming Back to You’ ‘Razor Valentine’, ‘Sol Invictus’ and ‘Wrong with You’. Plenty of other goodies in the bag, but these are the tracks that pressed my buttons on the first play.

So if you acquire this CD you are getting a potted history of Thea Gilmore’s musical work, with the added bonus of new tracks. Plus a glossy booklet which has an introduction by the author Neil Gaiman, who became a fan of Thea Gilmore in the early years.

So, a thumbs up for Ghosts & Graffiti. Well worth the money in your pocket or adding to your birthday list.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.theagilmore.net

‘Coming Back To You’ – the official video: