Formed in 2009, headed up by singer Maria O’Donnell, the Kent folk-rock sextet Galley Beggar may now be signed to doom metal label Rise Above, but folk music fans needn’t fear that they’ve suddenly embraced shredding riffs, concrete-demolishing bass lines or throat-lacerating vocals.
They have, however, welcomed some acid-rock influences into the mix on their latest album ‘Silence and Tears’ that variously features traditional and self-penned material, most evidently so on a nine minute Pay My Body Home that wanders from a solstice festival suitable sway through psychedelic backward guitar, spaced out riffs and heady drumming to a frenzied finale.
Rather more conventional is their version of the evergreen Jack Orion, the stompalong treatment of which harks back to the formative days of Steeleye Span, though, while opening on a medieval feel, the other traditional tune, a six minute Geordie, brings heavier drums and electric guitar into the mix.
The other non-original, albeit with music written by the band, is the title track Silence and Tears, a renaissance styled setting of Lord Byron’s poem When We Two Parted with O’Donnell accompanied by acoustic guitar.
The album opens with one of their own, Adam and Eve, another medieval styled traditional folk sounding ballad with (appropriately) a snake charmer sway to Celine Marshall’s fiddle accompaniment, while the other originals line up as the swaying gothic-hued Empty Sky which features another powerful solo from Marshall and the album’s closing numbers, the acoustic guitar led, pastoral prog-folk Sanctuary Song and, ending on a high note, the multi-tracked vocal choral tones of Deliver Him which, with streaks of cosmic guitar passing in the background, closes on a pulsing drone.
The band say they want to create “the next phase of English folk-rock” and this album does a damn good job of consolidating the tradition that began with Fairport Convention back in the late 60s.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Rise Above
Order via Amazon
30/05/15 – Weymouth at Wessex Folk Festival
28/06/15 – Leigh-On-Sea at Leigh-On-Sea Folk Festival
29/07/15 – London at 229 – Venue 2