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Galley Beggar – Heathen Hymns

Galley Beggar
Heathen Hymns
by Mick Michaels at 11 September 2017, 11:55 AM

GALLEY BEGGAR, the six-piece, British folk fusion band released their fourth album “Heathen Hymns” this past April.  The band emanates an eclectic array of musical styles and ambitions that, without a doubt, are inspired by the music escapades of the late 60’s and early 70’s folk rock counter-culture movement. However, there are particular elements that bring the “Heathen Hymns” to another level or dimension of auditory enjoyment, including the seeming deliberate early, pre-digital production quality. GALLEY BEGGAR seems to rouse an even deeper allure as I found the arrangements and the vocal delivery very hypnotic and somewhat other worldly. The album kicks off with the melodic build of “Salome.” The song has sort of an underlying middle-eastern vibe in its texture as the vocals and guitars cut directly through the solid groove of the backbeat, bringing the mood to what can be described as a steady, soaring drive over a desert plain that descends and ascends across the sand dunes.

Track 2 continues with “Four Birds.” A perfect example of the band’s diversity and mixture of their musical approaches as the drums come in with a funky beat that both James Brown and Bootsy Collins would appreciate. The drums are what keep the song focused and tight in its entirety. The repetitive guitar line and the vocal delivery seem to cast a spell, putting you in a trance which gives comfort to the repetitiveness. Tracks 4 and 5, “The Lake” and “Lorelie,” both offer an exceptional acoustical and vocal harmony opening up the album and giving the listener a less intense breath of air.  A certain middle-eastern minstrel quality exists especially with “The Lake.” The delicate percussive aspects of the song, though nestled in the back, subtlety accent the strings while providing strength and refinement. “Lorelei” presents itself like music heard in the court of the king during the High Middle Ages.  The recurring melody conjures images of regality and tradition.

Let No Man Steal Your Thyme,” track 7, comes across as being directly plucked from the psychedelic age… the song’s execution is very reminiscent of that era’s social commentary sound, modernly mixed with The Edge’s (U2) guitar.  Just about midway through, the sound takes on a heavy neck pickup, Hendrix-esque solo, where, to enhance the cosmic trip quality, two soloing parts, one more restrained than the other, are happening within the left and right stereo mix… at the same time. The last song, “My Return,” definitely comes across as the album’s most commercial effort… which is not a bad thing at all.  All the same alluring, repetitive, hypnotic elements are there, just with a bit more of a savvy hook and a lingering sway.

Using the folk format as their base and turning it on its side by invoking elements of rock, acid, and what resembles a modern medieval minstrel, GALLEY BEGGAR has a knack for sweeping the listener away. Subtle emotional cues are laced within and throughout the composition and the arrangements lead me deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. O’Donnell’s vocals are the key element that draws you in… they are hauntingly enchanting… but in such a way that they provide stability and peace.  “Heathen Hymns” contains eight highly, cerebrally charged tracks that solicit your attention.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Salome
2. Four Birds
3. The Girl I Left Behind Me
4. The Lake
5. Lorelei
6. Moon and Tide
7. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
8. My Return
Paul Dadswell – drums, percussion, vocals
David Ellis – guitars, mandolin
Mat Fowler – guitar, mandolin, vocals
Bill Lynn – bass
Celine Marshall – violin
Maria O’Donnell – vocals
Record Label: Rise Above Records


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Edited 23 March 2023

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