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Galley Beggar - Galley Beggar CD (album) cover

GALLEY BEGGAR

Galley Beggar

 

Prog Folk

3.00 | 1 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars This self titled release is actually the second by GALLEY BEGGAR, a characteristic that seemed more common in the 1970s. Only 2 years had elapsed since "Reformation House", but they ushered in a 50% changeover in personnel and a decidedly more rock attitude to admittedly very folk based selections. New lead singer Maria O'Donnell is well suited to the harder edged delivery, and new fiddle player Celine Marshall adds moxie. The purity of the mandolin remains central to their sound, but much more electric guitar rides the arrangements. This still isn't quite in the realm of TREES but is trending in that direction. The primary creditors are still FAIRPORT CONVENTION/STEELEYE SPAN.

The album opens well with "Willow Tree" which borrows a bit from early CLANNAD in meter and gentility until the lead guitar bust out for the last couple of minutes, dialing up the urgency. Several other traditional oriented pieces are not only well chosen but, most importantly, arranged in a manner that pays respects to prior standards while establishing their own brand in the lexicon. "Two Magicians" will be difficult to displace from your musical memory, and, while it can't quite approach the perfection of the IAN ANDERSON-produced STEELEYE version, it's nonetheless a triumphantly told tale of conflict, and ultimately, loss. "Nottamun Town" is wisely most faithful to that of FAIRPORT which was one of that band's best ever performances, and, while "John Barleycorn" is revved up in comparison to TRAFFIC's standard, it's far rewarding than the STEELEYE version. They even manage the unthinkable, a chorus that does little more than chant the title a few times and somehow augments the impact of this pre pre pre prohibition treatise.

Once again, though, it's an "R" song that snatches the prize, the energetic "Rendall", with a near a capella chorus of exquisite male and female harmonies, that shifts away from the narrative of the verses; glistening mandolin bridges, and finally an accomplished lead guitar outro over bubbling percussions like something out of early HORSLIPs.

While "Lady Grey", "Hymn to Pan", and "Birds and Fishes" all occasionally approach the above standards, overall they seem less stimulating and dynamic, while "Daverne Lamb" is in the vein of "Matty Groves" or even "Byard's Leap" by DECAMERON off their debut, but lacking their epic qualities. As a result, the heavier instrumental breaks don't sprout organically from the roots of these song, instead spread at the end like a 5th coat of paint in a different color.

While about half the tracks point the way to an ever more exultant future, this album lacks the consistency and balance to tip the scales into the "excellent" zone. Still, I recommend it to most fans of the above bands. 3.5 stars it is, rounded down.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |

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