Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Galley Beggar - Heathen Hymns, album review

Acid Folk Will Do

I read a review just now about Galley Beggar which began with the cliché that their sound is hard to define and then justified this paradoxically by referring to possible mirror sounds and then therefore providing implausible trajectories regarding originality and establishing their own identity.

Nice try. I probably enter this cul-de-sac occasionally myself when reviewing, but I think I defer more generally to precursor sounds, namechecking these echoes, and/or acknowledge the genre-following and, if impressed, refer to the ‘fresh’ approach.

We want to acknowledge individuality, but in so many ways sole artists and bands today can only really provide that ‘fresh’ re-presentation of a type/form/genre/sound.

This is acid folk – it’s what the band call it on their web site. Well, they cleverly say the band is ‘described as’ but do not denounce the naming. Why? Because they are acid folk.

It is pleasant and well played. Singer Maria O’Donnell has an archetypal vocal for this sound, and that is not to diminish the fact it is a mirror/echo/re-presentation of that sound, that acid folk sound. I like the acoustic folk guitar work, as on The Girl I Left Behind, and the very clearly Pentangle-esque The Lake which is pretty damn fine as a familiar folk sound. There’s sitar – not sure from the Personnel list who plays this – and Celine Marshall provides violin among the band’s sweet vocal harmonies.

It is quite a repetitive album, and whilst I’m no particular fan of folk jigs, this would benefit from the occasional injection of pace. It isn't particularly 'heathen'. A pretty version of Let No Man Steal Your Thyme has some punchy electric guitar. The violin does soar a bit too and there is a guitar follow of this as an instrumental jam. I imagine this is nicely far-out live, and I mean that. I also like the Curved Air/Darryl Way violin on closer My Return.

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