Rise Above Records will release Galley Beggar’s new album, Heathen Hymns, on April 28th.
“We’ve always been compared to folk rock bands, but we haven’t always fitted into the genre exactly,” says Galley Beggar vocalist Maria O’Donnell. “We’ve gone to folk festivals, but because we’re electric we don’t fit in there. People like to put us in boxes, and I suppose folk rock is the closest thing. We’re quite happy being different!”
To reduce Galley Beggar’s allure down to a simple matter of folk rock revivalism would be foolish. With a sound that incorporates all manner of unexpected elements while always celebrating the mischievous spirit of folk music across the centuries, these Kentish chameleons have been steadily earning a formidable reputation since forming back in 2009. Over the course of three acclaimed albums – Reformation House (2010), Galley Beggar (2012) and Silence & Tears (2014), the band’s first for Rise Above Records – Galley Beggar have pulled off the neat trick of simultaneously honouring and upgrading the psychedelic folk rock template, both reveling in the simple magic of acoustic instrumentation and joyfully harnessing the lysergic power of the electric too. And now they are poised to release their fourth and finest album, Heathen Hymns. A dizzying blend of the traditional and the untried, it’s a record full of absorbing musical stories that showcase a newfound lust for experimentation.
For all its many detours down psychedelic rabbit warrens and shadowy, fog-shrouded footpaths, Heathen Hymns is still an album with melody and humanity at its core. Fresh originals like the hypnotic “Four Birds” and the woozy raga rock of “Moon & Tide” wield an insidious charisma, but it’s the way Galley Beggar’s collective ingenuity collides with the sacrosanct likes of traditional standards “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” [here featuring a guest vocal from Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees] and “The Girl I Left Behind Me” that confirms this album as both an unequivocal triumph for creativity and a platinum-plated treasure trove for aficionados everywhere.
Although already firmly established in folk rock circles, Galley Beggar’s greatest achievement to date is arguably their ongoing assimilation into the world of heavy music. Aided by their association with Rise Above, the band are picking up fans from both the metal and the prog worlds, their reliably idiosyncratic flair ensuring that all but the most cynical punters will eventually be drawn towards the GB web.
“We do take a lot of inspiration from heavier bands, so it’s great that the rock and metal audience are starting to embrace us,” says Maria. “However, all of us have a varied taste and grew up listening to loads of different things, so we just take a little bit from everything along the way”.
2016 was a relatively quiet year for Galley Beggar but as Heathen Hymns begins to cast its spell on the psychedelic (and not so psychedelic) hordes, it seems that Maria and her comrades are ready, willing and eager to hit the road and share these new bursts of dazzling sonic light with the masses.