Galley Beggar - Heathen Hymns album review

Minstrels in the galley-ry

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Kent psychedelic folk sextet Galley Beggar have progressed by leaps and bounds since signing to Rise Above and absorbing a soupçon of the label’s doom metal vibe.

This, their fourth album, could be described as a pent-up Pentangle, an arcane aura of Led Zeppelin III prevailing on many tracks. Yes indeed, there be mayhem around the maypole – especially when the electric guitar cuts in and a massive freakout solo erupts, much to the alarm of straw-munching purists no doubt. GB’s music has its roots in dark, mysterious woods and bleak, windswept moors. Maria O’Donnell leads the way with her bewitching singing: a sweet but deadly approach that reels you in like a mythical Siren. While the band’s original songs are no slouches, it’s the two trad standards – The Girl I Left Behind Me and Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – that shine. The former captivates with a refrain to rival Zep’s That’s The Way; the latter features a mesmerising turn by guest vocalist Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees. Elsewhere Lorelei resembles a sparse, chilling lullaby; The Lake is a shadowy affair featuring just guitar, sitar and cello; Four Birds is how Blackmore’s Night would sound if the members were evil mutants.