Galley Beggar

The Outlandish KnightReformation House
RowanReformation House
Arise, AriseReformation House
Willow TreeGalley Beggar
Two MagiciansGalley Beggar
Daverne LambGalley Beggar
Hymn to PanGalley Beggar
Pay My Body HomeSilence & Tears
Empty SkySilence & Tears
Silence & TearsSilence & Tears


Galley Beggar playlist



Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

Galley Beggar formed to reinvent or, maybe more accurately, reimagine folk rock for the 21st Century and do a very fine job of it too. With such influences cited as Fairport Convention (Toppermost #56), Steeleye Span (Toppermost #26), Jethro Tull (Toppermost #6) and Led Zeppelin (Toppermost #159). To that list, add shades of Pentangle (Toppermost TBA), and you expect something quite special, and that is exactly what you find.


Galley Beggar photo 2
(publicity photo on the 2017 flyer/concert poster)


Hailing from Kent and London the six piece band are:

Paul Dadswell – drums, percussion and vocals
David Ellis – guitars, mandolin
Mat Fowler – guitars, mandolin, vocals
Bill Lynn – bass
Celine Marshall – violin
Maria O’Donnell – vocals

Mat Fowler has been compared favourably to a young Richard Thompson.

The band has just released their third album. The first was Reformation House in 2010 which was followed by Galley Beggar in 2012. When recording the third, Silence & Tears, the band promised it would have more of a live feel about it. The first two albums are self-released, indeed my copy of Reformation House is simply the CD inside a heavyweight paper sleeve inside a plastic envelope; the packaging for the eponymous second album is a simple cardboard gatefold. But the music inside is what counts, and that is top quality.

I have not necessarily tried to be representative but these are 10 from the 27 tracks available to date that I thought would best illustrate the band’s versatility.

The first album opens with The Outlandish Knight, a reworking of the Ralph Vaughan Williams song that morphs into a traditional dance tune (the inspiration from Fairport’s Matty Groves is unmistakable). Rowan opens with a flute straight out of Jethro Tull that leads into a vocal that could have come directly from Pentangle, and an arrangement that is Galley Beggar’s own – for me, this is the best of the collection thus far. Arise, Arise has all the elements of folk rock laid down in 1969; powerful vocal telling the story, unison playing and a driving drum beat holding it all together, and yet it sounds fresh and new and in no way derivative.

Thus we close the first album and open the second.

The traditional Willow Tree is the opening track on Galley Beggar which is equally laced with original material written in the genre and in the tradition. Two Magicians is another telling of the story from a song that first appeared in print in the 1820s; the blacksmith is determined to take the virginity of a maiden equally determined to keep it. And thus the shapeshifting chase begins with the smith and the maiden transforming into ever exotic shapes, and depending on the version you are listening to, the smith has his wicked way or in some, he doesn’t.

The self-penned traditional-sounding Daverne Lamb tells the story of dancer who falls prey to a bunch of unruly sailors. Hymn To Pan is a full on rock song in tribute to the god of love.

Having signed to Rise Above Records, May 2015 has seen the release of the band’s third album Silence & Tears distributed in full jewel case packaging. This is another eight tracks of quality folk-rock. The album does has an acoustic live feel to it. It’s a quantum leap forward and, although there are a few traditional songs, I want to focus on the quality of the song writing for my final three selections.

Pay My Body Home is a nine minute leviathan of a tale and worthy of its forebears, but truly a Galley Beggar song. Empty Sky has a wonderful ethereal atmosphere with predominantly acoustic instruments and just a hint of electric guitar. Empty Sky has been selected as the first single from the new album. Finally, the title track has everything you want and expect from a Galley Beggar song. It’s a poem by Lord Byron, ‘When We Two Parted’, set to music by the band to very good effect.

I love all three albums and am playing them sequentially at the moment. Seek them out for yourself and decide.

I’ve borrowed my final summary from a review on the Fatea Magazine website written in August 2013 following a gig at the Liverpool Acoustic, View Two Gallery: “Galley Beggar have all the necessary attributes for being a great folk-rock band, namely, superb musicianship and vocals, sympathetic but inventive treatment of traditional songs and the ability to write original material that stands head to head with the traditional. They have a number of excellent songwriters within the band and at least half of their repertoire is self-written, so they have a bright future ahead of them. Watch this space.



Band Announcement 16th January 2023
After 13 years of making music together, we’ve decided to call it a day and move on to explore other projects and adventures. Thank you so much to everyone who showed an interest and came to our shows & bought our albums, we’re truly grateful. Guillotine Spring is the new project from Maria O’Donnell and Mat Fowler.


Galley Beggar facebook

Galley Beggar at Rise Above Records

Galley Beggar biography (Prog Archives)

TopperPost #446

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