The Best Albums of 2015, #13

band0113. Galley Beggar, Silence & Tears (Rise Above)

I’ve been slowly getting more and more into British psychedelic folk as the years have gone on. Part of that has to do with my lifelong habit of expanding my musical horizons, and part has to do with how life has taken me in that direction. The ancient sounds of English folk music and the way psychedelic and acid folk/rock drew upon those influences is hugely fascinating, Paul Giovanni’s soundtrack to The Wicker Man a prime example, and the more I attended the Roadburn festival, the more I was exposed to that kind of music. A great example is the band Comus, whom I wasn’t too familiar with prior to 2014, but when I delved deep into their classic album First Utterance and then saw them perform at the fest not long after, I was floored at the evocative, primitive, pagan sounds they created. So when the new Galley Beggar album arrived in my inbox courtesy Rise Above, one of the very best labels in the business, it scratched that growing itch perfectly. Silence & Tears is rooted firmly in English folk, but like Fairport Convention and Mellow Candle (the latter band was a revelation when introduced to me late this year) Galley Beggar add a bare minimum of rock instrumentation to accentuate it all. So when you combine that with original compositions, a handful of traditionals (“Jack Orion”, “Geordie”), a Lord Byron poem set to original music (“Silence & Tears”), and the sumptuous singing voice of Maria O’Donnell, you’ve got yourself a mystical, hypnotic, seductive album. As pretty as it all sounds, the great appeal of this music to me is that it’s not all skipping along the garden path. There’s a hint of darkness, even menace, underneath it all, and although you are indeed being led down a lush, green English pathway, the band is always mindful to stop every so often, lift the stones, and expose the dirt underneath. (Spotify) (YouTube)