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BEGGAR’S BRIDGE - Short Stories, Tall Tales

BEGGAR’S BRIDGE - Short Stories, Tall Tales
Private Label BBCD2

Hull-based six-piece Beggar’s Bridge hereby presents its second album, a worthy successor to 2012’s Riding East, which sets out its impressive stall of well-crafted original songs (by the writing team of guitarist/mandolinist Alan Catton and principal vocalist Mark Pollard) inspired by the characters, legends and events of Yorkshire’s East Riding. The band sound is loosely folk-rock in nature, but more acoustically driven, with guitar, violin (Dave Watts) and whistle (Sam Martyn) forming the key melodic texture underpinned by a particularly solid, well-defined bass line (Martin Hainstock) and sensitively managed percussion (David “Spud” Jordan).

Subjects tackled with vigour, passion and understanding on this latest offering include maritime history (The Gamecock Fleet recounts the Dogger Bank trawling incident of 1904, while The Devil’s Claw profiles the hard life of a Grimsby stoker), famous characters (notorious burglar and murderer Charlie Peace, reputed witch Peg Fyfe, and North Riding farmer Hannah Hauxwell aka Daughter Of The Dales). Local memories are powerfully evoked on Looking For Emily Street and the 12-bar-bluesy Had It All, and landscape on the attractively animated rambling instrumental, By The Cleveland Way, while Fire And Steel pays tribute to a near-vanished industry. Only the opening track, the politically motivated exhortation Don’t Forget, doesn’t quite make the impact it should (and I found its relatively plain, rather workmanlike melody quite inexplicably put me in mind of early Jefferson Airplane!). Finally, even though Beggar’s Bridge specialise in original songs, they also show a more than capable hand in adapting traditional song with The Bonny Black Hare and My Barney (the latter sporting a distinct early-Steeleye feel, with Sam taking the lead vocal role).

All in all, Beggar’s Bridge have given us an enthusiastic modern-day folk-rock album that’s strongly rooted in timeless storytelling and folk tradition, with writing the benchmark of whose craft is pitched well above the routine.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 112 of The Living Tradition magazine.