Cover Story: (29) Libertango/I've Seen That Face Before. Grace Jones, Kirsty MacColl or Ástor Piazzolla
Cover Story (31): The Little Drummer Boy. Sorry Bing, it's got to be Joan Jett or The Rural Alberta Advantage

Cover Story: (30) Beeswing flies again. Galway Street Club, Maeve Gilchrist and crying for help

Maeve gilchrist - 1

I am proud of much that appears at Salut! Live, hoping my efforts and those of occasional contributors may help to spread word and sound about what is so good about folk, roots and associated musical genres. It can be rushed, even sloppy at times, a function of available time. But it is a labour, essentially, of love.

When someone bothers to post a comment, be it a friend, relative or stranger, I am chuffed to bits. If the stranger happens to be an artist I have mentioned (see recent comments from Jon Boden and Tim Van Eyken), so much the better. It is encouraging if people buy using my Amazon links, knowing that it will help - albeit only a little - towards paying for the site's upkeep.

All the same, it is hard to argue against readership figures that, even after a recent slight upsurge, refuse to climb to any significant extent. If I cannot measure the readership in hundreds, it begins to feel like wasted effort.

I recently highlighted - and supported, to the tune of £50 - the fRoots crowdfunding appeal. It's a great magazine that absolutely deserves to survive whereas Salut! Live seeks little more than a reason to exist with a meaningfully sized audience.

You are here. So if you feel like helping, please do so. If you like what you see and hear at the site, spread the word however you can - by sharing with like-minded friends, linking to Salut! Live on social media, mentions on other relevant sites. If you have ideas on what I should be doing or should not be doing to make the site more attractive, share them. Appeal over ...

Galway Street Club - 1
Salut1 Live's Cover Story series has been running for some time. If you are new to it, the idea is to compare different versions of the same songs. It is not a competition though I express my preferences and so do readers who reply. I believe it is a useful project but hope visitors drawn by it to this site will also find much else to read.

Back to Beeswing, discussed earlier in the series. I have always loved the song. Recently it has become an obsession. I want to learn to play and sing it, however badly, and I love coming across unfamiliar versions. Many give the title as Bee's Wing, which is correct but not what Richard Thompson called his song.

In that earlier instalment of Cover Story, I confessed to a slight preference for the Christy Moore version rather than Thompson's original. Then I delved deeper.

The two Beeswing interpretations I offer now could hardly be more different.

Maeve Gilchrist, Edinburgh-born but living in Brooklyn, NYC, is an accomplished player of the harp, has a beguiling, expressive voice and a serene stage presence. The simplicity of the arrangement, captured live in Massachusetts, perfectly complements Gilchrist's warm, confident delivery.

Galway Street Club are a raucous bunch of Irish west coast blow-ins plus maybe a couple of locals, a band of varying size and nationalities - buskers, students and adventurers who came together by accident and somehow make a great noise.

Their live version suffers from a curious decision to shorten the song, losing key sections [but see Comments below for an explanation]. We are left with a song stripped of some of its soul and a performance consequently to be judged chiefly as a sound. And what a sound it is, James Dillon's rough and ready vocals spot-on and the throbbing accompaniment more viable ensemble than anarchic cacophony.

True comparison of these two versions, or between either of them and the Richard Thompson original or Christy Moore cover, is difficult if not impossible. It is simply a matter of personal taste.

If I opted for the technical superiority of Gilchrist, I would still look out for an occasional fix of the street club's boisterous charm. And I shall be looking up other examples of their work as well as Gilchrist's.

* Check out Maeve Gilchrist's recorded work at the Salut! Live Amazon link:

** The Galway Street Club Facebook page is here; Maeve Gilchrist's site is here


Bill Taylor

I would love to hear the Pogues do this song! As I said in your earlier post, the lyrics are hard-edged and, I think, need the hard-edged delivery that Richard Thompson gives them. Christy Moore doesn't quite manage it and Maeve Gilchrist - no disrespect to her obvious and considerable abilities - doesn't even get close. It's a pretty version of a song that isn't pretty at all and she lost me halfway through.
I expected more from Galway Street Club (perhaps an early clue to my disappointment was the pints of WATER they were passing around before they started; that would never have happened in my day!) though I love James Dillon's voice and there's certainly potential for a really searing rendition. Doesn't happen here, though; the lineup on stage doesn't produce the depth or volume of sound that seemed to be promised. The occasionally off-key fiddling and harmony vocals don't help, nor, of course, do the truncated lyrics. Still, not bad for a somewhat impromptu live version. Next time, though they could perhaps lose a little of the charm and boost the boisterousness.
There's another version on YouTube by a band called the Whistlin' Donkeys (somehow, that apostrophe speaks volumes). I offer it here simply as a comparison... not a very good one; perfunctory with no real feeling or expression. Just sing the song and move on.
For my money, Richard Thompson's original remains head and shoulders above everyone else. Given that the Pogues are no longer extant, I don't see an obvious contender. Though maybe someone could get the song to Shane MacGowan...

Colin Randall

Great comment, Bill, even though we disagree. I think the song works the way the Galway Street Club and, of course, Richard Thompson approach it but also when sung with the panache and, as Joan Dawson put it here in the earliuer discussion, the "softness and the diction" of Christy Moore and, I'd add, Maeve Gilchrist.

If you want more boisterousness and more booze, check out one member, Adnaan - " I’m a farm boy from the Appalachian foothills of New England" - and his enthusiasm for booze and other kinds of street clubbing at He'd have been in his element at the Castle or Aclet folk clubs in Bishop Auckland

Bill Taylor

Oh yeah, I love that! Great version, too, of I Shot the Sheriff. James Dillon is a real talent. Reminds me of the Dropkick Murphys (one of the all-time great names for a band), whose unparalleled live version of Amazing Grace I append here for no particular reason except... why not?

Colin Randall

From 'Tiff Toff Tuffin', of the Galway Street Club, comes an explanation of the shortened version of the song:

'Haha he did it [on purpose] for that gig has we had limited time so we cut some verses.
The recording we have has more.'

It does indeed, though several lines are still missing. I would prefer to hear them sing the song in its entirety but they are entitled to make their own choices. As the late fiddler Dave Swarbrick once said when Martin Carthy asked about an arrangement he was unsure of: "Go for it. You can do anything you want with music. It doesn't mind."

I also mentioned (now deleted) that I could locate no Galway Street Club recording of the song. There is one after all, TTT tells me:
'Hey man just seen you're article there on the street club! Thank you very much it's really appreciated it. You mentioned you can't find a recording of Beeswing, I have a file of the cover album we did in summer and Beeswing is on it, ... '

It's well worth a listen.

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