There are bands who seem to have always been there and have established a reputation that even allows them to break out into the mainstream on occasions. Steeleye Span are one such band and this year they celebrate their 50th Anniversary with a brand new record Est’d 1969. Perhaps you would expect some kind of retrospective and you might reasonably expect ‘All Around My Hat’ to appear at some stage. However as lead vocalist Maddy Prior said in a recent radio interview, with Brian Player on Wey Valley Radio, “We’ve done a couple of “Best of..” type albums and I think we’ve covered that, and I thought for our 50th we should do something new.” They certainly have produced something new, and very good, being familiar enough for people who have followed them from the start to feel at home with whilst being fresh enough to appeal to new ears.
The album is a mixture of new songs, along with the traditional, but it has that distinctive sound of Steeleye Span to it. The album opens with ‘Harvest’ and I’m sure that a lot of people, without knowing in advance who the band are, would recognise them within ten seconds. If they didn’t get it from that then after twenty seconds there would be no doubt at all in their minds. A close harmony opening, very reminiscent of ‘Gaudete’, gives way to a rollicking folk song that is going to go down a storm at festivals and live shows with a chorus you can’t help but sing along to “And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home.”
Of the nine track on the album it’s difficult to pick which ones to talk about because there’s such a range across it. Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’ is dominated by Maddy Prior’s voice, deeper than it was but still beautiful, and with a surprisingly detailed backing that doesn’t detract from the words.
Of the traditional songs ‘The Boy And The Mantle’ (Child Ballad 29) is an saga lasting over six minutes and demonstrates the best of prog rock folk, with a harpsichord and electric guitars adding to the effect.
Although the track listing is nine there are actually ten tracks as ‘Domestic’ has two songs in it, the second of which gratifyingly starts with “As I walked out one May morning” to show without doubt folk is the heart of Steeleye Span’s music. This also harks back to The Silly Sisters, being a song Maddy used to sing with June Tabor. The men don’t particularly come out well on either track.
Est’d 1969 has a huge range, different styles and tempos and new band members bringing their own influences but retaining the core sound in an evolution rather than rebellion. Over fifty years cycles begin to appear so Benji Kirkpatrick is now part of the band, following in father John’s footsteps. Given all the changes how is that sound maintained? Maddy Prior again “It’s very interesting having new people, young people, who don’t know a lot about traditional music…they think they know what it is before they join us and then they discover it’s much more complex than that”.
There are a couple of chances to see Steeleye Span play at festivals over the summer but then also a major tour in November and December; full details are on the website. If you can’t wait until then to get Est’d 1969, and you shouldn’t, it’s released on 28th June and is available from Park Records
Happy Birthday, Steeleye Span, 50 years young and still making a huge contribution to the folk scene. Long may it continue.
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Park Records are delighted to announce the release of EST’D 1969 from Steeleye Span on 24 June 2019 ahead of UK dates later in the year. This is a new collection of songs, featuring contributions from all seven of the band members [with a guest appearance from Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on ‘Old Matron’]. EST’D 1969 captures the ethos of the heritage and history of the band itself, but also the rich vein of tradition that they draw inspiration from, but remains fresh and contemporary. This is a celebration of 50 years but the band continues to look to the future.
‘Space Oddity’. ‘Suspicious Minds’. ‘Pinball Wizard’. ‘Whole Lotta Love’. ‘Come Together’ – 1969 could easily be said to be a vintage year for music, the end of a decade that changed the world and the introduction to one that would prove equally inspirational. It would also see the birth of a band that would start as an idea to electrify traditional music and would go on to become one of the most enduring stories in the folk world and beyond. Over the past fifty years, Steeleye Span have come to define the concept of English folk rock – taking it from the world of small clubs into the charts, concert halls and festivals around the globe.
The story of their career has included incredible moment after incredible moment – taking Latin carol ‘Gaudete’ onto Top Of The Pops, recording with David Bowie and Peter Sellers, showering their audiences with pound notes, scoring a top five hit with ‘All Around My Hat’, touring UK arenas with Status Quo, reuniting virtually all their members for a famous 25th anniversary show and entering their fifth decade as creatively inspired and active as ever – including the acclaimed Wintersmith album with Sir Terry Pratchett.
Featuring some of the most famous names in folk music from down the years (Martin Carthy, Tim Hart, Bob Johnson, John Kirkpatrick, Peter Knight, Ken Nicol, Liam Genockey), the band has perhaps been most identified with Maddy Prior – one of the most distinctive voices in British music. Helping found the band with her musical partner Tim Hart, she has steered Steeleye through their various incarnations, as well as a successful solo career and a number of regular collaborations with the likes of June Tabor and The Carnival Band. Steeped in the mythology and history of the British Isles – and beyond – her lyrics have retold some of the most notable stories in the tradition. Tales of love, tragedy, injustice, murder, revenge and redemption – all have come to personify the band’s musical sound, a marrying of folk tunes with the finest in rock instrumentation.
As they celebrate their milestone anniversary with EST’D 1969, Steeleye Span show no signs of slowing down. Releasing seven studio and four live albums since the turn of the century, their current seven piece line-up ranks as one of the strongest of their long history and features John Kirkpatrick’s son Benji amongst others. The band perform this summer at Glastonbury, Cornbury and Beautiful Days Festivals and will be touring the UK extensively in Winter 2019.
They’re still doing it. ‘All Around My Hat’ – live:
Thursday 14th November Hedon Zwolle (HOLLAND)
Friday 15th November Concertzaal Tilburg (HOLLAND)
Saturday 16th November Duiker Hoofddorp (HOLLAND)
Sunday 17th November Paard Den Haag (HOLLAND)
Wednesday 11th December The Haymarket Basingstoke
As the curtain was raised on another year of The Great British Folk Festival – it was for me my first year at this event – a newbie to a festival that has now established itself at a major player on the folk festival circuit. Being my first trip, I wanted to pre-book a couple of interviews with some of the artists that were performing – and one person I was interested in finding out more about, was the ex Steeleye Span, Albion Band and Magna Carta guitarist and singer Ken Nicol.
The set and performance was excellent… one man… two guitars and a ukulele with a few great heart warming stories thrown in that held and enthralled the audience.
Over the years, Ken Nicol has built up a huge reputation as a singer songwriter – and a fairly useful… in fact totally brilliant guitarist in his own right. Ken tours regularly all over the world and has a growing legion of loyal fans. I was intrigued to find out more about the man and his work – and caught up with him after he opened the festival on ‘Reds Stage’ in Skegness. We spoke about performing solo, medication, health and spiritual song writing.
This is what he had to say.
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Welcome to the 2017 Folking Awards. Last year’s inaugural poll was such a success that we had to do it again. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with sweat, tears and not a little blood by the Folkmeister and the Editor.
There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have been featured in the pages of folking.com in 2016.
As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes. However, its not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.
Soloist Of The Year
Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater
O’Hooley & Tidow
Show Of Hands
Afro Celt Sound System
Harp And A Monkey
Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitor Band
Best Live Act
The James Brothers
Robb Johnson and the My Best Regards Band
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Mad Dog Mcrea
Tall Tales & Rumours – Luke Jackson Ballads Of The Broken Few – Seth Lakeman/Wildwood Kin Preternatural – Moulettes Somewhere Between – Steve Pledger Dodgy Bastards – Steeleye Span
Rising Star Act
The Brewer’s Daughter
Said The Maiden
Emily Mae Winters
Best International Act
The public vote closed Midday Saturday 22 April 2017 and the winners have now been announced HERE
If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above.
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In an age when it is not uncommon for an artist to take five years to follow up a successful album, the creativity that Steeleye Span displayed in their early years is still astonishing. In the decade between their debut and 1980’s Sails Of Silver, they released twelve records alongside touring the world and enjoying a string of hits. Now with their 50th anniversary fast approaching, the band have come close to matching that work rate – readying themselves for the release of Dodgy Bastards, their eighth album in twelve years.
Such inspiration has come both from the individuals involved (Steeleye mainstays Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp and Liam Genockey alongside Jessie May Smart, Andrew Sinclair and Julian Littman in the current line-up) and the source material. Having set the writings of the late Terry Pratchett to music on the successful Wintersmith album and revisited their own past on 2015’s Catch Up, this latest outing finds them returning to the folk tales and characters that have always been at the heart of the Steeleye sound.
Dodgy Bastards draws on the work of 19th century American scholar Francis James Child and his collection of English and Scottish Ballads. The album is appropriately titled, containing stories of murder, religion, incest, skulls, honour killings and tormented spirits – the perfect subject material for Steeleye Span’s dark take on the music of the British Isles.
Such epic tales require a suitable musical backdrop and the record is firmly in the band’s classic musical mould. ‘Brown Robyn’s Confession’ sets the tone but with a new twist, violinist Jessie May Smart taking the lead vocal before the distinct tones of Maddy Prior join her on the striking chorus. Elsewhere each member plays their part, allowing the music to explore a variety of different paths as the songs ebb and flow in keeping with their characters and events – with Prior and Littman even adding a spoken word / rap element to long time band favourite ‘Boys Of Bedlam’.
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It is that time of year again and I had an invite to join the lads from folking.com and ‘do’ the 2016 Cropredy Festival. As a Cropredy virgin and non-camper, three days before the event I was filled with trepidation and angst, although the music beckoned! How could you not with such a line up?! This is what kept me going.
I arrived at Folkmaster Towers the day before, to be greeted by camping equipment and God knows what else – strewn all over the front lawn. Were we packing for the army? Decisions of which tent to take, go wash this, do that, but it kept my mind off sleeping in a cow field the next night! I announced I had bought a pop up tent for the occasion as it was quick and easy to put it up, I confidently said, I was told they are a nightmare to put down……..that’s another story!!! A visit to Waitrose followed the front lawn episode.
The day dawned. We were to meet the rest of the team at the ungodly hour of 7am at a service station over an hour and a half away. Everyone turned up at the appointed time, and we sped off in convoy to all arrive at the same time, to be in the same field and set up the Folking.com camp. Paul turned up with a transit van, complete with proper bed, fairy lights, toilet but no kitchen implements or the food and cooking equipment he was supposed to be bringing.
Great start but we had a laugh! We ended up in Field 4, full of cow pats but no cows thankfully. My tent went up a breeze with the help of the wonderful Chris, but our Beloved Leader was hampered by a slight drizzle and size of his tent, and then fluffed about filling it with comfy mattress and everything including the kitchen sink. Jon, Chris myself and Paul just amused ourselves while we were waiting the two and a half hours it took him to create the classic boudoir experience for himself which was only marred by the forgotten sarong which was meant to have provided some sort of Bedouin shade.
Onwards to The Field…. The Festival was opened by Fairport MC – Anthony John Clarke and Thursday kicked off with a Fairport Acoustic set, lots of people already in attendance and we had a good view from where we were, and two huge screens were either side the stage for those further back.
I was on photo duty, so could get to the stage area easily to capture the artists. One of the acts – Coco And The Butterfields were a new name to me and were suggested by Debs Earle and her daughter Rosie from Folk In The Barn, to the Fairport Team, and a good choice. Energetic vocals from these Canterbury buskers.
These were ably followed by Hayseed Dixie, whom I have wanted to see for ages. A rip-roaring Bluegrass Rock with attitude!
Madness with front man Suggs, completed the first day as Headliners. They certainly didn’t disappoint and belted out their hits and more with gusto.
We returned to our tents. I discovered a hill where my head was going to be and managed 4 hours sleep!
Friday dawned very hot, not normal Cropredy weather I’m told , went off for a shower to find the Cricket Pavilion showers blocked. I was the last one and was told I couldn’t have a shower there. Darren suggested that I should have used the excellent Fairport free ones (which he promised to point out to me, but never actually got round to doing). This advice was provided after he paid his two pounds fifty at the Cricket Pavilion, had queued, showered and dressed within ten minutes… Well, if it was going to happen to someone… It was going to happen to me! By this time the acts had started and I missed A J Clarke and Peggy, also BBC R2 YFA winner Brighde Chaimbeul, although I could hear them. Thankfully I surfaced for the female rock duo – Sound Of The Sirens who I had seen earlier this year supporting Rick Astley, they are a favourite of R2 presenter Chris Evans, have performed at Glastonbury, and are so energetic and a joy to watch and listen to. Definitely ones to watch out for.
I had to visit the medical tent… again… it could only happen to me… went in to get some different tablets for a water infection as the ones I had were not working and came back out having being wired up to an ECG machine for an irregular heartbeat. I said I had a Festival to go to, was a first time camper, had a shower disaster, had lost my tooth brush, so what did they expect!? If my ticker was dicky it would last until Sunday! (No alcohol had been consumed by the way).
Another band I enjoyed but had heard before were Willie And The Bandits who are labelled as a classic blues rock band, but they are so much more. They have played Glastonbury and all over Europe. The Cropredy crowd loved them.
Next came festival favourites Steeleye Span with Maddy Prior, who had everyone on the field eating out of their hands. Performing a mixture of songs including their latest album – The Wintersmith and of course – All Around My Hat! In 47 years, the band has notched up a family tree of member changes and like Fairport, have been one of the bands responsible for putting folk-rock on the map. They still sound great!
Friday ended with Headliners – The Bootleg Beatles – who have appeared some years ago at Cropredy. As expected, they belted out a variety of Beatle Hits and a couple of dress changes denoted different eras the Beatles went through. “George” wowed the audience with a fantastic rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I think Cropredy were lucky to get them as they are touring all over the world shortly. Apparently they are the most successful Beatles Tribute act ever. I’m not surprised. Fabulous!
After the main act finished, the rest of the crew (all bar Chis and me) headed off to see the other Paul, Mr. Johnson who was camped near the bottom of the disabled field to listen to him do a couple of his own songs as well as meeting up with his daughter and daughters partner “Dave Longboat’ who had lost his way on the Thursday night back to campsite 4, misplaced his footing and ended up in the Canal. Dave asked me to extend his thanks to the Cropredy villagers, who were having a party at the time and came to the rescue with towels. My camping buddy Paul said, “there are only two things that go in a canal, one a longboat and the other is Dave”, hence the name. I believe that the folkmaster penned a poem to mark the occasion and Paul Johnson is rumoured to be writing a tune for it for next year.
Saturday – main day and another hot one in more ways than one – early start for getting a decent spot on The Field. Richard Digance kicked off the day’s proceedings and was so funny. He can sing well too and play a mean old rag! We ended up with 20,000 people plus doing a Morris dance with hankies! Had to be seen to be believed! Good fun.
Other highlights for me were Maia, who call themselves sci-fi folk genre. Certainly different and very watchable. Then we had Gilmore & Roberts who were a duo I had wanted to catch up with and they didn’t disappoint. They played as a four piece band and I enjoyed them very much.
The Pierce Brothers from Australia brought the house down! The brothers were overwhelmed as they had not played such a big crowd before, and seem very humbled by the response they got from the enthusiastic crowd. Fairport’s Simon Nicol said later that The Pierce Brothers had been knocked for six by the audience reaction to their music. Hope to see them back in the UK soon.
Damien Barber and his Demon Barbers was something else! An energetic fusion of song, dancing, hip hop, trad folk, everything all rolled into one. Very visual and entertaining.
Highlight of the Festival for me was the legend who is Ralph McTell. A classic gifted wordsmith, prolific guitarist and a truly genuine guy. The set included, amongst others, Barges, Pepper and Tomatoes and a rousing rendition of From Clare to Here and he had the audience eating out of his hand and rightly so. A truly fabulous performance from our National Treasure. Of course, Streets of London was there as well, and hearing 20,000 or more people singing it, was a joy in itself. You could tell by the huge smile on Ralph’s face when he finally said goodnight that the love was following in both directions with abundance! Lovely that Paul Johnson and Darren (aka Folkmaster) had done such an amazing interview with Ralph the previous day (listen again below).
Fairport Convention ended the evening and the weekend. They opened with some very funny Olympic themed visuals which you can watch again on the “Fairporters” Facebook group if you missed it. Simon Nicol made a superb speech to the memory of Fairport founder virtuoso fiddler Dave Swarbrick, who sadly died a few months ago, but who has left a fantastic musical legacy and will not be forgotten. Dave has inspired so many people to take up the fiddle over the years and will also be remembered for his song writing, sense of humour and character. The compilation of Swarb photos from across the years was also a lovely touch as well.
An outstanding set from Fairport followed which included a guest appearance from 11-year-old blues guitar wonder-boy Toby Lee, who played the lead on ‘Mr. Lacey’ (I think). Plus the traditional ‘Matty Groves’ and of course, ‘Meet On The Ledge’ ending, the point where the field, all twenty thousand of us, unify around the song that examplifies the reason we all go. My team mates and I all linked up together to sing this and felt myself welling up. I had so enjoyed my first Cropredy, been introduced to some new and amazing artists and their music, and was sorry to have to say goodbye for another year. Yes, I will be going next year for Fairport’s 50th year celebration!