Originally published on State.ie
Old school indie fans will know that any animated pub discussion about The Fall inevitably degenerates into reminiscence about that band’s almost innumerable personnel changes – the legendary whipping boys and girls who did their best before falling foul of Mark E. Smith’s iron thumb, and which particular line-up was the best.
A similar discourse could easily be undertaken among folk aficionados about English stalwarts Steeleye Span, who are celebrating their 45th anniversary with a couple of Irish dates. Since their inception in 1969, Steeleye’s membership has been graced with a succession of musicians who themselves have become part of folklore: Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, The Pogues’ Terry Woods and influential English folk revivalists Tim Hart and Martin Carthy, to name a few of their alumni.
Singer, founder member and virtuoso spoons-player Maddy Prior may not quite be Steeleye Span’s answer to Mark E. Smith – she had some time out from the band herself between 1997 and 2002 – but her sweet-tonsilled contribution to the best of the electric-folk band’s many and varied artworks make her the closest thing they have to a mainstay. ‘Steeleye Span is like a bus,’ she once explained. ‘It goes along, and people get on and get off it. Sometimes the bus goes along the route you want to go, and sometimes it turns off, so you get off.’
In many ways, the anniversary is just another milestone for Steeleye, as they have an album to promote. Released last year, their 22nd LP Wintersmith is based on Terry Pratchett’s ‘Tiffany Aching’ series of Discworld books, proving that even 45 years on, they’re still looking for unusual sources of inspiration. Continue reading