Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Steeleye Span - Horkstow Grange (1998)




Released in 1998

This album is notable for Steeleye Span, as it the first the recorded without taliswomanic vocalist Maddy Prior (she would return a few albums later). Here she is replaced by Gay Woods, who had appeared on their 1970 debut “Hark! The Village Wait”. Guitarist Bob Johnson and violinist Peter Knight are still there, though. The album has some drums on a few of the tracks, but it is far more of a folk album, as opposed to a rock one. It also has a strong Irish influence in places (Gay Woods is Irish). It is an album of folky, mournful lamenting and quite an appealing one for it.

“The Old Turf Fire” is an Irish-sounding folk song with a typical solid Steeleye rock backing and the ubiquituous impressive violin from Peter Knight. “The Tricks Of London” is jaunty and re-works the traditional “London Bridge Is Falling Down” song. The title track tells the tale of “Steeleye Span”, a folkloric character from whom the band were named. It is amazing it took them so long to cover this. It is largely a vocal only track, with just a bit of subtle string backing.

"Lord Randall” is a traditional ballad from which Bob Dylan got his inspiration for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. It is a solid, upbeat rock number here. “Erin” is an almost anthemic traditional Irish song with a simply beautiful Peter Knight violin solo in it. “Queen Mary/Hunsden House” is slightly in the same vein, sung beautifully over an appealing, plucked string backing. Gay Woods’ vocal on this whole album is strong, clear and captivating, which is impessive considering she had not sung for quite a while before this unlikely return. “Bonny Birdy” is a male vocal traditional folk number, it is a lively one, with Woods playing the bodhran as backing. “Bonny Irish Boy” continues the Irish folk theme with a haunting ballad.

“I Wish That I Was Never Wed” is a young woman’s lament about her marriage. It is a lively Irish sounding song (although I don’t think it is). “Australia” is a traditional folk number about a man being sent to Australia for petty theft. It is an often sung theme and it is done here, movingly, against a subtle acoustic folk backing. “One True Love” features Tim Harries on lead vocals for the first time on a melodic but plaintive love song. “The Parting Glass” is pretty much Woods singing solo on another ethereal mournful Irish song. Many followers of Steeleye Span were not happy with her being on lead vocals for this album. Personally, I haven’t got a problem with it. She is a different singer to Maddy Prior, the material on here is slightly different, therefore, for me, it becomes an interesting album. It is also quite a moving one in places.

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