THE green willow of longevity encircles Maddy Prior and her latest band, more than 50 years after the founding of Steeleye Span and now touring the UK in celebration.
More or less every British folk performer has done time with the band over the years. Three years from the start, Dorset-born Rick Kemp from Little Hanford, joined, serving as bassist, composer, vocalist and guitarist. Add in Benji Kirkpatrick, Peter Knight, Tim Hart, Ashley Hutchings, Gay and Terry Woods, Martin Carthy, Bob Johnson, Nigel Pegrum. John Kirkpatrick … all of them “official” members of the remarkable band that took folk rock to the top of the charts and unaccompanied plainsong to the Top of the Pops.
The one constant has been Maddy, marking seven decades by cutting back on the dancing and the high notes, but as always brimming with the charisma and sheer enjoyment of the singing and the songs that have always been the core of her performances.
The current line up at Frome’s packed Cheese and Grain was Andrew “Spud” Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey, Julian Littman and Jessie May Smart. Together they make a tight band that delights their audiences, eager to hear songs from the earliest days as well as a few new ones, like the beautiful Angels of Lincoln, which Maddy recently collected at Whitby Folk Week.
They included songs of impoverished workers past, murders most foul, night visits from ardent young lovers to their sweethearts (in the hopes the parents would be asleep), of transportation and execution. Some seemed remarkably relevant to today’s politics and what used to be known as “policies” before the wish list to Santa set fire to in the grate became the strategy de nos jour.
Not even Steeleye can go on forever, so catch them while you can and marvel at the freshness of their songs and their performances.
Local dates continue on Friday 21st October at Exeter Corn Exchange, Monday 24th at Wimborne Tivoli and Monday 31st at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon.