Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Love This Freakin' Band - Steeleye Span

I Love This Freakin’ Band!
Steeleye Span

After years of a steady diet of indie rock and garage rock, I’ve become what some would consider hieracy. Over the last two years, I’ve become a full-fledged English folk/rock fan. Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Trees, Heron, and many more that you can readily find on Youtube. But none captured my attention than the legendary British band Steeleye Span.

I heard about Steeleye Span through friends, and Fleet Foxes leader Robin Pecknold, who mentioned them to me after a show, and in a Mojo Magazine article. Sounds cool, I thought, but what does it sound like? Last spring, I was driving home, and the band’s “Parcel Of Rogues” came on XM’s folk channel. It’s lyrics were written in 1707 as an anti-English song of rebellion and lement. It is all a capella group vocals, save for a mournful bass drum, and an amazing double-tracked violin solo that brings it all home. I sat in my car, unable to turn it off. Soon after, I found “Parcel Of Rogues” on the 1972 album of the same name, and I was hooked.

Steeleye Span formed in 1969, after its founder Ashley Hutchings left Fairport Convention, fresh off of that band’s classic album Liege and Lief. Pairing with the duo of Maddy Prior and Tim Hart, the band was a true experiment, marrying English and Irish folk music to a more electric rock sound. Several members of the band have come and gone over the years, including Hutchings, who left after three albums to form the heralded Albion Band. But Steeleye has always seemed resiliant, even scoring a top ten hit in 1975 with the folk/rock hybird “All Around My Hat.” But it’s their more traditional, harmony based songs that always draw me back, like a voice that I have heard all of my life.

What is it about any creative endeavor that draws you in? What makes you like something that you used to be afraid of at renaissance festivals? Sometimes you can’t question it, you can only go with what you like. I drove six and a half hours to see the current lineup play last year, and to have the band sign my copy of “Parcel Of Rogues.” While I personally would’ve liked to have heard the band play more of the songs I knew from the early 70s, the band has continued on making music, evolving from the ideas that originally drove their ideas, which is something that all should hope to do after forty years of anything.

The signed copy of “Parcel Of Rogues” sits proudly on my desk, next to my autographed Sonics album, and my signed Rutles CD. See, all of this music can live together, in harmony.

-Daniel Coston
April 7, 2010

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