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Steeleye Span - Hark! The Village Wait CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.84 | 44 ratings

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3 stars Steeleye Span's debut is in many ways the heir apparent to Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief" released a year before. After that landmark recording, Ashley Hutchings left to form his own group that was to focus more on traditional music, contrasting with Fairport's more eclectic mindset. He formed Steeleye Span along with Maddy Prior, Tim Hart, and Gay and Terry Woods.

In spite of this lineage, "Hark the Village Wait" is a more tentative and timid affair than was "Liege and Lief", but also more consistent. The band does seem to be having a bit of trouble integrating the strong personalities, and the recording ends up being quite an anomaly in the vast Steeleye discography, being the only one of the first 3 to contain drums (albeit furnished by hired musicians) and the only one to include the Woods'.

The one aspect for which they are all on the same page is the desire to bring to life English, Scottish, and Irish traditional songs and dances, which they spell out clearly in "Calling Out Song". It is followed by their first rendition of "Blacksmith". The blacksmith, with his arsenal of masculine tools, symbolizes a sort of blue collar virility which attracts the protagonist. This type of sexual symbolism runs rampant in these traditional tunes, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, but the theme was to reappear frequently in Steeleye Span's interpretations. The band also selects the excellent "Blackleg Miner" and "Lowlands of Holland" and performs them admirably.

One bonus is that, for those who became fans of the Pogues nearly 20 years later, Terry Woods of said group exerts some influence that can be felt in bouncy tracks with strumming banjo and accordion arrangements like "The Hills of Greenmore". It's a shame that his departure signaled the end of these types of landlocked shanties. An additional plus is that we get the combined voices of Gay and Maddy here and there to brighten the musical palate, as in the lovely "All things are Quite Silent".

No one could have imagined the careers that would ultimately hang, at one time or another, on this unassuming work of young and idealistic musicians. Such is the weird and wonderful nature of the UK folk rock village.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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