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Saturday 20 July 2024

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The Green Man Collection – Steeleye Span.

Nov 27, 2023

Compilation? Not altogether. New material? Certainly. Archive tracks? Bonuses.

Steeleye’s latest offering is a bridge between recent history and what’s to come. There’s more here than you’d expect from a stop gap release. Present matters underpin the tracks which reflect a slight shift in attitude and approach away from the expected and into more contemporary material.  “After all there aren’t many folk songs I haven’t sung or Martin (Carthy) hasn’t done,” Maddy Prior recently informed me.

‘Hey Nonny Violence’ has the feel and form of a folk song yet it questions the balance between what’s beautiful in life and plain wrong. A delicate, keyboard floated, gentle take of Elvis Costello’s ‘Ship Building,’ fits snugly into their new thinking as does the title track – a rediscovered work from the pen of former guitarist Bob Johnson – which documents a world where the environment’s out of sync with society. Has the Green Man come to save us? Will you let him? Span leave you to ponder the point. There’s the original, snappy, archive version from 1985, moody and sharp and an upfront/forthright new take which provides the opener. Both cut the mustard.

Selections from ‘Dodgy Bastards’ and ‘Est’d 1969’ make up the bulk of the central order of play. ‘The Cruel Brother ‘ is a choral thunder of guitars and voices, twisting the tradition further ‘ The Gardener ‘ is spooky and ethereal by turns, whilst Spud Sinclair’s instrumental prowess is wonderfully displayed on his jig ‘Dodgy Bastards’ in a hundred miles per hour violin/guitar face off.

Live takes of ‘Edward’ and ‘Sir James The Rose’ sourced from a 2018 Buxton DVD show Steeleye can still add muscle and heft when it’s relevant, ‘Edward’ scores highly having a trad root in there somewhere amongst the angst and bloodshed, a slick paced backing, melting red hot lead lines and a granite rhythm section. Makes you wonder what they’d do if they revived ‘Lady Diamond.’ Yes that is a hint.

There’s debut for latest violin recruit Athena Octavia on the new selections – fingers crossed she stays around a while as the current six piece band show a healthy disreagrd for the passing of 50 or so years and instead look forward with fresh inspiration, impetus and intrigue. You coming along for the ride?

Simon Jones.

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