Steeleye Span’s latest offering is a collaboration with none other than Terry Pratchett, best known for his the Discworld series of novels. Terry is a self-declared Spanner and has been since his adolescence: “my mate Dave put me between two huge speakers and turned everything up to eleven. He played Boys of Bedlam until the chimney wobbled”. He’s been hooked ever since. Steeleye Span also played at Terry’s sixtieth birthday, it was after hearing that Maddy was a fan of his work that he proposed a collaboration to weave in some words of his own into their songs. The result is Wintersmith an album that is already topping the Amazon English folk album charts!
Wintersmith is a concept album based on Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series so those of you that have read the novels will be familiar with the 13 years old Tiffany who in Wintersmith joins in the secret dark morris, the morris dance performed wearing black clothes and octiron bells that welcomes in the winter. She ends up coming face to face with the very face of winter himself. You can’t miss the cover which features Dark Morris on a backdrop of winter woods, the perfect eye-catching image for the tales of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that lie within.
Although the album can still be enjoyed without having read the novels, those that have will form an instant association with the songs. This comes as a bonus as you’ll understand the significance of songs through characters such as The Summer Lady with whom Tiffany shares some powers.
This is folk rock and in places, especially in the opening it is with a capital ‘R’. A quick grab for the sleeve notes reveals that production was handed to Chris Tsangarides who has names such as Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Gary Moore under his belt…well, if you’re going to rock you may as well do it right.
Before you run for the hills there are folkier offerings such as ‘You‘ which features the Northumbrian Pipes of guest musician Kathryn Tickell. Band of Teachers also hikes up the folk offering still more with the help of Maddy’s fine vocals, lovely harmonies, a catchy rhythm and Peter Knight’s fine dancing fiddle solo. Besides Kathryn other guests feature including John Spiers on Melodeon and of course Terry Pratchett on vocals whose spoken words on ‘The Good Witch‘ will bring a smile to the face of many Pratchett fans as he talks of the loneliness and hard work involved in being a witch.
The album, despite the dark elements also has lighter moments which will be more obvious to those that know the characters such as the Nac Mac Feegle who are best described as Glaswegian fairy folk who like to drink and fight.
As a concept album it has that feel of being made for a stage production and I’m not suggesting it will become one but with sixteen tracks on offer it must have crossed peoples minds! Spanners will be pleased with the album and Pratchett fans will also be heading for it in droves. There will no doubt be some crossover along the way with CDs and novels exchanging hands…a perfectly matched offering!
by ALEX GALLACHER
01 - Overture
02 - The Dark Morris Song
03 - Wintersmith
04 - You
05 - The Good Witch
06 - Band of Teachers
07 - The Wee Free Men
08 - Hiver
09 - Fire & Ice
10 - The Making of a Man
11 - Crown of Ice
12 - First Dance
13 - The Dark Morris Tune
14 - The Summer Lady
15 - Ancient Eyes
16 - We Shall Wear Midnight
Maddy Prior: vocals
Peter Knight: violin, keyboard, vocals
Rick Kemp: bass, vocals
Liam Genockey: drums, percussion
Julian Littman: electric guitars, vocals
Pete Zorn: acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals, saxophone
Terry Pratchett: Voice
Kathryn Tickell: Noerthumbrian Pipes
Bob Johnson: Vocals
John Spiers: Melodeon