This is a departure for the revered folk rockers Steeleye Span, as the album is based on the novel ‘Wintersmith’ by Terry Pratchett, who also appears on the album and has a hand in writing the songs too. It’s good to see Bob Johnson involved singing again after retiring from live work due to ill health and the talented Kathryn Tickell, a major artist in her own right, guests on Northumbrian pipes.
The album is a joy form start to finish, from the opening scene setter ‘Overture’ through to the closing ‘We Shall Wear Midnight’, featuring an impassioned vocal performance from Maddy Prior who seems to get better with age vocally.
There is traditional folk music on the instrumental ‘The Dark Morris Tune’, yet the ‘The Dark Morris Song’ has an almost pop feel to it. There are good humoured knock about tunes like ‘The Wee Free Men’ and then Steeleye Span even go a little prog rock on ‘Fire & Ice’.
This album will work well for the band and Terry Pratchett as it will introduce their many fans to each other’s work, although many will already be fans of both. Since the album has been released long standing member Peter Knight has announced he is leaving the band making this a final chance to hear his distinctive violin playing, a key ingredient to the band’s sound. ****1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
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