Poor second cousin… or Come fill up your glasses and be merry…

Steeleye Span have always been the poor second cousin to Fairport Convention in my mind, they often seem to need to be more serious to be considered relevant and even their jokes are a little too studious to be funny. Like those in-jokes the smart kids at school used to make that were designed to make you feel just a little dumber but actually made no sense.

They are like a half formed idea that Ashley Hutchings had, tried out and discarded. Like Fairport it all got experimental once Hutchings left.

Two of the English folk traditions finest singers in Maddy Prior and Tim Hart, the occasional Carthy and Kirkpatrick to add legitimacy , a bassist in Rick Kemp who turned down King Crimson, a drummer who could play flute and stand on his hands, not at the same time I might add, one of the finest fiddlers in Peter Knight and Bob Johnston who was not afraid to enter heavy metal territory in his playing. Collectively they managed to create a sound that is simultaneously vilified and loved, the dialectic in action as my friend Greg would say.

For years I would get dragged by my friend to Steeleye gigs in my mind knowing I was going to something lesser than Fairport. They were too eager to be liked it seemed, too friendly, not out there enough or whatever half wit idea I had that year. Of course once the music started I got lost in the fun of those Status Quo riffs with traditional lyrics added on.

For a similar number of years I mocked All Around My Hat, the song and album. hatI have to admit I had never heard the album my entire opinion was based on the song. Last week rooting around I found a copy of the album. A piece of me wanted to leave it were it was. The embarrassment of buying such a piece of kitsch folk rock history might be unbearable, how easy our teen biases resurface were music is concerned.

I reminded myself of the Steeleye tickets waiting for me in Seattle and also I was 6,000 miles at least away from anyone who may care about All Around My Hat. I did find myself shrinking a little as i paid my $4 though.

Getting home I decided to play the thing, scratches pops and a low rumble met my ears. So I cleaned the thing up and tried again and wow. I love it. Thirty years of mocking something so fun and good. It still has some of the reverence of the Hutchings years but it is a straight up folk-rock masterpiece.

Yes it is produced by Mike Batt which adds a certain pop sensibility and an affection for small furry creatures on Wimbledon Common.

Black Jack Davy rocks along and yet still manages to be threatening because of the bass and fiddle and the ethereal quality of Maddy Prior’s vocals during the verses. Hard Times of Old England follows with social commentary. The whole album is filled with tunes and songs played with sensitivity and an edginess that I had not considered were Steeleye Span are concerned mainly because the comfortableness of that song was holding me back. When All Around My Hat appears on the album it is not my favorite moment which may be reserved for the Cadgwith Anthem and the tune set Sum Waves which follows it that seems to prepare the way for much of what the Albion Band, Home Service and Brass Monkey would do.

For me however it is an example of how my own snobbery got in the way of something really rather good and all because of that song All Around My Hat and the thinking that a band that can be on Crackerjack must somehow be less or have sold out.

So finally after almost thirty years I have overcome a little musical prejudice in my life, and it’s not like I didn’t like the band.

Elvis rocked the building…

Well he may pose like a matador and play some wierd variety of psychedelic jazz country rock but he definitely puts on a show. 

Elvis Costello last night in Portland Oregon. 

Really what’s so funny about peace love and understanding is still a valid question. 


Buddy Guy rocked the Waterfront Blues Festival. I really wish he had shown more subtlety instead of bringing the Buddy Guy show though. Other times I have seen him in smaller venues he has almost brought me to tears. 


Damn you Fairport Convention…and they hiked.

5:30 am is my time, everyone else is asleep and I get to play what I want, maybe not as loud as I would like but I get to play it.

This past week has predominantly been this collection as I come to terms with everyone in the house not working right now but me. It is one of the downsides of being married to a teacher. fairportFairport Convention may very well be the band I cannot do without in my collection. I am however going to stop collecting vinyl with Bonny Bunch of Roses and Tipplers Tales which I am still looking for. The later albums still have great tracks on but this is my Fairport and it really belongs on vinyl to be thoroughly enjoyed.

So every morning this week has been taken up with at least one of these albums playing as I sit and sip coffee expecting my wife to join me and then realize she is not working so very well may not. That change in routine has been usual for the past 20 plus years and every year I regret not becoming a teacher as I watch her read bools go hiking and generally lead the almost retired life that obviously gets her batteries recharged over the next two months or so and preparing her for her next year with the kids she loves.

Friday was here and I got up at my usual time and realized it was a holiday and I did not have to go anywhere so I relaxed and then we went hiking.

I forgot however that it is 4th of July weekend and just how many people would be out and about so the morning hike was beautiful but almost like a stroll in the park. The afternoon however was sublime on the river as the temp reached 98 degrees plus. It is good to remember what a great state I have chosen as home especially this weekend I guess.


hikeagainhiking again


And all the earth is singing with life’s sweet hum…

After the other days horror show of an album cover I thought I would share this:




See that’s much better a classic example of early 70’s folk-rock album cover, and the first example I think of the lost art of the folk-concept album. It is a truly dour picture though to go with the story of the man they could not hang.

The inner gatefold is even better:


Complete with a copy of the John Lee story inserted to brighten the day.


To round things off the quartet of Steeleye Span albums in preparation for the gig at the Triple Door in Seattle.

As you can see they all fade into the carpet in a lovely way, except for Rocket Cottage which may be one of those awful album covers that are best hidden away. Sepia was obviously the chosen tone of the 70’s folk-rock band as they folderol and hey nonny non their way through life.

Don’t get me wrong Babbacombe Lee and at least Hark the Village Wait are classics of the genre and Below The Salt and Now We Are Six deserve honorable mentions and Rocket Cottage has The Wombles connection in  Mike Batt.

Anyway there you have it my ramblings for the day and tomorrow we hike.