As I write this we are coming to the close of a most successful Steeleye tour, the first since our outing with Quo, which was pure delight. Francis, Rick, Andrew, John and Jeff, and all the crew were pukka English gents throughout, and couldn't have made things easier for us. It seems to have drawn in new appreciators of our music. 'Fans' does not strike me as an appropriate term in our case, and I'm interested in 'appropriate' at the moment. Maturing is a move towards an appreciation of the appropriate. Context changes everything. Food, clothing, behaviour, are all affected by it. There are no hard and fast absolutes. So is Life just a grey area?
So anyway, here we are at the end of a gruelling but satisfying jaunt, with new material preparing the way for a new album later in the year, or early next. Gay has settled in and is gaining confidence all the time. I realize now that working in tandem at the fornt of a band is a difficult juggling act - how to maintain your distinct identity, and yet compliment each other. It is to our credit that this seems too be gradually being achieved. She is now part of the democratic process that has been the on-going state of the bus called Steeleye. No one ever said democracy was easy, but 27 years is a good innings for a young democracy. Many governments don't last as long.
We have a tour of the U.S. lined up for June, and England again in October, so watch this space for details.
Talking of 'watch this space', Steeleye, Peter and I have pages on the Internet. I'm most impressed. People I have met all over the world are talking to each other and probably know our date sheets better than we do. How bizarre.
A most exciting project is coming to fruition at the moment. I was going to record a "live" album, but in the event this proved to be an ambitious concept, so we have gone into the studio and grabbed time where we could. It is ostensibly a 'solo' album, but this in reality is myself, Nick Holland, joined by Troy Donockley, a multi-instrumentalist from You Slosh (I shall have to ask him about the name), Iona, and Barbara Dickson. It's amazing the cross fertilization of musicians - the most unlikely people have worked together and know each other. Barbara and I are old compatriots, going back to the days of folk clubs and drunken festivals. We have travelled different paths, but stay in touch, and are great 'appreciators' of each other's work, and it is touching to realize that we are still drawn to similar songs, styles and musicians.
Anyway, musn't get sidetracked anymore - the album - called 'Flesh and Blood' - due out any minute on Park - in time for our April/May tour. Given Prior's Law Pertaining to the Release Date of Albums (i.e. album will be released n+2/3/4 weeks - where n=beginning date of tour) we at least hope to have copies in our hot little hands to sell on the gigs.
It boasts two ballads, Hind Horn and Sheath and Knife
A wild setting of Rolling English Road, the poem by G. K. Chesterton.
A beautiful new song from Rick Kemp called Heart of Stone
A song by Todd Rundgren called Honest Work, complimented by a magnicent uillean pipe tune spotted by Troy in Sibelius' Finlandia.
An unlikely version of Bitter Withy.
Finally one of my extended pieces, written with Rick, called Dramatis Personae. As the name suggests it is a series of songs about different types of personalities. It has a deep structure based on 'chakras' - an Hindu yogie concept of energy centres that are located on the spine. It is not as esoteric as it sounds, but refelcts different aspects of personal energy available to us if we all choose to look. Above and beyond all that, the music sounds wonderful.
Due to the change of plot, the album had to be finalized and mixed while I was on tour with Steeleye, so I was absent for a lot of it - a great way to make an album - dropping in at 12 midnight after gigs to catch up. All a bit frustrating for a control freak. But the lads - Nick and Troy - have been heroes. I couldn't have asked for more sensitive but bold treatment - of the songs. My heartfelt gratitude goes to them aand Steve, the engineer, who worked long hours and laughed and drank a lot and cried only a little.
My life is richer for their company.
Every now and again I am asked for sheet music of songs, both solo and Steeleye, but most of it is not in print. But there is now a young man who will be only too pleased to provide copies for a fee - even adapting arrangements for small choirs, or those lacking a strong male contingent (a common problem).
54 Broad Street
Leicester, LE7 1GH
[Telphone: (0) (44) 116 260 8780]
Those who wait with bated breath for the Carnival Band pantomime will be pleased to know that we are on tour - cats and all - this December. We have moved up to the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the 17th in the hope of accomodating all our London appreciators.
See you around,