Steeleye Span

Bloody Men

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Full marks to the veterans of Steeleye Span (and even the relative newcomers, who aren't spring chickens, either). They're not content to sit in their rich history and simply re-create past glories. Instead, rather than go gently into that good night, there's still plenty of fire left in them, and on this new disc that's most evident on two cuts, "Bonny Black Hare" and a new visit to "Cold, Haily, Windy Night." The former builds around Rick Kemp's surprisingly funky bass, with fiddle and Maddy Prior's still-agile voice creating an almost frightening scream above. It's not what you'd expect from a band with more than three-and-a-half decades of playing, but it's more than welcome, a piece that gets in your face and won't back off. Kemp is at the center of the disc's other great glory too, taking lead vocals on "Cold, Haily, Windy Night" with a sense of real grit. Elsewhere they still come up trumps, and "Three Sisters" from guitarist Ken Nicol is a very convincing fake ballad, as well as a little from the tradition. Add in Kemp's mini-suite about the Luddites and you have a band that's full of creative energy these days. This is a sign that Steeleye aren't just alive, but in the rudest of health.

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