Maddy Prior

It's often the case that what goes around comes around, and the saying is never truer than in music. The year 1999 sees a new wave of young female artists leading the way in traditional music, taking it out of the clubs and into the world of mainstream media, prestigious awards and generally raising its profile. Ask them where there influences came from and the chances are they'll refer you back to the music they heard while growing up, when folk music was no stranger to the mainstream and a group of young female singers dominated - Sandy Denny, Norma Waterson, June Tabor and Maddy Prior. Thirty five years on from her first appearance on the late sixties folk club circuit, the latter is still one of the most enduring and respected artists in British music. Maddy Prior, who was born in Blackpool and raised in St. Albans, first came to prominence with the singer and guitarist Tim Hart, forming a duo that established a considerable reputation around the folk clubs before releasing two albums, Folk Songs of England Volumes One & Two. As a new decade dawned, they joined forces with Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention with the idea of forming a band to fuse folk song and rock technique. With Gay & Terry Woods also involved, the group took its name from traditional Lincolnshire ballad Horkstow Grange - the tale of a character called Steeleye Span. So began an incredible story. Other bands may have claim to the invention of folk rock, but Steeleye were the first to drag it into the electronic age. The seventies were the age of the giant rock band and Steeleye Span fitted the bill perfectly. Line-ups changed throughout the decade but Hart and Prior remained constant, helping guide the band to a string of hit albums, gold & silver discs and world tours. Tim left in 1980 and the band undertook a couple of sabaticals, before returning in 1986. Throughout this period, Maddy continued with her extra-curricular activities. Two albums were released with June Tabor, as the Silly Sisters, and solo projects saw her work with the cream of traditional musicians - Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Danny Thompson, B. J. Cole, now with the Verve, John Kirkpatrick. While Steeleye continued to explore traditional material, Maddy used her albums to develop her own songwriting, despite claiming to be in awe of the craft. One of her most abiding projects was born in 1987, when A Tapestry of Carols was released in collaboration with The Carnival Band. The meeting came out of chance but their on/off relationship has lasted for over ten years and five albums, primarily a Yuletide affair but also exploring other ways to combine early music, hymns, classical and anything else they like! Their Christmas tours have become something of legend, recently documented on the Carols At Christmas live album. The year 1997 brought a time of change. Steeleye Span, now with original member Gay Woods back in the fold, had released Time, acclaimed as their best album in many years. Two masssive UK tours followed, the second of which saw Maddy make her last appearance with the band after 28 years. The work load of a band, the Carnivals, a solo career and a family had started to prove too much and a decision had to be made. But as one door closes...a new solo album Flesh & Blood was released to widespread plaudits. Maddy's voice had never sounded better and her musical partners on the project were perhaps the most suited of her career. Nick Holland had provided the keyboards on the previous Year album whilst multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley contributed uilean pipes, whistles and guitars to a rich, emotive sounding work. The material Maddy brought to the album was a fascinating mix. With the Carnival Band taking care of her lighter side Flesh & Blood presented an opportunity to concentrate on more serious topics. Her continued aim to keep folk music as a vibrant, constantly adapting medium was clear. Whether the songs were traditional, contemporary (the acapella rea

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