Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Big Tree: The Blacksmith

In addition to our Fourth Week Label Special featuring Big Tree Records, today’s submission covers the Wooden Music Wednesday feature as well. Steeleye Span recorded their second LP, “Please to See the King,” with an adjusted lineup in 1971.

The original UK version of the album was released on the B&C label; however, without an American counterpart, “Please to See the King” was licensed to Big Tree Records for its original North American issue.  By its catalog number of BTS 2004, it appears to be  the fourth album release of the label.

It was the band’s only album to be issued on B&C and Big Tree and the first to be issued in the US. Their debut album, “Hark! The Village Wait,” which was issued by RCA in the UK in 1970 did not make it to the North American shores until 1975 when it was reissued by Chrysalis. “Please to See the King” was reissued by Chrysalis at the same time.

“The Blacksmith” is a traditional English folk song that has been recorded a number of times including two studio versions by Steeleye Span. It appears as #816 on Steve Roud’s Folk Song Index. The lead vocals are performed by Maddy Prior and she is joined by two other original members of the band, Tim Hart and Ashley Hutchings.

New to the band and this album are Peter Knight and Martin Carthy. Knight’s fiddle can be heard on this tune. Although not a member at the time, it was Carthy who suggested the name “Steeleye Span.” John “Steeleye” Span was a character in the song “Horkstow Grange.”

Steeleye Span’s Original Version

This is an up tempo version of “The Blacksmith” that was recorded for the band’s debut album “Hark! The Village Wait” in 1970. This particular version features drums that are missing from the band’s second album. In addition to Prior, Hart, and Hutchings, the band included the husband and wife team – Terry and Gay Woods.

For this album, the band utilized the talents of two drummers: Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention and Gerry Conway of Fotheringay and later of Fairport Convention. Although we are featuring the version from the second album on Big Tree Records, I prefer this rendition of “The Blacksmith” by Steeleye Span.

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