Graham Reid | | 1 min read
As with Fairport Convention (which included Richard Thompson), Steeleye Span were in the vanguard of the British folk-rock movement of the late Sixties. Unlike Fairport however, Steeleye Span didn't move as often and as far from the roots of folk and frequently drew on Francis Child's text The English and Scottish Ballads for inspiration and source material -- a book which has more recently influenced Fleet Foxes.
But Steeleye Span rocked these lyrics up.
This impenetrable Scottish song -- full of arcane allusions, satirical metaphors and symbols, odd dialect and witty or grossly offensive aspersions -- is a Jacobite attack on the Hanoverian king George I in London and his entourage (whores, hangers-on) . . . and of course advances the cause of the exiled James III.
To fully decipher it you will probably need help (try here) -- but maybe you don't need to.
What makes this work as a bruising attack are the brittle stabbing guitars, and the throbbing, menacing bass and martial drums. It just sounds threatening.
Some may find the octave leap by Maddy Prior a little unusual at first, but repeat plays reveal this to be a frighteningly good adaptation of song which is 300 years old and -- for Scottish ears only perhaps? -- a still relevant attack on the army of cultural occupation in the homeland.
Cam Ye O'er Frae France (folk) rocks.
This comes from Steelye Span's fine Parcel of Rogues album.
For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults.