In recent years I’ve become much more partial to certain brands of lighter music. Though they’re liberal jagoffs, for example, I’m rather fond of the Decemberists and their bleak little ditties. Sometimes a little banjo and violin and vocals set to the tale of a highwayman’s murder and rape of a woman just does you right. Must be the patriarch in me.
Last year I blathered on a bit about my guilty pleasure Blind Guardian, a heavy power metal band specializing in songs of Middle Earth and Arthurian legend and the like. I think my proclivity for such fantastical fare is now well documented.
There must be plenty of others who enjoy this stuff, right? I mean the musicians haven’t starved or joined gypsy caravans yet (so far as I’m aware). Therefore I offer up another recommendation. If you like electric folk rock and you like folklore, Steeleye Span may be up your alley.
The U.K. group has been around since 1969, playing songs about such historical events like the Siege of Lathom House, folktales like the story of Lamkin (a Scottish/Northumbrian bogeyman who dwells in the wild and then murders a woman and her baby so as to drink the infant’s blood), and versions of traditional songs and ballads like Sir James the Rose.
Sir James the Rose was probably the first Steeleye song that I heard, and it left an impression. Though upbeat in feel and tempo, the ballad’s story tells of a knight who has murdered a squire and gone into hiding. The squire’s friends form a posse to avenge his death and hunt the errant Sir James. Grisly violence ensues.