Song of the Day, April 25: The Weaver and the Factory Maid by Steeleye Span

SteeleyeSpanParcelWeaverToday’s song is a folk masterpiece by a band at their best. Steeleye Span survived numerous personnel changes, including the departure of founder Ashley Hutchings, finally finding their groove for their fifth album, Parcel of Rogues. One of its strongest tracks is a traditional song of social protest.

The Handweaver and the Chambermaid [Roud 3085], started as a standard song of romance and seduction. Over time, however, the chamber gave way to the factory, and the tone of the song became much more complex. The weaver relies on his skill for his handcraft. The factory maid works in a production line, turning out similar products faster and cheaper. His fascination with her is almost self-destructive, as the object of his affection is a symbol of the forces that are destroying his trade. This tension is played out against a nicely structured bit of bed-play, blending two of the most familiar folk tropes into one powerful mix.

Dozens of 20th Century singers performed the song, including A.L. Lloyd and Martin Carthy, but nothing matches Steeleye Span’s version. Blending their rock elements with a folk heart, they craft a stirring, warmly human song. Maddy Prior delivers one of her best vocals, giving the package just the touch it needs to soar.

Enjoy this amazing song today.


About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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