Maddy Prior has established herself, by dint of both talent and time, as one of the leading female singers in British folk (and folk-rock). Born in Black Pool, in her teens Prior moved to St. Albans (outside London), where she developed an interest in traditional English music. Through friends she found her way to the treasure trove of material at Cecil Sharpe House and also to Ewan MacColl, the de facto leader of the folk revival. In the late '60s, she met Tim Hart, an accomplished singer and instrumentalist, and together they recorded three albums that made little impact at the time, not even setting the folk clubs buzzing. However, they had played some folk festivals, including Keele, where they met Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings, who was about to form a new band. Prior and Hart became part of the ensemble known as Steeleye Span, who would become an ongoing institution of British folk-rock, with Prior as one of its constants -- she even married Rick Kemp, the bass player who replaced Hutchings.
In 1976, she teamed with another young folksinger, June Tabor, under the Silly Sisters moniker, to record the first of what would be two albums, also remaining with Steeleye until the group officially disbanded in 1978. After that, she embarked on her solo career, her debut, Woman in the Wings, being produced by Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson. She also began another career, as the mother of two children, but still joined a reunited Steeleye in 1980, continuing to juggle band and solo work and even forming her own group, the Carnival Band, who've supported her on record and tours since 1987. When Prior experienced some voice problems in 1993, Gay Woods, who had also been an original Steeleye vocalist, rejoined the band. Prior continued to record more frequently alone, including the albums Year, Flesh and Blood, Ravenchild, and Arthur the King, many of which were concept records. She continued to tour and record with Steeleye Span throughout the early part of the 21st century. Her longtime friend and original collaborator Tim Hart passed away in 2009. ~ Chris Nickson