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Lucy Ward - Adelphi Has To Fly (Navigator)

Star rating: 

Lucy Ward could hardly be described as an overnight success having appeared on many a stage up and down the country since the age of 14, singing in pubs, clubs and at festivals, learning her craft as a performer and honing her skills as a storyteller along the way. Nor does the Derbyshire singer come from a folk singing family, brought up on a diet of Cecil Sharpe's manuscripts or hearing the strains of Sam Larner on wax cylinders, whilst she pops on her Doc Martens ready to meet her mates. Lucy Ward is an ordinary kid, from an ordinary background who just happens to have an extraordinary appeal. With several Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-like hair colour changes, together with the odd nose piercing and a penchant for wearing Sex Pistols t shirts, Lucy Ward has given young people a voice in the folk world and has also provided some of us older folk with something fresh and appealing to think about. She's both a breath of fresh air and a veritable whirlwind all at the same time.
ADELPHI HAS TO FLY comes at the right time for Lucy, who has now just reached 21, all ready and prepared to take her rightful place on the folk music scene, equipped with the experience of those few years behind her as well as an ear for a good song. Mixing the traditional material with her own self-penned songs, Lucy has produced, along with the help of Megson's Stu Hannah, a collection of songs to write home about. Collaborating with Belinda O'Hooley, the master of ambience on piano and partner Heidi Tidow on backing vocals, who along with Sam Pegg on bass make up the current Lucy Ward touring band, Lucy has found the right musical support for these songs and arrangements. All the songs on this album, for all intents and purposes, could've been sung unaccompanied, with just Lucy's inimitable voice telling each story; the voice alone being certainly good enough. The musicians listed above however, augmented by Stu and Debbie Hannah, add all the necessary accompaniment, never too sparse, never too overplayed, just right in fact, to make this album even more special.   

The traditional songs are each delivered with a confidence and expressiveness, unusual for one so young, from The Unfortunate Lass, with Belinda O'Hooley's trademark underplayed piano, The Two Sisters, with its pulsating concertina accompaniment and Samuel Lover's extraordinary The Fairy Boy, which opens the album, once again featuring Belinda's distinctive piano motifs. Sitting alongside the traditional material is a handful of originals, each song imbued with a strong sense of the past, in particular Alice in the Bacon Box, a song about real hardship; when living in a box on the village green was a reality and not just a possible line from a Monty Python sketch. Two of the most engaging original songs on the album are the title song Adelphi and the atmospheric Julia, written in letter form, both of which demonstrate first class song writing credentials.  

One of the oldest songs on the album, the haunting Death (Rock Me To Sleep), believed to be written by Anne Boleyn, has been set to a new melody, arranged to incorporate a grungy bass accompaniment bringing a 16th century verse bang up to date. Bricks and Love, a live favourite, finds its home on this album at last, a beautiful song about a man Lucy met in a folk club, which incorporates the equally beautiful chorus of the traditional Eriskay Love Lilt.     

With a great deal of sadness we received the news of Mike Waterson's death last week, which makes Lucy's reading of A Stitch in Time even more poignant. Lucy breaths new life into this brilliantly funny cautionary tale, each word of the song delivered so convincingly that I broached the subject with the singer earlier this year at the Shepley Spring Festival. "I believe every word you sing" said I, to which the singer immediately replied "well maybe you should!"

In the thoroughly jaunty Maids When You're Young, Lucy reminds gentlemen of a certain age that they may well have lost their faloorum or indeed their falliver aye oorum, not to mention their ding doorum; but that being said, it is with confidence that this reviewer can claim to have nothing wrong with his ears, both of which collectively know a good thing when they hear it. A truly exceptional debut.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky