The BBC Young Folk Award Finalist Lucy Ward released her debut album this month titled Adelphi Has to Fly. Her voice conveys a conviction and respect to the folk songs she sings. It was a fascination with the narrative of folk songs that first attracted her into the world of folk music at the age of 14 and she is now well and truly steeped in the tradition having played support to some of the biggest traditional folk music luminaries around such as Dave Swarbrick, Tams and Coope, Mawkin:Causley, Jim Moray, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan and Seth Lakeman.
The opening track ‘The Fairy Boy‘ makes minimal use of instruments, a sparse piano, courtesy of Belinda O’Hooley, which only serves to show off Lucy’s greatest instrument, her voice. It’s a stunning and slow opener which leads perfectly into ‘Alice in the Bacon Box‘ a self penned song that was written as part of a project called ‘Mills and Chimneys’ on which eight Derbyshire musicians came together to write traditional songs. Lucy tells a true and well known local story from Little Eaton about Alice Grace – otherwise known as ‘Old Alice in the Bacon Box.’ She was born in 1867 and one version of the story states she was once a beautiful young woman whose lover left her, from which she never recovered. She then lived with her parents until their death when she was evicted for non-payment of rent.
A local butcher gave her a large box to live which had been used to store bacon, she set up her home on the small village green. In those times, if you were destitute you were put in the workhouse. She managed to stave this off for sometime by keeping some money in her shoe which she always produced when taken into charge by policemen. She managed to raise some money through telling fortunes and became a well known local character. She died in 1927.
The album balances well between the choice of songs which include both sad and humourous tales (as you’d expect with folk songs). Some are well known, such as Maids When You’re Young, a tale of warning for young women not to wed an old man for reasons I’ll not bother going into.
Some compositions have a more modern musical twist, no more so than the very depressing ‘Death’, written by Anne Boleyn before her execution. ‘The Unfortunate Lass’ is another beautiful yet sad and moving song that has been covered by many artists including Eliza Carthy and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. There are many versions of the song, some of the more modern surprising versions being ‘The Cowboy’s Lament’ or ‘The Streets of Laredo’ and ‘St. James’ Infirmary’.
Other popular songs of choice are The Two Sisters on which concertina, banjo/mandolin and fiddle create a great driving rythmn making it a catchy tune. There is no doubt that Lucy Ward has built up a repertoire of traditional songs, but what’s great about this album is that she has included self-penned songs as well. One of the most moving songs on the whole album is her own which is saved to the last: ‘Bricks and Love’ a true story about loss, based on a couple who used to sing at a folk club every week…a time when others drifted off to get their drinks.
The album features support from folk artists O’Hooley and Tidow and Megson. Stu Hanna of Megson also produced the album. Despite the support it is musically subtle and doesn’t overpower Lucy Ward’s presence of voice which shines throughout the whole album, a grand and exceptionally talented debut!
Hold Back the tide (feat: John Tams)