I have decided (whether she likes it or not) that Lucy Ward and I are kindred spirits. There are 3 letters different in our names, we both have a fondness for hair colours which some might define as ‘unnatural’ and we’re clearly both fans of folk. Nevertheless it’s fair to say only one of us can sing. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not me.
When I say sing I mean in a stop you in your tracks, raise the hairs on your neck kind of way and from the opening note of The Unfortunate Lass I’m instantly transfixed. There’s something almost performance theatre about Lucy’s delivery, the stresses of her voice and expressions on her face telling almost as much as the lyrics of the song. Though between songs she’s humorous, it’s fair to say the night tends towards the depressing. With the accompaniment of band members Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow (unsurprisingly of O’Hooley & Tidow) joining on keyboard and vocals respectively and Joy Gravestock on violin, the extra instrumentation only adds to the sombre mood.
With a new album around the corner we’re inevitably treated to new songs. The Consequence offers her take on honour based violence, penned after hearing about the murder of Shafilea Ahmed. It’s a heart-wrenching song, which displays Lucy’s knack of writing meaningful numbers. Meanwhile For The Dead Men, in context of Thatchers passing, feels like a funeral march and brings with it a call to stand up and speak out. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom and with a cover of John Prine’s Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian on the ukulele, a rendition of Blur’s Tender and the traditional Maid When You’re Young there are moments of respite from the depression.
Drawing parallels to both Becky Unthank and Eliza Carthy, Lucy’s vocal power carries a weight beyond her years and this makes it impossible to pick a single highlight. The a cappella version of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, her exploration of Little Eaton’s Alice Grace in Alice In The Bacon Box and the newer The Last Pirouette confirm that her Horizon award in 2012 was fully deserved. It also suggests that the forthcoming second album is likely to be every bit as innovative as the first.