Derby is renowned for innovation, for quality, for beauty, think Railways, think Rolls Royce, think Royal Crown Derby. Add Lucy Ward to that list.
"Pretty Warnings" is the Derby based songstress fourth album, it has been nearly three long years since her last. It is definitely worth the wait. Nine songs, a sandwich of trad filled delicacy, Lucy Ward's originals the bread.
Bread that is wholesome and special, just like renowned local baker Birds.
A slice of melancholy, "Silver Mornings", every morsel savoured, a plaintive piano, Lucy's voice sad, expressive yet with a yearning that's palatable. A gorgeous start.
"Cold Caller", a night visiting song, a mainstay of folk tradition in name is next, ethereal vocals build, a majestic song, think Grace Slick with a Derbyshire accent, an almost psychedelic "White Rabbit" moment.
Warmth, reflective love, those contented moments when time doesn't matter, "Sunshine Child" is a work of beauty. Just listening slows your heart, like butter you melt into the toast, two individual parts becoming one. A surrender made in heaven.
Made in heaven is also how I'd describe the accompaniments, impeccably restrained, every single note necessary and welcome, from Helga Ragnarsdottir on keyboards, Anna Esslemont (violin), Sam Pegg (bass), Claire Bostock (cello), Stephen MacLachan (percussion) and Stu Hanna guitar it truly is a work of art.
Coming up with a new approach for a collected ballad is an art form in itself. "Bill Norrie" is a traditional tale of mistrusting,misunderstanding, malevolence. An epic story of love and deception beautifully told in pure voice with minimal instrumentation. It all ends tragically as folk songs are want to do. A song that cries for impossible redemption.
"Maria Martin" otherwise known as "Murder In The Red Barn" switches the tone to a soulful blues where indeed justice is done.
Anguish, suffering, a warning of what to expect when loving a man, "Fair & Tender Ladies" is the final trad song before we move on to a trio of originals.
Warnings often aren't headed, "Mari Fach" the sad tale of a serving woman caught in child, at seventeen and chillingly out of options, she takes the life of the babe and is hanged. The repeated "All alone and aloney-o" adds a reality that resounds in today's age.
Complete contrast, "Lazy Day" brings us back into the light, into sunshine, into those days when wrapping the duvet, turning and snuggling seem like the best thing ever. Those days you hope will never end.
And if end we must then what better way than "The Sweetest Flowers" heartfelt feelings, expressions, visions of what might be, knowledge of love that joins. A mantra that's binds "the Sweetest Flowers grow together".
Lucy Ward is growing as a songwriter, as a performer, she's phenomenal, "Pretty Warnings" is the pinnacle of her career to date and unlike "The Derby Ram" this is no tale of exaggeration.
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