It was as close to a home gig as it could be for Derby born Lucy and the long and narrow rustic barn like Globe with a pair of antlers nailed to the solid beam which also held the PA, was the ideal setting for a faultless selection of performances from both her albums together with some instantly recognisable local songs which the audience took great delight in becoming part of. With just a support slot from Eliza P and her satirical songs containing as many rhyming patterns as have been heard in Glossop for a long time plus a stab at the sacrosanct ‘Matty Groves’, and new partner in fiddle (or violin, depending on your opinion) player Joy, it was all about Lucy, her guitar and what she considers as her main instrument, that voice.
One thing you can be certain of with an evening with Lucy Ward is that you are going to be entertained. Be it some of her stories about getting words slightly (and amusingly) in the wrong order when talking about the folk singers bible, The New Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs (a new book of penguin folk songs?) or some of the sublime stripped down performances of songs from her new album, she is a larger than life and totally absorbing character onstage.
Not that she would ever shamelessly model herself on anyone, she does bring to mind the young Eliza Carthy with all sorts of piercings, slightly kooky with her mad coloured hair, yet with an uncompromising and steadfast approach and attitude to be doing something challenging and breaking down the barriers.
From the new album, ‘A Single Flame’, she nailed performances of the songs like of ‘I Cannot Say I Will Not Speak’, ‘Last Pirouette’ and ‘For The Dead Men’ with its political overtones, which were possibly even more intense in their acoustic guise. It was ‘Icarus’ – a highlight of the new album, where Lucy’s voice really soared, and interesting to hear her confess that it was a song which was surprisingly easy to write and not one of her usual songs which sometimes have long and laborious gestation periods.
Never one to be shy at coming forward, ‘The Blacksmith’ was done as ‘Blacksmith Blues’ – and a real down and dirty blues enactment it was too, with innuendo virtually dripping from the stage, typifying Lucy’s take on some of the traditional folk material – “It’s all there in the words” she explained with tongue buried firmly in cheek, before taking the chance to really relish in teasing every ounce of sauce out of the ambiguous lyrics with expressions to match. As someone once said, it was done in the best possible taste.
And there were similarly light-hearted moments amongst the brooding intensity of the songs. ‘Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian’ followed a similar path to ‘The Blacksmith’ with the inference and intimation on the language being so richly enhanced by the delivery. It almost became stand up territory as Lucy pulled out her Boyfriend Magazine Annual of 1965 and delivered some tips on ‘the dictionary of dating’. With more opportunities for audience participation, there were sing-alongs a-plenty with ‘Maids When You’re Young’ and another fascinating Derbyshire traditional song in ‘Alice In The Bacon Box’ (researched by Lucy on Wikipedia nonetheless) – and well worth checking out the story behind the song.
Ending her set by hopping back on stage for an encore with a song she really had to sing, ‘King Of Rome’ – of all things, an unaccompanied and touching song of pigeon racing - held the audience spellbound one last time. With some more solo dates coming up before the end of the year, she then looks forward to some 2014 dates with the Lucy Ward Band. Watch this space for the thrilling development of someone who is very much grounded, but set to become stellar.
Review and photos by Mike Ainscoe