Album Review: Lucy Ward – I Dreamt I Was A Bird

M:Kasemake StandardsCDWallet4pp 5inch Gatefold Wallet 3.5mmI first heard this record while it was being played as the ‘interlude’ music, between artists changeover at a recent live event. Over the hum of audience chatter and the odd guitar strum from the acts line check – you really couldn’t get much more from the album than notice it’s frequent dynamic changes, from barely audible, to very loud!
Hearing the record like this is a mistake ladies and gentlemen, let that be my one piece of advise you must follow. Listen to this record as it should be heard, with the music being the only thing you need to give your attention to, and you’ll soon discover this album is quite brilliant – from start to finish.
Much was expected from Lucy Ward when she came to prominence after the 2009 Young Folk Awards. Her debut album ‘Adelphi Has To Fly’ was a fine example of a richly talented young traditional singer finding her voice and place on the scene. The much darker, more musically mature follow-up ‘Single Flame’ was a belter of a record and really should have bagged Lucy the folk singer of the year award. Both albums are hard acts to follow – but I’m not lying when I say I’m convinced this piece has surpassed both the previous offerings.
The songs on the record pull from an array of influences, as Lucy herself states “All the songs are about real people and moments, inspired by incidental comments overheard in a supermarket queue, chance conversations with strangers, stories from my own family history and little moments in time.”
 
Highlights include the opener ‘Summers That We Made’, which aptly for this time of year recalls the deep and powerful, yet all too fleeting summer romances that are gone by autumn; the quite outstanding ‘Lion’, written about the true story of a rifleman executed for being a coward at the height of the first world war (the inclusion of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band on this track, so effective in their performances with The Unthanks, is a masterstroke here) – and her take on the trad number ‘Lord Randall’, probably know by many different names over the years – with a haunting vocal performance backed by electric guitar not in short supply of reverb in the main. 
 
Musically compelling, and as usual with a fine group of singers and instrumentalists, including a welcome contribution from Anna Esslemont – a really underrated fiddle player in my opinion. As you would expect as well, the vocals play a big part in this. Lucy’s voice is steeped in the tradition, steeped  in her native Derbyshire but with contemporary leanings in the mix – it is a powerful tool and few singers today can bring out the emotion that is oozing from the performances on this record. 
 
This really is a fine record, and one that I fully expect the UK folk scene will lap up, just as I have. Listen in a quiet room, on your own to get the very best from this – and then go and see her live, as I suspect this album performed live is something very special indeed. 
More info can be found at  http://www.lucywardsings.com/
Review by Phil Daniels