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Friday, 23rd June 2017
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Lucy Ward - Single Flame

Single Flame Picture'Stand up and take to the streets.  They can't ignore us if we all choose to speak.'

The words form a defiant end to Lucy Ward's song For the Dead Men, on her newly released album Single Flame.  Laudable sentiments, but a tad hopeful.  The UK is deep in the brown stuff, with the most vacuous Prime Minister in history, a malignant coalition and an opposition leader originally dreamt up for a Wallis and Gromit cartoon but then discarded because he wasn't realistic enough.

But, by and large, the populace doesn't choose to speak up or take to the streets.  It's too busy sat on its arse watching the X-Factor whilst swallowing propaganda that says food banks are a groovy idea.

The Ward Woman doesn't lack confidence, on this her second studio release.  Things kick off with I Cannot Say, I Will Not Speak, referring to the sixties peace movement and containing references to Bob Dylan and Melanie Safka.    Presumably she learned of those artists via her Dad, whose poetry forms the basis of the The Last Pirouette, a song on the end of the world.

Further on, poetry plays a further part on The Consequence.  This time it's the verse written by Shafilea Ahmed before she was brutually murdered by her own parents for refusing an arranged marriage. Short, and delivered without instrumental accompaniment, the song is a complex mixture of despair and guilt.

This is a big album in every way.  Ward's vocal's are emphatic, and precisely enunciated with more than a trace of accent.  June Tabor, with a bit of the Rusby's thrown in.

Stu Hanna, of Megson produces, as he did on Adelphi Has To Fly.  He does a nimble job.  The string arrangements work well and the banjo licks when used add a shivery top layer.

If there's a criticism, it's that there is little light relief.    Marching Through The Green Grass collected in the Appalachians by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles is delivered in brisk fashion.   A bit  more of that would have been welcome. Like listening to an album of power ballads, it gets a bit much sometimes.

That point made,  Single Flame is a worthy project, from an artist entering another phase of her career.  One in which she's not afraid to approach life's meatier subjects.

- Les Pilling


Lucy Ward

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