Pretty Warnings is the captivating fourth studio album from Lucy Ward. Rich with tradition and exquisitely penned original songs, this album weaves its way effortlessly through matters of love, darkness, longing and joy. It confirms what we already knew – that Ward’s unique ability to inhabit the very heart of a song is bewitching, beguiling and beautiful.
Ward is a story teller at heart, concerned with expressing truth and the human condition. She can paint a picture with her words and this album is an expressive collection of true stories and evocative imagery.
As well as innovative arrangements of traditional songs such as the ballad ‘Bill Norrie’, Ward has delved into the tradition to come up with beautiful retellings of traditional forms. ‘The Cruel Mother’ is re-spun in her song Mari Fach (meaning Sweet Mari), the true story of a young welsh woman pregnant, unmarried and afraid. The archetypal rover becomes Ward’s yearning ‘Silver Morning’, a taste of her inimitable nu-folk originality. She has also addressed the recurring theme of the night visitor with the insistent ‘Cold Caller’.
Pretty Warnings has a sublime quality; an enchanting warmth that runs through it. It feels as though Ward’s song writing has evolved with a richness born from her experience and time away from the studio; songs like ‘Sunshine Child’ and ‘The Sweetest Flowers’ being prime examples of her exquisite skill in their quiet and involving beauty.
Produced by Stu Hanna & Stephen MacLachlan
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A closer look at the songs
Silver Morning – L. Ward
A plaintive piano opens the album and sets a mood of wistful melancholy. The purity of Ward’s voice portrays the longing of the rover destine always to roam.
‘The sky turned into a fishermen’s boat/stole the clouds and left me alone’
Cold Caller – L. Ward
A night visitor song, drawing on the drama and changeability of the weather. What starts of as a sweet love song becomes claustrophobic as the darkness creeps in.
‘Hateful is the sun/her hurtful chiding eyes/she watched me come undone/I wait for the night’
Sunshine Child – L. Ward
A beautiful expression of pure unfettered love. The song conjures up echoes of surrendering to the inevitable lure of unconditional love.
‘I heard you singing our song/I knew you would come’
Bill Norrie – Trad Arr. Ward
Ward first heard this song supporting Martin Carthy in 2013, and was utterly captivated by this Child Ballad that tells the story of mistaken identity and murder.
‘He’s run home and home there down into his hall/Tossed Billy’s head to her, crying “Lady catch the ball”’
Maria Martin – Trad Arr. Ward
Found in the Davenport Song Collection ‘Down Yorkshire Lanes’, this brutal true story tells the tale of of William Corder who swung from the gallows for killing Maria Martin, the daughter of a mole catcher. The bluesy treatment of this gruesome tale showcases the power of Ward’s band and the full range of her sultry voice.
‘I went home to fetch my gun, my pickaxe and my spade’
Fair & Tender Ladies – Trad Arr. Ward
Learned from the raw and passionate singing of Peter Bellamy… The dark, deep richness of ward’s voice coupled with haunting close harmonies provided by Anna Esslemont and Helga Ragnarsdottir give the song a spell binding quality and a sense of captivating other worldliness.
‘But loves grows colder/As girls they grow older’
Mari Fach – Words L. Ward, Tune Traditional
Mari Fach meaning Sweet Mari in welsh was initially penned for EFDSS & TRAC’s project Beyond The Marches. In this reworking of The Cruel Mother, Ward has used the traditional form to beautiful effect, telling the true story of young Mari with a striking conciseness that cuts through the years, bringing this centuries old tragedy to life. To do justice to Mari and her baby’s sad fate (the time old tale of a young serving girl, pregnant by a lord, afraid, alone and out of options) Ward’s approach is one of sadness, and of challenging the way women are often portrayed in traditional song. The warmth of Sam Pegg’s electric bass provides a beautiful back drop for this plaintive tale.
‘The babe like a bird all covered in feathers/All alone and aloney-o’
Lazy Day – L. Ward
This song captures the sunny laziness of a slow day, and the joys of living in the moment. A fresh and blissful summer anthem.
‘Lazy day you always seem to start the same/Bursting with intentions that never find their way’
The Sweetest Flowers – L. Ward
Part lullaby and part love song, less is often more and this beautiful song is perhaps the pinnacle of this mantra, with Ward’s subtle concertina accompaniment and just a few well chosen hints of piano the pure joy of her lyrics shine out. The words feel as though they are an effortless stream of consciousness, charming and loving; they are truly born of Ward’s deepening maturity as a song writer.
‘It’s a fabric made from you and me/And light cascades from every seam’
Artist’s website: www.lucywardsings.com