I DREAMT I WAS A BIRD - LUCY WARD
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - DECEMBER 2015
Release Date: 2nd October 2015
Record Label: Betty Beetroot Records
I Dreamt I Was A Bird is the third album from the multi-award winning UK Folk singer-songwriter Lucy Ward. Once again the album is produced by the very talented and long time collabotaor Stu Hanna (Megson). Lucy is also joined on this album by Anna Esslemont, Stephen MacLachlan, Sam Pegg, Lukas Drinkwater and Debbie Hanna. The world famous Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band joins Lucy on the very moving 'Lion'. Whereas the previous albums were big and bold, dealing with some sweeping themes and world issues, this new album seems a lot more initmate concentrated and personal. Once again the album has all the hallmarks of Lucy's quality songwriting and vocals. 'I Dreamt I Was A Bird' is another strong contender for UK Folk album of the year.
Lucy she says in the album notes: “Lyrically the album is about being grounded, being of and for the landscape, whether urban or rural. 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.”
The album begins with the beautiful Summers That We Made, one of our favourite songs. The song is about short but intense summer romances which burn as brightly as the midsummer sun before fading before the mists and fading leaves of autumn. It’s a excellent contemporary chamber-folk composition with Anna Esslemont’s multi-tracked violin weaving beautifully around Lucy’s gentle vocals in a faultlessly bittersweet embrace.
Next is a song written about Lucy's Grandfather and Grandmonth Ode to Whittaker Brown, a the story of a child born in tough winter conditions in the 1950s.
Ceatures And Demons arose from a commission by BBC Radio 3 for their poetry and literature programme 'The Verb'. In her song, Lucy takes a new look at the novel 'North and South' by the Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell, know for its social commentary on relations between employers and workers in both the industrial north of England and the rural south. Like the novel, Lucy’s lyrics considers each side of the two divides, both geographical and economic, although it’s clear that her loyalties are with those who have been failed by capitalism.
Lord Randall is a cover of a timeless Child ballad (No.12), a good old fashioned murder song. The song is a firm favourite at all her live shows. It is an Anglo-Scottish border ballad consisting of dialogue between a young Lord and his mother. Through the mother's inquiry, it is gradually revealed that the Lord has been poisoned by his lover.
One of the most moving and haunting songs on the album is Lion, based on the true story of 21-year old Rifleman Robert Loveless Barker, who was executed for cowardice during the First World War and whose name is commemorated on the Shot At Dawn Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The symptoms so graphically described in the lyrics, would be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) today, a fact which makes the story all the more tragic and heartbreaking. The song was originally commissioned by Billy Bragg for the 14-18 NOW project and performed at the Left Field stage at Glastonbury in 2014.
Song for Lola has Lucy in a lighter mood, a charming snapshot of one of those “little moments in time”. Written about a chance encounter with a small girl in Lucy’s home town, this sweet and simple song is written and performed with a lot of affection. "It was though the summer had dreamt her...peroxide and perfect"
Daniel And The Mermaid relates the atmospheric and moody story of a great great uncle who reportedly caught a mermaid off the Hebridean Isle of Mull. The song’s arrangement is highly evocative, cast adrift amongst mysterious sounds conjuring up mental images of wild coastlines, rocky and sandy shores and sea mists, over which Lucy’s ghostly vocals shimmer, awash in layers of reverb. The song also includes the line "I dreamt I was a bird, with broad and might wings" which become the album's title.
Connie & Bud sounds like it should be set in a tiny mid-West town where the Great American Dream became a living nightmare. Connie and Bud are a homeless young couple and their new baby, struggling to survive on his dead-end job as a mechanic. Whose only roof over their heads is that of a broken-down car in the garage yard. The arrangement is equally mournful with it's hunting harmonies and the couple’s sense of hopelessness vividly portrayed in this downbeat slice of Americana noir. "It was never meant to be this way, star crossed lovers are foretold. Just 23 and starving on the streets, life is long and cold".
Return to Earth is inspired by a visit Lucy made to Titterstone Clee Hill, near Ludlow, which has been occupied since the Bronze Age but has seen more recent and intrusive exploitation by mining for coal and for rock for road-building. The mining has long since finished but numerous decaying quarry buildings remain, slowly being reclaimed by the landscape and giving the hill a sombre, almost otherworldly feel. Lucy has said that “the juxtaposition between cold harsh structures and lush green landscape stuck in my mind” and she muses on the human cost of this activity in a concise but very imaginative lyric. The contempory music matches the introspective mood with the band successfully creating an intense mood of heavy industry in full flight, with great interplay between drums, banjo and violin, building to its inevitable end in Lucy’s closing line, “We are choking, I can no longer sing”.