Rychard Carrington reports on Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends and Lucy Ward - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 21 February 2012

Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends
Cambridge Corn Exchange, The

It was an extra treat to have rising star Lucy Ward as support slot. The twenty-one-year-old singer started by claiming that this was the biggest auditorium in which she’d performed, yet her freshness was matched by confidence throughout her set of five songs and some engaging patter that indicates a style derived from many formative years’ experience in folk clubs. Lucy, from Derby, with hair currently dyed blue, convinced us all of her impressive talent with her opening number, an a cappella rendition of the traditional The Fair And Tender Ladies, which was quite magnificent. Her vocal style, somewhat reminiscent of Sandy Denny, brings out the deep pathos out of whatever she sings. For her second number, Lucy picked up a guitar to accompany herself on her own composition, the sensitive Julia. A protest song, For The Dead Men, followed, and then the very moving Bricks And Love. Next came some quotes from the 1965 annual of Boyfriend magazine, leading into the traditional Canny Lads, with new verses by Lucy.  All in all a quite excellent opening set, by a lady very likely to go far.


You are probably aware of the outstanding success story of Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, a group of ten a cappella shanty singers, three fisherman brothers and two former fisherman amongst them, whose long–established group was picked by record producer Rupert Christie and then Universal Records, propelling them into success on a remarkable scale, at least by folk standards, including a top ten album and appearances on television adverts. The corny line ‘success hasn’t spoiled them one bit’ - a sentiment lampooned, as much else was, by the comic introductions of bass singer and MC John Cleave - was evidently the complete truth. A most pleasant group of men, and such powerful singers. Some songs featured accordion and guitar; many were completely a cappella. The Friends each took a turn at lead vocals, and all sang very well, yet it was the resounding choral sound that really packed a punch. While some songs took a contemporary take on seafaring life, many were shanties from a bygone era. We were treated to the stark essence of the folk tradition: the unadorned beauty of music chronicling real human lives, real human emotions. From the opener A Drop Of Nelson’s Blood to the encores Sloop John B and South Australia, it was a most moving, heartening, stirring as well as entertaining evening.


Writer: Rychard Carrington