Life Drawings

Foz looks at John Ward's eighth album

Lowestoft folk star John Ward is celebrating the release of his eighth album. John and his band go from strength to strength and it really is about time they had a bit of national recognition. The CD, Life Drawing, is the best thing John has ever done and I had no hesitation in making it an album of the week on my BBC Radio Suffolk show last month. It comprises no fewer than 13 tracks, all penned by John with help on one of them from group member Les Woodley. I’ve been a fan of John’s since the 1990s and since then have followed his career with a great deal of interest. In the early days he collaborated with fiddle player Mario Price and they made plenty of great recordings together. In more recent times John has worked with a band but his old sparring partner does make a guest appearance on the new album. For the most part though it’s a band effort and what a group John has assembled.

Guitarist Stephen Mynott, the man behind the Milestones Jazz Club in Lowestoft, has helped give John a new sound without straying too far from John’s beloved folk roots. For the most part Les is on bass and along with John’s wife Lynne, also delivers some killer harmonies. Believe me, this recording is a real breath of fresh air as it touches so many different musical bases. It’s been sounding wonderful on the radio and I have no doubt it sounds pretty darn good live as well. John is a regular performer at the award winning Lowestoft pub The Stanford Arms and there’s a jig on the album named after the place. John’s now gearing up for a busy festival season which includes his annual involvement with FolkEast where he and Lynne programme lots of great acts on the Broad Roots stage.

Someone else who loves FolkEast is the UK’s most regularly published poet Martin Newell. Wivenhoe-based Martin does lots of work these days with The Hosepipe Band who are no strangers to Suffolk’s annual acoustic shindig at Glemhall Hall. Martin has so many strings to his bow these days it’s hard for mere mortals like me to keep up with them all. As well as being responsible for some of the UK’s very best modern poetry, Martin also writes a very entertaining weekly column for the East Anglian Daily Times which I always enjoy reading over my Saturday morning cups of coffee down on the Ipswich waterfront. His background is in music and back in the 1970s he was in local bands like Cleaners From Venus, Plod, Brotherhood Of Lizards and Gypp. The latter group came under the spotlight on my BBC Re-Introducing show recently when we recalled the glory days and the 20th anniversary trip to Gutersloe in Germany in 1996. I was part of the entourage and it was great to dig out the reel-to-reel recordings made of their appearance that weekend. During Martin’s latest visit to Broadcasting House in Ipswich last month he also chatted to me about his much lauded solo album, The Greatest Living Englishman, which originally came out in 1993 and has now been re-issued by Cherry Red Records. If I’m honest, I’d forgotten just how good the album is. It was made with the genius behind XTC – Andy Partridge – over six months down in the Swindon area. When it first surfaced Rolling Stone magazine hailed it a rock classic and all the renewed interested now being shown in XTC certainly won’t do any harm to sales of Martin’s masterpiece.

Finally, at the time of writing word is reaching me that Colchester Arts Centre is to host a big tribute to the late, great Reg Webb. Reg’s death last year left a huge void on the region’s music scene so it comes as no surprise whatsoever that well over a dozen of his musical admirers are taking part in a night in his memory and in the process raising money for cancer charities. As I type this, organiser Steve Wright is putting the finishing touches to the event. It’s on Sunday, May 5 and I’m sure the place will be packed, just as it usually was when Reg played there. Check out the venue website for more details.