On a road trip through Colorado a few years ago, John and his wife Lynne, spontaneously happened upon the museum and grave of William F Cody, aka Buffalo Bill. It was there that they learnt the surprising fact that Buffalo Bill had brought his show containing 800 performers & crew, 500 horses and 40 different nationalities, from the Wild West to the far east of the UK – Britain’s most easterly town of Lowestoft and John’s hometown. Buffalo Bill was a frontiersman and tracker, living on the Great Plains of Dakota in the 19th century. Realising that the Wild West and the traditional way of life of the Native Americans were vanishing rapidly with the western expansion of the European settlers, Bill curated his show which toured railway towns of the USA and Europe for 30 years. Perhaps Bill brought his show to your town?
John’s interest and imagination was kindled and after several years of research, writing and recording, the result is Congress – a book/CD package, a single release, a live show, a slideshow, a festival/community/educational workshop, a serialised BBC radio broadcast and an art/photographic exhibition.
Congress the CD is folk roots music but with a surprising variety of styles which reflects the fishing heritage of the UK’s east coast and the international nature of the travelling show. Like Bill’s extravaganza, it is full of surprises and quirkiness, whilst maintaining its roots in the music of the folk.
The music features the trademark harmonies of John, Lynne and Les Woodley, aka The John Ward Trio, with ambitious arrangements aided by top notch musicians, Ian Sainsbury on piano/keyboards and Jim O’Toole on violin, all bound together by soundscapes to conjure the times and the events.
Congress the book tells the story of John’s characters, Lakotas Soaring Hawk and Standing Cloud, whose paths cross briefly with Lowestoft’s Grit village fisherpeople, Jack and Maggie, when the show comes to Lowestoft. The book is written in a similar poetic narrative style to John’s previous book, The Iron Bridge, set against the history and heritage of John’s hometown of Lowestoft. Congress is a book intended to be read aloud and has been edited for performance at the live shows.
Congress is John’s 9th CD and 2nd book and will have its full national release on 3rd April, including all streaming platforms. The Book & CD package is available to buy via www.johnward.org.uk – £18 including P&P. It is also currently available in Dial Lane Books in Ipswich, Books and Prints @ The Grit in Lowestoft, and other selected outlets.