Hard Season

by Mick Ryan & Pete Harris

Mix of traditional songs & Mick Ryans own compositions. Vocal harmony with rich instrumental accompaniments including guitar, mandola, bouzouki, oboe, fiddle, melodeon.



...superb music-making....the balance between Micks seemingly effortless vocals and Petes sympathetic accompaniment on a range of instruments as well as harmony vocals gives this CD a diversity which wouldnt normally be associated with an album of mainly Trad Arrs. Of course to anyone familiar with Micks original and entertaining folk musicals this will come as no surprise at all, but for anyone else just dip anywhere into this album and you will come out with plums each time. As we go into a new era there could be no better fellow travellers than Mick Ryan and Pete Harris to remind and reassure us through this superb collection that the folk tradition is alive and well and will step strongly with us. Highly recommended. Folk on Tap

I Wont Take That Lying Down
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Spencer the Rover
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Long Hard Season
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The Lass of Islington
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The Drunkards Lament
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Leaves of Life
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Night Visiting Song
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The Recruited Collier
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The Foggy Dew
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Fair was the City
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Just As the Tide Was Flowing
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The Plains of Waterloo
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Willy Worrell
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The Leaving Time
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Come and Be a Soldier
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fRoots

This disc is worth it for the opening track alone: Ryans composition I Wont Take That Lying Down is a stirring assertion of Irish dignity in the face of others ignorance. Many of the tracks that follow are familiar items from the trad repertoire (Recruited Collier, Spencer The Rover, Night Visiting Song and so on) but fine performances in every case, although in the end I kept finding myself skipping back to Ryans excellent and memorable compositions. Aside from the opener, these range from the exiles lament of Leaving Time to the comic saga of Willy Worrell, the latter boasting ingenious, distinctly non?folk lyric writing, with its source ? as far as Im concerned ? in a story (The Master Of Wit And Repartee) that I heard Phil Beer tell about 25 years ago. This one is well worth seeking out.

Folk Tales

Llars Nilson

Neither Mick Ryan nor Pete Harris are newcomers to the English folk scene. Ryan has a long career behind him. His first LP was released in 1978, a duo effort with Jon Burge. He has also been a member of The Crows, who failed to make it big, and has written a couple of folk musicals. Harris has played with a number of groups and is also a solo performer. They formed their duo in 1993 and have previously released at least three albums together.

On Hard Season, their roles are clear. Mick Ryan provides the lead vocals and Pete Harris the instrumental backings on various string instruments, often double tracked, and some vocal harmonies. Harris has one lead vocal, the ever popular The Foggy Dew. On a few tracks, they get help from Dave Ingledew on melodeon, Joyce Ingledew on fiddle, Paul Marsh on bodhran, and Paul Sartin on oboe.

Mick Ryan has a superb voice for singing folk music. Often powerful, sometimes more relaxed, his delivery of the lyrics is crystal clear and he is successful in his ornamentation of the songs. He is a folk singer in the true sense of the word, with a mission to perform the songs, not to use the songs as vehicles to show off his own ability. On the album, he also proves himself a good writer of songs in the traditional vein.

The best compliment you can hand to Pete Harris and his playing is that, on the double?tracked pieces, it sounds like a band playing, not one musician playing several different instruments. He has an ability to add what is needed to supplement Ryans voice. In particular, his guitar playing is superb; after listening to the CD I would put him down as a guitar player also playing other instruments. On songs like The Lass of Islington and Just As the Tide Was Flowing, his guitar playing is smooth and easy flowing, though when you listen carefully you will find it very complex. His harmony vocals are also outstanding on a couple of songs.

It is a very English record. The songs are a mixture of traditionals and Ryans own. Some of the traditional ones are fairly well known, other more obscure. The Ryan songs are mostly taken from his folk musicals, The Voyage and A Days Work.

There are a number of stand?out tracks for me. I Wont Take That Lying Down, a Ryan?penned song from The Voyage, is a powerful statement with a catchy chorus and half rocky backing. It is one of those songs that could easily become a standard among floor singers and folk performers. Long Hard Season, another Ryan song, is also powerful and catchy, performed here a cappella in two harmonies.

Leaves of Life is a traditional carol taken from the Watersons. Ryan and Harris perform it a capella, and, throughout the song, they add on layers of harmonies. The Recruited Soldier is another traditional song. Mick Ryan performs it solo, with no instrumental backing. The same goes for The Plains of Waterloo, which is given a superb treatment. Ryans performance has made me rediscover this beautiful ballad.

The Leaving Time, yet another Ryan original from The Voyage, is a sad song about the reasons for people emigrating. Come and Be a Soldier, from Ryans A Days Work, is the rockiest track on the album, with Harris providing electric guitars, mandolin and fretless bass. You only wait for the drums to come in.

All in all, this is a fine example of English folk music at its best.



Taplas

MICK Ryan must be one of the most undervalued singers on the folk club circuit and Pete Harris provides accompaniments on a variety of instruments. Hard Season (Wild Goose WGS 295CD) includes a selection of Micks own songs and traditional ballads, among them a solo version of The Plains of Waterloo and a new version of Fair was the City from his eponymous 1978 LP with Jon Burge. This is possibly his best recording to date.