WGS375CD - Away in the West

by Mick Ryan & Paul Downes

Another albums of songs mainly from the pen of Mick Ryan but this time with the collaboration of Paul Downes.

Supported by
Paul Hutchinson - accordion
Jackie Oates - fiddle



1 THE PAUPER'S PATH (Words and music - Mick Ryan). 

The path from the road to the front of the workhouse was, apparently, know by this name. 

2 THE BELLS RANG (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

The BBC's wonderful testimonial history of the twentieth century, 'The People's Century', inspired this song. 

3 SUMMER IS A-COMING IN (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

This is from my 1995 show 'A Day's Work'. A group of farm workers sing this as part of the mummers' play of death and resurrection which is later tragically replayed on the western front in 1916. 

4 JACK IN LUCK (Words - Ryan, Music - Downes) 

This is based on a story recalled from childhood. I have since found it in Grimms' Fairy Tales as 'Hans In Luck'. Memory has changed some of the details. The main features of the story, however, remain remarkably unchanged. Which just goes to show how the 'folk process' tends to retain the essential core of a tale. 

5 GREENLAND (Trad. Arr. Downes 

A traditional song learned from A. L. Lloyd. 


6 SOUTH ARMAGH (Words - Mick Ryan, Music - Trad.) 

In 1992, I was invited to participate in a 'singing weekend' in Forkhill, South Armagh, known in the media as 'bandit country'. I travelled there with some trepidation. I left in a different frame of mind. The tune is that of a song, 'Sarah Jane', which I heard at the festival. We've changed the time signature. 

7 THE PEOPLE MUST BE AMUSED  (Words - Mick Ryan, Music - Ryan/Downes) 

Waveney Folk Club, Lowestoft, is held in the converted cellar of an early 19th century theatre, now an arts centre. On the walls of the rooms above are framed play bills of its earliest days. The title is a reference to the catchphrase of the circus owner, Sleary, in Dickens' 'Hard Times'. Thanks to Carol and Chip for sending me photocopies of the posters. 

8 LOVE IS LIFE (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

Written after the death of my father. 

9 VINLAND (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

Loosely based on George Mackay Brown's historical novel of the same title. The book has the same kind of stark and compelling quality found in some of the poems of Ted Hughes, or the songs of Dave Goulder. The story is set in Shetland, and beyond, in the 11th century. It is now widely accepted that the area of what is now Cape Cod was briefly settled at that time by Norsemen under Leif Ericson. It was so named from the report that grapevines were found growing there. In Brown's story, it is, I think, a symbol of lost innocence. 

10 NO EVIL (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

A visit to the National Trust Workhouse Museum, Southwell, Notts., brought this one about. When there was no useful work for the paupers to do, they were put to 'turning the mill'. This was a two-man crank handle either side of a stiffly geared drum. It produced nothing but sweat and virtue, both of which had to be suffered in absolute silence, as had just about every other activity in the institute. 

11 UPON A FIELD (Words - Ryan, music - trad.) 

The lark is, for me, always a symbol of permanence and freedom. The tune is Irish ('My Lagan Love'). 

12 FIRE AGAINST THE COLD (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

This was inspired by Brian Keenan's account of how he coped with solitary confinement. 

13 HOW WIDE’S THE OCEAN? (Words and Music - Mick Ryan). 

This is from my 1998 folk opera 'The Voyage'. An emigrant mother addresses her infant child. 

14 THE INSTITUTE (Words and music - Mick Ryan) 

After my visit to the Workhouse Museum, I wondered how the inmates coped with the rule of silence. 
THE PAUPER'S PATH
The path from the road to the front of the workhouse was
THE BELLS RANG
The BBC's wonderful testimonial history of the twentieth century
Sample not available
SUMMER IS A-COMING IN
This is from my 1995 show 'A Day's Work'. A group of farm workers sing this as part of the mummers' play of death and resurrection which is later tragically replayed on the western front in 1916.
Sample not available
JACK IN LUCK
Music - Downes)
GREENLAND
A traditional song learned from A. L. Lloyd. <br> <br>
SOUTH ARMAGH
Music - Trad.)
Sample not available
THE PEOPLE MUST BE AMUSED
Music - Ryan/Downes)
Sample not available
LOVE IS LIFE
Written after the death of my father.
Sample not available
VINLAND
Loosely based on George Mackay Brown's historical novel of the same title. The book has the same kind of stark and compelling quality found in some of the poems of Ted Hughes
Sample not available
NO EVIL
A visit to the National Trust Workhouse Museum
Sample not available
UPON A FIELD
music - trad.)
Sample not available
FIRE AGAINST THE COLD
This was inspired by Brian Keenan's account of how he coped with solitary confinement.
Sample not available
HOW WIDE’S THE OCEAN?
This is from my 1998 folk opera 'The Voyage'. An emigrant mother addresses her infant child.
Sample not available
THE INSTITUTE
After my visit to the Workhouse Museum
Sample not available

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

It is always a pleasure to listen to the rich voice of Mick Ryan and the sensitive accompaniments of Paul Downes as is the case in this their latest CD. All but one of the songs have been written by Mick. On some songs he uses a traditional tune or even one from Paul.

The album starts with a percussively driving number called 'The Paupers Path' followed by a much more gentle and melodic 'The Bells Rang' which has a lovely 5 string viola accompaniment from Jackie Oates. These two opening songs serve to illustrate clearly the range of styles of Mick's song writing. This factor and careful programming of the songs means that the album never palls.

The only traditional song on the album is 'Greenland' which Mick learned from the singing of A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd but he sadly gives us no more information in the sleeve note. A classic song which I don't remember hearing before. A couple of the songs are from Mick's folk operas including 'Summer Is A-coming In' from 'A Day's Work' and 'How Wide's the Ocean?' from 'The Voyage'. Of the newer one's on this album 'Jack in Luck', which is based on a Grimms' fairy tale, tells a remarkable story that I found fascinating. It's also the longest track on the album. 'Love is Life' which Mick wrote after the death of his father is a moving tribute to the path of life and fortune. 'No Evil' is a fine song about human oppression in the setting of a workhouse as is the song 'The Institute'. Mick uses the Irish tune 'My Lagan Love' as the setting for 'Upon A Field' where he uses the lark to highlight the freedom from the battle below. An apt comparison and another bird in folk song for my collection!

All of the songs are carefully arranged in both accompaniment and pace as would be expected from these two excellent artistes. Another good 'un chaps, well done.

Mardles

Andrew Paige

Some albums invoke sadness, some invoke joy some manage to invoke a number of emotions. Without wishing to resort to the dreaded word variety this CD does manage to cover a wide range. Mick Ryan's songs are steeped in the tradition. On most of the tracks he is responsible for both the words and music, but this is not what is broadly perceived as a singer-songwriter album.

Having established a following in the folk clubs with Pete Harris, Mick has since been working mainly with Paul Downes, one of the finest guitarists and multi instrumentalists on the scene. Mick and Paul are joined on some tracks by Jackie Oates (5-string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion) to good effect. Paul contributes not only guitar, but also banjo, mandocello, acoustic bass and harmony vocals.

There is only one purely traditional track Greenland learnt from the late Bert Lloyd, but many others deserve to pass into the tradition - and no doubt will. Paul demonstrates his virtuosity and sensitivity throughout, but it is particularly notable on Summer is a-coming in . Mick is in fine voice especially on No evil and Upon a Field where he has added his own lyrics to a song The quiet joys of brotherhood which I had always associated with Richard Farina and Sandy Denny but it is one heck of a tune.

Maud Karpeles said John Langstaff was her favourite singer in the folk idiom - in a different vein Mick Ryan qualifies for a similar accolade. As Janice Nichols (who?) said once upon a time "I'll give it five."


Netrythms

David Kidman

Over the past 20 years or so, Mick's been responsible for some of the finest original songs to come out of the contemporary tradition, for he's always shown a special empathy with historical perspectives and dramatic subjects and narratives. At the same time, his exceptional singing voice has placed him at the forefront of English folk song interpretation. Mick's singing and songwriting are once more brought together most persuasively on his latest CD, which takes the form of a further collaboration with Paul Downes, one of the most respected instrumentalists on the folk scene.

This time round, all but one of the tracks are Mick's own compositions (although Upon A Field and South Armagh both utilise traditional melodies). No fewer than three songs were directly inspired by Mick's visit to the National Trust Workhouse Museum (two of them, The Pauper's Path and the powerful The Institute, serve to bookend the disc). A theme common to several of the songs is man's courage (personal, moral or universal) and the inspiration derived from it: for instance, Love Is Life was written after the death of Mick's own father, while Fire Against The Cold was informed by how Brian Keenan, a key facilitator in the recent Irish peace process, had earlier in his life coped with solitary confinement. Two of the songs have their origins in Mick's folk musicals (Summer Is A-Coming In from A Day's Work and How Wide's The Ocean? from The Voyage), while the stirring The People Must Be Amused derives from the catchphrase of a Dickensian circus owner.

The album's closest approximation to a traditional ballad, the seven-minute Jack In Luck, is based on a Grimm's Fairy Tale recalled from childhood; here Paul's mandocello accompaniment comes into its own, but it must be said that throughout the disc Paul's musicianship is brilliant, entirely sound and vitally supportive, always appropriate for the setting (either rhythmic and driving, as on No Evil, or else gently chiming, as on The Bells Rang), while his keen harmony vocal work also ideally complements Mick's own rich tones. Additional, mildly lavish colourings are provided from time to time by Jackie Oates (five-string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion).

The songwriting is beautifully crafted and entirely consistent with Mick's oeuvre, and while Away In The West might not appear to contain any outright first-time attention-grabbers among its 13 songs, Mick nevertheless still delivers the goods here with another classy and well-coordinated set.

Shire Folk

Kevin T Ward

This is the third collaborative venture by singer/songwriter Mick Ryan with Paul Downes as principal musical accompanist, after Grand Conversation and The Navvy's wife, following his many 'duo' albums with Pete Harris and his celebrated 'folk operas'.

His song writing themes are expansive: in essence, the continuum of life and death, as witnessed through the seasonal cycles of nature and experienced by humankind through love and war, work and play. Oppression and suffering, freedom, and love are leitmotifs. These are explored through song stories inspired by folk inheritance, local history and direct personal experience including the BBC's The People's Century, a joyful musical visit to the media maligned 'bandit country' of South Armagh, archive playbills at Waveney Folk Club, the Workhouse Museum at Southwell, and the legend of 11th century viticulture at Cape Cod. Resulting pieces delineate the workhouse experience, 19th century travelling players, the annual cycle of whaling, the symbolism of the lark, and the seasonal farming cycle yoked to matters of war, death and resurrection.

Excellently balanced and recorded, Mick's rich baritone voice and delivery of the story is central. However, the beautifully arranged embellishment provided by Paul Downes - mainly on guitar, but also acoustic bass guitar, mando-cello and banjo - is exemplary in its sensitivity and grace. Perfectly judged and crafted, rhythmically and harmonically, it includes some exquisite detail and filigree touch. Paul also adds harmony vocals. Additional support, again with perfect empathy and discretion, comes from Jackie Oates (5 string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion).

EDS

Jacqueline Patten

Both Mick Ryan and Paul Downes are talented musicians who are not always given the recognition that they deserve. Mick's resonant voice transports the listener, while his song writing skills evoke a story, situation, or times past, that writers of any genre would envy. Paul has the ability to depict the lyrics, the tale, and the tone of a song, through an amazing array of arrangements and styles, as well as singing harmony vocals. Equally admirable is the way in which they both develop performing partnerships.  Among others, Mick is known for his work with Pete Harris, while Paul's duo with Phil Beer is difficult to surpass.

Of the fourteen songs on this album, the lyrics of all but one were written by Mick Ryan, the exception being 'Greenland', a traditional song learnt from A. L. Lloyd and arranged by Paul. Mick was also responsible for the music for the majority, assisted by Paul on two, while for a few a traditional tune is used. People familiar with Mick's writing will not be surprised that the themes of poverty, hardship, separation, and loss form the basis for the stories he tells through song. His talent for creating a song out of these difficult, and sometimes very ordinary events, involves the audience and stirs the emotions almost without them being aware of it.  Highlighting a few tracks is difficult, They are all memorable and moving for different reasons.  'Love is Life', written after the death of Mick's father, is already widely sung by others. Another song, 'The Bells Rang', seems to be quintessentially English, a journey through a century, the passing of a life, and the impact of the chiming bells for every important occasion.  

Before closing, praise must also be given to Jackie Oates, on viola, and Paul Hutchison, on accordion, whose contributions enhance the album.

Taplas

Mick Tems

TRULY magnificent. Ryan is a beautifully controlled singer and a fantastic songwriter, whose duo with guitarist Pete Harris earned good reviews. Now he's with master player Paul Downes, whose ability on the guitar knows no bounds. This is a cracking, absorbing album, and not a single track is wasted.

From the moment Downes' guitar sets the rhythm on the hypnotic The Pauper's Path with a fabulous chorus to die for, the two launch into a gamut of well-structured songs with pared-down lyrics and memorable hook-lines. Summer is A-Coming In is from Ryan's 1995 show A Day's Work, where the mummers' play of death and resurrection is tragically replayed on the 1916 Western Front. South Armagh pays tribute to a friendly, beautiful land that was dubbed by the media as �bandit country.�

These two encompass all that is best in folk music.

Around Kent Folk

Superb singer and inspired songwriter Mick paired with talented multi-instrumentalist Paul gives the folk scene one of the finest dues ever. They both have a feel for the songs with voice and music blending together so well. The way Mick takes scenes of life and turns them into songs is truly incredible. Some of the songs are from Mick's folk operas - A Day's Work, The Voyage and the newest, The Pauper's Path. The there's 'The Bells Rang' inspired by the BBC programme The People's Century.  Being invited to a singing weekend in South Armagh - travelling with trepidation, leaving in a different frame of mind.  'Upon A Field' - the lark being a symbol of permanence and freedom. The beautiful 'Love is life' written after the passing of his father and 'Fire Against the Cold' inspired by Brian Keenan's account of coping with solitary confinement. Songs you enjoy hearing again and again. See them at Broadstairs Folk Week.

fRoots

David Kidman

Over the past 20 years, Mick's been responsible for some of the finest original songs to come out of the contemporary tradition, for he's always shown a special empathy with historical perspectives and dramatic subjects and narratives. At the same time, his exceptional singing voice has placed him at the forefront of English folk song interpretation. Mick's singing and songwriting are once more brought together most persuasively on his latest CD which takes the form of a further collaboration with Paul Downes, one of the most respected instrumentalists on the folk scene.

This time round, all but one of the tracks are Mick's own compositions (although Upon A Field and South Armagh both utilise traditional melodies). No fewer than three songs were directly inspired by Mick's visit to the National Trust Workhouse Museum (two of them, The Pauper's Path and the powerful The Institute, serve to bookend the disc). A theme common to several of the songs is man's courage, personal, moral or universal, and the inspiration derived from it. For instance, Love Is Life was written after the death of Mick's own father, while Fire Against The Cold was informed by how Brian Keenan, a key facilitator in the recent Irish peace process, had earlier in his life coped with solitary confinement.

Two of the songs have their origins in Mick's folk musicals (Summer Is A Coming In from A Day's Work and How Wide's The Ocean? from The Voyage), while the stirring The People Must Be Amused derives from the catchphrase of a Dickensian circus owner. The album's closest approximation to a tradition�al ballad, the seven minute Jack In Luck, is based on a Grimm's Fairy Tale recalled from childhood. Here Paul's mandocello accompa�niment comes into its own, although Paul's musicianship is brilliant throughout the disc, entirely sound and vitally supportive, always appropriate for the setting (either rhythmic and driving, as on No Evil, or else gently chim�ing, as on The Bells Rang), while his keen har�mony vocal work also ideally complements Mick's own rich tones.

Additional mildly lavish colourings are provided from time to time by Jackie Oates (five string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordeon). The songwriting is beautifully crafted and entirely consistent with Mick's oeuvre, and while Away In The West might not appear to contain any outright first time attention grabbers among its 13 songs, Mick nevertheless still delivers with another classy and well coordinated set.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

It is always a pleasure to listen to the rich voice of Mick Ryan and the sensitive accompaniments of Paul Downes as is the case in this their latest CD. All but one of the songs have been written by Mick. On some songs he uses a traditional tune or even one from Paul.

The album starts with a percussively driving number called 'The Paupers Path' followed by a much more gentle and melodic 'The Bells Rang' which has a lovely 5 string viola accompaniment from Jackie Oates. These two opening songs serve to illustrate clearly the range of styles of Mick's song writing. This factor and careful programming of the songs means that the album never palls.

The only traditional song on the album is 'Greenland' which Mick learned from the singing of A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd but he sadly gives us no more information in the sleeve note. A classic song which I don't remember hearing before. A couple of the songs are from Mick's folk operas including 'Summer Is A-coming In' from 'A Day's Work' and 'How Wide's the Ocean?' from 'The Voyage'. Of the newer one's on this album 'Jack in Luck', which is based on a Grimms' fairy tale, tells a remarkable story that I found fascinating. It's also the longest track on the album. 'Love is Life' which Mick wrote after the death of his father is a moving tribute to the path of life and fortune. 'No Evil' is a fine song about human oppression in the setting of a workhouse as is the song 'The Institute'. Mick uses the Irish tune 'My Lagan Love' as the setting for 'Upon A Field' where he uses the lark to highlight the freedom from the battle below. An apt comparison and another bird in folk song for my collection!

All of the songs are carefully arranged in both accompaniment and pace as would be expected from these two excellent artistes. Another good 'un chaps, well done.

Mardles

Andrew Paige

Some albums invoke sadness, some invoke joy some manage to invoke a number of emotions. Without wishing to resort to the dreaded word variety this CD does manage to cover a wide range. Mick Ryan's songs are steeped in the tradition. On most of the tracks he is responsible for both the words and music, but this is not what is broadly perceived as a singer-songwriter album.

Having established a following in the folk clubs with Pete Harris, Mick has since been working mainly with Paul Downes, one of the finest guitarists and multi instrumentalists on the scene. Mick and Paul are joined on some tracks by Jackie Oates (5-string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion) to good effect. Paul contributes not only guitar, but also banjo, mandocello, acoustic bass and harmony vocals.

There is only one purely traditional track Greenland learnt from the late Bert Lloyd, but many others deserve to pass into the tradition - and no doubt will. Paul demonstrates his virtuosity and sensitivity throughout, but it is particularly notable on Summer is a-coming in . Mick is in fine voice especially on No evil and Upon a Field where he has added his own lyrics to a song The quiet joys of brotherhood which I had always associated with Richard Farina and Sandy Denny but it is one heck of a tune.

Maud Karpeles said John Langstaff was her favourite singer in the folk idiom - in a different vein Mick Ryan qualifies for a similar accolade. As Janice Nichols (who?) said once upon a time "I'll give it five."


Netrythms

David Kidman

Over the past 20 years or so, Mick's been responsible for some of the finest original songs to come out of the contemporary tradition, for he's always shown a special empathy with historical perspectives and dramatic subjects and narratives. At the same time, his exceptional singing voice has placed him at the forefront of English folk song interpretation. Mick's singing and songwriting are once more brought together most persuasively on his latest CD, which takes the form of a further collaboration with Paul Downes, one of the most respected instrumentalists on the folk scene.

This time round, all but one of the tracks are Mick's own compositions (although Upon A Field and South Armagh both utilise traditional melodies). No fewer than three songs were directly inspired by Mick's visit to the National Trust Workhouse Museum (two of them, The Pauper's Path and the powerful The Institute, serve to bookend the disc). A theme common to several of the songs is man's courage (personal, moral or universal) and the inspiration derived from it: for instance, Love Is Life was written after the death of Mick's own father, while Fire Against The Cold was informed by how Brian Keenan, a key facilitator in the recent Irish peace process, had earlier in his life coped with solitary confinement. Two of the songs have their origins in Mick's folk musicals (Summer Is A-Coming In from A Day's Work and How Wide's The Ocean? from The Voyage), while the stirring The People Must Be Amused derives from the catchphrase of a Dickensian circus owner.

The album's closest approximation to a traditional ballad, the seven-minute Jack In Luck, is based on a Grimm's Fairy Tale recalled from childhood; here Paul's mandocello accompaniment comes into its own, but it must be said that throughout the disc Paul's musicianship is brilliant, entirely sound and vitally supportive, always appropriate for the setting (either rhythmic and driving, as on No Evil, or else gently chiming, as on The Bells Rang), while his keen harmony vocal work also ideally complements Mick's own rich tones. Additional, mildly lavish colourings are provided from time to time by Jackie Oates (five-string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion).

The songwriting is beautifully crafted and entirely consistent with Mick's oeuvre, and while Away In The West might not appear to contain any outright first-time attention-grabbers among its 13 songs, Mick nevertheless still delivers the goods here with another classy and well-coordinated set.

Shire Folk

Kevin T Ward

This is the third collaborative venture by singer/songwriter Mick Ryan with Paul Downes as principal musical accompanist, after Grand Conversation and The Navvy's wife, following his many 'duo' albums with Pete Harris and his celebrated 'folk operas'.

His song writing themes are expansive: in essence, the continuum of life and death, as witnessed through the seasonal cycles of nature and experienced by humankind through love and war, work and play. Oppression and suffering, freedom, and love are leitmotifs. These are explored through song stories inspired by folk inheritance, local history and direct personal experience including the BBC's The People's Century, a joyful musical visit to the media maligned 'bandit country' of South Armagh, archive playbills at Waveney Folk Club, the Workhouse Museum at Southwell, and the legend of 11th century viticulture at Cape Cod. Resulting pieces delineate the workhouse experience, 19th century travelling players, the annual cycle of whaling, the symbolism of the lark, and the seasonal farming cycle yoked to matters of war, death and resurrection.

Excellently balanced and recorded, Mick's rich baritone voice and delivery of the story is central. However, the beautifully arranged embellishment provided by Paul Downes - mainly on guitar, but also acoustic bass guitar, mando-cello and banjo - is exemplary in its sensitivity and grace. Perfectly judged and crafted, rhythmically and harmonically, it includes some exquisite detail and filigree touch. Paul also adds harmony vocals. Additional support, again with perfect empathy and discretion, comes from Jackie Oates (5 string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion).

EDS

Jacqueline Patten

Both Mick Ryan and Paul Downes are talented musicians who are not always given the recognition that they deserve. Mick's resonant voice transports the listener, while his song writing skills evoke a story, situation, or times past, that writers of any genre would envy. Paul has the ability to depict the lyrics, the tale, and the tone of a song, through an amazing array of arrangements and styles, as well as singing harmony vocals. Equally admirable is the way in which they both develop performing partnerships.  Among others, Mick is known for his work with Pete Harris, while Paul's duo with Phil Beer is difficult to surpass.

Of the fourteen songs on this album, the lyrics of all but one were written by Mick Ryan, the exception being 'Greenland', a traditional song learnt from A. L. Lloyd and arranged by Paul. Mick was also responsible for the music for the majority, assisted by Paul on two, while for a few a traditional tune is used. People familiar with Mick's writing will not be surprised that the themes of poverty, hardship, separation, and loss form the basis for the stories he tells through song. His talent for creating a song out of these difficult, and sometimes very ordinary events, involves the audience and stirs the emotions almost without them being aware of it.  Highlighting a few tracks is difficult, They are all memorable and moving for different reasons.  'Love is Life', written after the death of Mick's father, is already widely sung by others. Another song, 'The Bells Rang', seems to be quintessentially English, a journey through a century, the passing of a life, and the impact of the chiming bells for every important occasion.  

Before closing, praise must also be given to Jackie Oates, on viola, and Paul Hutchison, on accordion, whose contributions enhance the album.

Taplas

Mick Tems

TRULY magnificent. Ryan is a beautifully controlled singer and a fantastic songwriter, whose duo with guitarist Pete Harris earned good reviews. Now he's with master player Paul Downes, whose ability on the guitar knows no bounds. This is a cracking, absorbing album, and not a single track is wasted.

From the moment Downes' guitar sets the rhythm on the hypnotic The Pauper's Path with a fabulous chorus to die for, the two launch into a gamut of well-structured songs with pared-down lyrics and memorable hook-lines. Summer is A-Coming In is from Ryan's 1995 show A Day's Work, where the mummers' play of death and resurrection is tragically replayed on the 1916 Western Front. South Armagh pays tribute to a friendly, beautiful land that was dubbed by the media as �bandit country.�

These two encompass all that is best in folk music.

Around Kent Folk

Superb singer and inspired songwriter Mick paired with talented multi-instrumentalist Paul gives the folk scene one of the finest dues ever. They both have a feel for the songs with voice and music blending together so well. The way Mick takes scenes of life and turns them into songs is truly incredible. Some of the songs are from Mick's folk operas - A Day's Work, The Voyage and the newest, The Pauper's Path. The there's 'The Bells Rang' inspired by the BBC programme The People's Century.  Being invited to a singing weekend in South Armagh - travelling with trepidation, leaving in a different frame of mind.  'Upon A Field' - the lark being a symbol of permanence and freedom. The beautiful 'Love is life' written after the passing of his father and 'Fire Against the Cold' inspired by Brian Keenan's account of coping with solitary confinement. Songs you enjoy hearing again and again. See them at Broadstairs Folk Week.

fRoots

David Kidman

Over the past 20 years, Mick's been responsible for some of the finest original songs to come out of the contemporary tradition, for he's always shown a special empathy with historical perspectives and dramatic subjects and narratives. At the same time, his exceptional singing voice has placed him at the forefront of English folk song interpretation. Mick's singing and songwriting are once more brought together most persuasively on his latest CD which takes the form of a further collaboration with Paul Downes, one of the most respected instrumentalists on the folk scene.

This time round, all but one of the tracks are Mick's own compositions (although Upon A Field and South Armagh both utilise traditional melodies). No fewer than three songs were directly inspired by Mick's visit to the National Trust Workhouse Museum (two of them, The Pauper's Path and the powerful The Institute, serve to bookend the disc). A theme common to several of the songs is man's courage, personal, moral or universal, and the inspiration derived from it. For instance, Love Is Life was written after the death of Mick's own father, while Fire Against The Cold was informed by how Brian Keenan, a key facilitator in the recent Irish peace process, had earlier in his life coped with solitary confinement.

Two of the songs have their origins in Mick's folk musicals (Summer Is A Coming In from A Day's Work and How Wide's The Ocean? from The Voyage), while the stirring The People Must Be Amused derives from the catchphrase of a Dickensian circus owner. The album's closest approximation to a tradition�al ballad, the seven minute Jack In Luck, is based on a Grimm's Fairy Tale recalled from childhood. Here Paul's mandocello accompa�niment comes into its own, although Paul's musicianship is brilliant throughout the disc, entirely sound and vitally supportive, always appropriate for the setting (either rhythmic and driving, as on No Evil, or else gently chim�ing, as on The Bells Rang), while his keen har�mony vocal work also ideally complements Mick's own rich tones.

Additional mildly lavish colourings are provided from time to time by Jackie Oates (five string viola) and Paul Hutchinson (accordeon). The songwriting is beautifully crafted and entirely consistent with Mick's oeuvre, and while Away In The West might not appear to contain any outright first time attention grabbers among its 13 songs, Mick nevertheless still delivers with another classy and well coordinated set.