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Jacqueline Patten of EDS

reviews The Island of Apples by Mick Ryan & Pete Harris

Before they started performing together, Mick Ryan and Pete Harris were highly respected in their own right. While Mick has a superb singing voice and style, his skill as a writer of songs and folk operas in traditional style would be hard to equal. At the same time, Pete's ability as a musician (vocals, harmony vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, fretless bass guitar, whistles, percussion) and arranger are exceptional. As a duo they surpass previously high standards.

Most of the tracks on The Island of Apples were written by Mick Ryan or Graham Moore, the exceptions being two traditional songs, 'The Banks of the Bahn' and 'Cupid's Garden', and 'Fresh Fish', the words of which came from Mick's sister. The themes are familiar to devotees of traditional song: war, toil, loss, love, emigration, hope and despair plus a carol, 'There Was A Man', written by Mick and arranged by Pete.

Seven items come from folk musicals: two from 'A Tolpuddle Man', two from 'The Voyage', two from 'Tanks for the Memory', and one from 'The Navvy's Wife'. If it is the mark of an excellent CD when phrases of tunes keep coming into one's mind at regular intervals, then this one is good as it happens with many of the songs on this album: they are already familiar.

It is always difficult to select a favourite track but on this occasion it is worth doing. 'The Song Goes On', written for a concert in memory of Cyril Tawney, promises to be a song that will go on, and it is likely to reach a wide audience for many years to come. It is a song devoted to a man who brought traditional music to thousands; if there had ever been any doubt, this album confirms Mick Ryan and Pete Harris's place alongside him.