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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Grand Conversation by Mick Ryan & Paul Downes

The opening track says it all in terms of superb guitar and occasional banjo and mandolin accompaniment, fine singing and creative arrangements that pervade throughout this album. That said, only the choice material is left to comment on!

There is a mixture of traditional songs and songs written by Mick many of which feature in his folk shows on a variety of themes. I have to say at this point that not all the songs are appealing! Some are very dour like Reprisals from "The Voyage", Sleep of Death and The Foe from "A Day's Work" ; but this is folk song for heaven's sake so we need death and destruction to make it authentic!

The Lazy Man lightens things up and, while not cheerful, The Lark Above the Downs is a beautifully crafted and performed song. Green Island also from "The Voyage" is in similar vain and takes us to the enviable heights of Mick's voice range which is well tested without blemish here. I also liked their arrangement of Banks of the Bann a very well known Irish song of course, but refreshingly performed here. Similarly, The Bell Ringing from Mick's home county of Devon gets a lovely treatment with a highly effective banjo accompaniment and a chance for Paul to express his skill in singing harmonies.

The final track Thomas Brassey from Mick's latest show "The Navvy's Wife" makes a cracking finish to this album which I'm sure will rightly become a classic.

No folkie should be without this CD in their collection.