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Brian Cope. of Folk London

reviews Grand Conversation by Mick Ryan & Paul Downes

It is interesting the differing combinations and partnerships that have evolved and emerged from the folk scene. Some work and others don't. I do not know how the pairing of Mick Ryan with Paul Downes emerged but the result is a C.D. of an exceptionally high standard.

Both are well known as fine solo performers as well as members of notable groups and duo's, Mike for his work with Pete Harris and the group 'Crows' while Paul was a member of the popular band 'Arizona Smoke Review' and may currently be seen as part of The Joyce Gang. Although a first?rate singer himself Paul, restricts his vocals to supporting Mick on choruses, providing instead sensitive acoustic accompaniment using guitar, banjo, mandola and mandolin.

Mick's rich voice fits the songs chosen like a glove, hardly surprising as of the fourteen tracks, he wrote ten of them. The four remaining are traditional. The title track 'Grand Conversation' is given a little more speed than often heard and the move from dirge to slightly up tempo works well, whilst Paul's temperate banjo accompaniment gives a chiming feel to Mick's pleasing rendition of the Westcountry evergreen 'The Bell Ringing'. The original compositions showcase what an exceptional songsmith Mick Ryan is. Whether documenting historical injustice 'Put them down', or achievement 'Thomas Brassey’; singing in praise of 'The Lazy Man’; or warning against 'The Foe; he has an enviable skill. I particularly enjoyed 'The Light' where an evocative description of Geevor Mine in Cornwall, is set to Joni Mitchell's 'Song to a Seagull'.

A Quality album with a capital 'Q'.