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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Away in the West by Mick Ryan & Paul Downes

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.