Andrew Paige of Mardles
reviews Away in the West by Mick Ryan & Paul DownesSome 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."