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Mick Tems of Taplas

reviews Away in the West by Mick Ryan & Paul Downes

TRULY magnificent. Ryan is a beautifully controlled singer and a fantastic songwriter, whose duo with guitarist Pete Harris earned good reviews. Now he’s with master player Paul Downes, whose ability on the guitar knows no bounds. This is a cracking, absorbing album, and not a single track is wasted.

From the moment Downes’ guitar sets the rhythm on the hypnotic The Pauper’s Path with a fabulous chorus to die for, the two launch into a gamut of well-structured songs with pared-down lyrics and memorable hook-lines. Summer is A-Coming In is from Ryan’s 1995 show A Day’s Work, where the mummers’ play of death and resurrection is tragically replayed on the 1916 Western Front. South Armagh pays tribute to a friendly, beautiful land that was dubbed by the media as “bandit country.”

These two encompass all that is best in folk music.