Colin Andrews of Whats Afoot
reviews The Paupers Path to Hope by Mick Ryan show The Pauper's Path castFollowing his highly acclaimed Voyage and Navvy's Wife, Mick Ryan has again come up with a truly amazing set of original songs (though Down Among The Dead Men has appeared on his earlier recordings) in this his latest folk opera, It relates the destitution, the harsh conditions but above all the hope and resilience of those ordinary people who have fallen on hard times.
The Pauper's Path company consists of Mick Ryan, Paul Downes, Roy Clinging, Judy Dunlop, Maggie Boyle, Heather Bradford all accomplished performers in their own right and Phoebe Kirrage, a young teenager with a great future ahead of her as a singer. I haven't as yet seen the live show, but even so I enjoyed the atmosphere and sense of purpose created by the 28 tracks on this double CD. Many of the songs could stand alone, but taken together they generate a real narrative. Mick Ryan has a real gift for writing songs that have a `traditional' feel to them, and certainly there are some songs that one feels could have been written in the era of the workhouse.
Inevitably, even amongst the high quality material presented, certain songs stand out for special mention. Free At Last is quite ironic a man and wife welcoming the forced separation of spouses in the workhouse after years of an unhappy marriage. Workhouse Child catalogues the harsh regime in an ABC. Long Ago and Far Away, from Roy and Judy, is a powerful ballad looking back at the good times. It's the slower songs, however, that really steal the show for me: Time , from Heather, My Child, from Judy, and two numbers from Maggie the haunting melody of Where Shall I Go, and, my clear favourite, That's My Storv such a simple and attractive tune and a beautiful lament from a girl separated from her loved one.