MICK RYAN & PAUL DOWNES – The Passing Hour (WildGoose WGS417CD)

Passing HourThis is an album by two veterans; one famous as a songwriter, the other well-known as a sidesman and both fine singers. Many of the songs on The Passing Hour are by Mick Ryan, the others have been collected on their extensive travels and together they make up what might be thought of as a typical folk club set of the kind that you might have heard any time in the past fifty years.

The album opens with ‘The Midshipman’s Boast’, written by Kentish songwriter, Helen North. It’s a nice wish-fulfilment song with the sort of refrain that sets the audience up for the rest of the evening.

There are three not terribly well-known traditional songs here. The first, ‘Lady Diamond’, has little to do with Steeleye Span although their version tells the same story. Paul’s take on this Child ballad is suitably mournful and a warning to kitchen boys everywhere not to get above their station. A version of ‘Bartholamew Fair’ was recorded some thirty years ago by Regal Slip as ‘Room For Company’ if memory serves but has rarely been heard since and ‘Song Of Repentance’ hasn’t been heard until it was discovered in a collection of Irish street ballads.

Actually ‘The Parson And The Pig’ was a traditional song but this is Ryan’s rewrite and, along with ‘Oh! Swine!’, is  by far the jolliest song on the record. Mick is well-known for his folk operas and nothing becomes an opera so much as drama and ‘The Sea’ doesn’t disappoint in that regard, ‘Thankful Village’, ‘The Fowler’ and ‘One Day’ don’t come from one of his operas but they wouldn’t be out of place. Of the “collected” songs, Tom Lewis’ ‘All At Sea’ is the best but I have to say that ‘Adieu, Old Friend’ is too maudlin for my taste.

Mick and Paul are joined by Jackie Oates, Kate Riaz and Martyn Bradley who provide tasteful support on an album that will take you back as far as you wish.

Dai Jeffries

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