In her superb new album Turas Cumadóir, Paula Ryan, compelling singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist originally from Tipperary in Ireland, entices us to join her enthralling “songwriter’s journey” (translated from the Gaelic language album title) through a musical landscape filled with an outstanding repertoire of potent, perceptive, self-penned songs, which are beautifully arranged and performed.
As with Paula’s highly acclaimed previous album Let Me Fly, Turas Cumadóir is a relative rarity nowadays – a solo album in the true sense! Resisting the trend towards guru producers, in addition to writing all twelve tracks on the album, amazingly Paula has single-handedly created all the wonderful arrangements. In performance of this impressive collection of highly original songs, Paula uses a fascinating variety of instruments (marimba, bouzouki, guitar, bodhran, saxophone, low whistle etc.) to accompany her distinctive warm skilful lead vocals which are ornamented by glorious, adeptly crafted, harmonies.
The album opens with ‘Vision’ – an inspiring call, with a blues tinged folk feel, to ‘open our eyes’ both literally and figuratively. ‘Raise Our Voice’ continues in similar vein lyrically encouraging us to reach out across the world in an upbeat peace anthem which was the Winner of the prestigious Peace Song Prize at Shrewsbury Folk Festival, one of the UK’s top folk festivals. The inventiveness of the instrumentation used by Paula on the album is exemplified by ‘Garryroe’, an ode of longing for one’s childhood home and memories of times gone by and people passed on. The rhythmic hard wood tones of the Marimba and the tantalising finger-picked guitar cradle the voice and the words deftly throughout the song’s contemplation of a past that has gone forever. However we are not to be mournful too long as with some very adroit bodhran playing and joyous vocals Paula banishes any lingering woes with the gleeful ‘You Make Me Laugh’.
What is remarkable about this album is that within it one can find the most gentle tender love song such as ‘All I Wanna Do Is Hear Your Voice’ alongside the stark lament-like ‘Caught In A Trap’, the most enthralling story song such as ‘Only A Cabinet Maker’, the most fun-loving tongue-in-cheek serenade to her ‘Handsome Irish Man’, the pleading cry for release from broken relationship in ‘I Just Wanna Let Go’ and the universal celebration of the simple benefits and joys of music and singing in ‘Sing For Today’ – all equally well written, sensitively performed and beautifully arranged.
Paula strives not to be confined by the boundaries of any particular musical style or genre and seeks to continually expand her musical horizons. Just as with many of the greatest songwriters (Springsteen, Mitchell, Dylan, Cohen, Morrison etc….), she also accepts no limits in terms of topics which can, and indeed should, be tackled by the songwriter. From the sublime to the ridiculous, it’s all just waiting to be put in a song!
With the stunning and hauntingly evocative closing track on the album – “O My Blue Eyed One”, Paula shows that she has the ability to capture real life moments and experiences with imaginative melody and ingenious lyrics. This song also demonstates that Paula has the character to empathise and the craftsmanship as a songwriter to impart a viewpoint in song in a way which strikes a chord with listeners, prompts reflection, may pose questions and raise challenges but always ‘makes something magical happen’ for listener and singer alike. Even on first hearing of “O My Blue Eyed One” it is patently obvious why this song was nominated as Track/Song of the year by the highly respected Fatea, one of the UK’s leading acoustic music magazines.
Paula Ryan’s music cannot be fixed in a specific genre, you always hear the Irish roots, but she includes all kinds of influences from other cultures. It is rare to find an entirely solo produced album as diversified, innovative, well-crafted and wonderfully presented as Turas Cumadóir.
Artist’s website: www.paularyan.co
An oldie from Paula Ryan: ‘Let Me Fly’ – official video: