PAULA RYAN – Turas Cumadóir (Maverico MAVO/SA/1003)

Turas CumadóirBorn and bred in Tipperary, Ryan is the working definition of a solo artist, writing, arranging and performing everything (and that includes bouzouki, marimba, bodhran, sax, low whistle & guitar) on this, her third solo album. Turas Cumadóir translating as “songwriter’s journey” it embraces the personal and the political, the latter getting things rolling with the first two tracks. Clearly influenced by Cohen and Baez alike, a circling guitar riff underpins ‘Vision’, a call to open our eyes both figuratively and literally and bring about change with a shared vision she sings how some are blind because they will not see and some are mute because they have no voice. A similar message informs the ‘Raise Our Voice’ with its backing drone intro, a call to join hands and reach out to each other and celebrate our differences that opens on a hymnal not before shifting to a jaunty folk bounce that reminded me of Judy Small.

The stark hard wood marimba backing underscores the emptiness that enfolds ‘Garryroe, a song about the Tipperary townland, once a thriving community but reduced to crumbling walls when the Irish famine saw most sell up their farms emigrate to America or Australia, a letter written in 1938 noting how just six families remained, none of whom could speak Irish.

A similar note is struck on the drone-backed ‘Ebb And Flow’, a song about villages and communities swept away by a tsunami and a life lesson about the human spirit that saw the survivors not dwell in despair but forge a new life from the ruins. It’s a message that also lies at the heart of ‘Caught In A Trap’ as, anchored by a muted bodhran beat, she sings about not letting hatred pull you down and be eaten up with resentment, but to embrace the future and let go the past.

Such optimism soars as her bodhran beats its rhythm through the joyous ‘You Make Me Laugh, a number in the same skipping song tradition as ‘Belle Of Belfast City’, giving way to the simply picked ‘All I Wanna Do Is Hear Your Voice’, a love song about the need for communication rather than keeping problems to yourself. There’s a strong sense of fun too, evident in both the good time bounce of ‘Handsome Irish Man’, essentially set to the tune of ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand’, and ‘Only A Cabinet Maker’, a waltztime ode to Christian Frederick Martin, the German-American luthier who came from a family of cabinet makers but, in the early 1830s, made the first guitar in America, his design going on to become one of the most famous and respected names across the world.

Turning to matters of the hearts, ‘I Just Wanna Let Go’ is a merry-go-round melody waltz about escaping from a relationship that’s run its course, without hurt or recriminations, and again finding the sort of joy and freedom embodied in ‘Sing For Today’, a rousing singalong celebration of the universal bonds of music.

Turas Cumadóir closes in haunting style with the unaccompanied ‘O My Blue Eyed One’, originally released a single in 2015 to coincide with Armistice Day, an anti-war number sung (and self-harmonised) in the voice of an Irish soldier having to leave to do his duty at the outbreak of WWI even though it’s not his cause and “this war it must be wrong” that ends with a heartbreaking coda of ‘It’s A Long Way To Tipperary’.

A well-established name in Ireland and the festivals circuit, Ryan remains somewhat under the radar in the broader contemporary folk scene, but this should go a long say to seeing her songwriter’s journey cross wider horizons.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.paularyan.co

‘O My Blue-Eyed One’ – live:

Paula Ryan, Irish singer and composer, announces new album

Paula Ryan

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:

PAULA RYAN – Let Me Fly (own label)

Let Me FlyPaula Ryan doesn’t actually defy convention but she resists it quite firmly. It begins with her instruments – she plays guitar, but who doesn’t? Bouzouki, bodhran, djembe and darabuka, too, saxophone, whistle and marimba, which is the first instrument we hear. Then there are the songs; English and Irish, wryly amusing or deadly serious.

The set opens with ‘A Thousand Smiling Faces’, inspired by a visit to Tanzania, a statement of Irish/African fusion and the joyful tone that characterises the record. The title track is a fairly straightforward biography of Amy Johnson, someone else who resisted convention, and none the worse for telling her story without frills and flounces. Next Paula switches to Irish for ‘Suantraí Donnacha’ which reappears in English as a bonus track as ‘Donnacha’s Lullaby’.

Session musicians will appreciate the joke in ‘Honest John’ (I won’t spoil it for you) but that is followed by the only cover on the album, John Faulkner’s ‘Lion In A Cage’ and we’re back under the African sun. The juxtaposition shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Back to Irish for ‘Havin The Craic!’ with full ceilidh band backing. Three songs, ‘Black Swan’, ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Castaway’ do change the mood somewhat. The first two exude a sadness and I still haven’t decided if the former is a metaphor for something that Paula keeps hidden. The last of the trio rises above the gloom and oozes optimism – cock-eyed, you might say.

The record wraps up in a happy mood with ‘The Funny Mood’ and ‘Song For Conor’ in which Paula rhymes “wonder” with “fonder” – get over that and it’s a very good song. She almost brings too many ideas together for one album and moods and styles change constantly from bright guitar to doomy percussion and drones. Let Me Fly is a remarkably good album by someone you probably hadn’t heard until now. I know I hadn’t.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Let Me Fly’ live. Not a great film but …

Paula Ryan announces new album

Paula Ryan announces new album

In her new album Let Me Fly, Paula Ryan, compelling singer/songwriter originally from Tipperary in Southern Ireland, brings us a superb collection of original, powerful and insightful songs, inspired by the lyricism and musical passion of her Irish Gaelic roots & driven by the funky rhythmic influences and unusual instruments of music from other cultures.

This is a solo album in the true sense in that as well as writing all except one of the songs, amazingly Paula has single-handedly crafted all the wonderful arrangements and performs them on a fascinating variety of instruments including Marimba, Bazouki, Guitar, Bodhran, Saxophone, Tin Whistle, Djembe and Darabuka to accompany her lead vocals augmented by glorious harmonies.

Paula draws her inspiration for her songs from a wide variety of sources ranging from the joyful curiosity of the children of Tanzania with whom Paula made music in 2010 captured in the opening track, ‘A Thousand Smiling Faces’, to the bravery of modern day heroes and heroines reflected in the title track of the album – ‘Let Me Fly’ – a tribute to aviator Amy Johnson. Paula strives not to be confined by the boundaries of any particular musical style or genre and seeks to continually expand her musical horizons.

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! What is remarkable about this album is that one can find the most gentle sweet love song such as ‘The Funny One’ alongside the stark lament-like ‘Don’t Cry’, the most enthralling story song such as ‘Honest John’ and the most fun loving party song such as ‘Havin’ The Craic!’ – all equally well written, sensitively performed and beautifully arranged.

Just as with many of the greatest songwriters (Springsteen, Mitchell, Dylan, Cohen, Morrison etc….), Paula has the ability to capture real life moments and experiences with imaginative melody and ingenious lyrics, and the character to empathise and to impart her viewpoint in song in a way which strikes a chord with the listener and ‘makes something magical happen’ for audience and singer alike.

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


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Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us. Can’t find what you are looking for? Search Amazon Store below.

Artist’s website: http://paularyan.co