Mick Ryan & Pete Harris
Something to Show Reviews and Track List

Mick Ryan and Pete Harris: 'Something To Show' (Wild Goose Records WGS 318 CD, ring 01326 318085 or visit www.wildgoose.co.uk)

Track List: All songs by "Mick Ryan, arr Harris", if not shown otherwise.
  1. The Ballad Seller 4.51
  2. The Queen of the May (Ian Palmer) 4.35
  3. Sons of the Land 3.45
  4. Farewell My Dearest Dear (Trad) 5.04
  5. Jack Went A-Sailing (Trad) 3.54
  6. The Grey Hawk (Trad) 3.19
  7. King Kaley 6.40
  8. Work, Work, When's It Gonna Stop? 3.40
  9. Something To Show - 5.20
  10. Faithless Sally Brown (words Thomas Hood/ music M. Ryan) 4.12
  11. The Last of England (Graham Moore) 4.09
  12. Two Brethren (Trad) 3.11
  13. The Prince of Peace 4.24
  14. The Eighteenth of June (Trad) 5.41


From Bob Taberner in The Folk Mag www.btinternet.com/~radical/thefolkmag

Mick Ryan seems to write an endless supply of quality songs that fit well alongside traditional songs as they do here. Mick's own songs come from a variety of sources - his shows such as 'A Day's Work' which provides two songs Sons of the Land and The Prince of Peace, TV documentaries as in the case of the title track and books of broadsides and folk tales. The ballad King Kaley is the result of the latter source. None of these songs sounds out of place next to the traditional material, even when Mick has chosen such fine songs as Farewell My Dearest Dear and The Eighteenth of June. Pete Harris is one of the best accompanists of folk songs around with a sympathetic feeling for the song that means that his technical ability always supports and never overshadows the singer. He can sing well, too, as in his solo The Grey Hawk, and his harmony singing complements Mick's excellent voice.


From Dai Woosnam in Kevin McCarthy's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews

© Dai Woosnam August 2004

Just typing out the names of the two artistes, got me thinking of Lennon & McCartney. (Eh? Surely I am not suggesting that the Mersey Beat has now a Wessex Beat equivalent? Indeed I am not.)

No, I think of those two illustrious names only insofar as I am reminded of the recent point attributed rightly or wrongly to Heather Mills-McCartney that some of the songs should be shown as "McCartney & Lennon", in order to illustrate that Sir Paul had made the greater contribution in the writing of that particular song.

And the thought occurred to me that maybe the next Ryan & Harris album should bear their names in reverse. Not that there is any doubt that Mick is the driving force behind their albums, but it would at least give Pete his proper alphabetic precedence, and just this once it would be no more than he deserves. For "Harris & Ryan" would formally acknowledge the vital role he plays in arranging traditional ballads, and indeed many of Mick's songs. And it would testify to the importance of his dazzling talent as a multi-instrumentalist and his pitch perfect vocal harmonies. Without him, Mick would struggle to get a replacement of the same quality: indeed, I doubt if he would ever find a partner whose voice harmonises with his quite so effectively.

If Pete was to leave him, Mick would soon know how Captain Scott felt when Oates and the whisky ran out.

And my mentioning Lennon & McCartney makes me think that there is another parallel: the Beatles never presented us with a bad (or even indifferent) album: and neither have these guys. This is their fifth CD together, and every bit as good as anything in their back catalogue.

I like most of the stuff a lot. The sound is gloriously full: not least because the guys are joined on this album by Paul Burgess on fiddle, Paul Sartin on oboe, and Tim van Eyken on melodeon. (Yes, even Pete cannot play everything!)

The stirring opening track "The Ballad Seller" sets out their stall: straight away the newcomer to their work is made aware that this is a duo who can not only write a song that is gloriously redolent of the finest Traditional Ballad, (but at the same time always staying ORIGINAL), but also can deliver a song like they really mean business.

The songs on this CD are mainly written by Mick, or are otherwise from the Tradition. But there are a couple of additions: one of them being "The Last of England", a fine song by Mick's one-time collaborator, Graham Moore. It is the kind of song that is reminiscent of the quality that Peter Bellamy achieved in writing his songs of forced emigration for "The Transports".

And talking of songs good enough to be included on others' albums, then I have to say that two stood out. "Work, Work, When It's Gonna Stop?" is delivered with real brio: it was a performance worthy of that much lamented duo Cosmotheka. Had both Sealey brothers been alive, trust me, they could not have improved on Mick & Pete's timing.

And then we have the title song: its content brings to mind Ralph McTell's "From Clare to Here", but "Something to Show" has I reckon an even better chorus. And that's praise indeed.


From David Kidman

Mick Ryan & Pete Harris - Something To Show (WildGoose Studios) For their follow-up to The Long Road, Mick and Pete present another enticing mixture of traditional songs and original compositions - the latter largely by Mick himself. And as usual, the songs present exactly the mix of repertoire you'd expect to hear at the quality end of the English folk club circuit, and are delivered in the customary accomplished manner we've come to expect from this pairing. I've already sung Mick's praises (as it were) on this site - he's quite simply one of the finest singers on the folk scene, possessing one of the most accomplished, enthralling and involving baritone voices I know; he's one of the most versatile too, being able to communicate a song's message equally effectively and directly on deeply serious and altogether lighter material. Pete not only delivers some fine vocal harmonies but also provides the perfect instrumental foil for Mick's voice with his expert and stylish playing (guitar, bouzouki, whistle, mandolin, mandola, bass, percussion - suitably multitracked where necessary, but never unduly cluttering the texture); the skills of Paul Burgess (fiddle), Paul Sartin (oboe) and Tim Van Eyken (melodeon) are also used sparingly throughout the CD. The CD's title track provides the album's emotional core; inspired by a 1980s TV documentary, it's a poignant personal reflection from the perspective of one of the young Irish labourers digging the new tunnels for London's Jubilee line tube. It's bookended by Mick's setting of the Thomas Hood poem Faithless Sally Brown and the pattersome piece of homespun Essex pub philosophy Work, Work, When's It Gonna Stop? Another standout track is The Last Of England, which Graham Moore wrote for his folk opera of that name; based on a Ford Madox Brown painting, it concerns a young emigrant couple looking wistfully back from their ship to their homeland. Elsewhere Mick demonstrates his knack for reinterpreting English ballad tales (with the "Hammer horror" creation of King Kaley, one of four tracks which are performed without any instrumental backing) and his unerring ability to pick worthy but less often-essayed traditional songs to sing - best of these is probably The Two Brethren, which comes from the singing of the Copper family. It's neatly counterpointed by Mick's own "farm labourer's calling-on song" Sons Of The Land, one of two songs here which the duo have re-recorded for this CD (like the stirring anthem The Prince Of Peace, it originates from Mick's earlier folk musical A Day's Work, which remains obstinately unavailable on CD). So, Something To Show may spring no surprises as such, in the sense that it delivers just what you'd expect from a Ryan & Harris duo offering. Basically, Mick and Pete have set their own high standard and will not deviate from it, continuing to uphold their own tradition of giving their all in a professionally-performed, healthily varied set with never a dull moment.

Also from David Kidman, as edited for fRoots

For their fifth duo album, Mick and Pete present another enticing mixture of traditional songs and original compositions, the latter largely by Mick. As usual, the songs present exactly the mix of repertoire you'd expect to hear at the quality end of the English folk club circuit, and are delivered in the customary accomplished manner we've come to expect from this pairing. Mick possesses the enviable ability to totally involve the listener in his singing, and his impressive breath control and use of vocal shading are distinctive features, whether he's tackling deeply serious or altogether lighter material. Pete not only delivers some fine vocal harmonies but also provides the perfect instrumental foil for Mick's voice, with his expert and stylish playing (guitar, bouzouki, whistle, mandolin, mandola, bass, percussion) suitably multi-tracked where necessary, but never unduly cluttering the texture); the skills of Paul Burgess, Paul Sartin and Tim Van Eyken are also used sparingly. The CD's title track provides the album's emotional core: a poignant reflection from the perspective of one of the young Irish labourers digging a new London tube tunnel. Another standout track is The Last Of England, which Graham Moore wrote for his folk opera of that name. Elsewhere Mick demonstrates his knack for reinterpreting English ballad tales (with the 'Hammer horror' creation of King Kaley, one of four unaccompanied tracks) and his unerring ability to pick worthy but less often essayed traditional songs to sing. The best of these is probably The Two Brethren, which comes from the singing of The Copper Family. It's neatly counterpointed by Mick's own Sons Of The Land, one of two songs here which the duo have re-recorded for this CD (like the stirring anthem The Prince Of Peace, it originates from Mick's earlier folk musical A Day's Work, which remains obstinately unavailable on CD). The album may spring no surprises in the sense that Mick and Pete continue to give their all in a professionally performed, healthily varied set with never a dull moment. But tell me, do they always have to look quite so gloomy on their cover pics?


From Jennifer Stapleton EDS Autumn 2004

This CD is dedicated to the memory of John Pri[n]ce, (a great gentleman and friend.)

Mick Ryan and Pete Harris fans will not be disappointed with this addition to the collection of CDs by this very talented pair, who on this occasion are supported by no less than Paul Burgess, Paul Sartin and Tim Van Eyken. There are 14 tracks in total, 6 with words and music written by Mick Ryan, 6 traditional with arrangements by Mick and Pete, 1 by Graham Moore and 1 by Thomas Hood. 3 of the tracks are from well known folk musicals, "The Last of England" by Graham Moore, and "Sons of the Land" and "The Prince of Peace" from Mick Ryan's "A Days Work." All the tracks are eminently singable as would be expected with this duo. It only takes one listening to be joining in with great enthusiasm, as if the songs were old friends, as indeed some are. Mick and Pete's voices blend so well together and their choice of key and pitch means everyone can find a slot to join in somewhere. I especially like Mick's version of the Copper family song "The Two Brethren." The sleeve notes give enough information and source of songs for anyone wishing to do further research.

A good CD to have in the car for those long journeys to festivals.


From 'Giff' in Folk Northwest (Derek Gifford)

I'm not even going to attempt to review the performances on this CD because, if you have heard or seen Mick and Pete, you'll know that their music positively oozes with skill and professionalism; so it's straight to the material.

This CD comprises a thoughtful mix of traditional songs and Mick's own compositions written in traditional style. We start off with one of Mick's songs called 'The Ballad Seller' inspired by a piece of prose in a collection of broadsheet ballads. Next it's the traditional 'Queen of the May' a tune written and guitar accompaniment nicely arranged by Ian Palmer.

Other traditional songs include 'Farewell My Dearest Dear', 'Jack Went A-Sailing', 'Two Brethren', 'The Eighteenth of June', which has an added verse, and 'The Grey Hawk' the latter of which I liked particularly partly because it is a good song seldom performed.

Mick's other own compositions include 'Sons of the Land' and 'Prince of Peace' both from his show 'A Day's Work' about Hampshire farm labourers in the Great War. 'King Kaley' however was inspired by a folk tale and is described by Mick as a "bit of a 'Hammer Horror' ballad"! Blood and gore everywhere in this one!

The other two songs by Mick are the up tempo music hall style 'Work, Work, When's It Gonna Stop?' and the title track 'Something to Show' which is not actually, in my humble opinion, the strongest song on the album.

To make up the fourteen songs presented there's a fine song from Graham Moore's folk opera of the same name called 'The Last of England' about, not surprisingly, emigrants and 'Faithless Sally Brown' (shame on her!) with words from a poem by Thomas Hood and Mick's tune and chorus which is sung unaccompanied and therefore sounding more traditional than a truly traditional song!

Mick and Pete are joined on a few tracks by Wild Goose 'regulars' Paul Burgess (fiddle), Paul Sartin (oboe) and Tim Van Eyken (melodeon). As always the package is well presented with sleeve notes on the songs and near perfection in recording and mastering from Doug Bailey. The only thing missing is Sue Bailey's wonderful 'butties' ! - you'll have to make those yourself, of course, but only once you've purchased his excellent CD from either Wild Goose direct, several Folk Recording specialist retailers or, best of all, from one of their gigs.


From Elaine Bradtke in Living Tradition

Since teaming up in 1993, Mick Ryan and Pete Harris have appeared at folk clubs and festivals around England and recorded several albums. This, their sixth, includes the usual mix of Ryan originals, traditional songs, and a few contributions from others. Their music has an English flavour, eloquently expressed by Ryan's liquid voice and backed by Pete Harris the one-man-band (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, mandola, banjo, bass and whistle as well as harmony vocals). They're joined on this outing by Paul Burgess (Old Swan Band): fiddle; Paul Sartin (Dr. Faustus, ex-Belshazzars Feast) oboe and Tim Van Eyken (Dr. Faustus, Waterson/ Carthy) melodeon. It would be hard to go wrong with personnel like that. From the opening strains of the Ballad Seller (with The Maid Behind the Bar as an instrumental break) to a lament for the fallen at Waterloo, The Eighteenth of June, it's a well balanced and well-performed collection. Ryan and Harris cover a wide range of material. The black comedy of Work, Work, When's It Gonna Stop? would sound at home in the Music Hall. The Prince of Peace, a stirring anthem full of West Gallery style harmonies comes from Ryan's show "A Day's Work". Ryan's songs sound so traditional because they're based on traditional themes or fragments of old songs, tales and poetry. One of these is the gruesome King Kaley. Spooky and full of gore, this unaccompanied song will send shivers down your spine. But by the second or third listening you'll catch yourself singing along. A highly enjoyable recording.


From Neil Pearson in Net Rhythms www.netrhythms.co.uk

For their follow-up to The Long Road, Mick and Pete present another enticing mixture of traditional songs and original compositions - the latter largely by Mick himself. And as usual, the songs present exactly the mix of repertoire you'd expect to hear at the quality end of the English folk club circuit, and are delivered in the customary accomplished manner we've come to expect from this pairing. I've already sung Mick's praises (as it were) on this site - he's quite simply one of the finest singers on the folk scene, possessing one of the most accomplished, enthralling and involving baritone voices I know; he's one of the most versatile too, being able to communicate a song's message equally effectively and directly on deeply serious and altogether lighter material. Pete not only delivers some fine vocal harmonies but also provides the perfect instrumental foil for Mick's voice with his expert and stylish playing (guitar, bouzouki, whistle, mandolin, mandola, bass, percussion - suitably multitracked where necessary, but never unduly cluttering the texture); the skills of Paul Burgess (fiddle), Paul Sartin (oboe) and Tim Van Eyken (melodeon) are also used sparingly throughout the CD. The CD's title track provides the album's emotional core; inspired by a 1980s TV documentary, it's a poignant personal reflection from the perspective of one of the young Irish labourers digging the new tunnels for London's Jubilee line tube. It's bookended by Mick's setting of the Thomas Hood poem Faithless Sally Brown and the pattersome piece of homespun Essex pub philosophy Work, Work, When's It Gonna Stop? Another standout track is The Last Of England, which Graham Moore wrote for his folk opera of that name; based on a Ford Madox Brown painting, it concerns a young emigrant couple looking wistfully back from their ship to their homeland. Elsewhere Mick demonstrates his knack for reinterpreting English ballad tales (with the "Hammer horror" creation of King Kaley, one of four tracks which are performed without any instrumental backing) and his unerring ability to pick worthy but less often-essayed traditional songs to sing - best of these is probably The Two Brethren, which comes from the singing of the Copper family. It's neatly counterpointed by Mick's own "farm labourer's calling-on song" Sons Of The Land, one of two songs here which the duo have re-recorded for this CD (like the stirring anthem The Prince Of Peace, it originates from Mick's earlier folk musical A Day's Work, which remains obstinately unavailable on CD). So, Something To Show may spring no surprises as such, in the sense that it delivers just what you'd expect from a Ryan & Harris duo offering. Basically, Mick and Pete have set their own high standard and will not deviate from it, continuing to uphold their own tradition of giving their all in a professionally-performed, healthily varied set with never a dull moment.


From Chris Mills in Shire Folk

This album from popular Mick Ryan and Pete Harris features both traditional and self penned songs, plus Paul Sartin on oboe, Paul Burgess on fiddle and Tim Van Eyken on Melodeon. Mick Ryan has a fine strong voice and has written extensively for both song and theatre. On this collection some neat guitar riffs back up Mick's vocal on 'Jack Went A-Sailing', and there is fine harmony singing on the Copper Family song 'Two Brethren'. Mick's popular message on 'Work, Work, When's It Gonna Stop?' moves along well, and the title song, 'Something to Show', about the building of the Jubilee Line Tube by Irish labourers, gives a more serious take on the demands of the work ethic.


From Chris (Yorkie) Bartram in Shreds & Patches

The term "folk song" has been used to describe a very wide variety of songs and these various uses of the term all have their own "agendas". Some talk of "songs of the people"; others "songs of the past". There are songs to educate; some to preserve traditional stories; other inspire nostalgia or protest. They can be universal or intensely personal. Well, this CD just about covers the lot!

Here are some wonderful traditional songs (including Farewell, My Dearest Dear which is also on Steve Jordan's CD reviewed elsewhere in this mag) and will be on my own CD when I eventually complete it. I heard Annie Dearman sing it recently. Why has this song suddenly come into fashion again? Perhaps just because it's a great song!) There's also The Grey Hawk and Two Brethren plus quite a few of Mick's own songs. (You can find the full tracklist at wwwwildgoose.co.uk). And here's that nice Paul Sartin again (This time on oboe. See the review of Steve Jordan.) plus Paul Burgess and Tim van Eyken. 14 tracks covering, as I said at the beginning, a lot of ground. Lively songs; sad songs; angry songs; thoughtful songs; scary songs. I just want to mention a couple of my own favourites. The opening track, The Ballad Seller is one of Mick Ryan's most "traditional-sounding" compositions. Excellent. Another of his compositions, King Kaley, has one of the best openings I have ever heard and develops into a classic horror story.

The singing is (as we have come to expect from Mick Ryan) utterly superb. The accompaniments and harmony vocals are (as we have come to expect from Pete Harris) totally splendid. The recording quality is (as we have come to expect from Doug Bailey) absolutely top-notch. What are you waiting for? Get it now!


From Roy Harris in Taplas

Wild Goose WGS 318 CD (62m) . WildGoose Records add to their recent string of winners with this impressive effort. The velvet-voiced Ryan has long been one of my favourite singers and the reasons why are all on display here. He has a wonderfully rich quality to his voice and he deploys it with tone and range equal to any in the folk revival today. He gains fine assistance from musical partner Pete Harris, a multi-instrumentalist, and then some, ten instruments credited here, plus vocal. The bulk of the songs are `words & music Mick Ryan', along with, a setting of Thomas Hood's Faithless Sally Brown and a few trads, all of them performed with feeling and skill. Ryan's long acquaintance with traditional song informs his own compositions in a way that genuinely pleases. Hats off too to guest musicians Paul Burgess, Paul Sartin and Tim van Eyken. Thanks to all concerned for an album that cheers my home listening and makes me want to see their next gig, wherever it is.


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