A friendly listening room above a restaurant In Philadelphia, a classy music area in a historic building in Old Town Alexandria, an intimate theater at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, a welcoming concert space at a top Irish pub in Somerville in the Boston area: though she’s brought her music to the world’s top stages, performed across Europe and North America, and headlined just about every major Celtic music festival from Milwaukee to Dallas to Cape Breton, Cathie Ryan chose these four places to begin celebrating the release of her new recording Through Wind and Rain.
It’s a choice that makes sense. The music on this recording is framed in Ryan’s familiar mix of tradition and newly composed music, of songs in English and Irish, of melody and word and idea which connect the Irish and American sides of her heritage. The stories and songs this time out hold a deeper personal touch for Ryan, as she’s chosen and written them because of ideas and experiences in her own life. Through the music she tells of facing troubles and surviving them, finding love and losing it, of connection and community, of resilience backed with thought, faith, wisdom, and flashes of humor.
The first track, for example, brings these ideas together in lyric and music, with a lively melody which is part traditional tune and part music written by Irishman Noel Lenaghan, and verses written by Ryan. “I used to listen to Noel when I was a kid growing up in Detroit,” says Ryan, whose parents had come to that city from Ireland. “He would come over from Belfast and stay for a month and play– just such a beautiful player, he had such a lift to his music.” Recently, the two reconnected and the song, which speaks of the excitement of finding love, letting it go, and finding grace and courage to continue on, came about. It is called In the Wishing Well, a tale set to a lively tune that may well have you tapping your foot or singing along on the chorus. On a quieter note, the song I’m a Beauty, by Canadian writer Laura Smith, finds Ryan offering a poetically told reflection on the courage to believe in one’s own self. There are equally engaging songs from Irish tradition, from contemporary writers who draw on tradition, and from Ryan’s pen.
Ryan took some time to gather the songs and record the album. In so doing she was able to invite musical friends from both Ireland and America to join her on the recording. Among them are top guitarist John Doyle, Cherish the Ladies founder Joanie Madden on flute and whistle, renown Irish player Michelle Mulcahy on harp, and Pauline Scanlon and Eilis Kennedy from Dingle on harmony. Also anchoring the sound of the album are Ryan’s regular band mates on the road, Matt Mancuso on fiddle, Patsy O’Brien on guitar, and Brian Melick on percussion. At the heart of it all, though, is Ryan’s graceful voice.
I’ll have more to say about the album Through the Wind and Rain coming up here at the Irish Fireside. If you have the chance, though, go to these CD release concerts. I’ve seen Ryan and her musical friends in concert several times. It’s experience well worth going out of your way to share.
Details and how to buy tickets for these concerts are at Cathie Ryan’s web site.
If you are reading this in Europe, or will be traveling there in December, Ryan has a Christmas tour of Austria planned, too. You will find details of that at her site as well.
Kerry Dexter writes about Ireland, Scotland, music, and history at Wandering Educators, Music Road, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, and other places online and in print.