Mick Ryan and Paul Downes – The Passing Hour

Album Review | WildGoose | Review by Kev Boyd | Stars: 4/5

Mick and Paul each have long and distinguished histories and have worked with some of the better-known names in the UK folk scene and beyond. Mick is a fine singer and an accomplished songwriter while Paul is an effortless guitarist blessed with access to a range of styles and techniques who can also turn his hand to banjo, piano and vocals. The Passing Hour is their fourth album together. The core tracks are several of Mick’s own compositions which all have a broadly humanist appeal and Paul shares writing credits on one song. “Thankful Village” is written from the perspective of those rare villages whose sons all returned alive from the Great War. It’s driven by Paul’s dynamic guitar playing and includes concertina by Martyn Bradley. “One Day” is inspired by the apparent fact that since the end of the Second World War there has only been a single day when no country has been at war with another. Jackie Oates helps out on vocals here and adds viola on a couple of other tracks while elsewhere Kate Riaz rounds off a cluster of guest musicians with some subtle cello accompaniment. Of the remaining songs, “The Midshipman’s Boast”, written by Helen North, is perhaps a standout and is the perfect album opener. Tom Lewis’s “All At Sea” is a song of regret and the true story of a man who longed to be a sailor but had never seen the sea. A handful of traditional songs add to the mix with “Song of Repentance”, an Irish street ballad, being a noticeable highlight. “Old Swine”, another of Mick’s originals, rounds off the package. It’s a comic song exploring the importance of the family pig to the villagers in Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise To Candleford and though listed as a bonus track, it sits well with the album as a whole.