Album Review - Karen Ryan / The Coast Road

London based musician Karen Ryan is the latest in a long line of London Irish fiddlers and on this her debut album she steps very comfortably into the shoes of those that have gone before. Musician, teacher and promoter Karen is well known and established on the London scene both at sessions and as a founding member of The London Lasses and Pete Quinn. More so than any city, London is a place where the big players come out to play and I did have the pleasure some years ago in some long forgotten venue to hear Karen. No doubt in the company of Brian Rooney, Brendan Mulkaire or the crop of great talent that was coming through all those years ago. Players like Lamond Gillespie and John Blake who have since gone on to great things. 

Karen Ryan is another name that rightly deserves to be heard and The Coast Road is an absolute joy of an album. Karen's style is strongly traditional, very expressive and true to those musicians that have inspired her. It's a classic recording that harks back to her early musical influences. This includes Tommy Maguire, Brendan McGlinchey, Andy McGann and others, and there are echoes of their contribution within the heart of her very own style. For those reasons there is a breath of traditional fresh air in the tracks she has recorded. This is exciting, passionate and driving fiddle playing inspired by a lifetime of music. When slowed down to simple solid tunes there is nothing quite like it, especially on jigs like Kitty's Rambles/Kitty of Oulart/An Rógaire Dubh. Some of the best fiddle music has always had a strong, solid and uncomplicated vein running through it and Karen Ryan excels in this respect. 

Included in the tracks is the magnificent hornpipe called McGlinchey's which I haven't heard for some time. A classic tune that Karen twists and turns with triplets and rolls that display the scale of the tune from low A and on up to the top of the scale. Her tone, control and phrasing is exemplary and always does justice to the music that she is playing. Even her one set of Polkas on the album, Dan Herlihy's/Tom Billy's, jump to life with superb accompaniment by Pete Quinn on Piano and Conor Doherty on Guitar. In addition to these fine musicians she has also brought on board long term fiddle friends Elaine Conwell and Treasa Connolly as well as Gary Connolly on Accordion and Nancy McEvaddy on voice.

The first set, The Limerick Lasses/The Gatehouse Maid/The Mountain Top is a great opener with its driving rhythm and strong piano accompaniment. The reel set Sally Gardens/Miss McCloud's/Tommy Maguire's pick up the pace. Karen and Pete Quinn called them the "Black Horse Anthem" as a result of repeated requests at a session in the Black Horse in London. The last in the set is a great Charlie Lennon composition. Karen also displays her banjo skills on a couple of jigs called Kiss The Bride/Shandon Bells. As a fan of Brendan McGlinchey, a set of reels composed by Brendan deserves mention. Called Mrs Lawrie's/Karen Ryan's the latter was written for Karen by Brendan some years back. It has all the hallmarks of Brendan and the piano accompaniment by Pete Quinn is simply untouchable with it's phrasing and tone.
Fiddle music in all it's forms has a place, be it with more modern influences, newly composed or with elements external to the tradition. This is music that will not disappoint and is most definitely traditional with a capital T. On a kitchen shelf bursting with great fiddle albums by Peoples, Carty, McGlinchley, Collins and dozens more this Karen Ryan album will also now sit proudly putting London and Karen on the map when it comes to touching the heart of traditional brilliance. 


Listen and buy Visit Karen's website

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Comment by Dessie yarry on July 28, 2012 at 23:18
Just bought this Album online at cdbaby. Its a Great Album, highly recommend it

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