Press Quotes about Karen Ryan:
‘Karen is such a wonderful fiddle player, and this album immediately nominates her for Female Musician of the Year. She has a lot of tasty guest musicians in, but it is her playing alone that transcends all. This is a very, very exciting album. This woman can play.’www.liveireland.com Bill Margeson
‘The debut album by the London-born fiddler, banjoista and whistler Karen Ryan is an absolute gem … a remarkably coherent and convincing album’ fRoots Magazine
‘Each note is well-defined, with a crispness and deftness of touch making for a rare listening experience. Well worth a listen! The Living Tradition
‘Most of her previous recordings have been as part of the excellent London Lasses, but the extra focus given by this album shows just what a fine fiddler she is’ The Folk Diary
‘Livelier than a Camden pub on Paddy's Night, and more full of Irish spirit than the off-license across the street, this is a cracking new album.’Irish Music Magazine
‘Her fiddle playing is confident, energetic and expressive and she puts in some interesting twists and turns into the tunes … the music is always centre stage and is just gorgeous for that.’ Musical Traditions
‘Rock solid performances of some excellent tunes’ Folking.com
Karen Ryan is part of the best female group in the business, The London Lasses. Her new solo album with Pete Quinn is “The Coast Road.” We know it is available through Alan O’Leary at Copperplate in London. Karen is such a wonderful fiddle player, and this album immediately nominates her for Female Musician of the Year. She has a lot of tasty guest musicians in, but it is her playing alone that transcends all. This is a very, very exciting album. This woman can play, and look; we know that Pete Quinn is also in the group, The London Lasses, but he is vastly outnumbered, the lucky dog! One of our favorite groups meets one of our favorite fiddle players (Karen) and here we are on The Coast Road” and you should take the trip, also. It is a beautiful journey. Bill Margeson
The debut album by the London-born fiddler, banjoista and whistler Karen Ryan is an absolute gem too. In addition to being a founder member of The London Lasses, Karen is also a hugely popular music teacher and the director of the highly successful Return to Camden Town Festival. She's also, as far as I know, one of the few traditional musicians to have appeared in an episode of EastEnders (the scriptwriters missed some-thing obvious there-Phil Mitchell goes berserk and destroys a bodhran).
Karen's roots lie in her parents' west of Ireland origins (her mother Connemara and father Mayo), but she was also taught music by Leitrim's Tommy Maguire and was fortunate to hit London's session scene in her late teens when it was bouncing back after some years of musical recession, thus expanding her learning experience. Yet despite all those potentially diverse influences The Coast Road is a remarkably coherent and convincing album.
Karen is joined by her long time partner, pianist Pete Quinn for much of this album and it's his sprightly and mellifluous backing which provides the perfect counterpart to an astonishingly vibrant opening track set of reels (kicked off by The Limerick Lasses), revealing all the flourish and fluency of Karen's fiddling, reinforced by a stimulating Bobby Casey-inspired solo rendition of the jig Kitty's Rambles. Elsewhere she's joined by her cousin Gary Connolly on accordeon for another punchy set of reels, while his brother Coleman (uilleann pipes) enters the mix for a resonant version of The Gold Ring Jig. Add to that an appearance of a fiddling triumvirate of Karen and old friends Elaine (London Lasses) Conwell and Teresa (Sin E) Connolly for the stately Tim O'Leary's waltz. There's also just one vocal track, an appearance by Karen's Aunt Nancy providing an exquisite rendition of the macaronic An Draighnean Donn, learnt from Joe Heaney. And Karen's banjo and whistle skills can be heard, respectively, on the jig Kiss the Bride and the reel The Swallow's Guitar (which also features apposite guitar accompaniment from Conor Doherty).
The Journal Of Music (http://journalofmusic.com/radar/album-tribute-karen-ryan)
An Album of Tribute from Karen Ryan
Being dedicated to her father, Michael Ryan (‘for loving the music so much that you did everything possible to help me love it too’), and featuring so many tunes Ryan learned from Tommy Maguire in the London Irish Centre, this is clearly a recording with a strong sense of tribute at its heart.
London fiddle player Karen Ryan has released her first solo album, the Coast Road, featuring Pete Quinn on piano, published by Cló Iar-Chonnacht. Ryan is a founder member of the London Lasses and Pete Quinn group (who have recorded four albums to date), as well as a much sought-after workshop teacher and music promoter.
She started playing music when she was nine years old, taught by the Leitrim musician Tommy Maguire at the London Irish Centre, where she herself now teaches. It was here that she met life-long friends and fellow fiddle players, Elaine Conwell and Teresa Connolly (née Heanue), with whom she won the under-12 trio competition at the All-Ireland Fleadh in 1985.
While being very active in the London Irish session scene and festival and Fleadh circuit, as well as visiting Conamara regularly, she cites in particular Brian Rooney, Brendan McGlinchey, Danny Meehan and the recordings of Andy McGann as having the most influence on her fiddle playing.
Through her role as Director of the Return to Camden Town festival of traditional Irish music, song and dance, she is also an award-winning promoter. Now in its fourteenth year, the festival has become a key date in the Irish music calendar and celebrates the historical link between Camden and traditional Irish music.
Most of the tracks on the Coast Road feature Ryan on fiddle accompanied by Quinn on piano or keyboard, although Ryan plays banjo on the jig set of ‘Kiss the Bride’ and ‘Shandon Bells’, and whistle on the reel set of ‘The Swallow’s Tail’, ‘The Sunny Banks’ and ‘The London Lasses’. For some tracks they are joined by Conor Doherty on guitar. On the waltz-reel set featuring ‘Tim O’Leary’s’ and ‘The Rabbit’s Burrow’ she plays with fiddlers Elaine Conwell (of the London Lasses) and friend Teresa Connolly. And for the jig set of ‘Going to Mass Last Sunday’, ‘The Gold Ring’ and ‘The Battering Ram’ she plays with Gary Connolly on accordion and Colman Connolly on uilleann pipes. Ryan plays one slow air, ‘Sliabh Geal gCua’, which she writes that she learnt from Séamus Begley’s singing; and there is one song on the album, ‘An Draighneán Donn’, sung very naturally and gently by Ryan’s aunt, Nancy McEvaddy of Claregalway.
The twenty-two pages of sleeve notes include a short biographical note on Ryan, comments on her playing by Danny Meehan, Brian Rooney and Brendan McGlinchey, Irish and English versions of all the extensive track notes, and a wide range of photographs of Ryan, of instrument details and of family and friends.
Being dedicated to her father, Michael Ryan (‘for loving the music so much that you did everything possible to help me love it too’), and featuring so many tunes Ryan learned from Maguire, this is clearly a recording with a strong sense of tribute at its heart.
The tracks are as follows:
1. Reels: The Limerick Lassies, The Gatehouse Maid, The Mountain Top
2. Jigs: Kitty’s Rambles, Kitty of Oulart, An Rógaire Dubh
3. Hornpipes: Plains of Boyle, McGlinchey’s, Walsh’s
4. Plokas: Dan Herlihy’s, Tom Billy’s
5. Slow Air: Sliabh Geal gCua
6. Reels: Sally Gardens, Miss McCloud’s, Tommy Maguire’s
7. Jigs: Kiss the Bride, Shannon Bells
8. Reels: Mrs Lawrie’s, Karen Ryan’s
9. Jigs: Dr O’Neill’s, Saddle the Pony
10. Slip Jigs: The Gathering , Liverpool to London, The New Piano
11. Reels: The Swallow’s Tail, The Sunny Banks, The London Lassies
12. Song: An Draighneán Donn
13. Waltz and Reel: Tim O’Leary’s, The Rabbit’s Burrow
14. Jigs: Going to Mass Last Sunday, The Gold Ring, The Battering Ram
15. Reels: Galway Reel, Musical Priest, Sailor On The Rock
Published on 15 May 2012
The Living Tradition: KAREN RYAN WITH PETE QUINN
The Coast Road
Clo Iar-Chonnacht CICD188
London’s vibrant Irish community has, amongst many other things, evolved a style of traditional music, and particularly fiddle music, which is as identifiable as any of the major styles on the other side of the water. Karen Ryan perfectly represents this tradition, being born in London to Galway and Mayo parents and starting to play at the age of nine. She now teaches at the London Irish Centre, is a founder-member of the celebrated London Lasses and directs the Return to Camden Town traditional festival.
Accompanied here by partner Pete Quinn on piano and keyboard; Conor Doherty, guitar; Gary Connolly, accordion; Elaine Conwell, fiddle, Teresa Connolly, fiddle, Colman Connolly, uilleann pipes; and her aunt Nancy McEvaddy on vocals, Karen plays mostly fiddle, but with whistle and banjo as well. She has a very clear playing style, which is well demonstrated in the slow air, where she lets the tune take its own time, keeping everything nicely balanced. When things speed up a bit in the jigs and reels, however, there’s no dropping off – each note is well-defined, with a crispness and deftness of touch making for a rare listening experience.
Pete Quinn should also get a specific mention for his piano arrangements – not for him the plodding thump that can mar so many otherwise good sets, rather a well thought-out and sensitive range of slightly understated playing, which reminds us what the word “accompany” really means.
As I’ve come to expect from Clo Iar-Chonnacht, this is an extremely well-packaged CD, with bilingual notes and information on all the tunes and a transcription of the macaronic song.
Well worth a listen!
The Folk Diary, by Vic Smith
KAREN RYAN with PETE QUINN
“The Coast Road”
Cló-Iar Chonnacht CICD 188
That the London Irish fiddler, some time visitor to Sussex folk clubs, should turn up on that most respected and highly regarded of Irish labels comes as something of a surprise. Most on this label are from rural Ireland but as a great deal of superb Irish music is played in north London, and has been for decades, there is no reason why Karen should not be represented along with her pianist partner
Most of her previous recordings have been as part of the excellent London Lasses, but the extra focus given by this album shows just what a fine fiddler she is. She has a wide and varied repertoire and the album is given extra interest when she occasionally changes to banjo or whistle and towards the end of the album she broadens the scope by introducing friends and relatives that have played with her since childhood.
Ringing endorsements from the likes of Danny Meehan and Brendan McGlinchey in the booklet show just how much Karen is respected in Irish music circles – as teacher, promoter and organiser as well as musician. (VS) www.cic.ie
Irish Music Magazine
KAREN RYAN - The Coast Road
Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 188
15 tracks, 59 minutes
Of Galway and Mayo parents but born and reared in London, Karen Ryan has been a mainstay of Irish music in the province of Great Britain for longer than her youthful looks would suggest. Whether founding The London Lasses a decade ago, running the Camden Town festival, leading the young Trad Gathering ensemble, or just teaching and playing in sessions across North London, Karen's unruly hair and restless feet have featured in most aspects of the musical life of London's Irish community. Although best known as a fiddler, Karen also plays banjo and whistle on this debut solo recording - no sign of the mandola she's been toting at recent gigs. Several members of the London Irish scene drop in for a tune on The Coast Road, but most tracks are just Karen and her ivory-tickling husband Pete Quinn.
Every set comes with a story: the sparkling Limerick Lasses learnt from Leitrim man Tommy Maguire in the eighties, or the sprightly version ofSaddle the Pony from her grandma's melodeon days. Karen's repertoire includes all the old favourites, and she isn't afraid to play them. The Sally Gardens, Shandon Bells, Miss MacLeod's, The Battering Ram, Trans-Roscommon Airways and The Musical Priest, great tunes all, are trotted out in fine form here. There are rarer delights too, Kitty of Oulart and Walsh's Hornpipe among them. Brendan McGlinchey's distinctive dark style is beautifully demonstrated on his reels Mrs Lawrie's and Karen Ryan's, while Karen's own composing gift gives us three flowing slip-jigs. The final few tracks ring the changes with a sean nos song from Nancy McEvaddy, a fiddle trio waltz, and a set of céilí jigs featuring pipes and accordion, before the final big set of reels on fiddle and piano.
The Coast Road combines the best of old and new music, the antique gold of An Roghaire Dubh and Sliabh Geal gCua alongside a bit of bling and skank on Dan Herlihy's Polka. This mix and match approach also applies to the glossy sleeve notes, which add photos and fancy graphics to the trusty old way of listing the names and composers. It seems Karen can put her own sheen on more than just the music. Livelier than a Camden pub on Paddy's Night, and more full of Irish spirit than the off-license across the street, this is a cracking wee album.
The Coast Road
Clo Iar-Chonnacht CICD 188
Reels: The Limerick Lasses / The Gatehouse Maid / The Mountain Top; Jigs: Kitty's Rambles / Kitty of Oulart / An Rogaire Dubh; Hornpipes: Plains of Boyle / McGlinchey's / Walsh's; Polkas: Dan Herlihy's / Tom Billy's; Air: Sliabh Geal gCua; Reels: Sally Gardens / Miss McCloud's / Tommy Maguire's; Jigs: Kiss The Bride / Shandon Bells; Reels: Mrs Lawrie's / Karen Ryan's; Jigs: Dr O'Neill's / Saddlle The Pony; Slip Jigs: The Gathering / Liverpool to London / The New Piano; Reels: The Swallow's Tail / The Sunny Banks / The London Lasses; Song: An Draighnean Donn; Waltz and Reel: Tim O'Leary's / The Rabbit's Burrow; Jigs: Going to Mass Last Sunday / The Gold Ring / The Battering Ram; Reels: Galway Reel / The Musical Priest / The Sailor on the Rock.
Clo Iar Chonnacht have a reputation for releasing quality Irish traditional music CDs and this one is no exception. It's a thoroughly enjoyable recording. There is a mix of mainly reels and jigs, but with a hornpipe, a couple of polkas, a waltz, a slow air and a song. There is also a variety of ensembles, duets and some group playing so that the CD gives the impression of listening in to a high quality session.
Fiddle player Karen Ryan is well embedded into the trad Irish scene in London. A founder member of the London Lasses and Pete Quinn, she teaches, judges and also organises the Return to Camden Festival. Although from London, Karen Ryan's parents are both from West Ireland and she has inherited the traditions of Connemara from her Mother's side of the family. Some of the music was recorded on a trip back home with her relatives in Galway.
Her fiddle playing is confident, energetic and expressive and she puts in some interesting twists and turns into the tunes which are mainly well known favourites. Ryan takes one track on the tin whistle and is also a handy banjo player, though not to the same standard as her fiddling and it sounds as if she has twisted the setting of Shandon Bells to fit more comfortably under her fingers. Overall there is plenty of evidence of her London heritage in hints of the fierce drive of Danny Meehan mixed with Brian Rooney's creativeness. The sleeve notes mention the influence of New York's Andy McGann but her tone is quite different to McGann's so it's not so easy to hear him in her playing
The CD starts with a real swing with three duets from fiddle and piano; reels followed by jigs, then hornpipes, showcasing Karen's vigorous fiddle playing and Pete Quinn's excellent accompaniment and the opening track is certainly strong enough to pull anybody into wanting to hear more. There's a bit of a dip in the next track of polkas which seemed both geographically and musically out of place here. They just seemed too long and repetitive and just don't have the Sliabh Luachra style to make this a good track. By contrast, the slow air, the song tune Sliabh Geal cCua, learned from Kerryman Seamus Begley, is beautiful and tender, and not overworked demonstrating Karen's sense of musical integrity. Karen's Auntie Nancie's song An Draighnean Donn is delicate and captivating. The CD finished very strongly with a final set of reels from fiddle and piano.
It is obvious Karen and Pete enjoy the music and have the depth of skill to let the music speak for itself and for the most part the recording is clean and straight, without tricks, too much 'drip', or over arrangement. There's no sense that the players are stretched or 'performing' to a crowd, the music is always centre stage and is just gorgeous for that. It takes a lot of sensitivity and understanding to take old tunes like Miss McLeod's (here interestingly titled Miss McCloud's) or The Lady on the Island and make then sound new and vital. Karen deserves a lot of credit for the way the choice of tunes on this record reinforce the impression that this is a few friends playing for an intimate circle.
The CD is well produced, the piano might be a bit too high in the mix for some and the squeak of fingers on guitar strings is a personal dislike, but these are minor niggles. The sleeve notes give just enough information about sources and influences to introduce Karen to those who don't know her as a solo player.
Available for Karen's own website or Copperplate, this CD should give pleasure to enthusiasts and casual listeners alike, and there's a lot of depth that will reward repeated listening.
Ken Ricketts & Marya Parker - 5.4.12
KAREN RYAN - The Coast Road (Clo Iar-Chonnacht CICD 188)
This is the kind of recording that harks back to the old days of "Paddy In The Smoke" and Danny Concrete Fingers' Meehan playing at The Favourite. Possibly aimed at a more traditionally biased audience Ryan's style of fiddle playing (sometimes opening with the predominantly two chord piano introduction so beloved of Irish set dancers everywhere provided by long term associate Pete Quinn) will give some indication to those like myself who used to sit at the altar of the likes of Raymond Rowland, Liam Farrell and John Bowe. There are plenty of great standards including "Sally Gardens", "Miss McCloud's" and "Saddle The Pony" but it's Karen's beautifully fluid whistle playing on "The Swallow's Tail/The Sunny Banks/The London Lasses" set that does it for me. This may not be a rip-roaring album or one that's trying to be different' but if its rock solid performances of some excellent tunes you're looking for I'd suggest you check it out. www.karenryan.net