CATHIE RYAN Releases THROUGH WIND AND RAIN on Sept 25, 2012
After 7-Year Break, Michigan Native's Most Personal Effort;
CD Chronicles Personal Setbacks and the Turnaround Power of A Song
CATHIE RYAN EAST COAST TOUR – Oct 2012
Wed Oct 10 - Philadelphia, PA - Tin Angel
Fri Oct 12 - Alexandria, VA - Lyceum Theatre
Sat Oct 13 - New York, NY - Lincoln Center / Clark Theatre
Sun Oct 14 - Boston, MA - The Burren
For her first album in seven years, singer-songwriter Cathie Ryan has stepped out from the home she has made in Irish-American music and onto a wider plain, creating the most personal album of her 25-year career – and the most universal.
With a voice of "powerful sweetness," in the words of Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and a talent for writing songs beloved and covered by many, the Detroit native has earned a place as a musician's musician, as welcome on public radio programs from Mountain Stage to Thistle and Shamrock.
Ryan has fronted her own band for 17 years, with four critically acclaimed albums to her credit. Reviewing her last release, The Farthest Wave, the Wall Street Journal said "the stubborn beauty of this album is a revelation." The Boston Globe called her singing "sublime"; Los Angeles Times named her "one of the leading voices in Celtic music."
However, the arc of her career was halted in 2009 after a series of personal setbacks and the grind of near-constant touring led to emotional and physical exhaustion. "I learned the hard way that grief waits for you. It was waiting for me to finally stop and it flooded through. I realized my spirit was broken." This from a woman whose bandmates joked about her ability to bear any burden without breaking stride. "I knew too well how to ‘get on with it' but that stopped working. I had to finally mourn a lot of things I'd soldiered my way through."
Having survived the destruction of her home by a hurricane, the dissolution of her marriage and several personal crises, Ryan decided to relocate from upstate New York to a seaside home in rural Ireland, despite the warnings of friends who said she would never be accepted there and would always be considered "the Yank." While she may have been looking for isolation, she rediscovered the balm of community there, and began to slowly rebuild herself.
That she made Through Wind and Rain at all is a testament to the power of a great song. Sent by a friend, "I'm a Beauty" by the Canadian singer-songwriter Laura Smith struck a chord in Ryan. "It is a song with healing in it. I heard it and wanted to sing it for me, and for others."
"They say the old bards - the Druids - used to sing people back to themselves," said Ryan. "I was looking for songs that would do that. Luckily this one found me.
"I believe it's an essential truth that we all are beautiful – and I don't mean surface beauty, but the beauty that is inside of us," Ryan continued. "So many of us lose that truth, we learn to shroud it or it's been squashed by something outside of us."
The song gave Ryan the inchoate theme and purpose for a new album. More importantly, it motivated her to re-commit to her career.
Ryan soon was collecting and writing other songs, all of which – for the first time - told her life story, instead of the stories of others. "I think I began to hide behind traditional music – it became a kind of mask for me," she said.
Ryan begins the album with "In the Wishing Well," an allegory about repeating bad choices, going to a well that no longer gives any water and realizing it is time to stop.
The album, she says, is about "accepting life on life's terms. I was drawn to songs about love and the kind of loss that forces us to make changes in our lives. I do think we learn by ‘going where we have to go.' That is where the hope in these songs comes from. It's hard-won, but maybe because of that it is more real."
That hope, she says, lies in the connections found in community, which she came to re-discover in rural Ireland.
"I wanted to sing songs that celebrate what connects us through hard times," Ryan said. "Kate Rusby's ‘Walk the Road' says it perfectly, ‘Let all the tears and strife be gone/And we'll walk the road together.'"
She made the tough decision to include her song "Daddy," written over 20 years ago, judiciously. It is a poignant story of the effects of alcoholism on a family, told through the voice of a small child who innocently asks her father to not come home drunk.
"That song came to me complete, start to finish," she says, "it was meant to be sung, but I wasn't ready until now."
To make this most-personal album, Ryan decided to put more of her own stamp on it by self-producing. She recorded it in both Ireland and America, collaborating with her band mates, Patsy O'Brien, Matt Mancuso, and Brian Melick, as well as a stellar line-up of guest musicians such as John Doyle, Seamus Eagan of Solas, Americana singer Aoife O'Donovan, harpist Michelle Mulcahy, guitarist Donogh Hennessy and multi-instrumentalist Michael McGoldrick.
"I was ready to be in the driver's seat," said the singer. "And I wanted to own this recording, to release it myself without a label."
Ryan should know about driver's seats: she grew up in Detroit, the daughter of Irish immigrants who surrounded their daughter with Irish music and culture. Her father worked on a General Motors production line, but was also a singer Ryan looked up to. "He was a man who honored the songs he sang. He taught me that the songs were there before me and they'll be there after me, and my work is to serve them – not to get in the way."
Through Wind and Rain closes with a Roger McGuinn song that has not often been recorded, "May the Road Rise to Meet You," which Ryan describes as a "blessing."
"The Irish say, ‘Slán Abhaile,' or ‘Safe Home,' when you leave them," Ryan said. "They put a blessing on you. My grandmother had a jar of holy water by the door and she'd pelt you with a handful when you left. This is something similar, without the holy water!"
Now, as she begins to tour for Through Wind and Rain, Cathie Ryan is ready to take the life-changing lessons of the past few years and live them.
"I finally get that there are things I cannot change and I have to let them go. It's actually very liberating," she says, adding with a laugh: "and you have a lot more time in the day."