Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Road Trip Music: Michigan

Michigan has a sunrise side, a sunset side, an upper peninsula, apple orchards, cherry trees, lighthouses...and let’s not forget the football teams, the gardens, the busy cities, the small Amish communities, the quiet back roads and lake shores. It’s a heartland state, with its own identity.

It’s also a state of immigrant communities. Cathie Ryan’s parents came from Ireland to Michigan seeking work. They found it, and they stayed. “It was very Irish inside the house, and very cathie ryan cf copyright kerry dexterAmerican outside it, “ Ryan recalled, pointing out that she loved going to Gaelic League events, she heard country music from childhood friends, and growing up in Detroit, there was the ever present beat of Motown. Irish music is what called her heart as she grew into her career as a musician, and as adult Ryan has lived in both Ireland and America. Choosing songs from Irish tradition and the American folk song bag, and writing her own music. Ryan’s work builds bridges between the two lands. “I’ve always been an Irish American singer,” she says.

Should you be thinking that means hearty drinking songs or flowery sentimental ballads, that’s not Ryan’s style at all. Grace in restraint, resepct for the song and the listner, a deft touch of humor and a connection to the land and the stories of both Ireland and America are what you will find in her work. Ryan has so far four solo albums out, and you’ll be well served by any of them. As her music has evolved, she’s become more adventurous in choosing spare arrangements with just a few elements, as her voice has grown in depth and clarity. As you travel the roads of Michigan, listen to her album
Farthest Wave as a good companion.

There’s an original filled with energy and anticipation, What’s Closest to the Heart, a lively set of slip jigs called Dance the Baby, which Ryan sings in Irish and which are songs her grandfather in Ireland used to sing, dancing her around the kitchen when she was small, quiet hope and reflection in the title track, and a celebration of resolution and resilience in The Wild Flowers. The other songs are equally strong.

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Cathie Ryan: Songwriter
Music Road: Road Trip Music: Indiana
Music Road: national drum month: bodhran
Somewhere Along the Road
Music Road: Chasing Sparks: Jeremy Kittel

This is part of The Great American Road Trip, in which I originally partnered up with A Traveler’s Library to add musical ideas to the book and film suggestions for journeys through the regions of the United States which you’d find there. The Library is closed now, but I think you will still find the journeys through music interesting.
For more about the road trip (and a look at some great road songs) see Great American Road Trip: Music begins

UpTake Travel Gem

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Blogger BIKE LADY said...

Your project with Vera sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out this weekend when I have more time.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher said...

We actually HAVE this Cathy Ryan album because of your recommendation earlier. So thank you very much for tying her back to Michigan--which is coming up September 1 at A Traveler's Library Great American Road Trip.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not have expected to find Celtic music in Michigan!

2:53 PM  
Anonymous jessiev said...

having grown up in michigan (and still living here, coming home after years abroad and away), i can tell you that it is a gorgeous place. esp lake MI - that is my home!!

i love cathie's music - it is nice to hear the backstory!

1:08 PM  

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