... as Paul Harvey would say: "The Rest of the Story" . . .
2008 brought the Ryan family to Mitchell in Perth County. As Principal of Mitchell DHS Jim enjoyed the warmth and familiarity of a small school. Over the time in Mitchell Jim wrote about 80 columns for the weekly Mitchell Advocate newspaper highlighting education issues, school accomplishments and reflections on the bigger pictures of life.
The Mitchell era has also seen both and expansion and consolidation of the musical experience. Regular participation in two bands, Bob Lauze’s ‘Mostly Sideways’ country band and Mike Kelly’s ‘Stranger than Fiction’ wedding/rock & roll band. The Saturday afternoon weekly ‘song circle’ at Ted Schinbein’s Random Acts of Music studio has been an enjoyable way to meet a large number of great people who value music and good company.
Jim has been an active supporter of a number of valuable initiatives. Writing songs and performing for the ‘Alzheimer’s Society’, ‘Mitchell Youth Centre’, and the “Huron Perth Centre for Children’s Mental Health’. One fond memory was bringing the Six String Nation to Mitchell; Jowi Taylor brought the ‘guitar made out of Canada’ to MDHS for a presentation; Jim wrote a song for the event and performed it on that special guitar.
With over 200 songs to his credit; Jim has been systematically recording a number of those songs (approximately 80) in preparation for sharing them with the world. The songs cover a wide range of topics and emotions; generally presented with a folk/country feel, it is the ‘turn of phrase’ and ability to articulate thoughts and emotions that grabs the listener.
As 2014 drew to a close, Jim traveled to Nova Scotia to record with J. P. Cormier, producer, master instrumentalist and icon on the folk-roots music scene. The CD ‘Snippets of Truth’ which came out of that collaboration will cause many to wonder (in JP’s words) “where has this guy been for the last 20 years?”.
During the song selection process, JP was taken by the consistent quality, depth and variety of Jim’s original composition, commenting more than once that Jim definitely had a spot on ‘JP’s Top Ten Songwriters’ list;
a list that includes such notables as Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson; the best of the best. Wow! The next few years could be interesting. Jim has recently taken the leap to test the waters of international songwriting competition; never know where that may lead.
Recent musical developments include joining the Waterloo Wellington Bluegrass Music Association, getting the opportunity to share great picking with a relaxed group of seasoned pros; thanks to fiddler Glen Patterson who introduced Jim to this weekly gathering. Glen has added his talent to the Mostly Sideways lineup from time to time which is always a treat. Sue and Jim received an invitation from Finola MacGinty and Dave McKee to form the group now known as Nightengael and played a number of engagements in 2017 and 2018; finding the plate a little too full, Jim and Sue bowed out; happy to say that Nightengael continues with new members and is well worth hearing. The most recent adventure arose from the Bluegrass experience; in the spring of 2019, the group Mandolin Soul was formed with Glen Patterson on fiddle, Stephen Greenwell on Banjo, Neil Cudney on Mandolin, John Stodola on Bass and Jim on Guitar. Neil and Jim share most of the lead singing. Mandolin Soul draws material from both the secular and gospel bluegrass traditions. The last two years have been difficult for many, striving to remain healthy in the face of the global pandemic; we were saddened by the untimely passing of John from cardiac issues just a few months back. Music was central to his good nature and generous spirit and we miss him greatly. You may wish to check out some performance videos on my youTube channel. We all look forward to the opportunity to share music again out in the real world.