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Barb Ryman: Bio

A natural storyteller with a deep compassion for the lost and forgotten voices of our culture, Barb Ryman expects music to be more than entertaining. With a crystalline voice and skillfully played guitar, Barb delivers a rich mosaic of contemporary folk, drawing from Celtic balladry, early rock, old-time gospel, and her own unique style.  Her new CD, CATCH THE SUNSET, charting #15 on the Folk-DJ chart in its first month, is a sweet melodic ride flowing from intimate personal confessions to wise cultural commentaries to whimsical love stories and adventures of the heart.  Her songs have received airplay on folk programs across the U.S, Canada and Europe, including the nationally syndicated, Midnight Special and Nevada City’s KVMR. Her live performances span from the Cedar Cultural Center in Minnesota to Uncle Calvin’s in Texas, to the Portland Folk Society in the West to Club Passim in the East, drawing in audiences with her captivating charm, disarming honesty and playful wit.

Ryman is distinguished for her ability to write music that heals. Having lost her father, a navy pilot, when she was four, Barb was intuitively drawn to the healing professions and became an accomplished speech-language pathologist who helped children with special needs develop communication skills. She went on for her masters degree in counseling psychology, facilitated grief groups and most recently, trained in Europe, Brazil and Argentina in alternative healing modalities. This background has seamlessly integrated itself into her music, making her concerts both entertaining and restoring.

 Her career launched in 1996 when the Minneapolis Star Tribune ranked her CD, LAY ME OPEN, a top ten release across all genres and the St. Paul Pioneer Press proclaimed “You can’t help being amazed at the power of her presence and the sound of her voice…you can’t help but listen.”  Life became very busy for Barb as she was challenged to balance her growing music career with her speech therapy work and single-parenting her two teenage children. In 2002, she won the McKnight Composer Fellowship, a prestigious grant that enabled her to quit the day job and begin full-time touring.

CATCH THE SUNSET (2011), Ryman’s sixth CD, features guest musicians of Prairie Home Companion fame including Peter Ostroushko’s fiddle and mandolin and Prudence Johnson’s beautiful harmonies.  Barb is also known for her topical humor, and in 2006, ABC television bought rights to her satirical song “All American Dysfunctional Family” to promote a sit-com pilot.  She’s been chosen songwriter finalist in many festivals including the Winfield Folk Festival (2007), Big Top Chautauqua (2008), and the Great River Folk Festival (2011).

“Barb Ryman proves herself a strong vocalist, talented composer, and an astutely irreverent student of the human condition.” - Dirty Linen

“Charming vulnerability and a rare knack for detailing the profound truths of everyday life.  Her clear, ringing voice is reminiscent of Sandy Denny or Iris Dement.”  Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Ryman’s songs of faith display wonder, awe and acceptance.”  - Sing Out!

“Besides an unaffected sense of humor, Ryman possesses a sharp eye for social criticism and a truly moving compassion for human struggle...” - City Pages

 “Ryman has a clear and winsome voice, a ready sense of humor, and a short story writer’s flair for detail.”  - Minneapolis Star Tribune