What’s New This Fortnight

logo_wolfie Let’s start off with a look by Reynard at Estate food. As he says, ‘Mrs. Ware and her most wonderful staff prepared one of my favorite eventide meals tonight. It’s the simple meals that I like the best and we do eat locally — very locally — most of the time. Do follow along, if you’ve ever wondered about our usual Kinrowan table fare!’

I’ve heard the Celtic music tinged Gothard Sisters live several times, mostly outside at festivals where they are quite splendid indeed. Lars reviews their latest album, Mountain Rose.

Gary also has a nifty sounding recording for you to consider: ‘The Brooklyn-based old-time musical duo Dubl Handi is back with a followup to its 2013 debut Up Like the Clouds, which was one of my favorite Americana releases of that year. This new release Morning In A New Machine doubles down on the debut and comes up a winner.’

Donna looks at recording by a band that’s considered Celtic but she says really aren’t: ‘The Peaties remind me of some of the New Wave bands I listened to back in the 80s, like Depeche Mode or Tears for Fears but without vocals. This is an instrumental band. I checked out one of their live videos on YouTube. They play well, they are loud, and they are definitely fusion.’ Read her review of Dust to see why she likes Peatbog Faeries.

Leona has a review of Victorian Fairy Tales, edited by Michael Newton. She was quite impressed by the tales but has some complaints about the framing non-fiction material and how it’s presented.

There’s an interesting form of ephemera that most of us see at tours of bands such as Steeleye Span which is the souvenir programmes usually sold there. Reynard has a look at the Steeleye Span 40th Anniversary programme which was he says ‘differs from the usual such offering by being a retrospective look at the band instead of focusing on the latest release which most of these publications rightfully do.’

Finally we’ve got a look at two recordings, Qristina & Quinn Bachand’s Little Hinges & Anne Lindsay’s Soloworks, regarding which reviewer Lars notes that ‘In Europe we do not realize how big a country Canada really is, and how much good music comes from that country. We often mistake Canadian musicians and groups for being US-bred. But here are two new offerings from different parts of that country north of the border.’

Befitting this edition, let’s finish off with Charles de Lint performing ‘Sam’s Song,’ a bittersweet story about a dog. You can find this song on de Lint’s recent recording, Old Blue Truck.

Qristina & Quinn Bachand, Little Hinges & Anne Lindsay, Soloworks

In Europe we do not realize how big a country Canada really is, and how much good music comes from that country. We often mistake Canadian musicians and groups for being US-bred. But here are two new offerings from different parts of that country north of the border.

Qristina & Quinn Bachand, Little Hinges

Qristina & Quinn Bachand are a brother-sister duo from British Columbia with Christina Bachand playing the fiddle and singing, and brother Quinn playing assorted fretted string instruments as well as some keyboards and percussion. On Little Hinges they enlisted one of the co-producers, Joby Baker, on percussion.

Little Hinges is their third album. It is divided into two section, a more traditional and a more experimental, separated by a short piece called “Little Hinges.” The Bachands starting point is Celtic music, and you will find a fair amount of instrumentals with that typical Irish feel on the album, as well as a couple of traditional songs.

Cover of Qristina & Quinn Bachand's Little Hinges albumThe traditional section is the shorter one, basically made up of two songs and two instrumentals. To me it is the best part, both material and performance wise. There is a lovely version of “What You Do With What You’ve Got”, with some powerful Celtic guitarplaying by Quinn, and a fast fiddle interlude written by him. It is followed by a set of jigs, where Qristina’s fiddling is supplemented by some fine tenor banjo work from Quinn. And then my favorite track, Dominic Bhena’s “Crooked Jack,” set to the tune of “The Star of the County Down.” It is given a slow treatment, with some atmospheric electric guitar, clawhammer banjo and percussion in the background.

The experimental section is not that far removed from the traditional one. A few more electric instruments, more strange sounds in the background and some processed vocals. I am not that impressed, though there are some real highlights. “Jimmy’s Fiddle,” written for the duo by Daniel Jordan from the group Red Moon Road, is the first. A slow song, which soundwise could have suited the first part of the album. The second, to me at least, is Christina Bachand’s slow instrumental air “Never Goodbye.”

In total a nice album, with a lot of quality songs and fine singing and playing. Check out Qristina and Quinn at their website, where you may hear some samples and see a few videos.

(Beacon Ridge Productions, 2015)

Anne Lindsay, Soloworks

Anne Lindsay is a Toronto-based violinist and singer. She has an long track record, both of her own albums and appearances on other people’s. On Soloworks it is just her, her violin, nyckelharpa and voice, apart from one track which is performed on cello by Amy Lang, and a few where she backs herself on piano.

Cover of Anne Lindsay's SoloworksI must say I have struggled a bit with this album. No doubt Lindsay is a superb violin player, and she has got a pleasant voice as well. But I do not quite see the point. There are moments of glory, like the short, fast “The Dusting Rag,” her song “The Cold Told a Tale” and the set with “The Spy Czar” and “Jokijenka”. And she does an interesting interpretation of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (also recorded by the Beatles among others) with just voice and violin. But often the tracks lack something, to me, they would benefit from some backing instruments. Sometimes they sound more like practice pieces out of a violin book than finished tunes, and at times Lindsay put too much in. Take “Pilgrimage to Pushkar” which starts off with a very strong tune, almost classical in its structure. She could have left it there, but instead she includes a middle part of the “practice piece” kind which lowers the impact.

I would love to hear her as a part of a group, or as a solo performer with a proper backing, but this does not do it for me. But if you are familiar with her earlier works, or love solo violin, maybe it is something for you. You can learn more on Anne Lindsay’s website.

(Violindsay Music, 2015)

[Editor’s note: Soloworks is Anne Lindsay’s fourth solo album, and her first self-produced. You can listen to some sample tracks from Soloworks on the New Canadian Music site. ]

Peatbog Faeries, Dust

This CD has been in my review box for far too long. Better late than never! Dust is the sixth recording from this Celtic fusion band. I really enjoyed their first release, Mellowosity (1996). I don’t recall hearing the four CDs between that one and this. A more recent outing, Blackhouse, was released earlier this year (2015).

The concept of Celtic fusion has a few different meanings. In the case of the Peaties, as they are called, many of their compositions have some Celtic influence. However, the dominant sounds are created by synthesizer and drums (although on some tracks the drum beat like it’s coming from a synthesizer too). The sound is more like dance music with a strong rhythmic beat, rather than like rock music from bands like Black 47 or Dropkick Murphys. The Peaties remind me of some of the New Wave bands I listened to back in the 80s, like Depeche Mode or Tears for Fears but without vocals. This is an instrumental band. I checked out one of their live videos on YouTube. They play well, they are loud, and they are definitely fusion.

Based on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, the Peaties have six members. This line-up has remained consistent since the band’s founding in the early 1990s. On Dust, Peter Morrison plays pipes and whistles, while Peter Tickell handles the fiddle and effects. Tom Salter plays the guitar and Graeme Stafford is featured on keyboards and virtual synthesizer. Innes Hutton covers bass, guitars and bodhran and Stu Halkney holds down drums and percussion. Guest artists appearing on Dust include Rick Taylor on trombone and Nigel Hitchcock on sax, as well as Jarlath Henderson on uillean pipes and Paul Templeman on steel guitar.

Cover of the Peatbog Faeries album DustDust runs just over an hour long and contains eleven tracks, each running roughly four to six minutes in length. The CD is packaged in a paperboard tri-fold case. While there are no separate liner notes, there are very brief notes on each track, including its composer, on the inner folds of the case. Morrison and Tickell are the composing members of the band, although it appears that all the members participate in and contribute to the arrangements.

Some of the tracks, notably “The Naughty Step,” “Abhainn A’Nathair” (The River of Snakes) and “Ascent of Conival,” have that relentless pulsing beat that I equate with rave culture, although I could trace it back to disco without a lot of effort. On these I definitely wondered if the beat came from drums or synthesizer. “The Ascent of Conival” also features very nice sax and flute solos. Even in the midst of the dance beat, a nice little pipe tune wanders through “Abhainn A’Nathair.”

While “Calgary Capers,” “Marx Terrace” and “Spigel and Nongo” seem to put the spacey synthesizer sound up front (sounding more New Age than New Wave), on these three tracks I could hear snippets of melody that sounded like Celtic dance tunes. “Dun Beag” sounds more Celtic than the rest, reminding me of Old Blind Dogs on the Five album. “Passport Panic” has an almost bluesy quality and offers a lovely fiddle solo. “Fishing at Orbost” is also fairly down tempo — I might describe it as a slow air if I were using the language of traditional music.

If I were still hosting free form dance parties, as I did back in the 80s, I would consider adding some tracks from Dust to my mix. I don’t think, though, that I will be using anything from this CD for my yoga classes!

(Peatbog Faeries, 2011}

[Editor’s Note: The Peatbog Faeries have a website and are on Twitter @peatbogfaeries. The Green Man Review previously reviewed their 1996 debut album Mellowosity, their third album 2003’s Welcome to Dun Vegas, and the self-released 2009 Live.]

Steeleye Span’s 40th Anniversary Souvenir Tour Guide

Cover of the Steeleye Span 40th anniversary souvenir guideThis Steeleye Span souvenir tour guide follows the format for pretty much every such publication over the past fifty or so years; a high gloss print job with lots of photographs and text covering the band. This one differs from the usual such offering by being a retrospective look at the band instead of focusing on the latest release which most of these publications rightfully do.

The opening page shows the band forty years ago with the next page being on their newest album, Cogs, Wheels and Lovers which the Guide notes contains ‘lyrical and later ballads’ similar to their first album, Hark! the Village Wait. There’s what amounts to liner notes on each track on the album.

The really good stuff starts on the next page as that’s where the retrospective looks starts complete with tour posters, album covers and such. This extensive essay is quite well done.

The middle section is taken up with looks at the various musicians in Steeleye Span, what they’re up to, their newest album and tour dates. I like the essay by Maddy Prior the best as it’s less about her and more about the band down the years, whereas the others are definitely focused on themselves.

There’s a two-page cartoon looking at the early years of the band. It would’ve been nice if the artist and the year it was done and who the artist was had been noted.

This is followed by a piece by Maddy Prior on the passing of Tim Hart, a member of Steel Eye Span from 1970 to 1982.

That’s followed by a full page advert for <cite>live at a distance</cite>, the double CD  plus DVD set of Steeleye Span doing traditional songs. This is linked to the final page which is a short essay on them doing these songs.

All in all a good souvenir of that tour and their first forty years.

(Park Records, 2009)

Gallowglass Opera Company

We do theatre here quite often, but haven’t done opera in a very long time — which is to say in at least a century — so we decided to do John Gay’s early eighteenth century Beggar’s Opera which is a favourite of many on this Estate.

Dubl Handi, Morning in a New Machine

Cover of Dubl Handi's Morning In A New Machine albumThe Brooklyn-based old-time musical duo Dubl Handi is back with a followup to its 2013 debut Up Like the Clouds, which was one of my favorite Americana releases of that year. This new release Morning In A New Machine doubles down on the debut and comes up a winner.

Dubl Handi (pronounced “double-handy”), named after an Ohio washboard company, is one of the leaders of the current Brooklyn folk revival scene that’s centered on the Jalopy Theater. Hilary Hawke plays banjo and sings lead vocals, and Brian Geltner provides the rhythm on brushed snare and kick drums, washboard and whatever else comes to hand or foot. They’re joined by one guitarist or another — Wyndham Baird is joining them on tour promoting Morning In A New Machine but I’m not sure it’s him picking and supplying backing vocals on this disc.

As with their debut, the bulk of this recording is Appalachian old-time and other American folk standards, with a couple of originals thrown in. As fetching as that first album was, Morning In A New Machine is an even sharper recording with a high energy level and a confidence that makes every note just pop.

It starts with a tune they call “Cindy” (also known as “Cindy, Cindy”) a venerable American folk song with roots in North Carolina. If you’re a baby-boomer you’ve probably heard this song many times, possibly without it even registering very much. It was a fixture of the folk revival and appeared in movies and television shows in the ’50s and ’60s. Dubl Handi’s version is a rocking affair propelled by Geltner’s brushed snares and kick-drum and Hawke’s energetic three-finger picking. Like most of the songs on Morning In A New Machine it has modern touches in the arrangement; in addition to Geltner’s drumming there’s the presence of the droning trombone (or perhaps synthesized horn) on the chorus.

Ditto the next track “Cumberland Gap,” an old and very popular song in the mid-20th century from versions by everybody from Woodie Guthrie to Flatt and Scruggs. Introduced by ambient sound recording of the deep forest behind Hawke’s claw-hammer banjo, this version is slower than many, and includes a booming bass drum sound at the beginning of every other measure as well as other post-modern touches.

Geltner’s drumming on this music is less revolutionary than some purists might have you believe; you can find a video online of Flatt and Scruggs’ version of “Cumberland Gap” that includes a fellow playing a snare with brushes.

Hawke and Geltner find the old-time roots of “Ida Red,” a song that’s better known for its Western Swing version. This is a real old-timey style song with lots of Dubl Handi touches that personalize it, including a melodic keyboard. Likewise “Red Rocking Chair,” another old and well-worn song, here given a slow bluesy treatment and full arrangement including additional guitar, steel guitar and three-part harmonies. Here’s a performance video of “Red Rocking Chair” from a couple of years ago.

This is an economical album with 11 songs lasting just under 40 minutes, rather like an LP from 50 or 60 years ago during the first New York folk revival. Every track is a gem. You can purchase Morning in a New Machine on Dubl Handi’s Bandcamp site. Dubl Handi has a website.

(self-released, 2015)

Michael Newton, Editor, Victorian Fairy Tales

Cover of Victorian Fairy Tales, edited by Michael NewtonFairy tales weave a complicated dance between children’s stories and sophisticated adult commentary, often within the same story. Pinning down a definition of what constitutes a fairy tale can sometimes feel like nailing water to a tree, but certain elements are constant: there will always be magic, and magical creatures (although, as editor Michael Newton points out in the Introduction to Victorian Fairy Tales, “Often fairy tales include no actual fairy.”); there will be a problem that requires magical intervention of some sort. Outside of that, the field is wide open.

The Victorian Age is frequently painted as repressed and rigid, even to the point of covering their piano legs (not true); so for me, it was impossible to pass up a collection of fairy tales that promised to dispel that grim facade. I’m glad I raised my hand for this book. It’s an excellent example of the dance mentioned above, if a bit confusing in spots I’ll cover that towards the end. First, the good stuff (quite a lot!):

The aforementioned Introduction is thorough and thoughtful, moving from a context-setting discussion of fairy tales into a more specific discussion of “Sources, Inspirations, Origins, then to “Fairyland and the Real World.” It’s a long Introduction, and fascinating all on its own, but as with most Introductions I recommend reading it after consuming the rest of the book. Scholarly discussions, for me, tend to dry out the following entertainment — and I find it endlessly frustrating to be teased with references to the stories I’m about to read!

I have the same comment about “Note on the Texts,” “Select Bibliography,” and “A Chronology of the Literary Fairy Tale.” All very good, all very interesting — I loved the Chronology, especially, because I’m a geek about seeing facts laid out into this sort of context. Did you know that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was published the same year the first Women’s Suffrage Committee was founded? I didn’t. And A Christmas Carol came out the year after the Coal Mines Act, which stopped young children and women from working in the coal mines. And . . . well, read it for yourself.

Moving on to the stories themselves, the Prologue features “Rumpel-stilts-kin” by the Grimm Brothers and “The Princess and the Peas” by Andersen. These are short and potent, with a pointed jab or two at the rich and powerful; the irony is particularly strong in the latter story, to my way of thinking. I found myself mentally swapping “princess” with “lady/virgin,” which heightened the dryly sardonic tone of the tale considerably without taking away from the point already being made.

The following stories, beginning with Robert Southley’s “The Story of the Three Bears” and ending with Kipling’s “Dymchurch Flit”, range from similarly ironic to flat-out fun reading. Southley’s tale — one of the fun ones — has a very different protagonist than the young girl we’re used to seeing in modern versions: “She could not have been a good, honest old Woman . . . If she had been a good little old Woman, she would have waited till the Bears came home . . . But she was an impudent, bad old Woman, and set about helping herself.” I particularly enjoyed the typography in this story, with differing fonts showing the differing Bear voices. This story was intended to be read aloud to a child, with acted out emphasis, and reads as such.

Several of the stories in this collection were new to me, and completely delightful. There is a typical three-brother quest story by John Ruskin; there are deeper, slower, more philosophical stories by George MacDonald and Mary deMorgan–especially notable, to me, in that they deal with increased age as a strength rather than a weakness; there are amusing, ironic tales from Ford Maddox Ford, Andrew Lang, and Kenneth Grahame. The collection closes with a wonderful Rapunzel/Gulliver’s Travels mashup by E. Nesbit and a slightly difficult-to-read Kipling story laden with dialect — which bring me to my only real criticism of this book.

The footnote format was particularly irritating to me; not only must you turn to the back of the book to find the “Explanatory Notes,” they’re called out inline with asterisks rather than numbers, then sorted in the Notes only by page numbers. I dislike having to stop mid sentence to turn pages, and I especially dislike having to search for the note in question. In most cases, it was easy enough to pass over the asterisks, but in some cases, such as the Kipling story, I spent as much time looking up words and context as I did reading the tale itself. That being said, the “Explanatory Notes” were very well done, clear and concise, and for a word geek like me who grew up reading the dictionary for fun, entirely readable just by itself.

I do wish, as a matter of personal preference, that the “Select Bibliography” had been moved to the back of the book. It also would have been nice to have a bio of the editor, along with information on his other projects, the web site for Oxford University Press, and so on; the omission of clearly presented Internet-related resources in this day and age gives this book a very old-fashioned feel.

Considered only as a book of fairy tales, however, this collection is superb. Many of the stories are overtly political satire, and all are (thanks to the thorough front matter) as much a window into the time when they were written as simple entertainment. Whether you as a reader are interested in the historical analysis or more inclined towards a good book to relax with on a lazy afternoon, Victorian Fairy Tales is an excellent choice.

(Oxford University Press, 2015)

[Editor’s note: Dr. Newton is a member of the faculty at Leiden University, and the author of Age of Assassins: A History of Assassination in Europe and America, 1865-1981 (Faber and Faber, 2012) and edited The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce (Penguin 2012).]

The Gothard Sisters, Mountain Rose

Cover of the Gothard Sisters Mountain Rose albumThe Gothard Sisters (Greta, Willow and Solana Gothard) are three young sisters from the U.S. Pacific Northwest. They started out as a classical violin trio. Their first album was released in 2006 with them playing Christmas songs as a trio. Some years later they turned to Celtic music and added more instruments. Mountain Rose is their third album as a Celtic trio, released two years after their previous album Compass. As on the last one they mix instrumental tunes with songs, the difference being that on the new one they have written many of the songs themselves, whereas on the last ones the tunes were written by the trio but the songs were traditional or by other people. Another difference is that on the new one they play everything themselves. And they play a lot of instruments, violins of course, but also guitar, mandolins, bass, dulcimer, autoharp, harmonica, whistles and percussion, and of course all three of them sing.

The sisters describe themselves as a Celtic group and it is hard to disagree, particularly given that the definition of Celtic is quite broad. But there are a lot of other influences as well. Mountain Rose exhibits traces of bluegrass fiddling, African drum beats and of course their Classical training, as well as passages that remind me of the ”spaced out” music you could hear in the late 1960s.

The Gothard sisters open the album with Andy M Stewart’s “Queen of Argyll” filled with instrumental interludes and harmony singing. A strong opener, one of the best songs on the album, a track that does what it is supposed to do, to make you interested in listening to the rest. Of the other songs not written by the group I like “All Through the Night,” a traditional Welsh lullaby, the best. A soft slow song well suited to the girls. I am not that impressed by their reading of ”Auld Lang Syne” though. They rush through it, and at the end you understand why; they turn it in to a fast, furious reel. And that part is superb. Probably a great number to finish one of the girls’ 120 concerts a year, but as a song it does not work on record. Their version of Kate Rusby’s ”I Courted a Sailor” is much better, though not reaching the heights of the original.

In my mind the best of their own songs is “Grace O’Malley” co-written by Greta, Willow and Solana. When I first listened to the record, without checking the booklet, I had it down as an Irish traditional, which is high praise coming from me. The other two original songs are both written by Greta, and show great promise for the future.

Then there are the instrumentals, often used as showcases for the girls’ instrumental power. ”The Bandit” turns from a slow tune to a duel between fiddles and percussion, “Cat in the Bush” is very Scottish in its fiddling, both the slow and the quick parts, “Mountain Rose Waltz” is just plain beautiful and “Chaos in La Casa” has some interesting rhythmic patterns in the middle part. All these tunes were written by Willow. They also throw in a traditional tune, “St Anne’s Reel,” played in a very traditional manner, with some heavy bluegrass influences.

All in all a good album by three very talented sisters. I would love to see them live, where they also add Irish dancing.

(Self-released, 2015)

[Editor’s note: Reviewer Peter Massey reviewed The Gothard Sisters 2011 release Christmas on Sleeping Hedgehog, our sister site. Peter Massey also reviewed The Gothard Sisters’ Story Girl. The Gothard Sisters have a website, and tweet as @gothardsisters. You can hear their version of “The Queen of All Argyle” on their website. The Gothard Sisters also have YouTube channel.]

A Meal at Kinrowan Estate

Mrs. Ware and her most wonderful staff prepared one of my favorite eventide meals tonight.

It’s the simple meals that I like the best and we do eat locally — very locally — most of the time. Do follow along, if you’ve ever wondered about our usual Kinrowan table fare!

What’s New This Fortnight

logo_titaniaIt’s been an usually hot summer at the Kinrowan Estate with temperatures often near thirty degrees centigrade. The old stone church that we converted to part of the Library has been very popular with folks here as it stays cool during even the hottest weather. You’ll find me there with an iced tea and whatever novel I’m currently reading.

First up is Leona’s interview with SJ Tucker, our Summer Queen. She says, ‘The shelves and windowsills were crowded with ravens; the hedgehogs took the first row of seats; even a few of the local fae could be seen peeking shyly around corners now and again…’

Let’s follow that up with a post of our Summer Queen on some things literary. My questions were on the first book that she remembers reading, her best beloved books as a child, the books she recommend that young children read and finally I ask her about her children’s book, Rabbit’s Song.

The Laundry Files series by Charles Stross chronicles the struggles of a British very secret agency against really monstrous supernatural beings. Until The Annihilation Score, they were narrated by Bob Howard, a computational demonologist. The Annihilation Score is narrated by Bob’s wife, Dominique O’Brien (her friends call her Mo) who’s an applied combat epistemologist and a violinist whose instrument is both alive and truly evil. Need I say I found it the best entry in this series in a long time?

Reynard has a review of Harry Long’s The Waltons Guide to Irish Music and notes that ‘The subtitle of this book is A Comprehensive A-Z Guide to Irish and Celtic Music in All Its Forms and for once this is an accurate statement. It is indeed an indispensable guide to Irish music in all its varied facets.’

Gary reviews The Earnest Lovers Sing Sad Songs EP which centered around one musician in particular: ‘Pete Krebs has been a fixture on the Portland music scene for at least 20 years.’

Donna has a look at a recording she missed reviewing sometime back: ‘I figured I would review Band of Gypsies 2 while my impressions of the most recent Taraf de Haïdouks CD were still fresh.’

Let’s finish off with the Tinker’s Own performing ‘The Tinker’s Black Kettle‘, a spritely song composed by Charles de Lint for his novel The Little Country.