It's been a good week for new music as some very exceptional CDs have been received at GMR for reviewing. And just as many books came in! Summer always see a slight drop-off in product, but fall marks the beginning of massive amounts of new releases. Nordic, Celtic, and roots music are the strong areas in music, and fantasy, folklore, and horror seem to be particularly strong in booksthis season. You should have plenty of tempting CDs and books to choose from in the coming months!
We start off with Celtic music reviews this edition. We have Kim Bates' splendid review of Kila's Lemonade and Buns, a Green Linnet release that made her "rejoice in being privileged to live at a time when great musicians have the traditions of the world at their disposal, when creating conversations between musical forms enables bands like Kila to create magic." She picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this review! Tim Hoke was pleasantly surprised by Margaret Davis' Princess Of Flowers. He notes that he "...looked at the cover art, depicting Ms. Davis in Renaissance costume, emerging from a floral tapestry. "Oh, how precious," I thought, "I'm not gonna like this one." My doubts were reinforced by the dedication to "fellow seekers of magic and the fantastic." "Yup, definitely won't like it -- one hour of self-indulgent fluff" was my impression. Sometimes first impressions are wrong."
Meanwhile, Naomi de Bruyn, now a Senior Writer and much appreciated proofer, comments on David Davidson's Celtic Fantasy. (Naomi gets her own well-deserved greenmanreview.com address for joining the editorial staff. RHIP!) She says of this CD that there "is a blend of bewitching ballads and sprightly dance tunes, which go hand in hand with all that inspired Davidson to write these songs." Naomi also looks at Craig Markley's The Lone Raven, an album which she says "...is a work of art, a blending and harmonizing of talents as well as instruments and voices." She finishes her Celtic reviews off by looking at two albums from the Town Pants, Liverdance and Piston Baroque, a group she says are "...a bit of an oddity, making a very strong East Coast sound (rowdy Celtic music) from a band situated on the West Coast of Canada -- Vancouver, British Columbia, to be precise."
Chuck Lipsig, our Celtic Editor, who's working on his next ...And Reels column as we speak, has the last Celtic review with a look at John Renbourn & Robin Williamson's Wheel of Fortune. He comments, "John Renbourn and Robin Williamson. From Pentangle and The Incredible String Band to their solo efforts, there is a lot of history and skill in these two. Put them together -- as they were for a tour of the United States in 1993 -- and one would have to have high expectations. And the live concert recordings of Wheel of Fortune do not disappoint."
Naomi had a very busy week! In addition to her reviews above, she reviewed a little bluegrass (Breakaway's Hold With Hope), which she thought featured music that was "strong and rhythmic," and two singer-songwriter albums: Sarah Harmer's You Were Here, which she hopes is "...is only the beginning of solo albums for Sarah Harmer, that there is a deep well which she can pull her lyrics and melodies from..." and Sons of the Never Wrong's One if by Hand, which she says has "...a sense of humor, a refreshingly new sound to an old genre, and an innate sense of what goes well together..." Gary Whitehouse wraps up our music reviews with a look at a soundtrack entitled The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack. If you don't who he is, Gary will put you in the know: "Ramblin' Jack Elliott is a living treasure, a walking and talking (and talking and talking) encyclopedia of American folk music. Although he has been singing for more than 50 years, his recorded output is woefully slim. Until somebody produces a definitive box set, this soundtrack will serve as a sampler of Elliott's lengthy career." Naomi gets an Excellence in Writing Award for her Breakaway review, and Gary picks up one for his Ramblin' Jack Elliott review.
Naomi also interviewed the aforementioned Sarah Harmer. It's a funny and rather cool interview that anyone interested in how a musician thinks should read.
Naomi, who I think is now sleeping off her labors, has our sole fiction review this edition: Sarah Isidore's The Daughters of Bast - Shrine of Light. Naomi notes, "It is not often that a book comes along that I really want to savour, but end up reading at a phenomenal pace because it is just too good to put down. However, this was definitely one of them. I found myself still awake at two in the morning, nodding off but determined to keep reading, at least until the words began to blur into indistinct splotches of grey." Naomi gets her second Excellence in Writing Award for this review!
David Kidney wraps up this edition by looking at three musiclore books: Benjamin Filene's Romancing the Folk, Public Memory and American Roots Music, William Howland Kenney's Recorded Music in American Life: The Phonograph and Popular Memory 1890-1945, and David E. Whisnant's All That Is Native & Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region. He comments: "There are many books written and published each year -- some appeal to broad-based audiences and become bestsellers, other appeal to special interests, and still others are more obscure, even arcane. Several new musiclore books fit into this last category -- their field of reference being fine-tuned to a very specific target group -- the obsessive-compulsive music collector."
Our archives now contain reviews of nearly sixteen hundred items, nearly eleven hundred that are music or music-related. We actually have reviewed over two thousand items, but in order to bring you the very best that we can, we've weeded out many of the older reviews as our standards were heightened. We strive for quality and quantity, and are constantly going back and proofing and making sure everything's acceptable.
On another note, I though you'd like to know that Digilogic estimates Green Man readership at slightly over 65,000 unique readers as the average per month for the last three months. (Actual readership varies by as much as +/- 5000 depending on the month.)
17 September 2000
I really love Green Man! How else could I work with the best writers and editors one could hope for, while getting to listen to great music, and reading great literature as a result of doing something one loves to do? Today I found myself listening to Nordic group Gjallahorn's new album Sjofn while reading James Stoddard's The High House. The album arrived in post yesterday, and I purchased the novel based on the review here. And our mail indicates that you, our readers, do buy both books and CDs based on our reviews. I'd say that everyone benefits from GMR existing!
Please note there's a slight change to our Indexes: we've added an index for Children's Literature. This index pulls togather listings from the other indexes of material we think might be of interest to children and young adults. My deepest thanks to April Gutierrez who is compiling this index!
St. Martin's Press was kind enough to send us a review copy of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's anthology The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror #13. I think this is the essential anthology for any lover of fantasy and horror, and as reviewer Michael Jones notes, "Every year, editors Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow scour the globe to bring us the best examples of fantasy and horror fiction. This volume of their annual quest is lucky number thirteen, and most assuredly doesn't disappoint... And that was just the write-up for fantasy. Terri Windling is one of the most knowledgeable editors in the field regarding fantasy, and she proves once again that she knows her stuff. If it happened, she's got it covered here, pointing out hundreds of books and stories and the like that are worthy of notice. It's worth picking up Year's Best for the summaries alone, as Windling adeptly turns the spotlight on all manner of hidden or overlooked treasures. Ellen Datlow does the same for the horror field, speaking knowledgeably about such categories as Books and Magazines, Novels, Anthologies, Collections, Artists, Small Presses, and the like. Though she has less categories overall than Windling, she goes into the same sort of skillfully written details regarding her chosen field. If it's worth mentioning, and related to horror or really dark fantasy, chances are you'll find a brief write-up in her section." Michael picks up a well-earned Excellence in Writing Award for this review!
Jack B. Merry got a nifty book this week from Oxford University Press: Folklore: Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud's A Dictionary of English Folklore. He says, "I really can't quibble 'bout anything in this book. It's not as ambitious as Jack Zipes' The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales which me editor had some minor complaints about, and it certainly has everything I wanted in it."
Naomi de Bruyn continues her look at the fiction of Madeleine L'Engle with a review of An Acceptable Time. She says, "Madeleine L'Engle builds the suspense up extremely well. And not everything is quite what you'd expect from the clues she expertly drops along the way. Although this book is written for children, it too is a wonderful adventure from start to finish, and complex enough to keep an adult mind occupied and guessing at the outcome. I certainly had problems putting it down for any length of time, and even when I did manage to, I was thinking about it almost constantly."
Over on the music side, Chuck Lipsig reviews Diaspora by Celtic group Bounds Street -- he thinks it "...is a solid performance with few flaws, if nothing that stands out as extraordinary." And Kim says about The County Bounds, a CD of music from the borders of two counties, Cork and Kerry, "Fans of Irish music looking for an album to add depth and variety to their collections will appreciate this distinctive music, particularly if they play it or have developed a love of the sessions at their local pub." Slipping across the Irish Sea to England, we find three reviews of traditional and not so traditional music. First is Brendan Foreman's look at the third Belshazzar's Feast album we've reviewed in GMR: Mr. Kynaston's Famous Dance. He says, "Following up their releases One Too Many and Drop The Reed, the two Pauls -- Sartin and Hutchinson -- who comprise Belshazzar's Feast, continue their exploration of the country dance traditions of England with this collection of dances from the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, for their source, the Pauls have gone back to the publications of John Walsh, who issued annual collections of country dances from 1705 to 1766." Chris Woods, who's hopefully surviving the petrol crisis in the U.K., looks at the Heart Of England collection. (Yes, this is the second English Trad CD by this name we've reviewed!) Chris notes, "Quite recently one of our writers, Lars, wrote a thoughtful article, Being a reviewer, describing the perils and the pleasures of writing reviews. This CD very definitely represents one of the significant pleasures. The CD is excellent, containing a large proportion (12 of the 16 tracks) of very high quality exclusive and/or live tracks, most from internationally well-known musicians. In addition to being such a superb musical collection, the proceeds of all sales are going to a very worthwhile charity." But Debbie Skolnik was very disappointed by unrattled, a solo album from former Rattler Alan Woolley. She says, "I never like giving a negative review of anything, since I'm aware that there's a living, breathing human being somewhere out there who has put some hard work into the making of the item I'm reviewing. So let's put it this way: if vibrant folk rock is your cup of tea, it's not likely that this album will appeal to you." Brendan, Debbie, and Kim knock down Excellence in Writing Awards for their reviews.
Naomi de Bruyn looks at Italian group FLK and their third recording. 'SUN'. She says, "When I put this CD on, I wasn't sure quite what to expect, but what I got has me wanting more: catchy rhythms and a very alluring and impassioned voice, somewhat similar to Christina Amphlett of the Di Vinyls. The unfortunate part is that the lyrics are all in their regional dialect, leaving me to use the nuances of voice and music to "feel" the mood of the songs. The lyrics are written in Friuli dialect and Latin, but I cannot read either. On one hand this is good. It allows the imagination to grow wings and soar with the music, instead of being grounded in lyrics which might be meaningless to anyone not from the area." Gary Whitehouse liked John Hiatt's Crossing Muddy Waters: "In Crossing Muddy Waters, John Hiatt has produced one of the best records of his life. That's saying a lot for a singer-songwriter who has put out something like 20 albums in a quarter of a century, and whose songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Iggy Pop, John Doe, Mitch Ryder, Linda Ronstadt, Jewel, and most recently, B.B. King and Eric Clapton." Our last review is Naomi's look at Lester Simpson's One. She comments, "Lester Simpson is a very talented man. Not only is he a singer-songwriter, he's a piper and melodeon player as well as a radio presenter and actor, and a sailor to top it all off. This adds a serious depth to this CD, as he has pulled creativity and experiences from the many facets of his life."
10 September 2000
After three years of publishing one of the most popular and critically acclaimed review zines on the net, I am still amazed how good the articles our reviewers do are! (And GMR is actually nearly thirty years old in one form or another.) This week is no exception with some very fine reviews being offered up for your reading pleasure.
When GMR started out, it was merely the in-house organ for a local folk club, but it has expanded its range of coverage over the decades. Fiction has been a very popular area with you, our readers, since we went digital. And we have a goodly number of reviews this edition! We lead off with Naomi de Bruyn's review of legendary writer Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet. (Right now, I'm reading L'Engle's two book series about concert pianist Katherine Forrest Vigmeras.) Naomi notes of the Time Quartet that it was "...Originally written as a trilogy, Many Waters was a later addition. Chronologically, it should be read before A Swiftly Tilting Planet. All four of these novels stand well on their own, as well as fitting comfortably together to complete and enhance the adventures of the Murry family. These novels may have been written for children, but they are well worth the reading for adults as well, and I shall be visiting their pages again."
Likewise, Kim Bates found reading that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin's Buffalo Gals fantasy. This novella, Kim says, takes the reader "...into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet's work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin's story. It has earned a place next to my treasured "children's" books -- the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up."
Rebecca Swain is delving into books about Merlin, and this edition finds her looking at J. Robert King's Mad Merlin. She says "I enjoyed this book very much. I have read numerous retellings of the Arthurian legend, but this one was different enough to keep my interest. It is humorous and full of adventure, and I highly recommend it to readers who still can't bring themselves to admit that Arthur and Merlin are gone." William Simmons, a lover of ghost tales, finds himself deep in Hell with his review of Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell. William comments, "With a dark charm and grace no less endearing and seductive than the prince of darkness himself, To Reign in Hell, by Steven Brust, is a deliciously decadent voice leading you off the same tired, beaten path and into the wilderness of primal miracle and possibility. With a premise and daring vision that would have undoubtedly landed him on the Inquisitor's table in an older time, the author of this descent into epic struggle manages with a deft and authoritative hand to slap an ancient myth in the face and force it on its head." Rounding our look at fantasy novels is Grey Walker's commentary on Nick O'Donohoe's The Gnomewrench in the Peopleworks. She says "The Gnomewrench in the Peopleworks is fun to read... However, (and this is a rather large however) please be warned! The Gnomewrench in the Peopleworks is a sequel. Furthermore, its plot, characters, allusions, running gags, etc., are closely intertwined with the first book, The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks..."
Two short story collections round out our fiction reviews. Richard Dansky found Mandy Wade Wellman's The Third Cry to Legba to be "...a doozy. Fans familiar only with the Silver John stories, however, are in for a shock. There's not a single story featuring John the Balladeer here, though a few of the tales do wander into territory where you might expect to find him." And William Simmons likewise was thrilled by Robert Charles Wilson's The Perseids And Other Stories. He says, "How to describe this collection? Science-fiction, horror-science-fiction, dark technological fantasy? More fun than being hunted down by hostile visitors from other dimensions? Well, we could call it any of the above. Better yet, why not do as the author so richly manages, and cast such terms and labels to cosmic winds?"
Before you move over to the music reviews,ake time to read the latest Peregrine's Perogative by Michael Jones, our Managing Editor and a damn fine reviewer to boot. He went to the 58th World Science Fiction Convention, which was held this year in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. He says, "Let's just say that it was an interesting weekend..."
Ah, music... A typical week here at the GMR office -- think oak desks and comfortable chairs, iBooks, and enough book shelves to hold all the product that comes in, with fresh espresso and Belgian chocolate for all our workers -- sees upwards of twenty-five CDs arrive for review. We try to review as many as possible -- write Michael Jones if you're interested in joining us as a reviewer! -- but we always end up picking very carefully what is worthy of your attention. Bluegrass leads off with David Kidney's insightful review of the Gourds' Bolsa de Agu. He says, "These Gourds is crazy! Check out they web-site! They got a history of the gourd...you know...the vegetable type gourd what Jacob and Esau in the Bible made use of. They make a weird kind of musical sound what reminds ever'body in my office of country music, except not quite!" Next he slides over to the blues in looking at Steve James' Boom Chang ("...a very good album which will be played again and again!") and Big Jay McNeely's Central Avenue Confidential ("...This is a pleasant album, which might be great at night with the lights dimmed, a bottle of wine, and some good friends...") Gary Whitehouse offers up Barnburner by Celtic group Clumsy Lovers. He says "The Clumsy Lovers play raucous, uptempo Celtic-based rock with all kinds of Pacific Rim influences."
The Snowqueen, otherwise known as Rebecca Swain, the finest proofer anywhere, looks at three albums by female singer-songwriters. First up is the Burns Sisters' Out of the Blue. This is "a very enjoyable collection of songs. Their voices are pretty and their harmonies are lovely." Next up is Sara Hickman's Spiritual Appliances, an album "a little too sweet for [her] taste." And she finishes up with Carrie Newcomer's The Age of Possibility. She says "Carrie Newcomer has a rich, low voice that puts me in mind a bit of Susan Werner, with occasional startling hints of Helen Reddy. Her songs are stoic affirmations of life in the face of loss and struggle. Newcomer is rather vague about the specific situations she sings about, but this enables the listener to fit the songs into her own experiences and still gain personal meaning from the lyrics."
I wrap with a look at a mighty fine summah festival -- summah is Downeast lingo for summer -- the Maine Festival. I say, "If you are truly lucky, you too will experience the Maine Festival."
We did have some winners of the highly coveted Excellence in Writing Awards that our editorial staff picks each edition. The winners were Snowqueen's review of Mad Merlin and her look at three female S-Sers, William Simmons's review of Wilson's Perseids And Other Stories, and Michael Jones' Worldcon report. But as one editor noted in casting her votes, "Voting is tough going this week, as everything was really quite good!"
Until next week, be good, read some interesting books, eat chocolate, and discover some music you didn't know existed.
03 September 2000
It's Labor Day weekend in the States, which means most of our writers are off elsewhere, so we have a smaller than usual edition this week. If you see a banner ad for Digilogic at the top of a page, don't be alarmed! This is part of our contract with them in exchange for free hosting of this site. For example, they do an actual registration -- by hand -- of all the major search engines (600+) twice a year. Without this, we would have a fraction of our present readership -- something that you can see by visiting other review zines and looking at their counters! (We're still running at around 50,000 readers per month. Nearly 80% of our readers return every week!)
Lahri Bond leads off this issue (he designed the very cool Fey Queen that now graces our main index page) with his review of Julius Schwartz's autobiography Man of Two Worlds: My Life In Science Fiction and Comics. Lahri explains that "...For those uninitiated; Julius Schwartz has constantly been a guiding force at the forefront and the beginning of both comic books and what we now consider to be modern science fiction."
Jack B. Merry -- who is not English despite the beliefs of some folks -- talks with Bill O'Toole, the only founding member of Blowzabella not found on any of their recordings. Blowzabella is the band that resurrected the English piping tradition. See what Irish-blooded Aussie O'Toole has to say about English bagpipes, sessions, and men on stilts! And Kim Bates has an interview with two members of Danú, an Irish group on the rise. She notes that she "spoke with Ciarán Ó Gealbháin (vocalist) and Donnchadh Gough (bodhrán and uilleann pipes) about the influences on Danú's music, and the blending of new sounds with the old traditions." Tim Hoke thought Finlay MacNeill's Fonn Is Furan is a dandy album of Gaelic songs, and No'am Newman found an album, Scottish Moods, that even his wife, who doesn't like Scottish music, was fond of! Both interviews this edition were the winners of Excellence in Writing Awards.
Gary Whitehouse finishes off our look at bands from the UK and Ireland with a review of Fairport Convention's Who Knows Where the Times Goes? Gary wisely notes "I daresay that many, if not most, readers of Folk Tales know all there is to know about Fairport Convention. If you're not among them, there's no dearth of information about this most venerated of English folk rock bands elsewhere in GMR, including a recent omnibus review. So I'll skip any long historical introduction and say that Who Knows Where the Time Goes is a solid addition to the band's discography."
Yet another tradition gets the lookover by Kim Bates in her review of Ralph Lee Smith's Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions. She notes "[t]he author, Ralph Lee Smith, edits a newsletter on the dulcimer, and obviously has a great love for the dulcimer, as well as an intimate knowledge of its history." Kim garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this thoughtful review.
We recently resurrected our video section, so you'll find there four reviews that we removed early last year: Richard Dansky details his fondness for The Lion In Winter , and L.G. Burnett gives us loving looks at The Princess Bride and the Wizard of Oz. On the other hand, Laurie Thayer tears apart Oliver Stone'sThe Doors.
We finish off with a few more music reviews. David Kidney was blown away by Rod Price's Open. Actually, what he said was "YeeHaw! This is one rip snortin', take no prisoners, blow yer eardrums out, smokin' blooze album! Thassrite! B-L-O-O-Z-E! Get down! Right from the first note. I cranked up the KaBoom box to 22 to listen to this baby! Yessir, these English boys know how to boogie!" Patrick O'Donnell was just as approving of Bill Miller's Ghostdance. He comments, "First things first. Go out and buy this album." Read his review to see why you too should get this CD! David picks up our third Excellence in Writing Award this week for this review. And our final review is of Sabah Habas Mustapha & the Jugala All-Stars' So La Li, an album you have to hear to truly appreciate. Reviewer April Gutierrez notes this album is "[i]mminently danceable, enjoyable to listen to, incredibly eclectic -- this CD is an utter delight."
After you get done here, do yourself a favor and get over to Terri Windling's Endicott Studio Web site. There's a just published piece there by Ellen Steiber calledAn Introduction to Terri Windling's Art. You won't want to miss it!
And check out the new Morrigan Web site. (See our omnibus review of this English folk rock group.) Simon Chadwick, creator of this site, says, "The Morrigan are an excellent folk-rock band from South-Central England who are much underrated. The Morrigan play traditional English songs, Early Music songs, and their own compositions, all in a lively prog-rock style, and have a very deep rich orchestral sound. They do a fair number of instrumental tracks. Their official website is good but hopelessly out-of-date, so I have made a Morrigan website with album details, quotes, etc."