31st of December, 2000
Get up, good wife, and shake your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars;
For we bairns come out to play,
Get up and gie'us our Hogmanay.
Happy New Years! Lang may yer lum reek! (Long may your chimney smoke! -- A classic Hogmanay wish.) We are off this week so that our staff may celebrate this holiday in proper fashion, but we'll be back next week. Now go away and celebrate this holiday in whatever manner you feel is appropriate!
24th of December, 2000
Green Man gets literally thousands of CDs, hundreds of books, and quite a few videos, including those new fangled DVDs. Not to mention the live performances our staff attend on behalf of GMR. We try to review as much as possible as there's truly great product being released, but we always end up being unable to review everything! This Best of 2000 list reflects the best product of the year as reflected by what we reviewed - the best products we reviewed this year, and the best reviews of the year.
We lead off with Chuck Lipsig's Best of 2000: "Jack Evans' Once Upon a Time in the North: incredibly creative fusion." He also liked "Kila's Lemonade & Buns: I didn't review it, but I did buy it. Good high-powered stuff." Chuck though that a tie should go to Funks Grove's Albuminium Blue and Adam Stemple's 3 Solid Blows to the Head as "[b]oth were inconsistent, but these two former Cats Laughing bandmates did some top-notch individual songs. A combined CD of the best from these 2 albums would walk with best of the year from me." And he thought "Jo Morrison's A Waulking Tour of Scotland was a masterful work. Jo gets more out of the harp than should be possible." He gives special notice to "Rounder Records for their releases from the Alan Lomax collection. Songs of Seduction and Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland aren't classics in a musical sense. But as historical documents, they are top notch." And his personal discovery of the year was Shooglenifty. "I reviewed A Whisky Kiss and Venus in Tweeds at the beginning of the year. I think these are the two most listened-to CDs for me this year." Chuck Lipsig's ...And Reels column looking at John Renbourn & Robin Williamson's Wheel of Fortune is another best of the year for me. 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 de Bruyn has cast her votes:
Choosing the 'best' is always a rather difficult thing to do. And in this case, I think it is perhaps the hardest choice I have ever made. For the most part everything I personally reviewed this year, I've liked. So what I chose to do was pick the books whose plots and characters still linger in my mind, and the CDs that I can't seem to stop playing - A LOT! As for the remainder of my choices, this was based on quality, interest, and the amount of desire the review built for the product. These are what I felt to be the best.
First, these are my choices from the reviews which were written over the course of this year.
Lars Nilsson- Essay - Being A Reviewer This is a classic piece of work. Lars aptly describes exactly what it is like being a reviewer. It is not an easy job that we do here, but anything worth doing is rarely easy. However, Lars described it best, so I suggest that you read on.
Kim Bates - Essay - Interview with Eric Bogle I found this interview particularly of interest, it was well written, the subject was interesting, and Kim asked some really good questions. It's not always an easy job to conduct an interview and find the right questions, but Kim makes it seem that way with this one. And she had a rather intriguing subject with this one as well. I really enjoyed reading it.
Jack B. Merry- Essay - Bill O'Toole of Blowzabella Interview Jack did a wonderful job with this interview. Blowzabella as a group is extremely interesting, and Bill O'Toole is a rather deep and fascinating person with a delightful sense of humor. It made for not only good reading, but I came away with the sense of actually having learned something. It helped that Jack knew his subject matter very well, and could ask some really great questions which would be of interest to those who were interested in Blowzabella and Bill O'Toole.
Brendan - Essay - Folk Alliance Essay This was an essay which had me bemoaning the fact of distance and money. I really would have enjoyed going to the Folk Alliance's Annual Conference! However, there is still hope -- apparently, it is in Vancouver next year! This was so well written, that although it made me want to be there, I also felt that I hadn't missed anything but the 'personal experience.' It is somewhat difficult to do a review on such a large event, but I think Brendan managed to cover all the main points of interest.
SQ - Gig Review - Jack Hardy at the Ten Pound Fiddle This gig review had me really wanting to see this 'living legend' in person. And failing that, to perhaps find some of his music and really give it a listen. Rebecca brought Jack Hardy to life with her words, and made me desirous of hearing him, and seeing him. Although, as she states in her review, this is not easily done. It was a very well written piece.
Jeannine Gehrmann - Fiction - The Horns of Elfland (edited by Ellen Kushner) I managed to pick up a copy of this book around the same time I started writing for Green Man , and I have yet to crack its covers. This review only heightens the desire to do just that, and lose myself for a few hours in a world of wonder. This review was extremely tantalizing, and I really felt it deserved to be on my list of 2000's best.
Jack B. Merry - Folktales - Sister of the Birds and Other Gypsy Tales I've long been enamored of the Gypsy folk and their tales and ways, and Jack presents this volume as a really good one to read. As is usual, Jack has a talent for making his reviews a tale of wonder in themselves, which only adds to the delight when it is a favorable review. He has presented this volume in honest bright light, and it looks great.
Rebecca Swain - CD - Once Upon A Bedtime Story by Jane Yolen Jane Yolen is among my choices of personal favorite authors, and Rebecca did a great job with this review. I really would like to enjoy the experience of an author telling these traditional tales; the voice inflections and sound effects must be great. After all, nobody knows a story better than the person who wrote it. This is another one of those, "I have to run out and buy this!" reviews.
Michael - Fiction - Azazel by Asimov Michael has done a wonderful job with this short story collection. He arouses interest immediately, and gives only enough details to really whet the appetite. I suppose being a fan of Isaac Asimov's works doesn't hurt, either, but this review was another one which had me reaching for my cash.
Grey Walker - Fiction - The Gnomewrench in the People Works by Nick O'Donohoe This book looks completely wonderful; not only does it have the fantastic but there is a wee bit of history dealing with WWII. Just imagining faery folk fighting alongside humans, and other factions also doing their best to deter efforts for peace has the mind working overtime. Grey Walker presented this one perfectly, and the review allows one to decide whether they wish to read this or not. Needless to say, this is another book I've yet to get, but it is on my own rather lengthy wish list!
Gary Whitehouse - Video - Ballad of Ramblin' Jack I think with this review Gary has managed to perform the impossible. I'd really like to watch the video, as well as listen to the soundtrack. I hadn't realized there is so much musical history surrounding Ramblin' Jack Elliott until I'd read this, so not only has this review allowed me to decide about the soundtrack and the movie, but it has also taught me something new. That makes it invaluable. As Gary says: "Herein lies the story of a man who can ride and break a bucking bronco, who can build and sail a boat, but who is never so alive as he is with guitar in hand, singing a song of the folk. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Next are the choices from the material which I reviewed. These are the books which really caught my attention, the ones I find myself thinking about when the mind is not occupied with other more mundane things.
Triskell Tales by Charles de Lint This book would have to win my spot for number one choice of the year. It has been long in the works a chapbook every Christmas for the last twenty-two years. And I think we are all extremely lucky that Charles decided to allow all these early and rather personal works to be shared with his readers. Wonderfully written and deeply moving, this is a collection to treasure forever.
The Glass Harmonica by Louise Marley This is a novel which captured my full attention, and also my imagination. This was so feasible, and yet so fantastic, it really had my subconscious go into overdrive as well. I dreamed about the story, and about the possibilities which this particular plot allowed to come into being. Of course, this had the conscious parts of my mind focused every waking moment on the "what if's." A very simple, yet compelling story. One which I will not soon forget, and which will be read again.
A Dance for Emilia by Peter S. Beagle Another wonderful tale, and one which allowed me to put some of my own ghosts to rest after a number of years. I highly recommend this novel to one and all. Although Peter is a highly skilled and imaginative author, this one is his best in my own opinion, for this tale is magic personified.
Black Heart, Ivory Bones (Datlow, Windling) This collection of short stories is fading from my memory, slowly, but it was a superb collection of faery-tales for the adult mind. Sure there were morals, and good and bad, but things didn't always turn out the way you'd think they would, or the way we've been 'conditioned' to expect. It was a really good read, and one which broadened the horizons of my imagination even more.
Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton I remember this book surpassed all expectations, and that I wondered if it would be a 'dud' when I skimmed the back covers. It was a well written and definitely engrossing book, which I had terrible trouble putting down. I look forward to reading more of this author's work.
I thought that it was difficult to pick the books which I thought were best, but that was nothing when compared to the agonies I suffered trying to pick my favorite music over this last year. I had to leave a number of CDs behind, settling for these four which return again and again to the stereo. These help me to calm down, to get my housework down, or to enjoy the day, and above all else, they allow me to enjoy the music!
Sarah Harmer - You Were Here I reviewed this CD, I interviewed Sarah on the phone, and I was lucky enough to see her perform. The first time I heard it, 'You Were Here' had me hooked. Sarah has such a wonderful voice, and such a diverse background in music to draw upon that this CD couldn't be anything but good. It appeals to a number of people who have heard it here, from the kids to the grandparents! I have no choice but to put it on my list.
Josh Rouse - Home I was lucky enough to be exposed to Josh's music when he opened the show for Sarah Harmer, and I've been listening to him a lot since then. This disc is upbeat; although the lyrics are somewhat heartfelt and even painful in places, you can't be down about things with the melodies picking you up. I think this disc has only been back in its cover twice since I first played it. It spends most of its time in our stereo.
Wimme - Cugu I must have listened to this disc ten times before I even thought about writing a word. This was due mostly to being so blown away by something so 'different.' Wimme is almost a genre unto himself, electronics, shamanistic chanting, passion - it is an almost indescribable experience. However, it is a wonderful experience that has earned this disc a well used space on the rack. Wimme has become a 'treat' for me, something to savour during those moments when I have the house all to myself and can listen without any distractions.
Kathryn Tickell - Ensemble Mystical This is yet another 'magical' disc, a journey from the oldest to the newest music. The only playable carynx in existence is used on this CD, and it will set your hair to standing on end, and your heart to racing with a rush of fear based adrenalin. This CD captivated me from beginning to end, and it will continue to do so for a very long time.
Another vote cast for a Best of the Year was Gary Whitehouse's nomination of Big Earl Sellar for his review of Captain Beefheart's Grow Fins 5-disc (!) retrospective set. Gary also notes that his other choices for best product of the year were, "As a package, the Ballad of Ramblin' Jack film and soundtrack. As a CD, Cordelia's Dad's Spine."
And I'm picking Jayme Lynn Blaschke's review of this collection as one of the best reviews of the year! Likewise Rebecca Swain's review of J. Robert King's Mad Merlin was one of the best reviews of the year by my measure. I also give a thumbs up to Naomi de Bruyn for reviewing nine CDs by Belfast-born and now Boston-based Seamus Kennedy. An award winning offering is a book and CD combo from Michigan State University Press called Beaver Island House Party. Brendan Foreman in his Excellence in Writing Award commentary notes "The CD itself does an amazing job of illustrating the heavy Irish flavor of the Beaver Island music as well as its transformation from simply a continuation of Irish traditions to something that is uniquely 'Beaver Island-ish.'" Brendan gets a nod from me for this commentary. And Big Earl Sellar gets a best of the year award for his scathing review of Randy Armstrong's soundtrack to the PBS series Dinner On The Diner.
My nominations for this year start off with Fintan Vallely's The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, a book about which Jack B. Merry says, "there may be a better guide to Irish traditional music but I haven't seen it." Jane Yolen's Touch Magic -- revised and expanded -- is definitely one of the best products of 2000, as was Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud's A Dictionary of English Folklore.
A good negative review is always worth reading. Rowan Inish offers up a scathing look at Patrick Humphries's Richard Thompson: The Biography. Rowan notes, "Even writers are allowed to like music, after all. However, too many books about cult artists are written by those who are already in the cult, and who want very, very much for the reader to join them. Richard Thompson: The Biography falls neatly into that trap. It's clear from page one that the author really, really likes Thompson's music, and he wants you to really, really like it too.Another folkie was treated to a kinder bio in The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack video. This video "is the story of both sides of Jack Elliott -- the wandering troubadour and the absent father -- told by his filmmaker daughter, Aiyana Elliott. It is at times an almost uncomfortably personal document of a woman's search for the dad she never had, a search that is in the end unfruitful."
Two interviews get my nod for best of the year. Jack B. Merry conversed with Bill O'Toole, the only founding member of Blowzabella not found on any of their recordings. Blowzabella is one of the bands 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 had 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."
For Excellence in Writing on an ongoing basis, I pick Michael Jones for his Peregrine's Prerogative column. Michael has done a great job of writing an entertaining and informative literary column on an ongoing basis! He gets our coveted Silver Penguin Award for his outstanding work!
Kim Bates, our Live Performance and Video Editor, has picked these five CDs as the best of the ones she reviewed this year:
Billy Bragg and Wilco's Mermaid Avenue II - better than the original Mermaid, and one I can't seem to get out of the CD player. Some great songs -- it's hard to believe they were not sung way back when, and some great guests (Natalie Merchant, Cory Hart) along with Tweedy's Dylanesque voice and Bragg's enthusiasm.
Cran's Lover's Ghost. There's so much promise, magic, and depth in Irish traditional music, which is why so many of us love it. But rarely is the magic actually realized in both the songs and the tunes as on this disc. And Cran do it within the form. It's astonishingly good, powerful stuff.
Gjallarhorn's Sjofn. There's also a lot of magic in the Finnish/Swedish music of Gjallarhorn. The didgeridoo, the percussion, the absolutely outstanding vocals, the lyrics. This is world music at its best from the land of fire and ice.
Kila's Lemonade and Buns. Kila also make magic with Irish music, but it's not traditional, oh no -there's plenty of originality in the chants, percussion, and wild arrangements that takes you to another world - -- a very danceable place. It's tribal, it's dance, it's primal - not to be missed.
Shooglenifty's Solas Shears -- more great stuff from this wildly creative acid croft, hypnofolkadelic crew. I liked that this album had more of the tunes up front, and sounded more like their live show than previous CDs (which I also like but feel that they obscured the tunes in the mix ). The fiddle, the electric banjo and the bass really shine on this disc.
Rebecca Swain, our very own Snowqueen and Book Editor, had these nominations. For live performances, she thought the Jack Hardy, Richard Shindell, and Saffire -- Uppity Blues Women were the best of the year. Her picks for best books were Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant, and Bruce Coville's Odder Than Ever. Best CDs of the year, according to Snowqueen, were Four Bitchin' Babes' Beyond Bitchin', and Richard Shindell's Somewhere Near Paterson. Her picks for best reviews of the year were David Kidney's Gourds' Bolsa de Agua CD (music) and William P. Simmons' review of Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree (book).
Our Music Editor, Brendan Foreman, says his favorite releases of 2000 as reviewed by him were Inti-Illimani's The Best of Inti-Illimani, KlezRoym's Sceni, Belshazzar's Feast's Mr. Kynaston's Famous Dance, and Skakespeare's Music, a collection from Dorian.
May you have a joyous New Year! We'll be back in two weeks with new reviews (Sunday, January 7th) as we're taking the next two weeks off. Do look here next week for our Best of the Year choices!
So the shortest day came, and the year died.
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world,
came people singing, dancing to drive the dark away.
Susan Cooper, "The Shortest Day"
Merry Solstice! We have but one review today for you, but it's one appropriate for this magical day. Grey Walker has graciously given us a review of Jennifer Stevenson's "Solstice" story which was published in The Horns of Elfland, (edited by Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Donald G. Keller -- released by Roc in 1997.) Here's the review:
A small-time rocker named Dawn breaks up with her boyfriend in the car one winter night. Dumped off on the side of the road, she storms angrily across an icy field until she trips and falls. A jolly, round woman offers her a hand up -- and shelter and a hot meal, but only if she agrees to play for a party. And what a party! Her host is as thin as the hostess is round, and he's dressed all in yellow. There's a roaring fire, thousands of twinkling candles and a long table groaning with food. Dawn joins an amplified fiddler, a bass player, and an indefatigable drummer in providing an eclectic mix of very loud, rollicking music for the dancing guests, including her host and hostess. As the night wears on, however, she notices that the man in yellow seems to be getting thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker. Finally, she realizes like a cymbal crash just what her role at this party is. And author Jennifer Stevenson has written this story so well that the reader shares Dawn's "Aha!" and her sense of satisfaction at fulfilling her role.
"Solstice" packs an amazing amount of sensuality into twelve short pages. My mouth watered at the descriptions of luscious delicacies -- even though I was two days into a nasty flu when I read them. Everything explodes onto the senses of the reader's imagination: the host's bright yellow suit, the heat from the fire and the candles, the throb of the music. When Dawn jumps up onto the stage to join the other musicians, she discovers that the whole stage is the sound system! But in addition to all this sensuality, or perhaps even because of it, "Solstice" is also a very spiritual story. The reader somehow senses that everything Dawn sees, each action she takes, even her name, has a deeper significance. She's not just playing for a great party, she's playing to keep a shrinking, fading man alive on the longest night. And if it's an over-the-top, splendid bash that keeps the sun alive for another year, well, human beings believed that for a very long time. Maybe this story will help us remember some of what we've forgotten.
Nollaig Shona Dhuit! (Irish for Merry Christmas!) Like most organizations, we slow down around the Winter holidays which is why we have a lighter than usual edition this week. And please remember that we will be taking next week off from publishing new reviews, but we will be doing our Best of the Year edition, so do come back next week.
Jack B. Merry decided to tackle the pile of musiclore books that had arrived from various publishers. He looks at subjects ranging from the state of Irish traditional music to the history of bagpipes! I'm sure you'll find a book or two in his review to add to your library! And speaking of bagpipes, I was delighted to receive three CDs from the Goodacre Brothers, three English bagpiping brothers. I noted in my review, "So how is this music? Sublime. Perfect. Truly great. This English Bagpipe music has a definite medieval feel to it as contrasted to the thoroughly modern feel of the Blowzabella material. This is simple, straightforward traditional music that one well may have encountered centuries ago at a 'barn dance' or other community event in some rural area of England." And Jo Morrison looks at Burach's new CD, Deeper. She says, "Burach is a bit like a Scottish version of the Corrs, but with the accordion playing a predominant role in the music and instrumental tunes holding equal ground with songs."
A band deep in English Traditional roots, Pressgang, and their new CD, Dancing in Our Dreams, did not tickle the fancy of Lars Nilsson. He says, "I am not saying this is a bad album, because it is not. But as I wrote in the introduction it lacks the last bit that makes a good effort a great album. It will obviously please the fans, but I am not totally converted. Next time around them I would advise them to care more about the production side and try to listen to the results from the first time listener´s point of view." Lars picks up the first of two Excellence in Writing Awards that were granted this week.
Naomi de Bruyn has been attending a lot of concerts courtesy of GMR. First she saw Jesse Cook, of whom she says: "[i]f you ever have the chance to see this creative genius in concert, do so." And she was also fortunate enough to see Rita MacNeil and The Men of the Deeps. She notes that there was a special group performing at this benefit concert: "Joining Rita for this tour are 'The Men of the Deeps.' They are North America's only male chorus. Based in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, this chorus is comprised of not only retired coal miners, but also working miners, ranging in age from their mid-thirties to their late seventies."
Gary Whitehouse provided us with A Latin Music Omnibus this edition. He notes, "When the Buena Vista Social Club CD became a world wide hit in 1998, it opened the gates to a flood of music made in or derived from Cuba. Not all of it is of the highest quality -- but these four CDs don't fall into that category. Each of these recordings is a good ambassador of Cuban and Caribbean music."
Nai reviewed Sviraj's Ciganine. She notes that "Sviraj (pronounced Svee-rye -- with the "r" rolled; and meaning "Play on!") is a trio of three childhood friends from Pennsylvania, who have been playing their music for twelve years. Their music has roots in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Romania, and the Roma. Sviraj also thrives in the tamburitza music of North America's Balkan communities. The group plays music from both traditions as, according to the accompanying notes, both traditions nurtured them." Read her review to see why this is one of her favorite CDs of late.
April Gutierrez provides us with a delightful review of one of my favorite films: The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen. She says, "From the quicksilver mind of director Terry Gilliam springs a wondrous tale of heroic deeds, beautiful women and dashing men. The real Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German aristocrat known for his boastful tall tales, provides ample fodder for Gilliam's fertile imagination, and he spins a tale worthy of the good Baron's name. The result is a delightful, fantastic (in all senses of the word) film." April picks up the second of two Excellence in Writing Awards that were granted this week.
Here's to mulled cider, good friends, live music, and a warm house to come home to. If one must live in a place where Winter really means something, oneshould celebrate it! Our way of celebrating the season will be to attend A Celtic Christmas at the Center for Cultural Exchange in a few weeks -- live music by four contra and Celtic bands, good conversation, and a feast!
Not surprisingly, we start off with Celtic music reviews first! Chuck Lipsig, our Celtic Music Editor, looks at the Boys of the Lough's 1996 release, Midwinter Night's Dream. He says of this classic that, "[t]hey call on Christmas and winter traditions of Ireland, Scotland, Shetland, and Sweden to put together a fine CD." He also looked at the McKrell's Merry Christmas CD ("...has the feel of a bunch of friends getting together to play for the fun of it...) and A Thistle and Shamrock Christmas Ceilidh collection ("...music for the whole year round...). Meanwhile Tim Hoke tackled lots of piping CDs as he notes, "I was a little intimidated when a package of seven bagpipe CDs arrived at my house. Now I love bagpipes in all forms as much as anyone who doesn't actually play them can, but a stack that size is a powerful amount of droning. I took the plunge, turning my house into Drone Central for a while." He looked at Willie Clancy's The Pipering Of Willie Clancy, Volumes 1 & 2; Tommy Martin's Uilleann Piper; Kevin Rowsome's The Rowsome Tradition; and the World Pipe Band Championships Volumes 1 & 2 collection. Read his review to see why he liked all of them! Yet more piping music was reviewed by Jo Morrison -- Have I mentioned that she's married to a truly great Piper who will be performing with her in a Music-for-Robin concert in a few months? -- as she looked at The Great Highland Bagpipe in Modern Times CD. Jo says, "this is a collection that demonstrat[es] modern uses of the bagpipe, which will undoubtedly turn the heads of those who think that the great Highland bagpipe only has one sound and one use." Naomi de Bruyn get the last Piping review with here look at the World Masters of Piping CD. Naomi notes, "[i]If you enjoy piping, and especially great piping, then you will enjoy this compilation." And Nai get the last Celtic music review too as she praises Caroline Peyton's Celtic Christmas Spirit CD which says is, "quite possibly the one of the most impressive Christmas CD's I have ever run across."
More traditional music can be found in English Traditions reviews this edition. (Did you know that Green Man has been published in various forms for nigh unto thirty years? We're not nearly as old as our namesake, but we too have a long and interesting tale!) John Harbison's Six String Christmas was a little mellow for Nai's taste, but she notes, "if all you wish to hear is the guitar, then this is for you. I prefer to hear other instruments and the occasional vocal, as well, though." Lars Nilsson found more to like with the New Victory Band's One More Dance & Then CD. Lars wisely notes, "Basically you get a large group of musicians enjoying themselves, and that goes a long way. They do not make records like this anymore, but on the other hand they didn't really make records like this in 1978 neither." He also looked at two releases from Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman: Bonnet & Shawl and Constant Lovers. He says, "When I listen to Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman, I get the feeling of being in an English folk club, and that is clearly what they are aiming for."
Ah, American roots music: pure, simple, and sticks to basics. Chortle -- Like Hell! I was lucky enough this past week to get In The Dance Tent, the first ever live release from Alt-Contra band the Horseflies. A s I noted in my review, "I like 'em, but I have decidedly odd tastes in music. If you like the Red Clay Ramblers, you'll like this group. Hell, even Talking Heads fans would be advised to check them out!" And Gary White reviews the third Holy Modal Rounders album we've looked at: Last Round. Gary comments that they have , "... a reverently irreverent, psychedelic take on old string-band music and country blues." (I'm slipping a book review by him in here, as it too is American Roots: Judith Tick's Ruth Crawford Seeger is a look at Ruth Crawford Seeger, a pivotal but little-known figure of American music in the 20th century. He says, "Judith Tick's biography is a suitable monument to Crawford's life and work." And a bit of Blues is appropriate too, so let's toss in Rebecca Swain's review of a Saffire -- Uppity Blues Women concert here. Saffire, whom I've seen in concert, are according to her, "talented, funny, raunchy, informal, good-natured -- it's impossible not to have fun when they're in the room." She's right: they are very raunchy -- Just wait 'til you hear their "Silver Beaver" song! (Check out the GMR review of their Live & Uppity CD which Jeff Skolnik reviewed a few years ago.) Let's finish off our American Roots reviews with Gary's review of Roll On Columbia, a video 'bout Woody Guthrie and how this Leftist came to work for the Bonneville Power Administration! Our reviewer notes, "Roll On Columbia tells how a radical folk singer came to be employed by a federal bureaucracy, with archival footage and still shots of Woody's life, the hard times of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, and the making of these massive dams."
Only two World Music CDs get reviewed this outing, but both get an enthusiastic endorsement from their reviewers! Nordic group Gjallarhorn's Sjofn has, according to Kim Bates, "lush vocals, primal rhythms, richly textured instrumentals, haunting melody, all wrapped up into one of the most beautiful musical packages I've heard all year. World and Nordic music aficionados should not miss this disc." And Gary is upbeat 'bout Andean artist Tahuantinsuyo's Music of the Andes CD. He raves that this CD is, "an exceptional CD, well worth tracking down for anyone who enjoys Andean instrumental music."
Nai was lucky enough to get a copy of Sue Klassen's Follow A Star - Songs of Love and Christmas Time. Nai says that, "...we are extremely lucky to have this wonderful songbird around for our enjoyment in this era." Lars feels very fortunate to have heard the self-titled debut album from Teddy Thompson, son of folk rock legend Richard Thompson. He says, "Quite a few of Richard´s fans have been waiting for Teddy´s first album is his own name. And they have not waited in vain." Nai finishes off our singer-songwriter reviews with a look at the Moms That Cook CD. She comments, "This is a rather unique CD, and one which is great for families. My daughter came out while I was first listening to it, and commented that she'd heard one of the songs on a movie lately, or at least the voice but unfortunately she couldn't pinpoint which one. There are twelve delightfully uplifting and enjoyable tracks, all by twelve very talented Moms."
Nai has two fiction reviews this time: Dennis Jones' The Stone and the Maiden novel ("You will find everything you desire for a good read within these pages.") and Jane Yolen's Boots and the Seven Leaguers ("it is a really, really good read. And when it comes to Jane, I expect nothing else. In my mind, Jane's name has become synonymous with great fiction.") Kim Bates finished off this edition with editor Tamra Andrews' disappointing A Dictionary of Nature Myths. Why was she disappointed? "It w[ill] be a great gift for a young person wanting to know more about how our forebears put a name to elements. It will probably frustrate older readers, or those who have made a career or hobby of folklore and mythology."
Excellence in Writing Awards this time go to Kim for her Gjallahorn review, Rebecca for her Saffire gig review, Tim for his piping omnibus, and Gary for his Ruth Crawford Seeger biography review.
My thanks to Debbie Skolnik who covered for Rebecca Swain as Book Editor this Edition, and Naomi de Bruyn who proofed the What's New text. GMR is only as good as it because of its outstanding staff! And one last note: Due to our hard working staff, we now have reviews of more than a thousand CDs on GMR!
You want to be a hero
With the axe about to fall,
You'd buy it for the love and for the glory,
For it all.
You want to dress in black
And lose your heart beyond recall,
Hunt a dream through rain and thunder,
On your honor,
For it all...
"For It All," Emma Bull's War for the Oaks novel ( recorded on the Another Way to Travel CD)
You've heard of Cats Laughing, one of the best folk rock bands ever, but were driven to despair at discovering their recordings don't exist anymore? You tried to get Sparrow to find a copy, and even that finder of rare objects struck out? Cheer up! Now you can get both albums -- including one never before released on CD! -- from Green Man . Will Shetterly, the genius behind Spin Arts, the recording company for Cats Laughing, has given his blessing for this project, and Lojo Russo, a member of Cats Laughing and a damn fine singer to boot, has made GMR a master CD-R copy of the cassette-only release. What you get is two CD-Rs: one of the cassette-only release and one of Another Way to Travel, their only CD which is long since out of print. The cost of both CD-Rs is a mere thirty dollars including shipping. Email me if you're interested and we'll discuss the details of getting these near legendary releases!
Welcome back to Green Man . My, that was a short break!
Our leadoff review this week is by Naomi de Bruyn and concerns the latest release from Northumbrian piper/fiddler Kathryn Tickell: Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical. (This review will be featured in the official Kathryn Tickell newsletter!) Naomi says of this brilliant album that, "There is magic on this disc, the magic of incredible talents joined with one another and playing music which weaves about the soul like sunlit vines, complete with the occasional shadows within which to delve." She also looked at Josh Rouse's HOME, an album by a truly outstanding singer-songwriter. Check out her review to see why she thinks this is so!
Naomi also did a number of other reviews including two live performance commentaries. She saw both the Huron Carole 2000 benefit concert and the Spirit of the West concert, both in her home city of Victoria. (Lucky stiff!) She notes, "Huron Carole is an annual tour, which is now in its thirteenth year of raising money for the Canadian Association of Food Banks. Over its history, the tour has raised $1.9 million, an amount which translates into so much more, $38 million in supplies and services to those who use the food banks. Every year this project raises sponsorship from 50 corporate and community supporters and also co-ordinates performers and volunteers. It was awarded the Canadian Country Music Association's Country Event of the Year award." And Spirit of the West is, she notes, "...a self-proclaimed "Celtic Pop Punk Funk Lyric Driven Folk Rock group." And they are one of the prides of Canada's West Coast -- something to give the East Coast a little competition in the music department!"
She was active on the book reviewing front too! She looked at Dennis Danvers' Wilderness novel, a work she says, "is a really fast-paced novel" about werewolves and those who exist around them. Tanith Lee's White as Snow collection concerns itself with the "retelling of fairy tales for the adult reader." And Charles Downing's Armenian Folk-tales and Fables is a crackling good look at the folk tales of that culture.
Rebecca Swain managed to find both worthwhile listening and good reading, but she was less than fully excited by the Dilettantes' This Small Town CD. She says, "This is not a bad CD. It just doesn't stand out above the many other CDs I have reviewed for this magazine." Tina Lear's The Road Home CD was more to liking! She says, "This album has a romantic sensibility, although not a starry-eyed, happy-ever-after kind of romanticism, more an optimistic belief in love despite occasional evidence to the contrary."
Rebecca got a fair bit of reading done recently. Bruce Coville's Odder Than Ever collection "is an enjoyable and imaginative collection of fantasy short stories for young adults." Eleanor Estes' The Witch Family novel is "a classic of children's literature; people read it over and over again as children, then read it to their own children and love it just as much." And Kathryn Reiss' Time Windows "is a typical restless-spirit, haunted house novel." And then there's Judith Tarr's Kingdom of the Grail novel, an Arthurian adventure which "is an enjoyable book, and well-written, filled with romance and warfare."
Big Earl Sellar finishes off with great musical reviews. Karimbo by Mozambiquan group Mabulu is according to Big Earl, "a great little disc, a decent soundtrack tailor-made for a sunny day." The Rough Guide to Hawaii was also a revelation: "The more I listen to this disc, the more I long for a nice warm beach, during these drab, cold days." And The Rough Guide to Indonesia was also fantastic! He says, "my only beef with this disc is that it should be at least twice as long! Rough Guide did a wonderful job on this disc, managing to present tradition with pop. Truly a fantastic disc, a real treasure." This reviewer gets Excellence in Writing Awards for his Rough Guide CD reviews.