27th of February, 2001
But first, a public service announcement: Tor Books has gotten the rights to Emma Bull's War for The Oaks novel. It would be wonderful if War for The Oaks came out in hardcover as it most certainly deserves. Email Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor Books and tell him that you'd love to buy a War for the Oaks hardcover edition next year. Hell, urge your friends to do so! You can also post a message in r.a.s.f.w. saying you hope that this means there'll finally be a hardcover. You can even mention that The War for Oaks movie trailer sold nearly a hundred copies as an authorized bootleg!
The preceding message was not authorized by Emma Bull or Will Shetterly, but is sanctioned by The Committee for the Publication of War for The Oaks Hardcover.
Well, it appears that we indeed were victorious in our quest as
the Spring/Summer 2001 catalog from Tor Books which arrived
this week has a release date for the first ever hardcover edition of
this quintessential urban fantasy novel -- it will be released in
July. You can pre-order it from Amazon
It's been an interesting week here; we're having our entire house renovated while we're still living in it, and we added an eighth cat, a grey male we named Tom O'Bedlam, to our household! Fortunately Green Man runs like the clocks in Stoddard's High House series, which means you, our faithful readers, get lots of reviews of things you'll want to check out for yourselves. I said last edition that I never know what's coming in for reviews, so I'm always delighted to read them as our hard-working editors send them to me to be added to GMR. This time out I really enjoyed reading two very different live performance commentaries: Michael Hunter's look at WOMADelaide, and Lars Nilsson's detailed recounting of two Fairport Convention concerts he attended in England. Read both for a look at three great musical experiences! The latter review earns the writer an Excellence in Writing Award.
You can get into a spirited discussion over the matter of Northumbrian music being English or Celtic. I placed Jack B. Merry's reviews of Northumberland Rant: Music from the Edge of England, and Spirit of the Border: Northumberland Traditional Music, in the English reviews index, but Jack says of this music that it's "Celtic, not English. It's obvious to me that the bleedin' border's in the wrong place -- it should be south of the Northumberland region! Of course, being of Scottish ancestry, me preference would be that this region be part of an independent Scotland!" Read his review to get a look at why he thinks these CDs are worth your time to listen to. Speaking of Celtic, Kim Bates, a woman who loves a good sessuin, looks at two albums by Shetland Islander Catriona MacDonald: Bold and Opus Blue. She says, "I first heard Catriona MacDonald some time ago when she played some Canadian folk festivals with accordion player Ian Lowthian; I recall being quite impressed by their arrangements and their playing." Debbie Skolnik had a blast looking at five CDs by Scottish-born Texas resident Ed Miller. She says "so who is Ed Miller, anyway? Originally from Edinburgh, he has lived more than 30 years in Austin, Texas (I'm sure there's a story there somewhere). He is the possessor of a Ph.D. in folklore, which he puts to good use as a musician. He's also one of three hosts of the Folkways radio program on KUT-FM, a long-running show which is available on the Web through Real Audio. And finally, he conducts tours of Scotland in which the participants are fortunate enough to meet and listen to a variety of Scottish musicians on their own turf." Kim, who found that sessuin she was looking for, looks at Michael McGoldrick's Fused, an album she says "...is smooth and easy, jazz-funk-dance-Celtic, and mostly instrumental." Kim picks an Excellence in Writing Award for this commentary.
Chuck Lipsig was fortunate enough to look at a number of roots albums: Sara Grey's Back in the Airly Days, McKrells' Better Days and McKrells Live, Plaid Family's The Flying Book, and Sirens' Smilin'. What did he discover after listening to these CDs? I'm not telling, so you'll need to read his review!
More roots in the form of blues is tackled by David Kidney, who examines the Blues Project's Anthology. He notes, "There is a richness and vitality to the music contained on these two discs: a 'Sixties' naiveté, that feeling of experimentation which says, 'Nobody's done it before...but why wouldn't it work?!?' You'll find your foot a-tapping and your head bobbing, as you yearn for the old days, and thank your lucky stars that record labels are searching their archives for hidden treasures like this one!" Oh, don't forget to read Gary Whitehouse's insightful Excellence in Writing Award winning look at The Rough Guide to Jazz, one of many Rough Guides we're reviewed. He says of this Rough Guide that "I recommend The Rough Guide to Jazz to anyone who wants to explore jazz but doesn't know where to start." Meanwhile, Big Earl Sellar was very pleased with a Sleepy LaBeef CD: "Although it isn't overly bluesy, nor too polished, Rockabilly Blues is a superb disc for fans of roots music." Big Earl receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Big Earl's back with yet another Lomax CD, the latest of many that Green Man has reviewed. This one is Martinique - Cane Fields and City Streets. He says this CD is "[a]nother disc in the 1962 Lomax tour of the eastern Caribbean, Martinique features the music from one of the largest islands of the area, and one that was in the midst of deep transition. By the time these recordings were made, the island was beginning to be transformed into a tourist mecca, with new-found affluence (for some) and great opportunities (for the rest). Although the sessions for this disc were recorded in a frantic three days, they reveal an amazing portrait of a nation in transition."
I reviewed The Difference Engine, a Victorian steampunk fantasy by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling that I note is "certainly is a version of London that's like no other!" Read my review to see if I liked this unique undertaking. Naomi de Bruyn reviewed Tim O'Laughlin's Phoenix Fire, a novel about which she says, "For a first novel, this is a very strong showing. The plot is well thought out, and there are a myriad of subplots which Tim has full control of all the time. The writing is smooth and flowing, with nothing jolting. I hope we will see many more works by this promising new writer, and I will be keeping my eyes open for them." Nai was on a roll, so she continues her fiction reviewing with Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Cat on the Edge, another in her look at a series of whimsical mysteries involving a talking feline. Not being to content to stop there, she looks at Oceans of Magic, one of a number of Martin H. Greenberg anthologies that DAW has sent us. She says, "I have long loved the ocean and all of its mysteries, and this delightful collection serves to open even more possibilities to the imagination. There are thirteen (yes, an odd number) tales of magic involving the ocean, divided into different categories. Some authors chose to sail oceans travelled before in the 'Voyages in History' section; this allows us to see the past as it might have been had things gone a little differently and magic been involved." And she reviews a book entitled Naomi. Now I wonder why she was interested in that particular book? Michael Jones is back at last with a review of Jim Butcher's Fool Moon. Michael says, "I wholeheartedly recommend Fool Moon as an example of what happens when you mix genres properly. In a market increasingly dominated by media tie-ins and series beginning with "Star", it's a refreshing change of pace." Not surprisingly, Michael gets a well-deserved an Excellence in Writing Award for his well-written commentary!
By the time you read this, I'll be off to see Andy Cutting and Chris Wood, true masters of contemporary English folk music, at the Center. I'll tell you next week how it was.
20th of February, 2001
It's worth noting that our Celtic music and culture coverage has been endorsed by the Celtic Artists' Network, as witnessed by this quote: "The Celtic Artists' Network wholeheartedly endorses Green Man as among the finest, most intelligent, useful,and objective folk/acoustic/Celtic e-zines on the web. The music reviews are invariably witty, sensitive, and informative, and, as a gathering-place for all sorts of useful folk/Celtic information of all kinds, few sites are as valuable as Green Man . GMR is creating its own Celtic network on the web."
18th of February, 2001
Green Man gets far more product for review than one would believe could exist. For example, Big Earl Sellar, who's not happy with Tribal Voice, the Yothu Yindi CD he reviews this edition, will likely be very happy with the half dozen Turkish CDs he's getting soon! And Gary Whitehouse was very happy with the Lalezar Ensemble's Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio, Vols. III and IV. He says, "The Lalezar Ensemble comprises four instrumental musicians and three vocalists. These recordings are richly atmospheric, beautifully performed works, redolent of the grandeur, mystery and courtliness of the [Ottoman] Empire." Gary will be reviewing the first two volumes of this series shortly.
To my knowledge, the early albums (English Rock 'N Roll: the Early Years, Jack's Alive, Liberty Hall, and Lie Back and Think of England) of the Oysterband, the group formerly known as the Whitstable Oyster Co. Ceilidh Band, have never been reviewed anywhere. I'm pleased to say that Ed Dale done a sterling job of looking at what this band was like in the early years. Ed says, "I stumbled onto the Oysterband several years back via a copy of Little Rock to Leipzig, received as a premium during a college radio station's fund drive. This was blind good luck. The two CDs I had originally wanted were gone, so I picked this one based on its 'folk-rock' label. I haven't stopped listening to this band and now own ten of their CDs. As a devoted and possibly obsessed fan, when the chance came to review some of their earliest and long out-of-print albums, I jumped. I now feel blessed to have acquired this piece of their history. In short, these LPs prove that the Oysters were always good, but have nevertheless gotten much better." Ed receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this well-written review!
Lars Nilsson was also pleased with English traditional singer Carol Alexander's You and I album. He says, "...nothing is bad on this release. Carol Alexander maintains a high standard whatever she sings." Ceilidh music -- better live or recorded? Haste to the Wedding's Take to the floor is proof to Lars that live is better: "If I had a choice of when to listen to Haste to the Wedding, I would say in a cozy pub with a pint of bitter or at a ceilidh or barn dance, yes." He completes his trio of English trad reviews with a look at the CD and video from the Whisky Priests' Here Comes the Ranting Lads. He loved them both, so read his review to see why you too should get these items! Lars receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Just as traditional as You and I is Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill and friends, including Donal Lunny, on Idir an Da Sholas (between the two lights). Brendan Foreman notes, "One half of this duo of sisters is actually quite prominent in the world of Irish traditional music. Triona Dhomhnaill was a founding member of three of the most important modern-day Celtic musical groups: the Bothy Band, Touchstone, and Nightnoise. Triona has now teamed up with her sister, Maighread, to record a modern-sounding set of very traditional Irish songs. Triona has always done well teaming up with family members (her brother Micheal was also a founding member of Touchstone and Nightnoise), but the music that she has created here with Maighread resonates with passion and beauty. Backed up and produced by Donal Lunny, Idir an Da Sholas is testament to the emotional power that these 100+ year-old songs can still generate."
A well-written pan is a joy to read. And No'am Newman, in reviewing Captain Tractor's East of Edson, has done a great job of saying this is a lousy album! Read his review to see why he was critical of this CD. But Brendan was happy with Louis Leroux's Gypsy Dreams. He says, "this is a CD of gorgeous, original guitar music that anyone who likes to listen to a little flamenco guitar every now and then will want." Bluegrass in the form of Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow CD tickled the fancy of David Kidney. He says, "Little Sparrow is not the 'pure' bluegrass that Dolly did on The Grass Is Blue, but it is a logical development from there. Adding folk and an Irish angle (provided by special guests Altan), Miss Parton is not content to rest on her laurels." Eclectic is a good description of Gideon Freudmann's Ukrainian Pajama Party, which Gary notes "...appears to be at least in part a children's album. Ukrainian Pajama Party is a whimsical take on Freudmann's trademark blend of bluesy, jazzy pop and light classical-style music."
Lars also has a review of two tune books: Barley Break and The Magic Dulcimer. Both are by Lorraine Lee Hammond, an accomplished Appalachian dulcimer player and instructor of same. He says both books are well worth getting if you're interested in learning this instrument. And I like his concept of this instrument as a stringed bagpipe! Just as rootsy was the Washington Revels' Behold That Star - An American Song Quilt, which Naomi de Bruyn found to be "a disc rich in the music following the end of the Civil War. A time when the newly freed African Americans were struggling to survive, and found themselves living alongside poor immigrants from other lands and parts of the United States. This was a period of severe hardship; in some cases all that these people had was their music to see them through. Their voices raised in song to the Heavens for a number of reasons, but mostly to show their faith in the hopes for something better."
One of our favorite suppliers of books is Oxford University Press. Their latest item for review is The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. I was delighted to add this volume to my extensive reference section. I noted in my review, "This is not a work that one sits down and just reads from -- this is a serious reference work that you will use on a continual basis. Anyone with a serious interest in language should own this dictionary!" And kudos to Susan Fensten of Oxford University Press for her most excellent press releases!
We get for review far more fiction than we can possibly read, so our reviewers get to choose what they'd like to review. Rebecca Swain, our incomparable Book Editor, read Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion. She said this novel is "an exciting fantasy novel, it is not connected in any way to Bujold's previous fantasy or romance works (although a sequel is planned). It stands on its own, and is exciting and interesting." Likewise, Kim Bates liked Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest.While it "preserves many elements of the original swan myth, Daughter of the Forest has a good plot with several twists." And Laurie Thayer, who reviewed the first book in this series for us, looks at Joel Rosenberg's Not Quite Scaramouche. She says, "Not Quite Scaramouche is fast-paced and Rosenberg does his usual fine job of mixing high adventure with fun. There should be enough buckled swashes and hopeless love for everyone." Terri Windling's The Wood Wife gets a glowing review by Grey Walker. She says, "Some writers give us stories that are like keys to the door of our cage. They let us escape out of a world that is mostly mundane, often confusing and troubling, into worlds of light and beauty. Because of them, we learn to hope for a better world. Then there are writers who give us stories that are like looking glasses, through which we can see our world with fresh, strangely clear vision. Because of them, we learn to love the world we have more fiercely. In her fairy tale The Wood Wife, Terri Windling gives us a story that begins like a key, but turns into a looking glass in our hands." Grey garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this insightful review!
We round out our edition this week with a video review: Escanaba in da Moonlight. Snowqueen says, "UFO's, porcupine piss, Native American legends, and flatulence that will blow your hair back -- where could all this excitement take place? Deer camp! And not just any deer camp -- the Soady deer camp!"
That's all for this week. I have no idea what we'll review next, but I'm sure it'll be of interest!
Mad Pat's gone back on the road
A wire string fiddle is his only load,
He's kicking up turf everywhere he goes
And he's on his own.
Have you seen the remastered Horslips CDs? Check out the Horslips' new website for full details on these re-releases from these seminal Belfast-based Celtic rockers. A full review of these albums will be here within a month or so. Another forthcoming review worth checking out will be Chuck Lipsig's Voice of the Turtle omnibus. This is a group that recreates Sephardic music -- very interesting music, to say the least. And Grey Walker will have a review of Katherine Kurtz's St. Patrick's Gargoyle!
Speaking of Irish music, the Center for Cultural Exchange here in Portland, Maine is having its annual Portland Irish Festival in March. Concerts by Patrick Street, Altan, and Karen Casey (of Solas fame), and workshops by such folks as Patrick O'Dea, Irish sean nos dancing master, will make for a great month of Irish music and dance. Go here for all the details!
Celtic group Calico's Songdogs is, according to Lars Nilsson, "... a great new discovery ..." for him. Kim Bates gives us a detailed look at the 10th Annual Chris Langan Traditional Irish Music Weekend, a celebration of the late piper Chris Langan -- and a damn fine weekend of music, dance, and mirth! Kim follows that review with a brilliant look at Ceol Tacsi. As she says in her review, "Ceol Tacsi is an album of performances from Tacsi, a show that covers Scottish life and music that 'shun[s] all that is sentimental and backward leaning and aim[s] to highlight how art has been made within a Scottish framework while regarding it through a Gaelic lens.' I haven't seen the show, but this disc captures some really great performances, generally a visiting dignitary accompanied by other guests and a house band. If the website is any indication, it's a great show. In many ways this album does combine the best of both worlds: live performances in the studio with some great collaborations between guests -- makes me wish I'd been there." Lars picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for his keen look at Songdogs. And this review of Songdogs is the 400th Celtic CD we've reviewed! (There are now over 1100 CDs reviewed in Green Man .)
If you're going to criticize an album, know your subject well! I read an online review a few months ago of Harry Cox's What Will Become Of England? that had me wondering if the reviewer had the slightest clue who the performer was, or why he was important in the English music tradition. Well, Richard Condon, in his review of this album, leaves no doubt that he does know Harry very well, thank you. Read his review to get an accurate and fair reading on this CD. Not surprisingly, he gets an Excellence in Writing Award for this intelligent review!
The Weavers are, according to Gary Whitehouse, well-served by The Best of the Vanguard Years. And David Kidney thought the re-issue of John Mayall's The Turning Point was "... even stronger after 30 years ..." We've reviewed even more Rough Guides than we have Lomax recordings! (And I've lost count of just how many that is.) This edition, Big Earl Sellar looks at The Rough Guide to Cumbia, a CD full of Columbian music that he ranks among the best of the many Rough Guides he has reviewed for Green Man . And Nai was quite ecstatic about Paul Geremia's Hard Life Rockin Chair. She notes, "If he is this good recorded, I'd like the chance to see him live!"
No'am Newman wraps up our music reviews this week with a look at Dar Williams' The Green World. Is she the new Joni Mitchell, as some folks think? Read his review to get his take on her!
We get review items here that one wouldn't even suspect exist. For example, Gary Whitehouse has a review this edition of Albert Glinsky's Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage. (Quick -- do you know what a theremin is?) Read Gary's review to find out about this remarkable instrument and the man who invented it! An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Rebecca Swain who didn't like Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Red Heart of Memories very much. She says, "This book might be more successful as a kind of fictionalized self-help manual for people surviving abuse than as a novel, in my opinion." Naomi reviewed Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children, about Atlantis. Her opinion? " ... Jan gives us a really believable story from start to finish about the final days of the mighty civilization."
We'll see you next week with a look at mad fiddlers, poor rogues, rodents of an unusual size, crow girls, and other odd characters. Or possibly not...
Our archives now contain reviews of over two thousand items, nearly fourteen hundred that are of a musical nature. We actually have reviewed over two five hundred 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 Oxford Networks estimates Green Man readership at slightly over 75,000 unique readers as the average per month for the last three months. (Actual readership varies by as much as +/- 5000 depending on the month.)
Green Man has so many talented writers that your editor doesn't need to write any reviews at all in order for us to have a decent issue. This is a good thing, as this week I had far too much other work that needed doing to get even one review in! But fear not, our staff was up to their usual 'busy as bees' and turned in quite a number of interesting reviews!
But a note about a forthcoming book before I turn to this week's reviews. According to the publicist at Rough Guides, we won't get our review copy until April, but I want to bring to your attention a book that Jack, our resident Celtic musician, saw mentioned on the Irish Traditional Music listserve. I contacted one of the writers, Geoff Wallis, and he kindly provided this description of it: "The Rough Guide to Irish Music is the first of its kind - a comprehensive, fully-fledged introduction to one of the world's most vibrant musical traditions and an account of many of its major participants. While the book's background sections set the historical scene and context, its directory provides detailed information about the many singers, instrumentalists and groups maintaining the tradition from both the past and present. Additionally, the listings sections provides many pointers to the best places in Ireland to see, hear, buy and learn Irish music." We here at Green Man have an affinity with all things Celtic and this sounds a corker of a book! The Rough Guide to Irish Music by Geoff Wallis and Sue Wilson, published by the Rough Guides and distributed world wide by Penguin and in the USA by Penguin Putnam, priced £7.99 or whatever is the dollar equivalent. You can preorder this book via the United Kingdom branch of amazon.com. It won't be published in the States 'til June, so I suggest you order this way so you won't want to wait for it!
Big Earl Sellar, in his review of Saraca - Funerary Music of Carriacou, says, "So, I figure that, since I started writing for Green Man , I've heard about 140 hours of the music Alan Lomax taped." No doubt that we've reviewed hundreds of hours of Lomax material, so it's no surprise that we have four more Lomax CDs reviewed this week, including the aforementioned one. Let's see what our reviewers thought of them. Saraca, according to Big Earl, is a disc that "has little merit outside of straight ethnomusicological importance. And no fault can really be given, as it really isn't presented as much more. Saraca is truly a disc for the libraries of the world, not the homes..." But Southern Journey: Georgia Sea Islands Songs for Everyday Living is another matter as "[t]o date, Georgia Sea Islands Songs... is by far the most listenable of the Lomax series discs I've listened to." Meanwhile Gary Whitehouse, another of our Lomax aficionados, looked at Cajun & Creole Music 1934/1937, Volumes I and II. He said of these discs, "[t]here is much more of value here." This review picks an Excellence in Writing Award as does Gary's review!
We get CDs here that are so rare that I'm not even sure Sparrow in Emma Bull's Bone Dance could find them for a client! Case in point is two that get reviewed by Tim Hoke: Iren Lovasz's Rosebuds In A Stoneyard and Iren Lovasz and Teagrass' Wide Is The Danube, which came from a very obscure label somewhere in Central Europe. Our reviewer says, "I'm not well-versed in Hungarian music, but I thought I'd heard enough from various groups to know what to expect. I figured I'd hear virtuosic fiddling, some riveting cimbalom, maybe a little bit of bagpipe, and probably a really good female singer. Rosebuds In A Stoneyard did deliver up a really good female singer, but none of the rest." Now read the review to see why he likes both of these discs despite this not being what he expected! An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Tim for this thoughtful review.
Nai looks at bluegrass legend John Duffey's Always In Style CD. She notes, "Every track on this disc has meaningful lyrics and excellent musicianship; from John's mandolin to the banjo, there is nothing superficial to be found here. I firmly recommend this disc if you like bluegrass at all." And this week finds her reviewing This Side Up by Tania Elizabeth, the brilliant new fiddler she was having tea with last week. Read her review to see if the music is as good as the tea! And Lars Nilsson reviews Crosskeys Inn - Live in the Kitchen, a charity CD whose profits assist in the repair of this pub which was damaged by fire in February 2000. He says, "...this is a nice blend of traditional Irish (and Scottish) music. All through there is a strong feeling of what it would be like on a Saturday night at the Crosskeys Inn. So you both get some good music and the chance to support a worthy cause." Meanwhile Chuck Lipsig looks at a two-CD set from Adam McNaughtan called The Words That I Used To Know. He says, "These CDs succeed or fail on McNaughtan's singing, and he pulls it off."
No, they are not chicks in chain mail, but the Dixie Chicks are rather cute. Nai reviews their Wide Open Spaces CD -- read her review to see if these chicks will get you cackling. (Yes, you can groan at my yolks, errr, jokes too!) Naomi also reviews Terri Clark's 1998 release, How I Feel. Nai says, "Yes, this is yet another installment of my personal crusade of bringing more Canadian music to your notice." Don't let her proselytize in vain -- read the review!
Oxford University Press, one of our favorite sources of books to review, sent The British Brass Band - A Musical And Social History, which No'am Newman was lucky enough to get. And what did he think of it? Not surprisingly, he says, "This book should interest more than just those who play in brass bands." And J. Robert Whittle and Joyce Sandilands' Leprechaun Magic pleased Nai to no end! She says, "This is a really interesting story, and I'm sure a child would love it." No'am garners an Excellence in Writing Award for his insightful review.
Let me take a moment here to extol the virtues of our editors. They are hardworking, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. They shape the reviews into their final forms, and our zine couldn't function without them.
I'm off to watch the latest episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I'll see you next time!