I'm Uncle Sam, that's who I am; Been hidin' out in a rock and roll
Shake the hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan.
Shine your shoes, light your fuse. Can you use them ol' U.S. Blues?
I'll drink your health, share your wealth, run your life, steal your wife.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.
Grateful Dead's 'U.S. Blues'
It's been hot enough to make everyone unpleasant here in this supposedly 'cool' coastal city, and I won't mention the humidity levels that make N'Orleans almost look good by comparison! I find myself doing my annual reading of Emma Bull's Bone Dance, a novel set in a future version of Minneapolis whose weather sounds a lot like what it's like here right now!
David Kidney has a look at James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels, a mystery series set in N'Orleans and the surrounding region. He says to 'start at the beginning and work your way through one book at a time. You will be immersed in a world as exotic and as violent as your imagination can create; you will meet characters as real and fully drawn as your next door neighbor; you will never forget the world created by James Lee Burke.' And we continue to add to our music lore section by adding three more reviews this edition. Nolan Porterfield's Last Cavalier: The Life and Times of John A. Lomax is reviewed by Gary Whitehouse who notes that John Lomax, enthomusicologist and father of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax is detailed warts and because like 'all the best biographers, Porterfield amply portrays his subject in all his contradictions, never glossing over his faults and frailties. But he also helps us to appreciate just what John Lomax accomplished in spite of his faults, and in the end, we admire him and have to acknowledge that without his life, ours would be the poorer.' Meanwhile Kim Bates and David Kidney look at yet more books written by music expert Scott Yanow. Kim says Afro-Cuban Jazz 'makes it clear that jazz, the first "world" music, is no easier to sort out than some of the more recent amalgamations of musical styles. Yet Yanow does a very creditable job of explaining both the core Cuban and Latin players, and the influence of Latin poly rhythms on jazz since its inception in the early 20th century. Yanow has created an interesting read with lots of information on individual performers, plus a brief history of the genre.' And David found Bebop to be 'a handsome volume which attempts to define, describe and annotate all the musicians and movements which worked together to create this brave music.'
Jack B. Merry's finding Oxford University Press to be a great source for reference works. Indeed he found three OUP publications worth reviewing: Margaret Drabble's Oxford Companion to English Literature and Jacqueline O'Brien & Peter Harbison's Ancient Ireland: From Prehistory to the Middle Ages. He notes 'The recently deceased Douglas Adams created a device called The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy which supposedly held all the knowledge a traveler needed in a small device that was generally impossible to damage. But in real life, there's such thing as a single device that will give you access to all the knowledge you need. That's why the library in our garret apartment gives much of it's precious space over to various reference guides! No, not as much as our fiction collection, but bleedin' close. And some of the best of these have come from Oxford University Press which generously sends us everything we want!' Read his review to see why these OUP works tickled his fancy.
As usual, we have a wide assortment of music reviewed this edition. David leads off with a trio of CDs that he found very worthwhile with Blues Boy being the first. He comments 'The recent comeback albums (Secret Handshake and sword) of Geoff Muldaur have sparked his old label to compile this 12-track compilation of tunes from the early years. Long out of print, the albums Muldaur made for Flying Fish Records were recorded in 1978 and 1979. They have languished in oblivion until now. Lovers of rootsy, bluesy guitar-based music owe Rounder a debt of gratitude for reclaiming them and providing us with this sparkling anthology.' Delbert McClinton's 2 For 1 and Lee Roy Parnell's Tell The Truth are artists with a lot in common, as he notes 'I've been hearing a lot about Lee Roy Parnell in the past few weeks. He's all over the internet. There's even a contest, where you can win his guitar! I thought he was a new artist; there's just so much promotion. But this is his seventh album. When I first heard it playing on my car stereo, my first thought was ... "Hmm, sounds a bit like Delbert McClinton!" and sure enough, as I read the limited notes which appear on the promo sleeve there's Delbert McClinton singing on one of the tracks. Then, the next day, a package of CDs arrived from Australia and out fell a Delbert McClinton disc. A quick read of the liner notes of that disc turned up the name Lee Roy Parnell, among the list of Delbert's heavy friends! So it only seemed natural to link these two sets and consider them together.'
Gary also looked at a trio of CDs starting with Irma Thomas' If You Want it Come and Get it. Gary says 'When you think of soul music, you may think of Motown or Memphis, but New Orleans also shares in America's soul heritage. And Irma Thomas is the Big Easy's number one soul diva, the Queen of New Orleans Soul. The future of Country is alive and well in Rosie Flores' Speed of Sound, a CD he says is '[a] rocking and swinging blend of alt-country and rockabilly, some hot guitar licks, and Flores' sweet and sassy vocals -- what's not to like?" And the Holy Modal Rounders & Friends' I Make a Wish for a Potato is a great DC, indeed 'The Holy Modal Rounders have been making musical mischief and mayhem for just about 40 years now. In lieu of the comprehensive box set that I think they deserve, the good folks at Rounder (who named their label after the band) have honored the Rounders by declaring them "Essential." In celebration of the label's 30th anniversary, they've created a 30-album Heritage series by the most important Rounder acts.'
Judith Gennett, who wrote her first review for us back before there was really a net, looks at 1651's Cast A Bell and Tim Van Eyken & Robert Harbron's One Sunday Afternoon. English tradition-based Cast A Bell is 'The album is an interpretive tour de force, folk-style music from the Renaissance interpreted with modern classical, folk and jazz "influences." The musicianship is excellent, the triad pulling their diverse histories into the current edge of English folk. The album is meant to be taken as a complete work, but can easily be used as favored tracks.' And on One Sunday Afternoon 'Tim Van Eyken plays melodeon and sings. Robert Harbron plays concertina and guitar. These squeezebox dualists are part of the new young wave of traditional English musicians and double, along with Benji Kirkpatrick and Paul Sartin, as part of a dance band called Dr. Faustus. One Sunday Afternoon is a pretty and skillful album, featuring English and continental dance tunes and English traditional songs.'
Too much of anything including Theobroma chocolate and freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee can be bad for you. Big Earl Sellar discovered that rule in reviewing Vieja Trova Santiaguera's Pura Trova (Best of). The Man says he has a problem, to wit: '[what] I have is simple burn-out; as much as I love Cuban music, most of what is presented for the market is fairly interchangeable, the same few songs performed in the same few styles. It's almost as if the entire output of Ireland were performed in a fiddle/guitar/bodhran contest only. I know there are artists in Cuba who are experimenting with the traditions, only they never seem to be available on the major World labels. It's a dearth that really needs to be addressed, for both the performers and us the audience.'
Celtic music has become possibly our only truly global music genre as it can be found everywhere from South Africa to Australia to Ireland (naturally) and even Austria! Ballycotton, an Austrian band specializing in Celtic-based music, has three CDs (A La Cut, Fairytale, and Joanna's Wedding) that Patrick O'Donnell looks at this time. He notes 'Once in a great while, you find music that's addicting, lifts your spirits, makes you laugh and takes you on a wild ride you won't soon forget, without all the nasty side-effects of those other, less legal means of reaching rapture. Ballycotton, an Austrian group that plays what it calls "modern folk," is all that and two boatloads more.' Lunasa's The Merry Sisters Of Fate gets the once-over from No'am Newman who saw the band recently live. No'am comments 'This is a fine album in the instrumental Irish tradition (Lunasa don't hide the fact that they were strongly influenced by The Bothy Band), although it sounds less enthusiastic than the band in live performance (turn the bass up!).' Tim Hoke was delighted with No Turning Back, the sophomore effort from the Celtic group The Brothers 3's. He says 'The material is all traditional Celtic, but the arrangements are rock and pop, with healthy amounts of jazz. There is more focus here than on their first recording, but it is still diverse.' Whirling Discs was overjoyed about Brendan's review of Dervish's decade CD, so they sent Green Man everything the group has released. This week, he looks at Harmony Hill and Playing with Fire. Our reviewer comments 'After reviewing their ten year "best of" CD, decade, I couldn't wait to hear their music in more detail. I was not in the least disappointed. From the beginning, Dervish has helped keep the spark and imagination alive in the Irish musical tradition, as is clear from their work on these, their first two recorded CDs.'
Not surprisingly, Jack B. Merry being in a dance band loves CDs of that nature. He looks at nine of them ( All Blacked Up's Spirits of Another Sort, Citizen Camembert's Anchovy Cuppuccino, Duo Bertrand's Musiques d'hier pour Aujourd'hui, jabadaw's jabadaw, Kick Shins' Dkyk Shynski and Lunch with Sweeny Todd, Yann-Fanch Perroches and Fanch Landreau's Daou-ha-daou, Red Geckoes' The Red Horse, and Widdershins' Against the Sun) this time out. Jack - who's resting up from another all night midsummer dance party that Danse Macabre played - says 'the music I'll be looking at in this review is dance music. Green Man gets more than its fair share of great dance music, and reviewing these albums 'tis always a pleasure!'
Naomi de Bruyn gets the last word with her review of PIPIN'HOT at the Royal Theatre, Victoria, BC, Canada. She says 'I was expecting 'loud' when I first thought about this event, but when you are dealing with pipes and drums you can't expect peace and quiet.' Read her review to get all the details on the rather loud affair!
That's all for this outing. My wife and I are off to New Hampshire in the morning -- weather conditions permitting! -- to do the Pockets Gardens of Portsmouth tour, haunt some neat bookshops, and eat Hindi food at out favorite restaurant in that lovely coastal city. It should be a lovely outing. Take care 'til next week
'Some stories are literally true; some of them are figuratively true; some of them are wrong. That's the nature of stories, isn't it? They show us all the highlights of the world, but they never leave us certain we can trust the things we know. We listen because they delight us, and mind them as much as they illuminate our hearts; but no one with a lick of sense ever trusts a tale he can't verify himself.'
Alan Rodgers in Bone Music
We're but a few days away from Summer Solstice, so may I suggest a reading of Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice' story? (Read Grey Walker's wonderful review of it here.) Yes, I know it's set at the Winter Solstice, but it's really about the duality of the two seasons as represented in the story by the Winter King and Summer Queen. And I really want to attend the party depicted in that story!
Jack B. Merry took some novels with him on his ongoing midsummer tour with his new band Danse Macabre, and thus we have a trio of new reviews from him. He was pleased with Ursula K. LeGuin's Tales from Earthsea, but cautions that 'If you've read The Earthsea Cycle, run to your nearest bookstore and buy this now. If you haven't read The Earthsea Cycle yet, there's hope for you yet so long as you read The Earthsea Cycle immediately! After you read it, drop me a line and we'll chat over tea 'bout it.' He was equally impressed with both Sharyn McCrumb's The Songcatcher, the latest novel in her Ballad series, and Slow Funeral, a one-off from Rebecca Ore. He notes that both novels are set in the Appalachian Highlands, and the 'authors make use of their common setting in ways that will surprise you!'
My wife, Donna Bird, contributes her first review to Green Man as she looks at Janet Catherine Berlo's Quilting Lessons. She says of this book that is subtitled Notes from the Scrap Bag of a Writer and Quilter, Quilting Lessons, that it is 'a series of brief essays composed by the author as a form of therapy during a period of her life in which she experienced severe writer's block. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she experienced writer's block with regard to a particular project, a book bearing the working title, Dreaming of Double Woman: Reflections on the Female Artist in the Native New World. Berlo is a university based art historian who specializes in the study of Native American arts and crafts, particularly those created by women.' Read her review to see what she thought of this interesting venture.
Not surprisingly, Green Man does more musiclore reviews than anyone else on the Net. And apparently better than anyone if our letters from readers, publishers, and the authors themselves are any indication! Our musiclore section now contains reviews of over one hundred and sixty books ranging from Rejoice When You Die: The New Orleans Jazz Funeral to Last Night's Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music, and Tim Hoke adds two more books to this section: Greg Boardman's Here's to Every Country Dancer: The Music Of Dudley Laufman and Richard Nevell's A Time To Dance: American Country Dancing From Hornpipes To Hot Hash. Tim comments 'I attended my first contra dance years ago because I wanted to sit and listen to the music. As soon as I walked in the door, I was asked to dance, and my protests that "I don't know how!" were to no avail. I ended up having fun in spite of myself.' Read his review to how these books added to his enjoyment of dancing!
If you've ever wondered why the CDs we review are so eclectic in nature, it's because, unlike some review zines, we never purchase material in order to review it. (Given the amount of material we receive, that would a rather foolish thing for us to do!) What that means is that what you see here is what comes in to us as for review from hundreds of sources as well known as Green Linnet ,and as obscure -- to most folks -- as contra dance groups like the Nettles and Popcorn Behavior. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain awful -- All come in to Green Man. And they go out to our reviewers who send us back their honest opinions as Green Man does not take money from Amazon or anyone else. We think this makes for more honest, less compromised reviewing.
Big Earl Sellar looks at two African music based CDs this outing: Eyuphuro's Yellela and Kongar-ol Ondar & Paul Pena's Genghis Blues. Neither disc was terribly pleasing -- Read his reviews to see why this was so. However, Gary Whitehouse, who's alligator deep in musiclore books awaiting review by him, looks at Jimmy LaFave's Texoma. He says 'Jimmy LaFave proves that rock 'n' roll still lives with this collection of blues, ballads and rootsy rockers. Texoma evokes the windswept, dusty border country where Texas and Oklahoma meet: in LaFave's gritty tenor vocals, in his spare, Texas style blues guitar lines, and in his choice of songs. I suspect the audience at a LaFave gig in some roadhouse in Oklahoma or Texas would hear a mix of songs much like that on this album.'
Kim Bates, who's looking forward to being an accredited reviewer for Green Man for several of the major Canadian folk music festivals this summer, looks at two English trad recordings: Nancy Kerr and James Fagan's Steely Water and Maddy Prior's Ravenchild. 'Steely Water is a great sophomore effort by a promising young duo who seem to be receiving some well deserved recognition. Although the print media often seem to ponder the future of English traditions, this album shows that this hand wringing is not only premature, but unfounded. A new generation of musicians is carrying on very well, thank you.' Ravenchild's proof that 'Prior is clearly continuing to enjoy the creative endeavor, despite her weariness with the life of a traveling musician. Her many fans will love this album, and newcomers will be impressed with her legendary voice, fine songwriting...'
Mattie Lennon, our newest staffer who hails from Dublin, Ireland, offers up a review of John Hoban's self-titled debut album. I quote the first paragraph of his superb review to give you a feel for this CD: 'The title of the CD is John Hoban. Simple, informative, unpretentious and yet enigmatic; just like the man himself. John Hoban was born in Castlebar in 1954. 46 years later on his CV, under work experience we read, "Music has been my life. I play all instruments, e.g. guitar, harmonica, banjo, whistles, bodhran, violin. My main instrument is my voice accompanied by mando-cello. I sing and compose songs, poetry, stories." This CD represents a very tiny segment of his career. And on the clock of his life so far it takes up about a second. Still, it's as good a device as any to track the Minstrel (or the Pilgrim, as he calls himself) from Castle Lane, Castlebar, to Brisbane and New York via Canada, Thailand, Turkey, Claremorris and back to Castlebar.'
David Kidney tackled Bruce Kaphan's Slider: ambient excursions for pedal steel guitar. He cautions, 'Before we listen to the music on Bruce Kaphan's CD, it's important to understand how he gets those sounds. The pedal steel guitar is not so much a guitar as it is a machine, a vast incomprehensible piece of mechanical wizardry. Wires, boards, tuners, levers, knobs and, of course, pedals all fit together to make either the most annoying sound imaginable, or music to lift the heart.'
Green Man has always used a format called the omnibus review to look at multiple CDs that are either thematically related or by the same artiste. Lahri Bond uses this format to look at five re-released CDs by the legendary James Taylor: Daddy Loves His Work, Flag, JT, Never Die Young, and That's Why I'm Here. (Lahri will be reviewing a biography of JT.) He comments correctly that 'For better or worse, James Taylor is often considered the father of the modern, American singer/songwriter movement. His early songs "Sweet Baby James" and "Fire & Rain" inspired innumerable young guitar players to go write their own versions of confessional folk songs, although none have ever come close to the emotional complexity of Taylor's own work.'
Kim never ceases to amaze me with her insightful looks at Celtic music. And her review of Seanchai & the Unity Squad's A Sunday at the Turn of the Century is no exception to that! She was ambivalent about this album as she comments that it 'will appeal to people with an interest in the urban experience and the politicized Irish experience. The album has a great range of songs without straying too far from its core style of voice over percussion and melody. It taps into that same vein of wildness mined by many Faster-Louder-Harder Celtic folk-rock groups. Seanchai is definitely of the "more is more" school of emotion and passion, and this works most of the time.'
Anyone can throw up reviews of the trash now being shown at your local multiplex, but we offer you reviews of the more obscure offerings from the video universe. Case in point is Mattie's review of The Songs of Sean McCarthy. Mattie notes 'Sean McCarthy was born in Listowel, one of ten children, on 5th June 1923. Known to audiences worldwide through songs like "Step it out Mary" and "Shanagolden," he remains an honored figure in his own community. Since his death in 1990, McCarthy has been honored there with the Sean McCarthy Memorial Weekend, which has been going from strength to strength since it started in 1991, and includes a trek through Killocrim bog, which he so loved. The "Weekend" has secured the immortality of his work within his community, but now it has been copper fastened for a wider audience by "The Songs of Sean McCarthy", a video of 15 of his 160 songs sung by his friend and fellow Kerry-person Peggy Sweeney. The video covers a wide range of emotions, feelings and levels of consciousness, just as his songs did.'
Gary Whitehouse sort of liked A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. He has reservations about some of the contemporary artists selected to play the music of Guthrie and Leadbelly, but 'Overall, this is an enjoyable 72 minutes of music and musical history, and a decent introduction to the careers of two American musical pioneers. It has its flaws, but the music makes up for them.'
I'm off to work in our Conservatory as we added several new plants this week including one called Marrowbones which is a three foot wide blue agave, and several large Elephant Ears too! And my reading later today will be Nevada Barr's Liberty Falling, a mystery set among the decaying ruins of Ellis Island
June 10th, 2001
Life is very good here in the central offices of Green Man. I'm listening to The Duelists - who are Cliff Stapleton, Chris Warshaw, and Nigel Eaton - on my iBook. Their album is English Hurdy-Gurdy music (which also includes English bagpipes) and it's most tasty! And I'm rummaging through the pile of review material that has come in recently. Ah, there's our review copy of William R. Eakin's Redgunk Tales -- a most interesting collection of very weird Southern tales! Not to mention the new James Blaylock anthology, Thirteen Phantasms and Other Stories which looks delightful! And I see that the Rough Guide folks sent us another batch of their music CDs -- I see compilations covering Global Dance music, Meringue & Bachata, and the Samba. And I spy a pile of import-only Nordic releases including discs from Maria Kalaniemi and Mats Eden which should be quite tasty. Now if only Jack hadn't filched the last bar of Theobroma chocolate and our stash of Walker's shortbread... Damn musicians!
On a related side note, I've booked Moebius, a bagpiping trio from England that includes Jon Swayne of Blowzabella fame for a gig here in Portland, Maine on the 23rd of August. This will be an outdoor concert at Congress Square at 7 p.m., so do come if you're at all interested in this sort of music!
Everything this week is of a musical nature. Yes, we have no fiction reviews for you, but over six hundred works of fiction from novels to collections and even ever-so-rare chapbooks such as Charles de Lint's Buffalo Man have been reviewed by Green Man, so dive into our archive of reviews if you feel a need to find interesting fiction to read! This week, we have two musiclore reviews for you. The first is Diana Boullier's Exploring Irish Music and Dance, a 'hands on' look at teaching children these subjects. Kim Bates thought that 'While it is no substitute for a good dance class or a teacher, this book would be a great starting place for a child interested in Irish traditional music and dance, with slightly greater emphasis on the music in terms of coverage. It would make a great gift for children able to read and considering learning to play an instrument. Exploring Irish Music and Dance has a good blend of simple, direct text, photographs and illustrations presented in a quality format that would make it suitable for a gift.' Gary Whitehouse enjoyed Swing, telling us that "Scott Yanow, a well-known and prolific jazz writer, historian and journalist, has produced a definitive treatment of all things Swing. Equally useful as a textbook and a guide to essential recordings, Swing covers the jazz genre also known as Big Band, from its birth in 1935 to its end in 1946, as well as the post-Swing era, the Swing revival of the 1980s, and Retro Swing of the 1990s."
As always, our music reviews runs a wide gamut of genres from the familiar (Celtic and English) to less known (African and Japanese). Big Earl Seller, who got a rave review from the musicians for his Hayseed Dixie review, found three Rough Guide African anthologies to be well worth his time. He looked at Africa: Unwired, Rough Guide To Marrabenta Mozambique, and Rough Guide To Senegal & Gambia. He wisely notes 'I always find it a tad embarrassing to listen to Rough Guides releases. I mean, I should really just get off my butt and track down the original releases, instead of relying on these compilations. They are generally quite well done, though, and in our convenience-oriented society, they unfortunately fit the bill quite nicely. Here's a trio of recently released African compilations, all of which are excellent.' Meanwhile Gary was delighted by Takashi Hirayasu & Bob Brozman's Nankuru Naisa. He notes 'as on their first record, the understated playing of Takashi and Brozman are perfectly beautiful, and their playful and reverent spirits shine through, no matter what language is used. Nankuru Naisa is a worthy successor to Jin Jin and a superb record in its own right.'
Green Man has a soft spot in its heart for the work of the quintessential roots band, The Red Clay Ramblers -- see our reviews of their Far North, Lie of the Mind, Live, Rambler, and Twisted Laurel/Merchant's Lunch albums which can be found in the American Roots section-- so I was delighted to see that Brendan Foreman had a review of Bill and Libby Hicks' South of Nowhere. He notes that 'Together and individually, Bill and Libby Hicks have been in the forefront of the current wave of Americana Revival that's been going on since the late '60's. The astute reader will recognize the name of Bill Hicks as one of the founding members of the Red Clay Ramblers and the Fuzzy Mountain String Band, two of the more prominent Americana Revival bands of the '60s and '70s. Libby Hicks was no slouch herself in this regard, spending much the same time playing and touring with Lightnin' Wells, another blues and old-time virtuoso. Their daughter Anna also appears here as backing vocalist.'
Cormac Breatnach, a well-respected Celtic musician has been very eagerly awaiting our reviews of his two CDs, Musical Journey and Music for Whistle & Guitar. Will he be disappointed? Not according to Chuck Lipsig who says 'I don't think it's any secret that I really like Celtic music. Therefore it should be no surprise that the majority of the reviews that I write are generally positive. So let me make it clear that this is not just one more decent-to-good review. Simply put, Cormac Breatnach's Musical Journeys blew me away.' Read his entire review to see why the other CD also gave him a thrill! Venturing across the Irish Sea to England, we find Plain English by a group called Three Pressed Men. Lars Nilsson says that 'It is not always with the greatest of anticipation that I put a CD in the player that (according to the sleeve notes) is recorded and mixed at home and produced by the band members themselves. Quite a few of those CDs are badly recorded and lack the hand of a real producer. But any such fears concerning Three Pressed Men´s recording were soon discarded once I started listening to it.' And travelling across the North Sea to Finland, we find Maria Kalaniemi and Aldergaz's Ahma of which Kim opines 'Accordion fans, take note! This one's for you. Accordionist Maria Kalaniemi and Aldergaz play some fine tunes on this album. It seems effortlessly delivered and should be a welcome acquisition fans of the squeeze box. All others, well...'
Chris Woods brings us right into the world of English folk clubs with his look at Marrowbones Folk Songs of Old Cheshire and Just For the Record, who he thinks do a grand job of playing the music as it is performed live. Marrowbones style, according to Chris "is typical of good quality live English folk club music, inside the musical comfort zone between the extremes of finger in ear traditional and contemporary singer songwriter. Essentially this is music intended to be heard live when relaxing in convivial company. It's function is not to innovate or push the boundaries of musical taste but to entertain, possibly with a tiny bit of education into folk lore and history."
Kim wraps up our music reviews with a look at Kora So Far and Korus by the artist known as Ravi. Kim comments that 'Ravi (nee J.P. Freeman) is a guy from the United Kingdom who plays a west African lute/harp, the kora with musicians from India and has a decidedly New Age (or something similar) outlook. Of these two albums, I found the retrospective Kora so Far to be the more enjoyable of the two, as it is a bit more upbeat, and may be more representative of the long view of Ravi's work.'
No'am Newman will shortly have the pleasure of reviewing Lunasa's third album for Green Man, The Merry Sisters Of Fate. He got to see the material from this album performed live when he saw Lunasa at the Jerusalem Theatre in Israel. He says 'The craic flowed freely at the first of two performances in the annual Israel arts festival by leading Irish group Lunasa. It's becoming clear that a market has opened for such groups in Israel over the past few years, providing variation between the European influenced indigenous pop music, and what is variously termed as "Mediterranean" or "Eastern music" (although reactions to the Irish music which is frequently played in my office tend not to be complimentary!). There was a very mixed demographic in the plush 700 seat hall (children, soldiers, young adults, middle aged and even septuagenarians), but all were united in their response to the music. Maybe the enjoyment is in no small part due to the emotional release that the music brings from every day problems, and we have plenty of those in Israel!'
Oh, but do check out our new Letters of Comment page as edited by Chuck Lipsig. Green Man gets lots of comment -- good, bad, and just plain strange -- so we decided to start letting you see selected ones. And feel free to email us if you have comments about us!
Now I'm off for a walk with my lovely wife on Macworth Island, a nature preserve near here. Maybe we'll see the seals that live in the bay near there! Or perhaps the geese will be on the shoreline!
'...have pity now, what's signal and what's noise?'
Eddi and The Fey in Emma Bull's War for the Oaks
The Green Man archives contain reviews of over twenty-five hundred items, over half of which are music or music-related -- indeed, over fifteen hundred CDs have been reviewed here! We actually have reviewed over three 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 raised. We strive for quality and quantity, and are constantly going back and proofing and making sure everything's acceptable. Our crack team of extremely hard-working editors and proofers makes sure that you the reader get the very best in reviews, both from a content perspective and in terms of grammar and spelling. It's easy to throw up lots of reviews that are quickly written and carelessly edited, but far more difficult to actually make sure the reviews are well-written and worth reading. The fact that we have now close to one hundred thousand individual readers every month says that you think we are doing what you want us to do. And we thank you for your continued patronage!
Big Earl Seller is one of our best and most prolific reviewers. He looks at four CDs this outing, the most interesting of which is the Hayseed Dixie's A Hillbilly Tribute To AC/DC. AC/DC on Green Man?!? Yep! Big Earl asks, "why not a disc of bluegrass/old-timey country versions of their songs? Why not: a friend I e-mailed about this disc pointed out, 'I always thought that AC/DC were a hillbilly band.' (Considering we both come from an area rife with rednecks, we should know...) Not as far-fetched as, say, that cello quartet that does Metallica songs. Consider the parallels between the genres: three chord songs; few lyrics with sing-a-long choruses; songs about murder, sex, and getting drunk; not very good vocals. Just 'cause Angus uses more Marshalls doesn't mean that they're that far removed from, say, Ralph Stanley." Having survived AC/DC gone roots, he slides on over to the latest Deep River of Song. Rounder keeps pumping out Lomax discs of really neat music -- more than three dozen of which have been reviewed on Green Man. Deep River of Song: Alabama: From Lullabies to Blues is "an interesting listen, and as a historical document, it is priceless."
Slipping from Blues over to the Latin, we find him looking at Airto Moreira's Homeless and Viva Mindelo's Fantcha. Homeless is "an interesting blend of fusion, free percussion, and Brazilian-influenced song-styles. The disc volleys all over the place, from fairly straightforward (the funk/fusion of 'Wake Up Now') to the crazed groove of percussive mayhem (like the title cut). '700 Years' sounds like Bjork crossed with tribal mtube drummers from East Africa. 'Ginga Sem Fronteira' borders on Trance/Techno. 'After These Messages' is basically an excessively groovy drum solo. This Moreira guy is truly unafraid to experiment, and equally hard to categorize or to pin down." On the other hand, Fantcha "is very much in the 'torch' mode of Cuban music: the sort of musical style designed to appeal to gringo tourists. Very influenced by the big band style of the 1940s American scene, this disc is heavy on orchestrations, aching melodies, and soft samba tempos."
David Kidney's review of Avalon Blues: a Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt, which features such artists as Bill Morrissey, Lucinda Williams, and Bruce Cockburn, was so good that our Music Editor, Brendan Foreman, wants a copy! David says, "Organized and produced by Peter Case, Avalon Blues is a careful and loving collection which demonstrates the high regard these artists have for the old sharecropper from Avalon." And he looks at Maria Muldaur's Richland Woman Blues, which he says is a "fresh blast of acoustic blues from the sultriest of female vocalists. Looking ever so sexy in a cotton print dress, her long dark hair cascading over her shoulders, Maria leans on the signpost for 'old hwy. 61' on the cover, and each song evokes a memory of a trip down that legendary road."
Green Man often gets advance copies of releases that are not out yet. Such is the case with the Jiggernaut's forthcoming debut album. Jayme Lynn Blaschke comments, "Talk about chutzpah. Any band that names itself Jiggernaut has got a lot of work cut out for itself, just to live up to that name. Which is why, I suspect, this new Celtic-rock band out of Houston specifically chose that moniker. You've got to have loads of nerve and ambition to spare if you're planning to fuse Celtic and rock -- a style littered with the gravestones of many who've tried and failed to do just that." Read his review to see why they don't quite succeed!
Naomi de Bruyn gets the last word with a look at three CDs from Laurie Riley and Michael MacBean: Double Image, From the Nest, and Glenlivet. "Sometimes there is nothing more soothing than the enchanting strains of a harp being skilfully played, and when there are two of these delightful instruments being played together, the enjoyment is amplified. Laurie and Michael work well together"
Snowqueen here with the book reviews for the week. (I slide in just long enough to write the book section of What's New, then race back out before they can give me more work.) We have eight marvelous book reviews for you this time. First up are two from Michael Jones. The Serpent's Shadow is the latest from Mercedes Lackey, about a half-West Indian female doctor in 1909 London, and the troubles and triumphs she has there, and the peculiar animals she brings with her. Michael says, "The Serpent's Shadow is gripping; once I started, I couldn't stop reading until I was too tired to turn the pages. This is Mercedes Lackey in fine form, perhaps the best she's been in years." Michael also reviews Laurell K. Hamilton's A Kiss of Shadows, about a young woman in direct line for the throne of the Unseelie Court. She doesn't want anything to do with her dangerous family, but they are unwilling to let her go. Michael says this is an earthy, lusty story that reminds us what fairy tales are really like.
Jack B. Merry is at it again, haunting our offices despite the fact that we've locked the doors on him. He did turn in three reviews, though. One is of Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg. Jack says, "This new anthology is a superb collection.... it brings together eleven highly regarded fantasy authors to write tales set in their most popular universes. From Stephen King's contribution of a Dark Tower story to Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga novella, each story is intended, apparently, to serve as an introduction to these series for those who haven't (yet) read them, and presents new stories for those who already follow each of these series." Mr. Nimble also looks at Folk of the Air, by the great Peter S. Beagle, a novel about odd occurrences in the League of Archaic Pleasure, a group based on the Society for Creative Anachronism: "People dressing up as witches are suddenly casting spells with deadly consequences and summoning really bad things from elsewhere; people dressed in chain mail suddenly have really bad teeth and speak as if they really are from the Middle Ages -- not to mention they have a tendency to want to use broadswords in a very deadly manner." Sounds like my last Halloween party, but Jack assures us it's a good book.
Finally, he looks at The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women, by the mother-and-daughter team of Katrin Tchana and Trina Schart Hyman: "From Li Chi, the serpent slayer that the book is named after, who battles an enraged serpent to save her townspeople, to the old women sly enough to outwit even the devil Himself, these are tales that affirm the importance of women as heroines." Some of the stories are fabulous, some boring, Jack says, but the book as a whole is wonderful.
Rowan Inish looks at Manly Wade Wellman's anthology The Devil Is Not Mocked. He says, "The Devil Is Not Mocked is a collection of what can best be termed 'campfire stories.' The tales are unapologetic little nuggets of horror that promise that they'd work just as well told at a campsite deep in the woods as they work on the page." No'am Newman read Bill Flanagan's novel A&R (Artists and Repertoire), about a man's job at a major record company. No'am has a few criticisms of the book, and sums up his feelings by saying, "To use a particularly apt metaphor, this book is somewhat like The Beatles' White Album: there's a tremendous amount of material, and not all thirty tracks are interesting."
Last but not least, Kim Bates reviews the horrific nonfiction account of The Burning of Bridget Cleary, by Angela Bourke, about a 19th-century Irish woman whose husband and family apparently thought she was a changeling, and that the real Bridget had been taken by fairies. As always, Kim finds deep meanings and myriad connections in this book, and shares some of her insights with us in her review.
We're off now to attend the celebration of Simply Scandinavian, a lovely import shop in the Old Port, that has been open for two years now. (The owners helped promote Swåp at the Center a few months back.) And then I'm going to go down to a bakery named Sophia's to get some of their lovely dark chocolate and chili cookies! Ymmm! May you find good reading, lively music, and tasty food!