Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg: consider this: there's some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts. No children's laughter round the fire, no family left to know. So lend a warm and a helping hand: say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow. As holly pricks and ivy clings, your fate is none too clear. -- Jethro Tull's 'Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow'
Welcome to the Samhain issue of Green Man. Jack's band, Danse Macabre, is playing for the Green Man All Hallows Eve feast and all-night dance, so the office will be closed on October 31st and November 1st -- possibly even a day or two longer if therevelries get out of hand -- which they likely will! And look for the Eddi and The Fey The War for The Oaks tour T-shirts that many of the staff will be wearing that night. So rosin up yourbow, grab your waltzing partner, get a mug of the mulled cider, andrevel with us down in Oberon's Wood!
Green Man, in several incarnations, dates back farther than one might imagine. And I've been promoting folk music, mostly Celtic,longer than I care to admit. But it still surprises me just how much music is produced every year. Kim Bates, our Music Editor, who's away this week at another Samhain celebration (so Debbie Skolnik's fillingin for her), estimates that we have over 150 CDs out for review now! We get so much material for review that not all of it can, or shouldbe, reviewed. One of our favorite methods for dealing with thisstaggering volume is the omnibus review, where three or more CDs or books get commented on in one review. Did we invent this form? Hardly! Dirty Linen, fRoots, and Rock 'N' Reel all use it often to great effect. Indeed any review zine would be very, very foolish not to use it! I myself think the finest purveyor of this review form was the now discontinued Celtic Nerd column,which written by Steve Winick, now holder of a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology. Go read back issues of Dirty Linen to see just how great he was! And omnibuses can be a valuable teaching tool for schools, as can be demonstrated by the use of GMR reviews of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, the Harry Potter series, and Lloyd Alexander's young adult series, The Chronicles of Prydain.
Eric Eller offers us the latest of his Celtic omnibuses as he continues to deal with the several dozen Celtic CDs Green Man sent him. He looks at three CDs this time: two from Kilbrannan, a Celtic group from the Buffalo, NY area: Bedlam Boys and Live atO'Lacy's, and one from a member of the band, Kirk McWhorter,on a 'solo' album called Brambleshire Wood. He sums up his experience of hearing these CDs this way: 'The infusion of good vocals, high quality instrumental work,and compelling arrangements with high levels of enthusiasm and energy make this trio of CDs well worth the listening. Songs that explore a variety of approaches to Celtic music, an edgy rock style, and an ability to find just the right ratio of slower tunes to energetic pub songs are only a few of the things that make these CDs stand out.Don't pass up on the chance to give Kilbrannan a listen. You won't be disappointed.'
Rasa's Devotion left Gary Whitehouse, our resident curry lover and discriminating raga aficionado, much less that satisfied. Gary, who literally listened to hours upon hours of ragas for Green Man and (really, truly) liked all of them, found Devotion to be less than satisfying: 'for my money, I'd much rather listen to actual Indian music, sung in Indian style. Waters' vocals somehow just don't ring true. She is obviously deeply devoted to the music; the problem is, she just as obviously has a Western voice and vocal technique, and the more I listen to it, the more fake it sounds to my ears.' He also reviewed Buddy & Julie Miller's self-titled debut album, which did excite. He says that it is 'is an impressive showcase of the couple's grasp of all kinds of country and country-rock, but to me it's a little too varied in tone to trulyhang together as a unified whole. It's a small complaint about what is surely one of the best alternative-country recordings of the yearby two impressive and honest musical talents.'
Likewise, Mike Stiles was very pleased by A Time to Sing!, by a group called HARP which consists of Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger. Now that should be enough to send you rushing off to get this release, but Mike adds this comment to whet your appetite: '[t]his live recording is a high-water mark in American folk music.' Go read his review for the exquisite details!
Now for something that is appropriate for All Hallows Eve --Corvus Corax's medieval sounding Mille Anni Passi Sunt which is, and I kid you not, a tribute to the legend surrounding Vlad the Impaler! Patrick O'Donnell says'Corvus Corax, who on some Web sites are called the kings of medieval music, surely fit the billing. Mille Anni Passi Sunt is a masterpiece in its own right, a treasure fit for kings and queens.And it's most assuredly worthy of a Romanian prince.' Patrick winsyet another Excellence in Writing Award for this effort.
We feature a couple of Halloween-type books this week. Kim Bates looks at Jan Markale's Pagan Mysteries of Halloween, which seeks to uncover the mysteries of this ancient festival as the Celts celebrated it. (We're taking tips from this book for our own GMR Samhanin celebration.) She says,'Readers with an interest in how the ancients celebrated their newyear and a stomach for detailed multidisciplinary research willlikely find some valuable insights here.' Rebecca Swain liked The Monsters of Morley Manor, by Bruce Coville. Two kids find tiny monsters in a box, the monsters come to life, help save the Earth ... we've all been there. The novel contains werewolves, ghosts, an angel, aliens ... you'll have to read it to believe it.
New staffer Tracy Willans reviews The Crowlings, by Louis eLawrence, a biting look at the human habit of taking, using, and throwing away everything we can get our hands on. Cat Eldridge recommends Gael Baudino's Gossamer Axe, a book rather like Emma Bull's The War for the Oaks in that it features a woman who fronts a band, in this case heavy metal, and uses music for magical purposes.
Naomi de Bruyn enjoyed Doris Egan's collection The Complete Ivory, which includes the novels The Gate of Ivory, Two-Bit Heroes, and Guilt-Edged Ivory. A spirited woman becomes stranded on the magic-filled world of Ivory,and shares adventures and political intrigue with her lover. Naomi says, 'Doris has an easy flowing writing style, and her characters are not only endearing but memorable, while the sarcastic bite of her humour fills this trilogy with a lot of cheek-biting for the reader.'And Mike Stiles enjoyed There Are Doors, by Gene Wolfe, a tale of a man whose departed girlfriend leaves him a note which leads him into a parallel universe. He says, 'There Are Doors is a minor masterpiece ina respectable lineage of books and stories from Wolfe. It's kind of a cross between Phillip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. Anyone with a penchant for the bizarre will love it.'
Now I'm off to make preparations for the Green Man All Hallows Eve feast and all-night dance I mentioned previously. It's time to get the fire going for the roast pig we'll be feasting on,and I'm sure that the cider needs to be sampled. And I see the fiddlers are warming up ...
You have to live for those who lost their lives, for those who lost their nerve, for those who lost their way, they delegated you who by some chance survived to dance, dance, dance the night away.
And though you may not see the rising of the sun, and though you may not share the glory of the day, it is enough to know that the day will come...
'You Have To Dance' off Hells Kitchen by the Rob Johnson Roots Band
Sometimes you find the most interesting things when you're notl ooking for them at all. I was at the local mall when I noticed a large soft sculpture of Hagrid, the gamekeeper from the Harry Potter universe. As it turns out, it was never officially released in theStates, so I snatched it up. He's now living on a bookcase shelf in our Great Hall. (Some of the other inhabitants are a Bugs Bunny marionette, a fearsome dragon, Beulah the Witch, a bunch of coyotes in a rock 'n' roll band, Humpty Dumpty, and a bone-crunching gargoyle named Tom. Not to mention the hundreds of books on them too!) Of course, I changed him just a bit -- the foam keys on his oversized key ring were replaced with real brass keys, and he's wearing a button on his Hogwarts school scarf that says, 'The Goddess is Aliveand Magic is Afoot'. Now excuse me for a minute while I put some music on ... Ahhh, let's listen to John Kirkpatrick's new squeezebox album, Mazurka Berserker, that Michael Hunter reviewed last week. Now I'm ready to write these notes!
We'll start with book reviews this week. Grey Walker gives us a glowing review of Charles de Lint's novel, The Wild Wood, a book written specifically to go with Bria nFroud's amazing illustrations. Grey's glowing review wins an Excellence in Writing Award this week. Patrick O'Donnell looks at James Blaylock's Thirteen Phantasms, a collection of short stories which bring the mundane world to sparkling life. Patrick says, 'It's a classic in every sense of the word, and belongs on your bookshelf, sandwiched between works by W. W. Jacobs and Ernest Hemingway.' Patrick wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this effort.
Kate Brown liked Ramsey Campbell's collection of short stories,Ghosts and Grisly Things, which includes stories about writer's block, the environment, and bizarre theme parks, as well as an interesting introduction explaining the role psychedelic drugs played in the writing of some of these stories. Kate says, 'Readers with strong minds and stomachs will relish this collection.'
Kim Bates reviews four folktale books for children: Sherry Garland's Children of the Dragon; and three from GeraldMacDermott: Raven, A Trickster Talefrom the Pacific Northwest; Coyote ,A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest, and Jabut, A Trickster Tale from the Amazon. Kim liked all four books very much. I saw them myself, and they were lovely. And Gary Whitehouse looks at Country Music Annual 2001, edited by Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson.Gary says, 'Folk music and rock'n'roll have been the subject of scholarship for many years now; since the Depression in the former case, since Bob Dylan and the Beatles turned rock into art in thelatter. But country hasn't had nearly as much serious writing or teaching done about it, which is why the editors began this series.'Gary liked this book, but wishes the more interesting parts had been put in the front instead of the back.
Not surprisingly, the reviewers here at Green Man have a fondness for all things Anglo-Celtic. Music, Anglo-Celtic-themed fiction, folklore, and live performances by Anglo-Celtic artists --some sixty percent of our reviews are related to those traditions,including much of the American Roots music we've reviewed. As a result, we get some of the tastiest products for review that one could hope for. We certainly have a number of interesting albums reviewed this edition that may well tempt you to open your ever-so-fat purse and purchase them! (I had a person recently stop meon the street downtown to say that Green Man was bad for her credit card!)
First up is Pigyn Clust's Perllan(Orchard) which gets reviewed by Kim Bates. This Welsh album is, according to her, 'an exquisite album. It's difficult to decide whether the instrumentals or the vocals are more compelling -- rest assured that both are lovely, and the combination is at once exciting and restrained. This disc will appeal both to fans of Celtic andearly music, who will probably find it difficult to remove from the CD player.'
Eric Eller looks at five tasty Celtic instrumental CDs: Blazin' Fiddles' Fire On!; Brobdingnagian Bards' Songs of the Muse; Art Edelstein's The Water is Wide; Alistair Gillies' By Arrangement; and John Wynne's With Every Breath. Eric notes, 'Celtic instrumental music in particular showcases the combination of woodwinds and strings to produce singularly evocative pieces. The emotional power of this musical style allows for traditional tunes on traditional instruments to sound as fresh and current as pieces played on instruments not often seen in Celtic music. From the cool, relaxing music of Ar tEdelstein's The Water is Wide to the red-hot energy of Fire On! from the Blazin' Fiddles, instrumental themes explore the range of energy and feelings contained in Celtic music.'
Jayme Lynn Blaschke was very pleased with Clandestine's latest effort, Music from Home. Hisr eview starts: 'Listening to Clandestine's latest effort, Music from Home, the thought struck me: Is this band capable of putting out a bad album? Not for my money. Oh, I'm sure if the members really put their minds to it, they could, but as long as Clandestine continues to direct its efforts towards a kick-ass sound, the rest of us have little to worry about.' And Chuck Lipsig found more kick-ass Celtic music in the form of Colcannon's Omit the Turnips and Step it Out, firstname.lastname@example.org . He notes with a wee bit of sweat on his brow, 'All in all, Colcannon is a solid band who arecomfortable at everything from trad folk to jazz to rock and roll.They are not the only band who were thrown together for a gig or two and then stayed together for years. Judging by these two CDs,sticking together was a good idea for Colcannon -- and it didn't even take butter or drippings.' Please note that this is not the Colcannon group from Colorado that you, dear Green Man readers, are aware of from the sterling reviews that Jo Morrison hasdone of their CDs. No, this group's from Australia. Jayme Lynn and Chuck win Excellence in Writing Awards for these reviews.
Celtic or British? Or both? You decide. I'm talking about Maddy Prior's Arthur The King, by awell-regarded British artist who needs no introduction to any of you reading Green Man, but the subject matter is quite Celtic.No'am Newman comments, 'The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it's been my experience that such songsare much richer to our ears than the "finger in the ear" standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as"contemporary folk," it's difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar.Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merrymen having done so.'
Kim reviewed Pyewackett's The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret, a rather tasty offering which is also Celtic or British, depending on which side of the Anglo-Celtic stone wall you're sitting on. She comments, 'Pyewackettwere one of those groups that defied categorization: experimentingwith English traditional material, early music from France and Italy,and electronic music. While playing as a dance band with a caller,they also played in concerts in the UK, and abroad as part of the British Council tours. It's not surprising to learn that Pyewackett's members met at university in the late 1970s, where their common interests led to a very creative ensemble with an entertaining repertoire.'
More Anglo-Celtic derived music can be found on these CDs. Leroy Troy's The Old Grey Mare meets with approval from Mike Stiles, who says, 'Leroy Troy plays the no-frills, no-nonsense style of the bluegrass Standard.' Read his review to see why this is a Good Thing. Another great roots album, John Hartford's HamiltonI ronworks, is reviewed by David Kidney, who says that 'The reels, rags and breakdowns are exquisitely performed; each player is a master of his instrument, but the nature of the stringband is ...that banjos and fiddles sound like banjos and fiddles and without lyrics the tunes blend into one another. The power of the human voiceis seen when Hartford's Missouri accent breaks in with a chronicle of the genesis of this tune, or a list of the fiddlers who performedt hat one. He adds a rich texture to the music by this commentary and makes the record come alive.'
Steve Ashley's EverydayLives is the third CD we've reviewed by this not terribly prolific English artist, as is noted by Michael Hunter: 'There are anumber of things you can call Steve Ashley -- distinctive vocally andmusically, often intriguing lyrically, possessing an uncanny ability to document human feelings and experiences in musical form. You jus tcouldn't call him prolific. This is only his seventh album in acareer that spans thirty years or so. Mostly, this has been due to circumstances beyond his control, but one thing it ensures is that any new recording is eagerly anticipated.'
Stolen Roses: songs of the Grateful Dead is, rather obviously, covers of Dead songs. David K.says, 'Arista Records remembers [the Dead] this way, a grab bag of the famous and the unknown. Somehow I think Jerry would likeit this way.' And the Rough Guide toAmericana anthology is, according to Gary Whitehouse, quitefine. He notes, 'So-called Americana casts a wide net over a rich diversity of music. What it all has in common is roots in traditionalAmerican country music, and a willingness to eschew commercialsuccess in exchange for the freedom to interpret those roots in waysthat are as far-flung and idiosyncratic as North America itself. Ass uch, this Rough Guides package is as good a reflection of the music as you might come up with in the format of a 70 minute, 20track, one CD collection of alternative country.'
And this review was too good to save for next week, so we're putting up now. Judith Gennett found Dallas Wayne's HereI Am In Dallas to be rather good. She says, 'Dallas Wayne's goal is to bring back the genuine and exciting good old days and tunes of country music; he could be and has been compared to DaleWatson and Chris Wall. Wayne brings to Here I Am In Dallas the clever hooks, deep mellow soulful vocals, and catchy song writing with clever hooks one expects from nuevo honky tonk country.' Shewins an Excellence in Writing Award for this short, but excellent review! (Brevity can be its own reward.)