28th of April 2002 

'You must remember, there's always something cleverer than yourself.' -- Merlin to Arthur in Excalibur

Thanks for coming back. Unlike zines who publish when they feel like it, our new issue every week, barring vacations, always goes up on Sunday morning. It works for old-style enterprises like newspapers, so I see no reason that it shouldn't be the way to publish on the net. So, while some zines struggle to find readers, we're holding steady at just about one hundred and fifty thousand readers per month! I credit this to our exceptionally good writers and the editors, who are far better than average in their behind the scenes work! Also, consistently having exceptionally good rankings on Google (which is a reflection of both our readership and the extremely high number of sites that link to us) certainly doesn't hurt.

We'll be holding our usual Beltane celebration in Orberon's Wood behind the Green Man offices, and you're invited to attend. Food beyond compare, including a roast pig prepared by Jonathan St. Laurent, drink ranging from St. Helena coffee to the finest of Cornish ales, music by bands from Moving Hearts to Drink Down the Moon, storytelling by Taliesin, Mark Twain, and other noted shanachies, and other forms of bacchanal undertakings that can't be described here will be part of the revelries. If you don't have fey blood in you, you'll need directions to get here. Just ask Liath, our fey librarian, to give you what I hope will be understandable directions! (She did get Merlin lost for a few centuries, so beware!) Do remember to bring a small offering with you to honor the Lord and Lady of the Wood.

Now onto our reviews this edition...

Kim Bates reviews Lloyd Alexander's Westmark , a book she recommends for the many social issues it presents. The protagonist, Theo, is a printer's apprentice who has to run from trouble when he accepts a printing job from the wrong customer. Kim explains, 'Theo becomes a fugitive, and has a series of adventures that cause him to question his motives, his beliefs, and his loyalties to others -- and to himself.'

Michael Jones gives us two more reviews this week. The first book he looks at is a collection of covers done by Glenn Fabry for the comic book series Preacher . Michael describes it like this: 'Imagine you're an artist, and you've been given a very unusual task. Create eye-catching, evocative comic book covers, month in and month out for a new series. The main characters include a hitwoman, a vampire, a preacher possessed by the Word of God, an unstoppable killing machine fueled by divine wrath and mortal hate, a conspiracy to take over the world, and God Himself.' The other review Michael gives us this week presents eight books about fairies, gnomes, dwarves, leprechauns, and pretty much any fantasy being you can imagine. There's even a Jane Yolen book in here! Michael receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this well-written and entertaining review!

Maria Nutick looks at an older Tanith Lee book, Red As Blood . Maria says, 'Tanith Lee explores traditional fairy tales in a nontraditional way, from a different perspective, one full of passion, far kinder to women, and imbued with Lee's customary dark eroticism. This book belongs on the shelf with the Grimm Brothers, and yet fills a long ignored niche, a niche where pretty little girls are no longer exclusively victims and where princes are not necessarily charming or heroic.'

Tracy Willans enjoyed Patricia McKillip's Ombria in Shadow , a novel about a young boy searching for someone he can trust to act as regent for him until he is old enough to be king, and about a mysterious city.

Matthew Winslow refreshes our memory about Watership Down , Richard Adams's classic work about rabbits who flee their warren in search of a safer place to live. Read his review, and you may want to read the book again.

Maria Nutick also gives tongue-in-cheek advice on how to write a successful fantasy novel in her essay Fantasy Made Easy (or, How to Crank Out Crap for Fun and Profit) . The letter 'y' plays a more important role in successful fantasy writing than you would think, according to our Mia. Not at all surprisingly, Maria picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this essay!

 

Live Performances

Our Snow Queen, Rebecca Swain, caught the The Kennedys on April 4th and was thoroughly satisfied with the show. She says, 'They give a stage performance that seems joyous without being cloying or precious. They just seem to be happy people who love performing. I don't mean that all their songs are upbeat; there's just something about them that's refreshingly lighthearted.'

Nancy Tanardaiel, a new 'occasional reviewer' for Green Man , was not so pleased with the Kingston Trio 45th Anniversary Tribute Weekend on April 19 and 20 at the hallowed Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. As she admits in her review, 'I was a bit disappointed with them. They seemed to be going through the motions--telling the same jokes, singing the 'hits.' Read the rest of Nancy's review to find out which other performers redeemed the weekend for her.

 

Kim Bates finds herself deep in the heart of the once and future King this week as she reviews both volumes of La Nef's Perceval, La quete du Graal . She says of these CDs that 'The quest for the grail has long inspired dreamers and romantics, as well as seekers hoping to scrape away the thin veneer of Christianity in search of old European themes of the otherworld, cauldrons of rebirth, and cycles of kingship.  La Nef, an innovative early music ensemble from Quebec, have returned to the 12th century French texts of Chretien de Troyes, who composed a poem detailing the adventures of a Welsh knight, Perceval.  The original texts contain no music, and are written in an archaic version of French, requiring great ingenuity to translate from that time into ours.  La Nef has achieved something truly remarkable in this original work.  By combining original compositions, traditional tunes from the British Isles, baroque operatic styles, and period instruments, La Nef have created a lovely sense of Perceval's journey into manhood, and into magic.' Kim gets an Excellence in Writing Award for this superb review!

Irene Jackson Henry wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her review of Eric Andersen's Violets of Dawn . She notes 'Eric Andersen, a member of the early 1960's Greenwich Village folk revolution, recorded several albums for the Vanguard label between 1964 and 1970. However, since he dropped away from the United States music business in the early 1980's, his influence and place in the history of folk (and what's now called singer-songwriter music) has often been overlooked. Violets of Dawn, a compilation from five of his early recordings, goes a good way towards making Andersen's early music accessible again.' She also reviews Dave Alvin's Public Domain: Songs from the Wild Land . She comments that 'Dave Alvin has often included covers of traditional music in his live shows and on his many recordings. This album, including only songs in the public domain, fulfilled a long-time dream of Alvin's to record these often-forgotten songs. The success of this album can be measured by its winning the 2001 Grammy Award for the Best Traditional Folk Album.'

Stephen Hunt is pleased with Spindrift , a Celtic CD from Scottish performer Ben Edom. He says '[t]aking the usual examples of Bert and John, Edom's interpretation of Celtic guitar music inclines more towards Renbourn's neo-classical intricacy than Jansch's blues-based attack.' Read his review to see if you agree!

Michael Hunter gets an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of Alistair Hulett & Dave Swarbrick's Red Clydeside . Michael, a long-time fan of master fiddler Swarbrick, says of this CD: 'It's hard to know which aspect to concentrate on first - that this is an album with a theme of both historical and contemporary interest, or how good it is to see Dave Swarbrick taking such an active role in it! Perhaps giving the basic theme of the CD is a good start. It could almost be called a concept album, in that all songs are related to the work of Scottish socialist John Maclean who, around the time of the First World War, made his presence strongly felt with the working and the ruling class alike - a hero to the former, a threat to the latter. Such subjects have always been close to the heart of Alistair Hulett who, for this album, has written a collection of songs which, in roughly chronological order, tell the story of Maclean's life, imprisonments, mistreatment and death.'

Michael M Jones has for us a review of Sylvia Tosun's Anthem : 'Following her initial smash debut, Too Close To The Sun, New York based musician Sylvia Tosun returns with a truly exceptional album. Entitled Anthem: National Anthems of Our World, Volume 1, it's a very simple concept. Take the national anthems of ten different countries, and remix them in her own unique style.'

Peter Massey really likes the two Greg Brown CDs, Milk of The Moon and Over and Under : 'If you take the time to listen to his lyrics and music, Greg Brown is really very good.' Peter also reviews Selkie , an English Trad album from Hector Gilchrist & Liz Thompson: '[t]his album was recorded in 1993, therefore the content is a little dated. Although this album is very good, I am willing to bet the next will be much better.'

Big Earl Sellar also wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of Doc Watson and David Holt's Legacy . (And our thanks to High Windy Audio for sending this to us without asking for it!) He says of this CD that '[i]n a time of passing of many great musicians, one can be really thankful that ol' Doc Watson still walks this earth. Watson, the bridge between folk, bluegrass, and 'old-timey' music, is another artist whose career has received a boost from the popularity of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack phenomenon (although, for some reason I cannot fathom, he's not on it). The High Windy label is offering this three-disc set for the novice and fan alike, an interesting overview of both Doc's music and legacy.'

Gary Whitehouse is very happy with Haugaard & Hoirup's second CD, Light . Indeed he comments 'This album, Lys in Danish, won three Danish Music Awards (the 'Danish Grammys') this year, for Best Folk Album, Best Folk Artist (traditional), and Best Folk Instrumentalist (Harald Haugaard) and, as they say on their Web site, 'we are very, very proud and happy.' I don't know what the rest of the nominees were like, but I do believe this duo richly deserved it.'

Gary H. Wikfors is very happy with Annbjorg Lien's Prisme , the Nordic CD he reviews this week: 'This CD, recorded in July of 1996, documents the time when Norwegian hardangar fiddler (and classical violinist) Annbjorg Lien, found her own voice. Eleven of thirteen tracks are original compositions; the remaining two are adaptations of traditional melodies from Scandinavia. The composing is sensitive to the Norwegian traditions upon which it is based, but also is innovative, personal, and emotionally charged. Annbjorg Lien achieves this delicate balancing act with grace and spirit on Prisme.' However, he's less than pleased with lamh ar lamh , a Celtic trad 2-CD set designed to benefit the colon cancer research program at the Mater Hospital in Ireland. Read his review to see why this was a mixed bag!

 

Maria Nutick remembers Brigadoon , a film about an 'odd little town that seems forgotten in time'. She finds Gene Kelly 'devastating', the musical score 'a joy', and the film overall 'an unremarkable way to spend 108 minutes of your life'. Maria also explores the paganism in The Wicker Man and finds little horror in this horror film, but much that she appreciates.

I'm off to read more of Knight Life, the newly rewritten Peter David novel that asks the intriguing question: Is the Once and Future King a good candidate for the job of Mayor of New York City? (Really. Truly.) And Grey Walker is sitting on a trove of Arthurian non-fiction that she'll be sharing with us in the coming weeks. Until next week, be well and we'll see you at our Beltane celebration!

 


21st of April 2002


'They didn't answer, which froze her in her pose for an extra few seconds, and then she was interrupted in her campaign to flee by the sound of knocking. It originated behind the pantry wall, much like the rap of human knuckles on wood. Three, four, five times.' -- Gregory Maguire's Lost

Progress has been made on the Bloomsday celebration that I'm coordinating -- proper Edwardian costumes and a script are in the hands of the theater group we're using. No progress, alas, on those Nordic fiddlers, so I'm suspecting that Liath has all of them booked for her Midsummer Night revelries! If you hear very loud fiddling music coming from nowhere on Midsummer's Eve, get yourself there fast for a truly memorable time! Just remember that it's sometimes hard to get back from across the border...

On a different note, look for the debut show for Rhizome Gallery, our new art gallery, around the first of June. This first show will feature quite naturally, the artwork of Lahri Bond, designer of the various beings you'll find on Green Man. We'll be rotating our exhibitions every three months, so look for some of the best known artists in the field to grace our gallery with their art.

Before I begin the rundown of reviews for this week, I'd like to introduce our four new staff writers. Robert Wiersema lives in Victoria, Canada, and works in the book trade. His bio contains rumors of circuses and the sea. Rachel Brown is a TV writer/producer from Los Angeles who is working on her first novel. Matthew Winslow lives in Seattle and is an editor for the University of Washington. And Christopher White resides in Portland, Maine, and has been involved for thirty years with contemporary fine arts, music, and theater. We are very pleased to have these interesting and talented people join our staff.

 

Cat Eldridge looks at two books by Stephen Dedman: The Art of Arrow Cutting , and Shadows Bite . Cat likes these works of dark fantasy -- never call them horror! -- explaining, 'Every so often a really good universe with interesting characters and a great back story is created ... Stephen Dedman, a native of Perth, Australia, has created a not-so-nice Los Angeles where vampires, mages, and killer ninjas are just part of everyday reality.' I thought that was true in the real Los Angeles!

Rowan Inish is back with a review of one of his favorite authors, Manly Wade Wellman. Rowan says of Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales , ' ... the book gathers together most of the stories Wellman wrote under the pseudonym 'Gans T. Field.' Included in that lot are the 'Bible Jaeger' stories, a clutch of 'Judge Pursuivant' tales, and one tale, 'For Love of a Witch,' that hasn't seen print in six decades.' Was it worth reprinting? Read Rowan's review and find out.

Michael Jones is still hiding in his house, occasionally throwing reviews into his yard for us to collect. This week we print another three. We have an omnibus of folktale books by Josepha Sherman ; Peter David's novelization of the movie Spider-Man ; and Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Journal , written by Terry Jones and illustrated by Brian Froud. We learned about pressed fairies last week, if you recall. This journal 'gives us a year's worth of fairy fun, frolics, festivals, holidays, celebrations, parties, and history.' Make a note: on April 21st we here at GMR celebrate Homecoming of Elves (Singing).

Sarah Meador enjoyed reading aloud from Pleasant deSpain's three collections of folktales, called The Books of Nine Lives. The first three volumes are Tales of Wisdom and Justice ; Tales of Nonsense and Tomfoolery ; and Tales of Tricksters . Sarah wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Maria Nutick looks at two Nina Kiriki Hoffman books, The Silent Strength of Stones , and The Thread That Binds The Bones . Mia has a mixed reaction to these books. Find out why. Maria also wins an Excellence in Writing Award .

Patrick O'Donnell wrote for us a review of Sue Harrison's Call Down the Stars , marveling, 'a storyteller's dream: a story within a story within a story. And if that's not enough to get the gears in your mind spinning, it's about -- say it with me, now -- storytellers.'

Matthew Winslow, one of our new staffers, gives us his opinion of Tales from Watership Down , by Richard Adams. You remember Watership Down, the place where all those rabbits lived? Well, this is a collection of more rabbit stories.

 Live Performances

New reviewer Christopher White debuts with a knowledgeable review of ART , a play by Yasmina Reza. 'ART explores the complex nature of friendship in which none of the characters are caricatured. Each is in turn supportive, petty, selfish, conciliatory and magnanimous.' We welcome Christopher's informed opinion, and look forward to more reviews like this one.

 

Judith Gennett is one lucky lassie, as she got to review Martyn Bennett's newest CD, Glen Lyon .She says 'The earlier ones, Martyn Bennett and Bothy Culture, can be perused in depth via reliable GMR reviews. Briefly, though, the eponymous CD is a roots-tilted fusion of Scottish music with electronica -- Martyn lists the beats-per-minute in the titles -- and a few other musical styles. Bothy Culture is a global expansion of the concept. Both GMR and I have missed lamentably a subsequent release with Martin Low, Hardland. The current release, Glen Lyon, returns to the Highlands, setting the vocals of his mother, Gaelic singer Margaret Bennett, in a continuum of traditional, natural, and electronic landscapes.' Judith receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this review! Her other review this week is of Pat Kilbride's new Celtic CD, Nightingale Lane . It's an album that she has mixed feelings about: 'Kilbride's voice is pleasant but not outstanding, or rather not as outstanding as his instrumental work. His fingers skip merrily across guitar and cittern strings.'

Irena Marija Elena Jaksonaite Henrikiene (really, truly) treats us to a review of four Albion Band CDs: Battle of the Field , Happy Accident , 1990 and Songs from the Shows . Irena says of this English Folk Rock band that 'The tangled vine that is the family tree of English folk-rock music has several long stems which wind through it, touching many other stems and branching wildly. One of these is Ashley Hutchings. As Ashley 'Tyger' Hutchings, he was a founding member of Fairport Convention. Throughout his long career, he founded or influenced so many other bands and musicians that his status as a folk icon cannot be questioned. His insistence on exploring the pre-industrial folk music of England over more rock-based musical styles may have led to musical partings, as seen with Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, but this idealism is compelling. One of the bands Hutchings founded after leaving Fairport Convention -- besides Steeleye Span, is The Albion Band.' Read Irena's review for her pithy comments on these albums.

Lars Nilsson has, as promised last edition, a review of Caprice's 28 CD Swedish Folk Music series for us. (Well, all but 3 CDs worth of joiking music which will be re-issued this coming fall. And that's no joik.) No way I'm going to list them all, so let's let Lars speak of this superb set of CDs as '[a] very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.' Lars gets a very well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for this review!

Patrick O'Donnell has a review of an odd album for us: Wake the Dead , the self-titled debut album from a Celtic group in the San Francisco Bay area. Yes, it's Grateful Dead music gone Celtic. Is this really a good idea? Our reviewer says of it: 'If there's ever been a perfect adaptation of original Grateful Dead music, Wake the Dead is it. This seven-member band from Northern California takes familiar Dead classics, intertwines them with Celtic reels and jigs, does a wee bit of rearranging, and comes up with music you'd swear was first performed on the Emerald Isle.'

Gary Whitehouse is into weed this week. No, not that kind of weed, but rather Bo Ramsey's Blues and Roots album, In the Weeds . He says the artist is 'one of those musicians better known among his peers than among the public. Springing from the same corn fed Iowa fields as his sometime song writing partner Greg Brown, he plays a gritty heartland style of blues, folk and rock.' Toshi Reagon's new CD, Toshi , is also reviewed by Gary, who says of her album that it 'is a fascinating, genre-busting record. Excellent production and musicianship and, most of all, Reagon's powerful but not overpowering vocals make this well worth listening to.'

 

 

Kate Brown happily sacrificed an evening to Dragonslayer . She exclaims, 'Never before this has a dragon seemed so real!' Vermitrax Peyoratis is 'a lady dragon with a grudge', so fire up the popcorn maker and gallop down to your local video store for an evening of fun with this video.

Maria Nutick finds a fearless mongoose pitted against a pair of very scary cobras in Rikki Tikki Tavi . Says Maria, 'Fans of animation were saddened to hear of the recent passing of the great Chuck Jones, animator extraordinaire. Jones, perhaps best known as the father of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd gave us hundreds of cartoons and animated specials over his more than 50-year career.' Maria's review lauds another of his extraordinary works.

 

Now I'm off to see Waterson Carthy, as fine a trio of musicians as you'll find this side of the Summer Court. Eliza Carthy, all by herself with her fiddle and pipes, could charm the most dour member of the Winter Court! All of three of them are just truly amazing! I'll see you back here next week!



14th of April 2002  

 'It's funny how grownups always try to keep the dark stuff hidden from kids. It's not like we don't know its there. Anger, hate, evil... Trouble is, you keep the Dark Stuff hidden long enough and it starts to look good, seductive, like something only grown-ups get to do.' -- Kara Dalkey's Steel Rose

Ok, so we decided to review the Japanese manga I mentioned last week, since our Video Editor thought it was worth reviewing. But rap and trance CDs are still verboten on Green Man, as Liath will simply not abide either of those in the music archives. (She says that 'by Oak, Ash, & Thorn, the Peatbog Faeries and Dead Can Dance are as close as I want to get to bloody club-style music...') Now that we've settled that matter, let's turn to the reviews this week. As usual, our reviewers have found a number of interesting items that may be tempting to you, so let's get started before I go arguing the merits of Celtic rave music with Liath!

(The contest winner was Jon Hall of Huddersfield, England. He correctly guessed that Charles de Lint is the author most noted by our reviewers, and Fairport Convention is the band of which most of our reviewers are fans. Jon will be receiving a bonnie bunch of Nordic CDs that were provided by Northside ).

Congratulations to our reviewers who have passed the one thousand mark in terms of reviewed novels, collections, and anthologies! And my special thanks to Rebecca Swain, our current Book Editor, and Debbie Skolnik, our Editor-at-Large. Between them, they have edited the vast majority of these reviews!

Donna Bird is back with a review of Wendy Kaplan's " The Art that is Life": The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920 . Donna clarifies that this edition 'is a reissue of a book published as a companion to a major Arts & Crafts exhibition curated by Ms. Kaplan in the late 1980s when she worked for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Although credited as the book's author, she is more accurately its editor, since it is composed of a collection of essays on aspects of the Arts & Crafts movement written by a number of experts ... ' Read Donna's review for details, and also to find out what she and her husband Cat Eldridge do with sudden wealth.

Kate Brown enjoyed a charming book called Her Fork in the Road , edited by Lisa Bach. Kate says, 'With this collection of anecdotes from women about their adventures with travel and food, Lisa Bach delves into the relationship between food and women, concentrating on gender specific issues.' The book represents many writers and many cultures, so fix yourself a snack and find out the details in Kate's review.

Cat Eldridge looks at a book tailor-made for this magazine: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling's The Green Man -- Tales from the Mythic Forest . Read his glowing review to find out why he perfidiously kept this book for himself instead of sharing it with the other reviewers.

April Gutierrez admires Roger Zelazny's short stories and novellas, and this week she reviews four collections: Four For Tomorrow , The Last Defender of Camelot , Unicorn Variations , and Frost and Fire . Find out why they're worth reading.

Michael Jones refuses to come out of his house until he's reviewed 24 items for GMR. We're trying to coax him out with Prozac and Easter candy, but so far, no luck. In the meantime, we have three of his reviews for this week's edition. The first is Kushiel's Chosen , Jacqueline Carey's sequel to the wonderful Kushiel's Dart. Find out if it's as good as its predecessor. Michael also looks at History's Last Stand , by Gerard and Patricia Del Re, a compilation of famous last things: 'Last marriages. Last monarchs. Final words. Final meals. Last days in prison. Last crimes. The last American soldier executed for desertion.' Etc. Finally, Michael contributes an omnibus of fairy art books by Brian Froud and friends: Lady Cottingham's Pressed Fairy Book , Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells , and Good Faeries, Bad Faeries . Be warned: you will find smooshed fairies, nose-picking fairies, 'ugly, twisted, hideous, wicked, disturbing, creepy' fairies, as well as beautiful creatures. But all the illustrations are superb, unique, and unforgettable. Michael can't recommend these books highly enough.

Gary Whitehouse read three Winnie-the-Pooh books: Winnie-the-Pooh , The House at Pooh Corner , and The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh . Gary explains, 'Dutton released these three gorgeous editions to mark the 75th anniversary of the first publication of Winnie-the-Pooh. They come complete with the original illustrations ... by Ernest H. Shepard.' Gary recommends them highly.

Live Performances

Stephen Hunt regales us this week with an epic wonder, an enormous and enormously captivating review of The Eleventh Annual Gosport & Fareham Easter Festival . Stephen remarks, "Folk music in England is often perceived as polite, earnest, dreary, beards and tankards. Sometimes it's reckless, passionate, uses bad language and drinks whisky at five in the morning....." Stephen, we're convinced! Once you've read this review, you'll agree that he obviously deserves an Excellence in Writing Award. He could rest on his laurels after this devastating performance, but we hope he doesn't.

Patrick O'Donnell offers a review of a recent Solas concert , just as impassioned if not quite as flamboyant as Stephen's review. Patrick's knowledgeable and thoughtful comments should make Solas proud.

And congratulations also go to our reviewers for having now reviewed over twenty-two hundred CDs! I am particularly pleased as, with over eight hundred Celtic music reviews, we have reviewed more music in this genre than any other online review magazine! I must also note that both Brendan Foreman and Kim Bates, our current Music Editor, have been outstanding!

Kim Bates was seduced by the music of Altan, as she explains in her omnibus review of early Altan recordings . She needs more than the 'faster, harder, louder' of Celtic folk rock, and Altan has provided pleasure, 'sensitivity, grace and a great deal of excitement'. Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review for the full story. Kim receives a second EIWA for her review of Piffaro's really, really trad album, Music from the Odhecaton . Of this collection of Medieval music she says: 'I find Piffaro's interpretation of this music to be stately and lively, without the stiffness that sometimes mars the presentation of early music.  The arrangements are exquisite, and it is easy to visualize the painted scene of renaissance musicians, from the liner notes, coming to life.  Piffaro have a great balance between the horns and winds, and a very light touch with percussion.  The occasional bagpipe is also deft and subtle. '

Judith Gennett is quite pleased with Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham's CD, Another Gem , but she cautions: 'There is a good mix of styles within the range, but there are more slow and gentle pieces than on some other Scottish albums, which may contain only one or two slow airs or waltzes. Though certainly a "gem," Another Gem might not be the choice to keep a driver awake.'

David Kidney is more than happy with the second batch of Country Joe MacDonald CDs that he reviews this week ( Crossing Borders: poetry of M.L. Liebler and the music of Country Joe McDonald , I Fell Like I'm Fixin' To Sing Some Songs , Viet Nam Experience , and , www.countryjoe.com ). He says, as he revels in these CDs: '...we get an e-mail from Country Joe, thanking us for reviewing the Italian re-issue of several of his albums. I write back and confirm how much I enjoyed the albums, and a week later another package of CDs arrives, this time newer stuff, representing where Country Joe is right now, and what he's been up to lately.' Read his review to get all the pertinent details on these CDs! He also reviews Norm Hacking's Skysongs...a writer's collection of which he says, '[t]here are fun songs, reggae songs, even a Christmas song in this rich collection. The music is memorable, the lyrics more so, and the performances are outright wonderful.' David wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this outstanding review! David also reviews  Mark Sepic's El Vaco , and gleefully intimates: 'Mark Sepic and I go WAAAYYYY back! I used to play guitar with his brother. Mil and I put together a rudimentary studio in the attic of their house. It was an old reel-to-reel with one microphone, but it was ours. Mark was Mil's younger brother, and he hung around like younger brothers do. Years later I heard some absolutely beautiful guitar work in a wine bar, and investigated... it was Mark Sepic. The younger brother had surpassed us both. Now he has presented us with his first album, and it's delightful.'

Peter Massey reviews Mothballs by English 'super group' Tiger Moth. He was less than pleased with what he heard: 'It has been said that they did not rehearse much, just barely outlining what they were going to do, and 'winging it'. To me it sounds like it could be a lot of fun to play in a band of this nature, but I imagine they had some bum gigs as well.' Peter was more pleased with The World Just Won't Leave You Alone by Star Room Boys, a Country & Western group from Athens, GA. He says: 'There is something about the twangy sound of a Fender Stratocaster guitar played through a Fender Twin Reverb amp that is and always will be the essence of Country & Western music. Add to that the occasional break on a pedal steel guitar, and I am solid gone! [...] I confess that I had never heard of the Star Room Boys before listening to this album, but what the heck does it matter! I like what I hear.' And he mostly loved the songs and tales of Castles of Gold Songs and Stories of Irish Immigration , a collaboration of Frank McCourt of Angela's Ashes fame, Roma Downey & Pan Morigan. He comments: 'On the whole, the album is very good and entertaining. If you like the music from River Dance, you are sure to like this album.'

Gary Whitehouse reviews two more CDs from the alt-country group, The Handsome Family: Smothered and Covered and Twilight . He says you'll need a good sense of humor to appreciate these CDs. Read his review to see why!

 

David Kidney takes Gladiator for a spin around the arena and finds the 'swords 'n' sandals movie' beneath the artistic 'sheen on the surface' and 'the reflected glory of the cast'. He then takes on The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers with some previously studied dueling skills of his own and, like D'Artagnan, finds himself won over by their charm.

I've had truly poor luck, thus far, finding Nordic fiddlers for that Midsummer's Night celebration, so now I'm off to ask Liath if she can help. I do hope that they're not all booked for the Summer Court celebration of that night! And speaking of Nordic Music, come back next week, as Lars Nilsson will be doing an omnibus review of 25 CDs from the Swedish Folk Music series released by Caprice. (They graciously sent us everything in the series excepting three of the Yoiking CDs which will be re-released this Fall.) Lars says, 'A word of warning. It will be long. I have taken the opportunity to present the Swedish music heritage while presenting the CDs.' I, for one, am looking forward to this review!

That's all for this edition... If you want to find me, I'll be curled up on the couch, surrounded by our multitude of cats, reading my way through these books: Kara Dalkey's Steel Rose, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling's The Green Man -- Tales from the Mythic Forest, Shadowsbite, Stephen Deman's sequel to his magic noir novel, The Art of Arrowcutting, and a collection of tales by Kage Baker that's set in 'The Company' universe. Until we meet again, be merry and full of good cheer!

 

7th of April 2002  

 The instruments were bagpipes and whistles, guitars, drums, cymbals and bells, mandolins, fiddles, and something that sounded like a button accordion. The music was anything the night called for. There were jigs and reels -- she might have guessed that. But there was hot city blues, too, rock, jazz, funk, and bluegrass full of mountains and whiskey. It should have sounded silly, and didn't. The fusion reminded Eddi of zydeco: wildly disparate musical styles played on inappropriate instruments, all to scorching good effect. -- Emma Bull's War for The Oaks 

Sometimes what we get for review is... errr... interesting. This past week saw a number of rap and trance CDs come in to the unsolicited material bin in the Green Man offices. No, we won't be reviewing them! Nor will we reviewing the Japanese manga that had explicit sexual content, or a book about the ever so practical uses of hallucinogenic plants. However we will be reviewing the animated Discworld films that wandered in recently. And I see that there's a number of tasty CDs that just came in, including the new Dr. John release! Nice. Very nice. Our reviewers are certainly going to have fun!

Ahhh, you want to know about the contest that I mentioned last edition. The questions for you to answer are

a) Who is the author most referred to by our reviewers?

b) Which band is most likely the favorite of our staff?

The first person to guess correctly will get a selection of very cool CDs from Northside, purveyors of fine Nordic music.

Email your answers to us at this address .

Kate Brown enjoyed The Emperor's Old Clothes . She says, 'Children's author Kathryn Lasky has finally asked and answered a question that was ignored since Hans Christian Andersen first presented the world with The Emperor's New Clothes: Where did his old clothes go?'

John J. Hall returns to our pages with a look at Daughter of the Empire , a novel by his favorite fantasy author, Raymond E. Feist, and author/artist Janny Wurts. John says, 'Feist has joined with Janny Wurts to render a tale from the other side of the Rift War, the Tsurani Empire of Kelewan. Feist's and Wurts' new series takes the reader on a ride through the Empire, while the war with Midkemia takes a distant yet poignant back seat.' This story of adventure and political intrigue is set against a background that resembles the feudal society of medieval Japan.

Michael Jones reviews several books this week. He gives us his critique of several books by and about Mercedes Lackey: John Helfers and Denise Little's The Valdemar Companion , an exhaustive reference guide to all things Valdemar; and three novels by Mercedes Lackey: Take a Thief , The Black Swan , and, with Rosemary Edghill, Spirits White As Lightning . Michael also looks at the latest novel about telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse, called Living Dead in Dallas , by Charlaine Harris: 'It's hard enough having a disability like telepathy in the small-minded small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana {but} ... her boss is a shapeshifter, and her boyfriend is a vampire by the name of Bill, who last saw mortality sometime around the Civil War.' Dragon Bones , by Patricia Briggs, tells the tale of Ward of Hurog, who struggles to become a war hero so he can retain power over Hurog Keep. And Alan F. Troop's The Dragon DelaSangre is an erotic, exciting romance between shapeshifting dragons. Michael loved all these books -- but then, I don't think Michael ever met a book he didn't like.

Chuck Lipsig brings to our attention a science fiction novel by Ian McDonald, called Desolation Road . This novel is set on a Mars of the future, and Chuck says it is an example of the 'myths, legends, and fairy tales' that may exist then. And it starts with a green man crossing the Martian desert, so how could he not review it?

Rebecca Swain enjoyed the story Terry Goodkind told in Wizard's First Rule , but she found his writing style intensely annoying. She likes wizards, magic, quests, and even dragons, all of which are included in this novel. But she doesn't like ... well, read her review to find out, in no uncertain terms, what she doesn't like!

Live Performances

Kim Bates gives us a devoted fan's review of Altan's March 7, 2002 concert . She says, "There is a certain ferocity as Altan launches into their sets...Whatever the source, it works brilliantly." If her review intrigues you, come back next week to read Kim's omnibus review of all of Altan's recordings to date.

Kim Bates finds a cool recording in the Evangeline Made collection. She says 'Cajun music is a beguiling, seductive, heady mixture of influences -- rhythms borrowed from the Creole, French fiddle and accordion, full voice American vocal styles in which notes are emphatically held and the voice wavers around the tone. Along with its cousin Zydeco, it is one of the best strains of North American roots music: danceable, rhythmic, and oh so congenial, lacking some of the morbid pre-occupation with death and the blessed beyond that haunts other genres -- Appalachian, for example. Its two steps and waltzes have seduced many a rock or pop musician, who in turn have borrowed from the tradition in their own music. And that's how we got to this release: Ann Savoy has collaborated with a cast of these folks and an assortment of Cajun musicians to make a Cajun album.'

Eric Eller reviews Sandra Layman's CD, Little Blackbird , which he says 'is a collection of traditional Greek, Romanian, Hungarian, Turkish, and klezmer tunes recorded primarily in live sessions from the early 1980s  (three of the tracks are studio demos). The nearly two decades that have passed between the recordings and the release of the album haven't dimmed the experiences gained from listening to Layman's performances, making the CD a great way to get to know these musical styles. Layman and the musicians backing her up bring these traditional tunes to life with their skillful and intricate performances.'

Judith Gennett is less than pleased with James Keelaghan's Home . Indeed, she notes that 'Like many who like traditional music and stories about the past, and the roads, I find Home as frustrating as any of Keelaghan's past five albums or, for that matter, the albums that Stan Rogers made. Why not write more material that carries the listener somewhere more interesting and exciting? Dunno. Lots of people like being Home I guess.' Judith rounds out her reviewing this edition with a look at two CDs by  So's Your Mom: From Ireland And Elsewhere and Common Ground . She says this is a 'group of four to six (usually five, but who's counting?) traditionally-oriented musicians loosely based in Chester County, PA - just south-west of Philadelphia - who like to play for "anyone who will pay us money for doing so." While not exactly a bar band, they do play, for the most part, local festivals and gatherings - the Philadelphia folk Festival, for instance. These two albums contain many of the standards that local bands are expected to play... and obviously have a lot of fun playing as well.'

Peter Massey finds Martin Simpson's The Bramble Briar to be very, very good: 'This album will go down in history. You won't believe how good it is! If ever there was an album that makes me, and probably loads of others, want to go out and burn my guitar, well this is it!' Read his review to see if he indeed burned his guitar!

Gary Whitehouse reviews not one, but two CDs from Bluesman Kelly Joe Phelps: the Beggar's Oil EP and Sky Like a Broken Clock . He says to give each album a few listens as you'll find that 'meaning begins to seep in with the images. The music speaks of faith, religion, poverty and riches ("Smite the temple yet again, spill the beggar's oil") and aging, maturing, loving and losing.  They're the same things they've been singing of down in the Delta and up in Chicago and anywhere else they put the blues into nine or 12 bars, for decades now.' Doc Watson and Frosty Morn's Round the Table Again was also to his liking: 'Doc's voice isn't as strong as it once was, particularly unaccompanied as on "Coo Coo Bird," but his picking remains as fluid and inventive as ever. Frosty Morn, as a band, isn't breaking any new ground, but this is clearly a bunch of old friends having a lot of fun, and it's impossible not to join it in the same spirit.'

 

April Gutierrez reviews anime series Key the Metal Idol , 'an intriguing variation of the Pinocchio story, set in a dark, futuristic Tokyo.' April ponders the meaning of the series: 'What does it really mean to be human? What's the price of fame? What dark actions are humans capable of committing? It's a fascinating philosophical ride.'

Maria Nutick picks up Bell, Book and Candle , 'a fine comic romance with just a hint of darkness for spice.' Maria says, 'This is a great date movie, though it might lead a few men to wonder what charms could be employed against them by their bewitching companions. Then again, it might just be a warning to young witches to be careful of the charms of handsome older men!' She also finds gold at the end of Finian's Rainbow , a film she likes for its social commentary.

Now I'm off in search of Nordic fiddlers, fey or otherwise, for a Midsummer's Night celebration. Did you know that the trows kidnapped fiddlers to play for their revels? And indeed, there are many fiddle tunes around the Shetlands that are said to have been learned from trows, who pay the fiddlers not just in coin and drink, but in tunes! I wonder if that's where the tune 'Da Day Dawn' on Aly Bain and Ale Moller's CD, Fully Rigged , came from? It's certainly a superb tune for welcoming in the New Year!