O Allison Gross, that lives in yon tower
The ugliest witch in the North Country...
She's turn me into an ugly worm
And gard me toddle around a tree...
But as it fell out last Hallow Eve
When the fairy court was riding by,
The Queen lighted down on a gowany bank
Not far from where I was wont to lie...
She's changed me again to my own proper shape
And I no more toddle about the tree.
October 27th, 2002
Cat here. Come in, come in! It's nigh onto All Hallows Eve, Samhain if you are of a Celtic bent, and Danse Macabre is warming up in the Great Hall. We booked Danse Macabre not because it's Jack Merry's band, who would play for food and drink, but rather because they are the perfect band for this night when the veils between this world and the next are at their very thinnest. The Fey are at their most uneasy tonight, so forgive them if they are a bit terse... Some have not forgiven the author of 'Tam Lin' for telling mortals that wretched tale of a Hallows Eve long ago. And watch out for Maggie, as she's been very fond of taunting those who have returned from the other world for the few magical hours 'round midnight. I knew that cats could see them, but I never knew corvids could!
I'm eager to hear Danse Macabre play, as it seems like years since their last concert here. So let's each grab a cask of Tar Du ale, that fine Welsh stout from the Ynys Mon brewery you found in the corner of the entry hall, and hasten off to the Great Hall to hear them... Do you hear 'La Ride' too? Or is that 'The Eight Step Waltz'? Jack's been listening to too much Blowzabella I reckon! Not that I object...
Gary, can you get these casks set up while I show our visitor where the fresh copies of Green Man Review are? What? You didn't know we printed copies of GMR? We do, so that visitors like this one who are sensitive to technology can read it without feeling ill. Besides, our Fey friends delight in printing extremely short runs of publications such as this, as they can use interesting design features (such as animating the green men by magical means)...
Ahhh, there they are... And I see that October Dreams is the lead review this issue! Mia Nutick's got the first true review online of this anthology, so do read why she liked it -- with one major reservation.
I'll bet you didn't know that the Green Man office building had a radio station in it? Well, it certainly does! And the program this week -- downloadable in MP3 format -- is an interview of Olav Johansson of the Swedish neo-trad group Vasen that played at Bowdoin College a few weeks back by Green Man staffer Barb Truex. It's an eleven minute piece that you can download here.
Maria Nutick starts us off with an anthology that will make for perfect Samhain reading: October Dreams, originally published in 2000, recently re-printed by Roc. 'This is the time of year,' muses Maria, 'for extra blankets on the bed, a steaming mug of cocoa, and an excellent book. October Dreams more than qualifies.' Naturally, it contains a host of great stories -- both 'oldies-but-goodies' and some startling new pieces -- but these are also interspersed with interludes entitled 'My Favorite Halloween Memory,' in which various well-known authors recount their experiences, some humorous, some sad, and some, well, embroidered is the word Maria uses. She (and we) think you should go get this book!
Craig Clarke reviews a horror novel that will have you horror fans drooling. Craig says that Dan McFadden's Cheechako is '700 pages of addiction. Not only is it full of insightful prose about cravings (fed by the author's own struggles), but it is an addicting experience in its own right.' And if 700 pages won't quench your craving for horror, Craig also reviews a horror anthology, edited by Eric Protter, A Harvest of Horrors. Craig wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his thorough review of this anthology, which 'contains works by such great names as Roald Dahl, Robert Bloch, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, H.G. Wells, and H.P. Lovecraft.'
Michael M. Jones turns in three reviews this week. The first is of a first-time novel from Naomi Kritzer, Fires of the Faithful. Says Michael, '[a] strong undercurrent of theme revolves around magic and music, religion and music, magic and religion, intertwining the three to create a trinity of mysticism and belief.' He also reviews the newest in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, A Wizard Alone. He likes this book as much as the earlier ones in the series, saying, 'Ultimately, I will recommend this book, as I have the rest of the series. It's thought-provoking, intriguing, and its exploration of an autistic mind makes for some interesting storytelling.' But the most interesting review from Michael this time has to be his review of the White Wolf anthology Lucifer's Shadow, edited by Philippe Boule. Michael explores the intersection of White Wolf's role-playing games and the stories that either inspire or are inspired by them -- or both. Michael earns an Excellence in Writing Award for this fascinating review, and has promised to continue the topic of role-playing games as group storytelling in an upcoming Peregrine's Prerogative, so stay tuned!
Maria Nutick sent Grey Walker a book as a gift this week, a book that Grey liked so much that she read it and wrote a review of it in the same day! What's the book, you ask? Marianna Mayer's Women Warriors. Grey enthuses, 'These are women bared to their essence, without any extraneous ornament. The accounts of their actions strike deep into the heart, with no literary armour to slow their entry.'
A fine novel, Charles de Lint's The Little Country, in me hand, pint of Tar Du ale from the cask just tapped in me other hand... All set to settle in the overstuffed chair in me office to read for a while when a wee bugger from Cornwall by the name of Stephen ran off to play music this week, leavin' me, Jack Merry, as your last minute host this week for the CD reviews. Grumble... I'll get back to fiddler/piper Janey Little and her adventures later, but join me now by the fireplace in the the Green Man Pub and we'll talk of what our ever-so-talented reviewers found to write 'bout... But grab a pint of this most excellent ale first! Get comfy -- There's a lot to discuss!
Michael Cooney's Together Again CD is one that Judith Gennett found pleasing. She says it will 'will prove a fun and pleasant album for down-home devotees of North American music!' A bit o' folkish bubblegum music Love Letters got her ear too: 'Do you sing along with 60s Oldies in the car? Are you currently in love? If so, then the MacVitties have made a lovely album for you. From Connecticut, The MacVitties are father and son, Fred and Chris. As the story goes, 25 year old Chris grew up listening to all the great recordings of the Beatles, Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield. Then, living alone in the Australian Outback, he was inspired to take up the guitar and learn to sing and play. Now he sings harmony duos with his dad, who also grew up with this music, backed by a little acousticish band.'She wraps up her reviewing by looking the debut album from The Wailin' Jennys, a Canadian all-girl group: 'The six songs on this EP feature stark instrumentation, lovely solos and harmonies, several different folk-styles, and an underlying theme of sorrow and salvation.'
Stephen Hunt who, as I noted above, is off making music, left us a review of Cortanze Castle, the second CD from UK Celtic music adventurers Broderick. He opines: 'This is the second offering from this England based group. In his review of its predecessor, Kissing Fishes, Chuck Lipsig opined "... there's nothing bad. There just isn't any spark to make this group stand out." Does this provide that spark? And if so, what's changed? Read his review to see if they got any better!
Tom Russell's Museum of Memories: 1972-2002 is, according to David Kidney, 'not [his new] CD! Tom Russell wants that made very clear. He's working on the new one, and expects to have it ready in a few months, but this isn't it! This is a collection of recordings, taken from a vast horde of recordings, that was put together by one of Tom Russell's fans. The proceeds from its sale will go towards maintaining the Tom Russell Web site and towards the cost of newsletter and postcard mailings. So [this CD] is pretty much exactly what it claims to be. It's an 80 minute long, gallery tour of the work of one of the best dang songwriters working today!'
What happens when No'am Newman encounters great Jewish music? Well... Please, surely even you can guess the correct answer! If not, go read his review of RebbeSoul's Change The World With A Sound now! Oh, and No'am gets a very well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award!
Back already? I thought you'd gone off to grab a nibble from the smorgasbord in the Great Hall... And there I was readin' how Janey came to be a fiddler... So what's next? you ask? Nordic music -- one of me favourite genres...
Lenora Rose found a nifty Nordic CD in Sanna Kurki-Suonio's Musta release. Just savour the opening paragraph of her Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'The first song opens with a single slow wail, soon joined by low background humming Then the singer begins a clipped-syllable invocation of old Finnish Gods, joined by an insistent percussion. The chant builds up speed, as she calls the gods to bring a scouring wind, the pulse builds as the verses continue, until she breaks off into a trilling cry, and wordless voices add their force to the chant when she resumes. The effect is slow, subtle, quietly vicious, and worthy of a cry to the gods, raising the storms and driving away the devils.' Very nice!
Ahhh, Big Earl Sellar and fusion music. A winning combination? Not at all. Read his review of Kam Falk's Native Tongue CD to see why this is so. I really enjoyed his commentary and I expect everyone save the artist will do so. As for the artist...
Now there's the matter of German artist Wenzel and his music: 'Ever been confronted by music that you just can't put your finger on? Music that confounds as often as it impresses? Thats my take on these releases by German artist Wenzel. And as many times as I've played this live, double disc set Grünes Licht, or the promo for his upcoming Woody Guthrie album, I just can't make heads or tails of this fellow's music. Picture a mix of a cabaret crooner, a soft rock/pop singer, a folkie trying to make sense of the modern world, and Tom Waits, especially his more cryptic side. Thus is Wenzel. A former clown and stage entertainer, this multi-instrumentalist and singer presents such a very broad selection of musical styles -- some insightfully original and startlingly weird, others mainstream and hackneyed -- that I'm still not sure how to take his work.' Read the rest of his review to see if you too will be perplexed! Perplexing or not, Big Earl gets an Excellence in Writing Award!
A dose of ITM (Irish Traditional Music to you bleedin' punters) was what Pat Simmonds found in piano accordinists Alan and John Kelly's Four Mile House affair. It is, he says, ' a very pleasant listen and a great introduction to the music of the Kelly brothers, of whom you will be hearing a lot of in the years to come.'
Me friend, have you ever heard of Billy Pigg, the Northumbrian piper who was one reason Janey Little became a musician? No? Sigh... What about The High-Level Ranters? No? Damn. Kathryn Tickell? Corr, everyone knows that bonnie lassie with, errr, the great lungs, but the old ones get forgotten far too fast... Now go read Jo Morrison's review of his biography, A.D. Schofield and J. Say's Billy Pigg: The Border Minstrel. In that review, Jo also reviews The Rough Guide to English Roots Music which has music by Mr. Pigg on it.
Roots music is a favourite of Chris White, so it's not 'tall surprising that he liked Songcatcher II: 'When we look back a decade hence Songcatcher II may well be seen as an important part of the fuse that set off another folk explosion. If so, the fuse was lit by the films and soundtracks to Oh,Brother Where Art Thou and Songcatcher. The Coen brothers' Oh Brother phenomenon has blown new life into the corporate country's interest in it's bluegrass roots by grafting classical mythology onto an Appalachian base, while Songcatcher is an interesting, if flawed, enterprise that slips too often into a schizoid chasm between romance novel and feminist polemic. The music in both films, however, is mostly wonderful. In Songcatcher, certain songs were actually captured only as incomplete fragments, enough for the needs of the film but not sufficient for a proper recording. This compilation more than makes up for that lack of foresight.' Chris gets the final Excellence in Writing Award we bestow this week for CD reviewing!
Now go away, so I can back to The Little Country! Just run along to the Great Hall -- I'll be done in 'while to play tunes with me band, but I really, really do want to read a bit of this novel... Now what was Janey up to? Ahhhh, the sessuin at the Ramblin' House...
Our Green Man staffers were all over the map this week attending interesting live performances -- from Portland, Oregon to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (and a few points in between in Ontario, Canada).
Kim Bates went to the EP launch party for Atlas Stucco in Toronto. Kim says that 'Atlas ...is an engaging, charming performer, who... specializes in songs about misfit urban characters.' Kim thinks we'll definitely be hearing more from Atlas in the future. She also enjoyed the two opening acts, Mad Love, who are 'a trio of sisters --Audrey, Linda and Wanda van der Stoop -- who delivered some stunning harmonies and engaging songs in a light bluegrass style,' and Norm Dionne, who 'sings narrative songs with a strong clear voice.'
David Kidney thoroughly enjoyed the musical storytelling skills of Tom Russell with co-performer Andrew Hardin at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Ontario. David describes the evening as 'two and a half hours of some of the tastiest songs, guitar picking and singing you're ever likely to hear.' Russell's music is filled with 'Mexican banditos, and carpet salesmen,' and Hollywood stars -- surely an intriguing and unusual combination of characters.
Maria Nutick got two for the price of one when she saw Heather Alexander with Uffington Horse and Gaia Consort together in Portland, Oregon. Her review starts out with this intriguing sentence: 'Last night I saw a concert that could have been held as easily in Newford or Bordertown as in Portland, Oregon. Seattle band Gaia Consort and perennial modern folk favorite Heather Alexander with her Celtic trio Uffington Horse performed a rollicking and exuberant show worthy of any fey gathering on either side of the Faerie Border.' Now, if that isn't enough to tempt you to read it, I don't know what is! Mia racks up another Excellence in Writing Award for this one.
And finally, Gary Whitehouse spent a blissful 10 days (yes, I said 10 days!) attending Celtic Colours, where over 300 artists and their enthusiastic fans took over Cape Breton Island to enjoy all varieties of Celtic music. Gary gives us an overview impression of the festival in this review, with the promise of more in-depth reporting in future issues of Green Man Review. Gary says that Celtic Colours 'boasted a stellar lineup of talent. Given the length of the festival and the number of performances, it was perhaps physically possible but in actuality practically impossible to see every artist you wanted to encounter. You could kill yourself trying ... and it might not be a bad way to go.'
We've a delightful bevy of film and video reviews this edition. The prolific Craig Clarke offers us half the reviews, followed by two tasty music selections by David Kidney, and horrifyingly good reviews by Maria Nutick, our Assistant Video Editor, and Kimberlee Rettberg.
Craig Clarke covers five films and a thousand years, opening with a sharp, perceptive review of Biography of the Millennium, an A&E video from what Craig calls 'one of the few programs on television that has retained its integrity over its entire run'. Then he looks at Dead Ringers, a film that marks 'a turning point in (director) Cronenberg's career'. He wonders if the enthusiasm over The Others might have missed another haunting film, The Innocents. Then he conducts a fascinating investigation of a complex Sherlockian flick, The Seven Percent Solution, 'a fine Holmes pastiche'. Finally, he takes us to a place where things 'always seem to happen', namely the 'foggy moors' where sure enough we're likely to meet The Wolfman.
David Kidney spends a delightful Hard Day's Night with a stunning new DVD of the classic Beatles video. He also discovers J.J. Cale: The Lost Session, which features Cale, Leon Russell (it was his idea to record the program), and a bunch of Okey musicians having just that... a session. No MTV hype... here, David says, the focus is on the music. David takes two Excellence in Writing Awards for shimmering writing in each of these superbly crafted reviews.
Maria Nutick tells us what happens Near Dark and how a Western and vampire film coincide. If you see a camper coming, with tinfoil on the windows, you'll either want to run for your life or, if you're smokin', climb on board. The review will explain the rest. Mia receives an Excellence in Writing Award for a fastidiously competent review magniloquent with tantalizing prose.
Kimberlee Rettberg bites down hard on Bram Stoker's Dracula, the best part of which, she says, is the humanity of this Dracula and Dr. Van Helsing. A 'crucifix slinging posse', Wynona Ryder as two characters... sort of, and an amorous weremonkey that shares a passionate lusty moment with Lucy... you'll want to read Kimberlee's thorough review for a look at the monsters within.
Enough reviews for this outing... . Grey's urging us to return to the Great Hall, as Steve's going to to tell us a tale about three travelers who ended up here one All Hallows Eve regaling him with their story. Now let's listen in...
20th of October, 2002
'Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.' --from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King
It has been a happily busy week for me. I (Grey Walker, that is) have been sitting with my laptop, sometimes in The Green Man -- the pub on the ground floor of The Green Man Review office building -- sometimes in our break room, and sometimes in my office, overlooking the copse on the other side the culvert behind us, editing the reviews that have flooded in for this week's all-book edition. I've never been alone. In the pub, I've half-listened to the voices of fellow staff members as they argue idly about heather ale over a game of darts. And Cat Eldridge drifts by occasionally, pretending to be merely 'in the neighborhood' on his way between errands; what he really wants is to ask, 'How's the upcoming issue shaping up?' and to look over my shoulder at whatever review I'm currently editing. There's a reason his name is Cat!
At the present, I've stopped for a quiet moment of reflection. Tim Hoke just poked his head into the break room to let us know that Derek Bell of The Chieftains has died. 'Lament for Sweet Music Gone,' from Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne, is running through my mind.
Now, lest you all think I've spent too much time online, let me reassure you that I'm well aware that the Green Man 'break room' is really an Internet mailing list. My office is really a crowded little room off of my kitchen here in Colorado Springs, and Cat has really been checking in by e-mail and sneaking peeks at the reviews as I've uploaded them to our server for proofing. 'Lament for Sweet Music Gone' isn't even a 'real' song -- Kay only includes the song's title in his book, with no music or lyrics.
But that's the point of this whole issue. Written words have the power to lead us to other places, if we suspend our disbelief and let our minds follow them. I've been following Frodo to Elvenhome for most of my life, simply by reading the few sentences I've chosen to quote at the top of this page. I'm certain that many of you have, as well.
So let us, the staff of Green Man Review, entertain and perhaps enlighten you with words here for a while. Let Stephen Hunt pour you a proper stout, while you imagine that Tolkien is writing his letters to you. Share Paul M. Gifford's obsession for hammered dulcimers (if only for the few minutes it takes you to read David Kidney's review), and hear the strains of a hurdy gurdy floating up from our Great Hall.
Our first featured review for this week demonstrates clearly how the "omnibus" review -- a review that covers more than one work -- has become a unique forte for GMR. Michelle Erica Green reviews a film and and five novels about the legendary Evita. In her review, Michelle also draws on seven biographies and two other films to fully explore the mythos of Eva Peron, which, begun during her lifetime, has continued in popular folklore long past her death. Naturally, Michelle wins an Excellence in Writing Award for one of the most interesting reviews in this issue.
In addition to her Evita omnibus review, Michelle Erica Green reviews a book that takes an iconoclastic look at another legendary icon, the Holy Grail. In her novel, The Black Chalice, Marie Jakober writes about 'the Grail of Life not from Arthurian lore, a symbol of a remote deity in heaven, but from pagan myths where the gods reside on Earth.' Jason Erik Lundberg brings us a review of White Apples, a new novel by Jonathan Carroll, who is 'a little piece of magic, telling us stories that were somehow always there, buried in our group subconscious. Heís the big brother at the campfire, scaring us and exciting us at the same time.' Patrick O'Donnell ably fills a gaping hole in our reviews by taking on Marion Zimmer Bradley's famed Darkover series. Patrick's review covers the novels Stormqueen!, Hawkmistress!, The Heritage of Hastur and Sharra's Exile, re-released this year by Daw in the collections The Ages of Chaos and Heritage and Exile. Read Patrick's thorough review to discover, or re-discover, these fantasy classics for yourself. Another set of fantasy classics we're delighted to have reviewed are Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker. This series currently contains five novels, entitled Seventh Son, Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman and Heartfire. Tim Hoke, our reviewer, says in his introduction, 'Tradition has long ascribed special abilities to a man born the seventh son of a seventh son -- powers such as prescience, dowsing, and bloodstopping.' Read the rest of Tim's review of this series, which combines folklore, fantasy, and interesting alternate history.
And then read Grey Walker's review of a first novel on the cutting edge of what we might call 'fabulist fiction.' The novel is The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold by Kate Bernheimer, and it was recently named a finalist in the Oregon Book Awards. 'Like Ursula Le Guin does in Searoad (and in any number of short stories),' Grey says, 'Bernheimer holds myths and fairy tales up in front of Ketzia's experiences one at a time, like shards of old, brilliantly-colored stained glass. Squinting through them, we, the readers, see something altogether rich and strange.'
We've also got a book for you here that has been marketed as a children's book, although the reviewer insists that adults will want to read it, too. Robert Wiersema says, 'With the wry worldliness of Tom Sawyer, the sly surrealism of Dr. Seuss and the rhythmic narrative quality and matter-of-factness of P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother?, Neil Gaiman's The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish is simply a treat.' So is Robert's review, which earns him an Excellence in Writing Award (and be sure to pick up Gaiman's latest, Two Plays for Voices, which has been released in the U.S. this week).
Did you know that Tolkien discussed The Lord of the Rings in detail with several people over the years he was writing it, or that there was a real Sam Gamgee? In The Letters of Tolkien, you can find out all these things and more. Jack Merry, who reviews this trove for us, says, 'It should be required reading for every serious Tolkien fan with questions about his mythopoeic undertaking.' Jack also sat down with a visiting reader this week and talked about his favorite fantasy reference books. Maggie Pye happened to record the conversation on the library CD burner, Liath transcribed it, and we've got it for you, dear readers -- yes, a live review of seven fantasy reference books by Merry Jack Fiddler! Even though Jack didn't technically 'write' this review, we're still giving him an Excellence in Writing Award for his well-expressed and helpful opinions.
For those of you who know nothing -- or everything -- about Frank Zappa, there's a biography out that will tell you something new, Kevin Courrier's Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa. In his excellent review of the book, David Kidney says, 'Zappa was a severe critic of modern life. He hated the hippie ethos as much as he hated middle class conformity. He felt people should be themselves, make their own decisions, live with their own mistakes. He was opposed to drugs and alcohol, because he felt music could alter the mind far more effectively. He was perhaps America's foremost political and social critic for a couple of decades, but he wasn't taken seriously by many because of the way he looked, or the humor he brought to his critiques.' Obviously someone worth writing, and reading, about.
But then, if you prefer reading about musical instruments to reading about people (and we know who you are...), here are two reviews for you! David Kidney switches from a biography of Zappa to a biography of the hammered dulcimer. Apparently, the two are very much alike. In his review of Paul M. Gifford's The Hammered Dulcimer: A History, David says, 'It [the dulcimer] has courses of string, and looks almost like an exploded piano, or an autoharp on steroids, played with little drumsticks!' Am I the only one who sees the similarity? Zappa, hammered dulcimer, twins separated at birth? Oh, never mind! Just read David's reviews, both of 'em. And read Jack Merry's hurdy gurdy omnibus review, too. The Hurdy Gurdy in Eighteenth Century France is Robert Green's loving (and exhaustive) tribute to an instrument that is not the one played by the fellows with little monkeys, contrary to mistaken belief. Blowzabella's Encyclopedia Blowzabellica contains more information on hurdy gurdies and a section of tunes for the player and enthusiast.
Well, I'm off, then. But lest you think that this has all been merely a web of words, let me just say that The Green Man pub does exist. Really. Truly. I'm heading there now, to lift a bottle of mead in a toast to Derek Bell. Go gentle, Derek. We'll miss you.
13th of October, 2002
'In West Clare you can see the fiddle music, you can stand looking over a stone wall into a poor little field and it is there as plain as day. I saw concertina music on the square in Kilrush in 1964 and the vision never left me. Coming up from the White Strand in Milltown Malbay I met chanter music, and on the windswept Hill of Tulla (East Clare) I met the man that wrote Spancilhill.... I have seen it in Ahascragh too, and above in Ardara and you can plainly see the flute music in Fisher Street. You'd always have a better chance of glimpsing it around stony half acres, but seldom if ever on the ranches brimming with sleek shiny bullocks full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Show me a scrawny auld heifer unable for a bull and I'll show you a slow air with a slip jig traipsing after it.' -- Christy Moore's One Voice - my life in song
Welcome friends, to another edition of Green Man Review. This week it's the very pleasant duty of myself, Stephen Hunt, to share a few personal musings about what it is that we think, feel and do here. Reading Christy's quote about his encounters with 'visible' music led me to ponder how much of the language and imagery that we use here is, itself, inherently musical. The words of a poet or novelist may 'resonate' from the page for us and 'strike a chord.' If the disparate elements of a film combine 'harmoniously' then we're 'dancing in the aisles' of the movie theatre. When we want to praise a colleague for a particular review (as we frequently do), our usual form of expression is to simply say 'you rock!'
For me, music is the heartbeat of Green Man. Not just the (often wonderful) music that comes from our CD or concert reviews, but that underlying, ever-present (and, like Christy says), sometimes visible music that is our collective pulse. Many of the artists that we've reviewed here have recognised and reached towards it, naming it in their own ways. For Charles de Lint, it's 'the lost music,' for Cathie Ryan, 'the music of what happens,' and for Fairport Convention 'the rhythm of the time.' Robin Williamson simply called it 'the oldest music of all,' and found it where 'above and below all weir the Green Man makes his play.'
Hey, is that someone playing a flute somewhere down the hall?... No, apparently it was just Liath, singing softly as she walks up the stone staircase...
David Kidney says 'Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian institution... I grew up listening to Lightfoot. He's one of the main reasons I took up the guitar.' He also says that Songbook 'is a model box-set.' David's Excellence in Writing Award winning appreciation of this influential artists 4-CD career retrospective collection is a 'must read' review
What's it like for a singer who suffered from hysterical dysphonia for many years, the ex-wife of critics' darling (and focus of obsessive fans) Richard Thompson, to mount her own comeback tour (with several of the joint Thompson offspring in the band)? Gary Whitehouse attended Linda Thompson's first show of the tour (her first tour since 1982!) and happily reports that although 'It's a fine wire Linda Thompson is walking...she trod that wire confidently and expertly.' Gary garners another Excellence in Writing Award for his extensive collection as he describes how Linda drew from her latest CD, Fashionably Late, her ex-husband's songs, and her own compositions to provide an evening of 'engaging music' to her audience.
Craig Clarke reviews a trio of singer songwriter CD's this week. Of Paula Eve Kirman's Today I Lit a Candle. Craig says 'it pains me to say this, but this CD screams 'amateur.' Nonetheless, our reviewer is quick to point out the 'one ingredient that threads across the album and keeps this from being a total waste of plastic...There is heart in this record.' Bones, the latest from Heather Shayne Blakeslee, is described as 'an album by a woman who knows exactly what she is doing.' It also contains what Craig describes as 'possibly the saddest song I've ever listened to.' Tim Grimm, is an artist who describes himself as a 'singer-songwriter, actor, hay-farmer.' Our reviewer declares of Heart Land that 'this is easily the best album I've heard all year.' Read his fascinating review to find out why.
Richard Condon says that Trah Njim by Troissoeur, 'is by far the strangest recording that I have ever been asked to review.... but if any readers are feeling adventurous I recommend this curious recording to them.' I'd recommend that everyone reads this Excellence in Writing Award winning review, whether they're feeling adventurous or not!
Judith Gennett informs us that 'EJ Jones is known for playing highland pipes in the Houston Celtic band, Clandestine.' Judith's knowledge of, and passion for US Celtic music is immense, so when she asserts that Jones solo album The Willow' is at the least a national-class recording,' I'd trust her judgement and head straight for the rest of her review. Si Kahn is (as Judith observes) 'one of the grand old boys of folk song writing.' Threads is a themed CD 'centering on cotton workers.. from the picking to the sewing, from the days of slavery to the days of designer jeans. It's an interesting album.' Two more 'grand old boys,' Tom Paxton and Eric Bogle also have their new CD's reviewed by Judith, who wins an Excellence in Writing Award as she notes that Looking For the Moon and The Colour Of Dreams 'are two new CDs from veteran folk musicians and writers who've been through a lot of life.' As our resident Scots music specialist, Judith found Tickettyboo by Maire MacInnes to be, well, tickettyboo! It's her opinion that 'Gaelic singing is amongst the earth's most beautiful music, and MacInnes has one of the prettiest voices of today's singers.' For her final review this week, Ms. Gennett takes a dip into a CD entitled Black Sea. The musicians responsible for this album are Balkanarama, a group that 'plays Eastern European party music the way it's meant to be played: late at night in crowded rooms, with an intensity fuelled by equal parts of passion and rakija.'
Tim Hoke reviews three CD's by Four Shillings Short, Kelptic OddYaSee, The Boggy Spew, and Of Labor And Love. Tim says 'Four Shillings Short are truly itinerant musicians ('You've heard of people who smoke other people's cigarettes? Well, we live in other people's houses!'), constantly on the move. Unless you're a permanent resident of one of those houses, reading Tim's review represents your best chance of discovering this band right now!
Stephen Hunt reviews two CD's by emerging Australian traditionalists Ruth Hazleton & Kate Burke: A Thousand Miles or More and Swapping Seasons both sufficiently impressed Stephen for him to opine that 'they've certainly got the right combination of talent, modest charm and youthful determination to succeed.'
An enduring musical hero of David Kidney is Blondie Chaplin. The name will be unfamiliar to many, but that's no reason to skip this review! David's provided us with a superb career appraisal of the man through five landmark albums: The Flames' The Best of the Flames, and The Flame, Blondie Chaplin's Blondie Chaplin and Fragile Thread, and Skollie's Ostrich Man. David says 'Blondie Chaplin has always been one of those special people. The Beach Boys knew it. Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson knew it. Mick 'n' Keith know it!'
No'am Newman confesses 'I was completely unprepared for Mike Asquino's disc!' His initial expectation that She Believes In Me would prove a sparse, acoustic and dour album were confounded by 'its cheerful and unpretentious sound ... reminiscent of early 70s pop.'
Maria Nutick has, once again, unearthed a real surprise package for us. This time it comes in the form of a collaboration between Early Music group Rondellus and producer Mihkel Raud. Sabbatum is an album conceived and performed 'as though Black Sabbath had been formed and the music written in the 14th century.' Far from being a mere 'novelty' record, Maria declares this collection of the Metal Monsters finest (in Latin) to be 'a rich, lush treat, a tasty mix of the best and sweetest of both worlds.' (While Maria points out that 'it's obvious that this is not your daddy's Black Sabbath,' this particular 'daddy' would love to see the 14th Century Latin approach extended to 'The Osbournes' TV show. Teenagers shrieking 'coitus infernus, Pater!' could be an entertaining improvement.... Beard & Sandals by the artist known only as Nurudin proved to be a less enjoyable experience for Maria. Still, any artist who attempts to reflect 'a contemporary view of the Isle of Skye' in a CD 'composed of synthesizers and weird noises' has got to be worth listening to once.... right? Maria says that 'Beard & Sandals is an...interesting experience.' Whatever the merits of the CD, Maria's review is typically compulsive.
Chris Woods has been thinking along similar lines to No'am this week. He reveals that Fran Gray's Singular Intent 'with it's self penned compositions, dark moody blue and purple artwork had me a little worried. But hey! What do you know? It's actually extremely good.'
Some of us tend to get stuck in musical ruts, listening to (or going to see) artists who play the types of music with which we are already familiar. Luckily for us, Maria Nutick (and her other half, Ryan, who has recently joined us at GMR) don't have any such limitations. Mia is well known for writing gig reviews that put you in the seat next to her, and she does not disappoint this time. Mia and Ryan decided to check out the music of Szászcsávás, Gypsy musicians from Transylvania whose mastery of Hungarian, Romanian and Gypsy music made her abandon her usual practice of 'try[ing] to take notes when I'm attending a gig for review...halfway through the first set I stuffed my notepad and pen into my bag and left them there for the remainder of the night. I was having too much fun to bother...', at St. John's Pub in Portland, OR. 'Listen' along with Mia, whose way with words gets you a ticket to the gigs she attends, and garners her another Excellence in Writing Award.
I've got to go to the break room now and see if there's any of Mia Nutick's famous applesauce cake with lemon frosting left. I need the cake as a bargaining tool if I'm ever to regain control of the office CD player from Maggie Pye. Our feathered friend has recently developed a fixation with the works of Scots groups Silly Wizard and The Tannahill Weavers. She's currently flapping about the place demonstrating the corvid approach to reels and strathspeys - it's a wildly impressive sight!
Incidentally, Cat's made it policy that the CD player's unplugged during editorial team meetings. Last week his query of 'any other business?' was answered by a deafening 'Are Ye Sleeping Maggie?' from the speakers, accompanied by squawks and cackles from the rafters...
6th of October, 2002
'The fiddle chased him and pounced, and then the two instruments rolled around like a pair of kittens playing with a catnip mouse. A flute joined in, and the ball of fur turned into rambunctious reel, one Brian had never heard before. And then the deep booming of the drum nipped one of them on the tail, and it leaped up and turned a backflip before diving back into the music.' -- James Hetley's The Summer Country
Once upon a time there was an old maid in a garret ... Oops, that's the wrong tale ... hmmm ... and the woodcutter's son and the princess were married, of course. They had a huge wedding. I was invited, and I told the best story that I've ever told. As gift, they gave me a pair of shoes, made of cheese, and a pair of stockings made of sweet cream. On my way home, I was set upon by mice, who ate the shoes, and by cats, who lapped up the stockings, and so I returned home with nothing, except this story... No, that's the ending to another story, the one Tadhg, our seannachie, was telling... Now where were we?
Ahhh, that was where I was. The Summer Country. I ended up reading this novel, which arrived in the weekly shipment from Penguin Putnam, because Charles de Lint wrote one of the coolest recommendations I've ever encountered. Would I have read this novel of Celtic music, the fey, and the Summer Country without his thumbs up? Quite possibly.. But his words convinced me to read it now. Here's what he says: 'You don't find many books like this, never mind first novels. Hetley's The Summer Country is like an old Irish whiskey -- dark and smoky, abounding in flavor and detail. For the jaded reader of Celtic fantasies such as I've become, bone-weary of all the pale and limpid novels that try to pass themselves off as the real thing, it's such a treat to find a book as strong as this. The Summer Country is all the things a good novel should be: a tightly-written, resonant, single-volume story rich with flawed characters, dark visions, and quiet joys, with a whisper of true mystery, lying there in wait at the very heart of it all.' Now that's an amazing recommendation! And you can read Michael Jones' review of The Summer Country below!
We saw Vasen, a trio of talented Swedish musicians, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, a few nights back. A crowd of some two hundred strong were treated to several hours of superb Nyckelharpa centered Nordic traditional music. Barb Truex, a local musician who's the wife of Chris White, will be writing a review for us of this concert shortly. In addition, she interviewed the band and we'll putting up that ten minute interview in MP3 format.
A public service announcement before we turn to the reviews: Naomi de Bruyn, a Green Man alumna, has set up her own review site. I'll let her tell you about it: 'Linear Reflections is a totally cool review e-zine that offers a venue for artists to gain additional exposure for their work through eclectic, intelligent and honest reviews. Our zine reviews everything from art to music to books to movies to games -- with a smattering of live events and interviews to round things off. Our site uses State-of-the-Art database publishing technology to deliver reviews at blazing speed, and our site's design is easy-on-the-eyes, as well as being quick and easy to navigate. Try us out -- we're sure you'll come back for more!'
Liz Milner modestly says of her review of Tom Shippey's Tolkien: Author of the Century, 'I think I missed the forest for the trees. But what trees!' We think that Liz missed nothing, and I mean nothing. In fact, one of our editors remarked to another as we were uploading the review that we thought Liz ought to get an Excellence in Writing Award squared. This is the sort of review GMR is proud to offer you.
Rachel Manija Brown came across something this week that she likes so much that she sent in a review on the spot. It's an audio version of The Lord of the Rings, unabridged, read by Rob Inglis. 'Even if you've read the books many times yourself, hearing them aloud is different,' Rachel says. 'You are forced to listen to passages you might have otherwise skipped or hurried over, and many of them yield up unexpected treasures, a turn of phrase or simile that you never noticed before. We can never again read them for the first time; but this is the next best thing.'
Michael M. Jones brings us two timely reviews this week. The first is the one Cat already mentioned, a review of James A Hetley's The Summer Country. Michael says, 'Part of The Summer Country's strength is that it can take the Fae back to their purest, scariest incarnations and still make them viable point-of-view characters.' With that endorsement, along with Charles de Lint's fantastic jacket blurb, is there any doubt you'll want to read this book? We thought not. Michael's second review is of the latest in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, Summer Knight. Those of you who are already avid followers of the series will hardly need Michael to tell you to go buy this one, but you'll want to read his review anyway, to exult with him over the latest delicious installment. And those of you who haven't read anything by Butcher yet? 'The Dresden Files is one of the best urban fantasy series out there,' says Michael, 'and if you haven't tried it yet, I highly urge you to give it a shot. It combines the best aspects of fantasy, magic realism, and noir sensibility ... as if Emma Bull and Ross McDonald had produced an illegitimate love child, and appointed Charles de Lint as his godfather.' Good enough for you? We thought so, too!
Jack Merry invites you in out of the cold and wet for a chat about Beowulf this week. More specifically, the Beowulf recently re-translated by Seamus Heaney. Jack agrees with Grey Walker about this translation, but for different reasons (don't remember what Grey said? Go here). This being GMR, there is no such thing as too many opinions about Beowulf, and we're delighted to add Jack's to our roster. Check it out, and have some smoked salmon while you're at it.
Stephen Hunt here, introducing you to this week's bumper crop of CD reviews.
Music Editor Kim Bates has an Excellence in Writing Award winning review of Great Big Sea's, Sea of No Cares. After listening to this disc several times, Kim is 'struck by a question.' Whether or not you're a fan of Great Big Sea, this review should be read by anyone who cares even remotely about folk music. Kim cares passionately.
An artist with a compilation reviewed this week is Scotsman Dick Gaughan (in my humble opinion the 'Elvis'of British folk singers). His double CD career retrospective Prentice Piece is reviewed by the prolific Judith Gennett who's known round these parts as a connoisseur of Caledonian culture. Judith notes that 'all the traditional tracks are good, because all Gaughan has to do is open his mouth, and his wonderful voice brings life to a song.' Judith also reviews two Canadian releases for us. Agnes on the Cowcatcher is the latest from Tanglefoot, a band who Judith says aim to 'present history in a more interesting way to students.' The Bill Hilly Band's All Every Day is described as a 'charming Pacific mix of CanAmerican traditional, bluegrass, Euroethnic and cabaret.' Intriguing, huh?
I'll confess that I'd never heard of Tennessee song-smith David Massengill before reviewing My Home Must Be a Special Place. Having listened to this album, I had no hesitation in proclaiming it to be 'one of the best CDs that I've heard all year.' Independent, self-released CDs are often something of a mixed blessing. I've added my 'two pennyworths to the debate with a look at three very different releases. Full Sail -inside the Lid is a collection of sea songs from maritime musicologist Gordon Morris, The Last Druids is composed, electronic music and Ripe and Bearded is a collection of songs from harmony trio Hunters Moon.
Who's that hopping around in ever decreasing circles over there? It must be Michael Hunter still listening to Notes of Being by Aussie folk-rockers Spiral Dance. This, according to Michael is 'quite possibly the best yet,' from the band, ' melodic, well arranged and frankly damn catchy!' Mind the dresser there, Michael!
Our new Assistant Music Review Editor, David Kidney, says 'I have admired and listened to Jesse Winchester for 30 years.' His Excellence in Writing Award winning review covers no less than fifteen albums! Somehow David's achieved the quite astounding feat of condensing three decades worth of insightful expertise into something concise and readable. Yours, for nothing more than a simple click. David also reviews a live Nanci Griffith CD and reckons Winter Marquee to be 'a wonderfully recorded remembrance of a beautifully played concert.'
Peter Massey offers a review of Ireland a Troubled Romance from a band with the name Henry Marten's Ghost. While this CD contains mostly 'familiar Irish ballads,' Peter assures us that 'what the album lacks in new or unusual material, it makes up for in listening pleasure.' Peter was provided with more listening pleasure by contradancers Scrod Pudding, and their CD Food For Your Feet. The music on this CD sounds much tastier and more appealing than the eponymous pudding - fish custard? Blech... (Jack here. A Cornwallian complaining about fish custard? Ask him 'bout Stargazy Pie! All those eyes gazing up at you as you eat... Shudder!)
Lars Nilsson was given the very pleasant task of reviewing a compilation CD from those singing English fiddlers, Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr. On Reflection This CD, says Lars, 'shows how well a fiddle or two can be used for accompanying songs.'
A new CD from veteran 'Noo Awlins,' piano-pounder Dr John is always a welcome treat for Patrick O'Donnell. Patrick states of Creole Moon 'anyone with half a brain who listens to him will tell you he's damn good at what he does.'
Master Reviewer Big Earl Sellar is renowned as an independent thinker, so it's perhaps no surprise to find him championing the cause of independent music. The act that's grabbed his attention is New York State reggae band The Uplifters with their CD Burning Bush. Believe him when he says 'I'd trade a hundred of your corporate pop icons and tired relics for one decent band like The Uplifters.' I'll follow that by stating that I'd trade a hundred bland fanzine scribblers and toadying, press pack re-hashers for one decent reviewer like Big Earl! Here at Green Man we're lucky to have a whole team of great writers, the proof's here in these pages. Enjoy them - and happy listening! Big Earl gets an Excellence in Writing Award for this well-crafted review.
The very talented Rachel Manija Brown popped into our staff lounge for a piece of Grey's famous kugel and ended up armwrestling Maria for the rights to review the newest U. S. release of a Hayao Miyazaki film. She won, and so do you dear readers, with this delightful review of Spirited Away. Her description of this 'exquisitely detailed, painterly film' in which 'a helpless and helpful spirit may turn out to be a devouring monster, and a devouring monster may turn out to be a lonely, hungry spirit' should have you rushing to the theater to see this exciting new movie. Spirited Away opened in limited release but expands to a wider audience this weekend. What are you waiting for? G'wan, read her wonderful review!
Have I mentioned our cats lately? One of the joys of having a three story house is, along with having a library that's the whole third floor, lots of room for feline companions. The eight inside-only ones are Herne the Hunter, Beltaine, Thomas O'Bedlam, who was rescued on a cold winter's day a few hours short of freezing to death, Mabinogion, a very small black cat who was also rescued from the street, Pendragon, who's a gray male who replaced the gray male who ran away, Brigid, a patchwork tabby who knows she's a goddess, Fergus MacDonald, a no tail orange and white -- think red-headed boy -- and Sheela Na Gig, our Samhain cat. All eight of them are here in the living room as I write these notes. It's crowded but charming... And when I return to the couch to finish reading The Summer Country, I'm sure I'll have a few cats join me there!
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Updated, 3 November 2002, 18:04 GMT (JM)
Entire Contents Copyright 2002, The Green Man Review. All Rights Reserved.