24th of November 2002
You can throw away the privilege of acting, but that would be such a shame. The tribe has elected you to tell its story. You are the shaman/healer, that's what the storyteller is, and I think it's important for actors to appreciate that. Too often actors think it's all about them, when in reality it's all about the audience being able to recognize themselves in you. The more you pull away from the public, the less power you have on screen.' -- Ben Kingsley
You saw rodents of unusual size? Where? In the Great Hall? No, you weren't imagining it -- they really are just large rodents. Those are the rat fiddlers from the Gulow ha Tewldar Band. They play mainly in London Below stations. What they were before they became rats is a tale known only to themselves -- and whoever transformed them is something even S. Morgenstern doesn't know. All I know is that they are some of the best dance music fiddlers I've ever had the pleasure to hear, and that they'll be playing the music for a theatre performance in the Great Hall later this week. So let's take them tankards of Dragons Breath Stout to wet their whistles. And indeed they do like cheese, so grab a quarter wheel of that Caerphilly from the kitchen for them to nibble on...
Now that we've sated the rats, shall we head to the Green Man pub to taste a flagon of Creemore Urbock? It's on tap for a few months only! It's a seasonal, non-pasteurized beer from Creemore Springs Brewery, one of Ontario's best. And it comes in pint bottles (when not on tap). Bjorn, our brewmaster, claims it's on tap in all the finest pubs. But our seannachie, Tadhg, says that Bjorn is prone to stretching the truth to fit the tale. Just ask Bjorn about the rats...
But let's turn to the new edition. Please note that Grey Walker, our Book Editor, and Liath o Laighin are at a conference in Alexandria, Egypt, where Grey's loading up on Middle Eastern children's literature. Liath is simply hanging out in the souk, where she's trading for interesting objects (and no, she's not using any glamour to get better deals!). What that means is that there will no book reviews this edition. You could delve into the reviews of the thousands of novels, anthologies, collections, chapbooks, and so forth that we've already commented upon!
And be sure to take a look at the Letters of Comment page. We've received some new letters, including thanks from Ellen Kushner and Charles de Lint and an inquiry as to the exact location of GMR's offices. (Jack here. The 'answer' our Editor-in-Chief gave to this letter of inquiry may or may not be true. I know that I'm real, and so's the office!)
Jack Merry here. We've got a lot of CDs reviewed this outing, so let's started!
A number of Green Man reviewers wanted very much to review Rise Above, the new Oysterband CD, but Vonnie Cartes-Powell got the honours. How good is this one? Let's hear her rave about it: 'Get your head up, gonna rise above!' The title song of Rise Above would make an Oysterband fan of me, even if I'd never heard another song by the British folk-rockers. It isn't the sound that first entranced me, but if I heard this on the radio, I'd be raving about them in a minute. In the past, the Oysterband has given me everything I want from music: a sinewy strength, musical roots and simplicity; sheer skill with instruments and words; a beat that I can dance and stomp and rejoice with; and idealism based on a lot of love for people --without getting pretentious. This album continues in the same vein.'
Judith Gennett likes Balkan dance music, she does. So she found Adam Good's Dances of Macedonia and the Balkans to be quite tasty: 'Good is good at what he does, playing quick dance tunes on tambura with an intricate style -- the music goes well with wine. Dances is a sure bet for Balkan dancers out for a light, rapid chochek, or for Markos Vamvakaris or Andy Irvine enthusiasts, or anyone else, for that matter, who wants to hear good music in uneven meter!' Canadian singer-songwriter music also delights Judith, and her review of Aengus Finnan's North Wind reflects that. 'North Wind is Canadian singer/songwriter Aengus Finnan's second album, after Fool's Gold... It is an album that you play through just once and say, 'Wow!'' A Texas CD, Jed Marum's The Soul Of A Wanderer, gets her approval, too. 'Like many of the artists we review, Marum has released a potpourri folk album containing what just have to be many of his favorite songs. Described as 'a collection of American, Irish, and Scottish stories,' most are covers, some are Celtic, most are American. Others he has written himself. You can hear the folk in the Celtic and the Celtic in the folk, resulting in a consistent style.' Another CD that our Judith listened to, Abdul Tee-Jay's Rokoto Make Me Dance-Dance, is a foot-tapping experience. 'Imagine yourself stopped by a highway patrolman for weaving all over the highway. 'No, officer, I'm not drunk! Rokoto Make Me Dance-Dance!' That is likely what you will be doing if you listen to Abdul Tee-Jay in your highway ship, dancing all over the highway! So beware!' Not content to have caused Mr. State Trooper to wake up from his nap along the New Jersey Turnpike, J. wraps up her reviewing with a look at three CDs by female artists: Diane Zeigler's Paintbrush, Karen Mal's Mercury's Wings and Louise Peacock's 10 Weezy Pieces. Read her insightful review for all the juicy details!
Peter Hund looks at Burrito Deluxe's Georgia Peach. There's mention of Gumby, Star Wars, and country rock in his review, so go read it now!
Stephen Hunt is off making music this weekend, but he left us a review of two CDs, Phonix's Pigen & Drengen and Instinkt's Hur!. He notes approvingly, 'These two superb, yet contrasting releases hail from Denmark. Phonix are the more overtly 'trad' of the two acts, with a largely song-based repertoire. Of the fourteen tracks on this CD, ten are songs, all of which have traditional lyrics. The music is mostly based in the tradition, but adapted and arranged by the musicians who comprise Phonix.'
We here at Green Man really, really love omnibuses, as they are the best way to profile multiple CDs by the same artist. Which is why the comprehensive look by David Kidney at Ian Thomas's looking back and these CDs by the Boomers: What We Do, Art of Living, 25 thousand days, and midway wins an Excellence in Writing Award. David says that this band is 'a force to be reckoned with.' Now go read his review to see why! David also reviewed Norm Hacking & Kirk Elliott's Orange Cats (make the very best friends). 'Norm Hacking has been reviewed in these pages before. He is a big guy, with a big beard, and a big heart. People like him. He plays acoustic guitar and writes some of the best songs you're ever likely to hear. This time he has provided us with something you don't see much anymore... a concept album!' Really? Truly?
It's no surprise that I (Jack Merry) love dance music of any kind, and this week you'll find me reveling in Nordic dance music as I look at six CDs: Faerd by Ian Carr, Karen Tweed, and friends; Harv's Tost; iHoydolum, Rekavidur /Hinumegin, and Unaftur by Faroese band Spaelimenninir; and Bukkene Bruse's The Loveliest Rose. Me assessment? If I had to choose -- which I don't! -- I'd be goin' with Færd and all three of the Spaelimennninir as must-haves. Harv's Tost is fun, but a bit too much like much of the new Nordic music to be completely something I'd spend me pennies on. And I can't quite get meself to really, really like Bukkene Bruse's The Loveliest Rose. But that's just me opinion -- You may well like 'em all.
No'am Newman wasn't expectin' much of anythin' from the Ray Mason Band's Three Dollar Man, so he was pleasantly surprised. 'I normally don't have that much time for 'hard working' rock bands, but I took some time out to listen to this disc, and discovered that Ray and his band are firmly entrenched on the melodic side of the rock spectrum and are well worth a listen. The worst thing that I can write about this disc is that it is too short! Ten songs, yet a total playing time of twenty seven minutes, due to the total lack of soloing, and concentration on the melodic possibilities of each song.'
Patrick O'Donnell found John Davis' Dreams of the Lost Tribe to be bloody good. 'It's a rare thing to be surprised by a CD. It's rarer still for that surprise to be pleasant. So you can imagine my ... err ... surprise when I was surprised at the originality, humor and talent in singer-songwriter John Davis' debut album, Dreams of the Lost Tribe.' The Rough Guide to the Music of Louisiana also gets a mostly enthusiastic review from this reviewer. 'Years ago I was at a blues festival that illustrated the true meaning of the word 'diverse.' There were roots performers, gospel groups, and acts doing Chicago, Texas, New Orleans and contemporary-style blues. I picked up a compilation CD that day, touted as a 'blues introduction,' that included a number of these styles and more. It was as much a blast to listen to as it was a lesson in musical styles, and I still slip it into my personal playlist today. The Rough Guide to the Music of Louisiana is a bit like that CD I bought so long ago. Chock full of musical goodness, it's like a gumbo -- there's so many tasty flavors it's hard not to want more.'
John O'Regan received a bonnie bunch of Celtic CDs to review (Eileen Laverty's Dancing with Angels, The Celtic Tenors' So Strong, Daughter of Avalon, Neil Adam & Judy Turner's The Keys to the Field, Anam Cara's Where the sea meets the sky, Appalachian Celtic Consort's St. Andrews Day Celebration, and Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club & Friends' Reel Cool). One might expect there'd be a bummer or two in the lot. There wasn't. Really. Truly. He liked all of them! You'd better read his review to see why!
Chris White, who, rumour has it, is celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving in the house that Barb Truex and he recently purchased, reviews several CDs this edition, the first of which is Sara K's Water Falls. Chris says, 'I suspect Water Falls, Sara K's newest album, will soon be a staple on plenty of AAA format radio stations. It could also turn up on certain jazz and NPR stations, the latter more likely late at night or during pledge drives. Would that music like this might also find itself in heavy rotation on MTV. I know AAA doesn't have a stellar reputation in certain circles (and there are good reasons for skepticism) but Sara K's Water Falls is a fine example of the better attributes inherent in Adult Alternative Album music.' His other review's of Steppin' In It's Last Winter in the Copper Country, a bluegrassy sort of CD. Was it a kick-arse CD? Oh, yes. 'Last Winter in the Copper Country feels like a great live gig in some sitcom pub, minus the cigarette smoke and hangover.'
Joan Baez is one of the favourite artists of Gary Whitehouse, so it's not 'tall a surprise that he likes In Concert and In Concert 2 from her. 'These two live albums are, perhaps even more so than Baez's first two studio releases, important historic and artistic documents of a major voice at a crucial moment in the 20th century in America.'
Michelle Erica Green needs some Viggo. And if necessary, she's willing to take some Walken along with it. Read her review of The Prophecy to find out why she says, 'No one will ever mistake The Prophecy for a great movie, yet it's intriguing, funny and surprisingly classy.'
I'm off to see how the preparations are coming for the mummers play, All Silver and No Brass, that Chy Spriggan (Cornish for 'Shifter-Beast House'), our resident theatre group, is performing this season. Come back in two weeks for all the details, as the Green Man offices will be closed next week -- the American staffers refuse to work on the long weekend that starts with Thanksgiving Day! Our next issue will be the 8th of December.
November 17th, 2002
I've been an admirer of Neil's work from the moment I picked up my first issue of Sandman under his guidance, read it, and had my brains splattered against the nearest wall. He does things with words, simple yet elegant tricks can explain an entire character in a few carefully selected words. It's the closest thing in the writing business to close-up magic -- you see it right there in front of you, and you can't figure out how the hell he did it.' -- J. Michael Straczynski
Jack here. This month Mexico celebrated the Day of the Dead (Nov 1). This week, we're reviewing the Day of the Dead. Really. Truly. So now go read the review by Asher Black of 'The Day of the Dead,' the Babylon 5 episode that Neil Gaiman wrote. Yes, I know the series has gone off the air -- a great pity as it was truly great science fiction -- but the entire series still airs on the Scifi channel in the States, and on the Beeb in Britain. Other than the Neverwhere series done on BBC, this is the only televised fiction written by Neil. After you've read this review, check out our comprehensive reviews of nearly everything else this more than merely talented author has done!
And before I forget altogether, do take a look at our new Live, Book, and Video indices. New Music indices will be joining them soon. Ryan Nutick has been busily hammerin' and sawin' away in there and has given them a whole new look. Ryan gets an Excellence in Design Award for his amazing work. Thanks Ryan!
Now where was I? You don't know? Hmmm... Neither do I. More Dragons Breath stout? Some Caerphilly cheese? A bit of Monmouth Pudding? (Yes, we here at the Green Man love to eat.... and drink... and hear interesting music... and play music... and watch fun and fascinating films... and read a lot... Don't you? If not, why are you reading this?)
So what shall we discuss? Oh, you want to know about those bears. The story is that Walter, Brigid's uncle on the Germanic side of her family, is visiting us right now. He's a great, shaggy man with a full beard and long, long ponytail who goes waltzing with bears. Really. Truly. Now, Brigid notes that her fiddler of a husband (me) has been known to do some very odd things, so she says that Walter's not all that odd -- everyone likes to dance. He's also keen on having a long coversation with Bjorn, our brewmaster, as he thinks that Bjorn is a long-lost relative of his... Bjorn showed up here a long time ago in a raggedy long coat with a cask of Applejack on each of his oversized shoulders. He volunteered to make us all the ale and other libations that we lusted after so long as the bears he brought with him could stay in Oberon's Wood. After some serious discussion, during which one keg got consumed, we agreed, as long as the bears only ate such things as the salmon from the river, berries, morels, and honey! And that's how the bears came to live in our woods!
Now do I hear the sound of a fiddle playing 'The Berne Bear Waltz'? Let's see if the bears and Uncle Walter are at it again...
You know about soundtracks for films. What about soundtracks for art? Faeries: A Musical Companion to the Art of Brian Froud is just that. Grey Walker has written a review of this unusual CD, the first of its sort for GMR. She says, 'The music here is not dreamy so much as hallucinatory or trance-like. It's dense, big and almost overripe. When I listened to it while looking at Froud's work, I found that I was understanding his images in a different way. They seemed much wilder -- and yes, more dangerous.' Read Grey's Excellence in Writing Award winner of a review for her impressions of all the music that was collected for this album, as well as the other 'enhancements' the CD also contains.
Speaking of Neil Gaiman (Were we? Well, in a way. Gaiman did write a typically provocative introduction for the liner notes of Faery, mentioned above), GMR is in the process of reviewing everything of Gaiman's that we can find. Being as November 1 is El Dia de los Muertos (mentioned above) we're taking a look at Day of the Dead, an episode of Babylon 5 that Gaiman wrote the script for. Film Review Editor Asher Black writes, 'In Day of the Dead, Gaiman has brought to a technological setting, used to planets and systems, warps and fields, the power of 'the forest', 'the open sea', the graveyard at night.' Sounds splendid! Asher wins yet another Excellence in Writing Award.
We're visiting Hogwart's again this year. Michelle Erica Green brings us a review of the just released Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Michelle studies the film with all of her eyes... er... that is, as several different personas. 'I watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as a mom, as a lifelong fantasy fan, as someone who liked but didn't unreservedly love the novel upon which it is based, and as someone who generally favors close cinema adaptations of famous novels but who had her perspective altered (as did so many of us) by The Fellowship of the Ring, which transfigured modern fantasy filmmaking when it was released just a month after the first Harry Potter film.' A well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award goes to Michelle for this thorough and unusual review.
Craig Clarke is our 'reviewer on the spot' this week, turning in a whopping five book reviews. First up is a reprint -- Angel of Darkness. Originally published in 1990 by Jove, this horror novel was written by Charles de Lint under the pseudonym Samuel M. Key. Orb has just re-released it under de Lint's own brand. 'It is one of the darkest novels I've read recently,' Craig claims, 'and it is also one of the best.' Then there's another 'best,' The Best of Roald Dahl, which Craig also enthusiastically endorses. Sure, you've read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but 'the thing is, until you've read his stories for adults, you've not experienced the full malevolence of Roald Dahl.' And after that, you should explore more of the spectrum of malevolence by dipping into another story anthology, The Dark Descent: The Evolution of Horror, edited by David G. Hartwell. Craig notes that this anthology covers authors from J. Sheridan LeFanu (1839) to the modern Clive Barker, and as diverse as Lovecraft and Flannery O'Connor.
Craig also takes a thoughtful look at another novel, John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids. 'What???' we hear you exclaiming. 'Isn't that the sci fi cult B classic?' Not from Craig's perspective. Go ahead, read his review and see why he thinks that the book (if not the movie) is really an apocalyptic horror novel. Craig finishes up this week with two of his favorite books, the classics I, Claudius and Claudius the God, by Robert Graves. 'Graves has obviously done his research, but instead of giving us a dry history, he has presented it as Claudius writing his autobiography, telling it in his own words. This gives us a purely subjective viewpoint on the proceedings.' This is historical fiction at its best.
When Andrea Simpson Garrett turned in her review of Darby O'Gill and the Good People the other day, I was so surprised that I went and double-checked our indices -- surely we already had a review of this folk classic! Well, we didn't, but we do now. And a fine review 'tis, too. Written by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh and published in 1903, Darby O'Gill was recently republished in 1998 by One Faithful Harp Publishers. 'Set in Ireland during the turn of the [twentieth] century,' says Andrea, 'it is a story of a people very immersed in the Catholic faith. This does not mean for one instant that they do not believe in fairies, leprechauns, Banshees and the like.' Maybe you saw the Disney movie. Well, now Andrea insists that you need to read the book!
Michelle Erica Green says that Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time 'is hard to place into any genre. To call it 'utopian fiction,' 'magical realism' or a 'women's novel' requires a conscious ideological choice.' Like some of the best folk music, this novel is Piercy's radical attempt to use writing to rage against the world's wrongs. In her review of another, very different sort of book, Michelle quotes Madeleine Pelner Cosman as saying, 'Few indicators define a people so well as its foodlore.' Cosman wrote Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony to examine 'what English feasts suggest about the religion, medicine, superstitions, social hierarchy, criminal problems and naughty behavior of long-ago Londoners, as well as mythic meals from such sources as Arthurian romances, The Canterbury Tales and various fables.' Michelle earns an Excellence in Writing Award for a review as sumptuous as its subject seems to be.
Maria Nutick says, 'I personally have an off-and-on affection for vampire tales -- the old Gothic tales have been done to death, so to speak -- and it takes a truly different spin to catch my interest nowadays.' She found that spin in The Vampire Sextette, six novellas collected by anthologist Marvin Kaye. Of the six, Maria says that four worked for her, but two 'left her cold.' Which were which? Ahhh.... you'll need to read her review to find that out!
Kimberlee Rettberg wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her thorough, vividly descriptive review of A Scattering of Jades, Alexander C. Irvine's debut novel. Charles de Lint (one of the honoured authors pictured on Green Man's wall for 'the founders of this feast') praised this book highly, and Kimberlee says there's good reason. If her review is anything to go by, we think you'll agree with her! She enthuses, 'A Scattering of Jades is a remarkable debut novel, combining secret historical conspiracies, magic, adventure, Aztec mythology, and tons of action to give readers a jolting ricochet ride. Irvine puts together a plot so gripping you may need to borrow the local Fire Departmentís Jaws of Life to pry yourself free!'
Kim Bates, who gets an Excellence in Editing Award for her exceptional work on this issue, was entertained by Lord Vanger and the various artists he found to produce Operatica: Shine. Huh? Opera on Green Man? Well, sort of. Maybe. Possibly. Oh, frell -- Kim can explain it better than I: 'Operatica: Shine brings opera to that loosely defined genre known as world music. Pop divas, move over! These are divas with a 'D.' The music is composed or adapted by Lord Vanger, who assembled the various divas, including Ying Huang, of Madame Butterfly fame, Inva Mula, whose music appeared in the movie The Fifth Element, and one of opera's current bright lights -- coloratura soprano Maureen O'Flynn, as well as Columbian sensation Shakira. Does it work? Absolutely.'
John D. Benninghouse kicks off this weeks CD reviews with Philip Picket's The Bones of All Men. John tells us that 'Pickett is the Director of Early Music at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and virtuoso player of early woodwind instruments, like the crumhorn.' Is this CD merely a specialist curiosity , even for Green Man? Let's see who Pickett has roped in to perform this music, shall we? Ah, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg... John receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this fine review. Those musicians are all past or present members of Fairport Convention, a band once described as 'doing for real ale what the Grateful Dead did for acid.' John also caters for the Deadheads with his review of Over the Edge and Back, a best of Mickey Hart collection. Our reviewer reckons this collection to be 'a good, if cursory, overview of Hart's pursuit of his passion... much of it is just good ol' ass-shaking music that invites you to get lost inside a rhythm and inside yourself.'
Judith Gennett says 'if you're used to Hungarian music played on the cimbalom and rhythm cello, you won't find it here,' on Letters From Afar by Budapest West. This music is 'all-instrumental fused with jazz, heavy rock, pop, and classical music genres. Budapest West works comfortably in all these styles.' Judith loved the second CD she listened to: 'Barebones & Wildflowers hail from Upstate New York and 'play a mix of mostly acoustic country-folk music that includes traditional music and some familiar covers.' Their CD Higher Than the Moon is 'recommended for woodsy people!' Al Reko and Oren Tikkanen are two Finnish/American musicians whose output has thus far only been available in cassette format. Our reviewer's delighted that their work has been remastered onto CD, and declares The Finn Hall Recordings to be 'a wonderful and charming view into the worlds of the old Finnish-American immigrant music and of 'Finnish country music' in Mother Finland.' Finally Judith notes 'Need mood music to go with pepper spray?' Try Hang A Flag In the Window by David Rovics with Allie Rosenblatt. Judith says 'David Rovics is likely one of the most stridently political folk performers in America today.' Next up for our very prolific reviewer is two by The Buccaneers, Prairie Shanty and Basement Monkey, a Canadian group that bills themselves as playing 'Aggressive Canadian Folk Music'. Judith says that 'on board stage they mix Celtic classics, originals, and covers of anything from Stan Rogers to The Violent Femmes.'
What's this? Yet another review from Judith? Yes, it is. She says that Paul Epstein lives in West Virginia and plays in a contra dance band called the Contrarians. The Strawberry Lass is a fine collection of original material performed by Epstein on fiddle and guitar. 'Much of the strength here lies in the compositions, making The Strawberry Lass a good choice for fiddlers looking for new tunes.'
Bluegrass pickin' and twangin' is what Tim Hoke found on the Biscuit Boys debut album. But it wasn't up to snuff: 'The Biscuit Boys show a lot of potential and I'll look forward to their next release, but this first outing is uneven and rather lackluster in spots; it just doesn't hold my attention.'
Stephen Hunt looks at yet another fine release from Appleseed: Tom Pacheco's There Was a Time. Indeed he notes, 'This isn't the first time that I've been impressed by a 'difficult' release from Appleseed Recordings, and this label company deserves a huge round of applause for releasing this CD. If their support of artists like Tom Pacheco results in their voices reaching a wider audience, then that too is about time.' Read his review to why you too should care about this album! Would it really surprise you that this review was deemed worthy of an Excellence in Writing Award? Well, it shouldn't!
Sean Laffey reviews Cairde, a charitable compilation CD released by The Friends of St. Lukes Hospital, Dublin. Those 'friends' read like a 'who's who' of Irish traditional music, including such names as Noel Hill and Tony Linnane, Tommy Peoples, Matt Molloy, Frankie Gavin, Sean Maguire, Mary Bergin, Tommy Keane and Jacqui McCarthy, Marcus Hernon, Mary Staunton, Charlie Piggott and Miriam Collins and Joe Burke. As Sean rightly points out, 'at less than $1 per track this is an album bursting with good value and good values.' It's timely release has also solved, at a single stroke, the question of what to get for my own friends this Christmas!
Back in the 1980's Peter Massey decided that his true vocation was not to work in an office, but to be a folk singer. His 'conversion' experience happened on a road. Not the one to Damascus, but an English motorway in the grip of a traffic jam. It was there that Peter encountered the occupants of a 'very old and battered VW camper van,' (returning from Cambridge folk festival), and realised that 'deep down inside of me there was this hippie, dying to be set free!' Peter's essay So You Want to be a Folk singer?, is an entertaining mix of wisdom and anecdote! If reading Peter's essay inspires you to go and do likewise, (or just see and hear our man in action), then his article about Cheshire folk clubs will point you in the right directions.
Liz Milner is in celebratory mood, thanks to The Rough Guide to the Music of India: 'Hurray for Bollywood!' she says, and 'three cheers for Ken Hunt, the compiler who has unearthed a treasure trove of fabulous music!' Let's keep those celebrations going and give a huge round of applause to Liz - she's got an Excellence in Writing Award! (And has the honor of having now reviewed the fortieth Rough Guide collection that Green Man has reviewed to date!)
No'am Newman reviews a five track EP entitled Factory Girl by Legacy, an Irish traditional group of tremendous potential. No'am offers encouragement when he says that 'Factory Girl is more than alright, but they can and will do better.' A group that was not as lucky in its review is Treebeard, 'a five piece group hailing from the North of England.' Treebeard didn't live up to No'am's expectations, despite their popularity with some Fairport fans and their 'multitude of acoustic stringed instruments.' In fact, their CD, Heavy Wood proved to be heavy going, with too much emphasis on covers of familiar material by the likes of R.E.M, U2, and Fairport. No'am opines that 'whilst trying to give an all inclusive idea of what Treebeard are capable of, they've fallen foul of the 'kitchen sink' syndrome.'
Big Earl Sellar asks us to 'imagine if three of the better singer-songwriters from your hometown got together to form a band. That's what happened to the lucky folkies in Chicago.' The three artists are collectively known as Sons of the Never Wrong, and Big Earl says that their CD 4 Ever On 'is an example of why I began reviewing: to discover some great new music, and the Sons of the Never Wrong definitely deliver.'
Pogue mohone! Mike Stiles looks at two CDs of an Irish punk nature -- Blood or Whiskey's No Time to Explain and Greenland Whalefishers's Loboville. He notes that 'The heavier versions of Irish Punk have carved out a style that builds a rhythm section out of a drum kit, bass, banjo and/or bouzouki, and a whistle. The strings and whistle afford the opportunity to sneak in a melody line, thereby opening a door to the entire traditional repertoire. Not every song on an Irish Punk CD is set to frenetic time signatures, either; some parts tread lighter, contrasting with and complementing the loud stuff.' Are these two CDs fitting additions to that genre? Or just bands full of shite and no talent? Read his Excellence in Writing Award review to find out! Our intrpid reviewer also listened to John McLean Allan's Stand Easy CD, a 'piping' album. Mike has both good news and bad news for this piper...
Chris White is head over heels in love with Chris & Meredith Thompson's Clearwater CD: 'I heartily recommend without reservation Chris & Meredith Thompson's Clearwater to anyone who enjoys vocal duet harmony singing and well made songs. This disc should get plenty of folk show radio airplay and deservedly so.'
Gary Whitehouse reviews Postcards from Downtown, the 'first full-length studio-produced release' by Dayna Kurtz. Gary describes this album as '10 highly personal and powerful songs,' by an artist whose 'voice is her best instrument.' And has harsh words for Epiphany Road's Santiam Sun, Umpqua Moon. 'These 14 songs, subtitled 'An Oregon Song Cycle,' all are set in the state of which I'm a lifelong resident. They run the gamut from bluesy shuffles to atmospheric ballads, with five different vocalists fronting a band with a rotating cast of players..' but '[t]here's no clue as to who these people are in the liner notes, but the music didn't compel me to really care. The best part of the CD is the beautiful photography by Steve Terrill of Portland.'
David Kidney had an argument with himself over whether to attend a performance by Tom Paxton with Ken Whiteley at the Brantford Folk Club. Luckily for all of us, David convinced himself to go, and said, 'Boy -- did I make the right decision! Tom Paxton, folksinger, author/composer of 'The Last Thing On My Mind' was extraordinary tonight.' Read his review of the gig to see just why he was so pleased.
In his overview of Celtic Colours International Festival on Cape Breton Island a few weeks ago, Gary Whitehouse promised in-depth reviews of some of the performances and events he enjoyed there. He wins an Excellence in Writing Award for the first of these this week: the musical focus is on Cucunandy and Alasdair Codona, but he tosses a few culinary bon mots along with descriptions of dancing and other cultural occasions into the mix as well. He says, 'One of the things that makes Celtic Colours so magical is the way certain threads seem to run through the festival's nine days, connecting events that seem far apart in space, time and theme. Thus it was with us, as we found connections between an old-fashioned 'milling frolic' on the first full day of the festival, and a dance demonstration in Cape Breton Island's newest and most impressive performance space three days later.'
Asher and Michelle Green's featured reviews are our only video reviews this week. In the meantime, why not visit the archives for your film review fix? From The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen to The X-Files: The Unnatural, we've dozens of fantastic film reviews to get you in the mood to plunk yourself on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a great movie.
In the meantime, Brigid has rounded up a crew to help our kitchen staff prepare pumpkin pies and other treats for the staff and our frequent visitors, including school children. They are also discussing what main courses will be offered up at our weekly staff dinner. I hear a tantalizing rumour that Cig Oen Cymreig gyda Thatws a Chabetsh a Garlleg (Roast Loin of Welsh Lamb with Roasted Garlic served with Bubble and Squeak ) will be the main course! Ymmmm! I'll bet Uncle Walter will love it! And on that note, I must run now. The bears are bringing us some very large salmon to feast upon! And salmon must be steamed rather quickly if it is to be at its best. So off to kitchen must I haste...
November 10th, 2002
'Here's tae us! Wha's like us? Damn few, and their all deid! More's the pity.'
-- traditional Scots saying
You back again? Well, get out of the nasty weather! It's lasted weeks! Put your wet boots and jacket over by the fireplace so that they'll dry out. The lads and lassies in the endless sessuin here in the Green Man Pub have been toasting those who have passed on. Far too many of the really good ones have passed over in recent days, including Bobby Clancy, Derek Bell, Tony Cuffe, Paul Furey, Tony Rose, Gwen Cahill, Lonnie Donegan, Kostadin Varimezov, Alan Lomax, Waylon Jennings, Fred Jordan, Jerry Underwood, David McWilliams, John Evans, Ken Chesterman, Hamish Henderson, Kay Gardner and John Entwistle. So join all of us in raising a pint of Guinness to mark their missed selves and wishing all the missing musicians a never-ending sessuin of their own!
Now let's get up to my office so we can discuss the forthcoming New England tour by Childsplay. 'Eh?' you ask. 'Who's Childsplay?' They are, as their Web site says so well, 'over two dozen musicians [including] some of the leading virtuosos in traditional dance, jazz, swing, English country, Appalachian and Swedish music. When playing altogether the sound is a vibrant, powerful and eclectic experience which surrounds listeners and dancers alike&endash;playful, innovative and driving. In smaller groupings Childsplay's members can authentically present the elegance of the 17th century English dance music, the lilting beauty of Celtic jigs and airs, the driving rhythms of hoe-downs from the mountains of the Southern United States...' All of the fiddlers have this in common -- they play on instruments made by violinmaker Bob Childs of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Childs began his career in 1975 in Maine, having studied violinmaking with Ivie Mann of Orrington.
For the Portland, Maine, performance on Thursday night, December 5th at 7:30 PM, they will be joined by four Swedish fiddlers including Per Gudmundson of Frifot fame! (There are two Swedes who are already a part of the group -- Bertil Fernebord and Lars Moberg.)Their first outing will be on Sunday, December 1, a special day of Swedish fiddle and dance at The Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden Street in Concord, Massachusetts. There will be a Swedish fiddle workshop featuring, direct from Sweden, Ake Wann, Per Gudmundson, Pelle Gustafsson, Bertil Ferneborg and Lars Hoekpers from 12 noon until 5 PM (and an evening Swedish dance following the fiddle workshop!). This will be followed by performances at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. There will be three performances this year at the museum: the first matinee performance takes place Saturday afternoon December 7 at 2 PM, followed by an evening performance at 8 PM on Saturday. There will be a second matinee performance on Sunday afternoon, December 8th, also at 2 PM. These are must-see concerts for any lover of outstanding fiddle music, so get your tickets now! Email Bob Childs for mail order tickets. You can visit the Childsplay Web site here.
There will be no new CD reviews this week as our Music Editor, Kim Bates, is not feeling at all well (she expects to be better with a few days rest). May I suggest instead, if you really need your CD fix, that you delve into the reviews of the over five thousand CDs that we've reviewed to date? That should keep you reading and drawing up lists for quite a while! And do look for reviews of the new Childsplay CD, Live, and the previous CD, The Great Waltz, in a forthcoming edition. I'm listening to the Live CD now -- let me just say that it will get a lot of play in the Green Man offices!
Oh! Asher, our Film Editor, just sent me a note, by means of an odd little messenger who scurried away before I could get his name. Asher says, 'Maria Nutick is doing a bang up job as Assistant Film Editor. She's editing reviews while I'm working on a special project for us. Maria's doing such a pristine job that she's getting an Excellence in Editing Award.' Well done, Mia!
If you haven't already snaffled your local book store's copy of Charles de Lint's new Newford story collection, Tapping the Dream Tree, you'll want to as soon as you read Cat Eldridge's review of it! Cat says, 'Newford provides de Lint with a place to set stories and characters that are of interest to him -- immortal crow girls, trees that grow by absorbing the tales folks tell them, streetscapes buried in earthquakes so that now they exist only as ghostly underworlds, musicians fey and human, and other wonders quite beyond my completely listing here.' Now, run quick and buy it before it's gone -- and then come back and read the rest of the reviews we've got for you this week.
Kate Brown, a former reviewer for GMR, popped in briefly this week to bring us a review of The Hidden Dragon, the first novel in a new series by Irene Radford. 'Just another dragon tale? Not!' says Kate. 'The Hidden Dragon is a light sci-fi story in which hi tech clashes with barbarism.' Thanks for the review, Kate! Good to see you again.
Rachel Manija Brown wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her review of Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman's newly-released novel, The Fall of the Kings. Ever since Ellen Kushner wrote Swordspoint in 1987, fans have been waiting for this sequel. Is it worth the wait? Rachel thinks so. 'This is a book of witty dialogue, prose as precise as a blow to the heart and as glittering as the sword that dealt it.' Read the rest of her review to see what delights are in store for you if you pick up this novel.
Craig Clarke was not so delighted with The Apocalypse Door, a horror novel by James D. MacDonald. 'I'm not saying this is the dullest novel I've ever read, simply the dullest one I've ever forced myself to finish.' Why? Read Craig's review for his thoughtful explanation of why the book failed. Then you'll definitely also want to read Craig's opening article in The Book of Tales, a column originally written by former staffer Matthew Winslow. Ever since Matthew left GMR to pursue higher learning, we've been looking for someone to take over this column, which reviews short stories currently being published in paper magazines, anthologies, and online. Craig has demonstrated that he is more than up to the job, and wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his first article, which covers stories recently published in The Spook, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and The New Yorker.
Christine Doiron offers us a look at two books in a series by Mickey Zucker Reichert, The Beasts of Barakhai and The Lost Dragons of Barakhai. According to Christine, 'The first two installments in The Books of Barakhai series read fast and fun -- you will find no boring, lengthy descriptions here -- but Reichert has a talent for cramming a lot of story into relatively few words. Consequently, the world of Barakhai and all those who inhabit it are crystal clear and fascinating.'
In addition to Tapping the Dream Tree, featured above, Editor-in-Chief Cat Eldridge has reviewed two other books this week. The Haunted Air by F. Paul Wilson is the latest Repairman Jack tale. 'Tor, as always, sent us a copy to review,' says Cat. 'I opened the package, took out The Haunted Air, and sort of read the first few pages. Well, I actually read the first fifty or so pages by the time I stopped. Hot damn -- Wilson's rediscovered horror!' Cat is just as enthusiastic, but for different reasons, about Dreams and Wishes, a collection of essays about writing for children by Susan Cooper, author of well-deserved fame. Cat claims that the reason this review wasn't written long before now is that so many of the staff here at GMR have been stealing the book to read it!
David Kidney waxes so lyrical in his review of Michael Nesmith's magical-realistic novel, The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora, that we're handing him an Excellence in Writing Award for it. 'In my mind it cried out to be read aloud, so beautiful were many of the long descriptive passages! So I did; I read aloud to my wife (an exercise she enjoys), and when she was not available I read aloud to myself. Now, Michael Nesmith will read his novel aloud to you in the privacy of your own living-room. This new 6-CD set presents the entire novel, unabridged, with sound effects and music. It is delightful.' If it's half as good as David's review, it's good indeed.
Jack Merry asks if he'll win the Grinch Award this week for his review of Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson's new collection of short stories, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits. Why? you ask. Well, Jack didn't like all the stories, and says so, just as you'd expect him to. 'If my first encounter with Peter had been these tales, I'd never have read anything else by him. These tales have no life in them at all. I'd like to be kind, but I can't be... Yes, I know -- Booklist, Library School Journal, Publishers Weekly, even the Horn Book loved all of these tales. And all your school chums did too, didn't they? Well, I didn't. So there. Now drink down your cocoa before it gets cold.' Sorry, Jack. We don't have a Grinch Award. How 'bout an Excellence in Writing Award, instead? And you have another review for us? Of an unabashedly silly book? Let's have it, then. Hmmm. Looks like Sharyn McCrumb has brought back her forensic anthropologist, Elizabeth MacPherson, to solve a murder mystery in 'a version of Scotland that never was, a Scotland as unreal as Brigadoon itself.' That's right, Elizabeth goes to an American Highland Games festival in Highland Laddie Gone. Does she solve the mystery? Of course! Since you know that already, why should you read this book? See Jack's review to find out.
Maria Nutick begins her review for us with a thought-provoking (semi-guilty-laughter-provoking?) quotation. 'Let me tell all of you something about orcs... If you're born an orc, everyone's hand is against you. Every Dark Leader that happens along thinks, I need an army, what about a few thousand orcs? They're brutal, efficient, cheap, and there's always plenty more where they came from.' The quotation is from Ashnak, one of the protagonists of Mary Gentle's book Grunts. Are you thinking, 'Orcs??? As protagonists?' So are we. Maria's review gives us a taste of how Gentle has managed to shake up the stereotypes and reveal orcs as an oppressed minority.
Now, before you keep on to read the video reviews below, please take a moment to join us in congratulating reviewer Jason Erik Lundberg, whose essay, 'The Old Switcheroo: A Study in Role Reversal,' has been accepted by The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, March 19-23, 2003. The essay will also be published in The Neil Gaiman Reader sometime in 2003. You can read an excerpt here.
Kung fu masters clucking like chickens, huge homicidal mountain men, treacherous and amoral Roman Emperors, and little girls cavorting with fairies: just another day here in the Green Man staff lounge! Ahem, wait, scratch that...these are just our film offerings this week.
Rachel Brown, currently on an excursion to Japan and having a fabulous time by all accounts, left us with one of her marvellous reviews of Hong Kong action films. This time she brings us The Last Hero in China, a Jet Li vehicle that Rachel says 'appears to be a parody of other kung fu movies'. Find out why Rachel was disappointed with the film, and which startling bit she says makes the movie 'worth seeing -- once'.
Craig Clarke went looking for a horror film to watch on Halloween, and came back with Don't Go in the Woods. Find out why he says it's 'bad in every way except the fun way', and pay special attention to his mention of the awful theme song. Craig had a much better experience watching the legendary miniseries I, Claudius, now on DVD. The set includes a documentary, The Epic That Never Was. Craig tell us in his very enjoyable review that 'fans of Graves' novels will not be disappointed and fans of historical fiction will find much to love here'.
Finally, Andrea Garrett explores the film version of a historical incident in which two young English girls claimed to have met and photographed real fairies. The great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed the girls, and supported their story. Andrea tells us that Fairytale: A True Story is 'a lovely tribute to the power of belief' and tells us why in her very thorough and thought provoking review.
That's all for this edition. Now I'm off to a remaindered book sale that has thousands of books to tempt me. I don't know if I'll find anything, but I do know that I'll have fun seeing what there is there! I'll tell you next week what I find (no, I don't need more books. That never stopped me before...). After that, I'm working on the Endless Jam project for next All Hallows Eve, which will be at least two days of non-stop music, ranging from Early Music/Medieval to Contradance and the trendiest of Post-Modern Jam music. Work on the Web site (endlessjam.com when it's up) is coming along, so it should be up within a month or so.
All billered and curled
'Tween pavement and stars
Is the chimney sweep world
When the's 'ardly no day
Nor 'ardly no night
There's things 'alf in shadow
And 'alf way in light
On the roof tops of London
Coo, what a sight!
From Mary Poppins
November 3rd, 2002
Rather cold and wet outside, isn't? Well, come in! Excuse the mess in the courtyard... The workers from the local Sweepers Guild have been here giving the myriad brick chimneys of the Green Man building a late fall cleaning, as we heat this old monster mostly with coal -- except for the fireplaces. Nasty stuff, but it works rather well with our century-old radiators. We agreed with the Guild that they would get to tap a cask of Avalon Applejack as part of their payment, but a dozen sweeps leave more of a mess than the brownies can clean up quickly. Be that as it may, the firewood has been stacked in the cellar, and the chimneys are ready for another long winter. Now join us in the Great Hall by the roaring fire as we look at some books to read on a long, cold winter's night, and music to keep you warm inside... Not to mention some rather nifty films for you to watch! Comfortable? Good! let's get started...
As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Neil Gaiman's newest release is an audio production, Two Plays for Voices. This week, we're featuring a review by Asher Black of this production. 'It will be said, with some amount of cliche,' supposes Asher, 'that Gaiman has once again given us the fairy story with 'an edge.' If so, Two Plays For Voices is a serrated edge. It isn't the clean, almost painless knife to which one is used at the table; these stories are much too jagged to dine on so peaceably. Sometimes one craves a rough meal, and Gaiman has served it up with style.' Asher wins an Excellence in Writing Award for a review that's suitably as edgy as its subject.
Michelle Erica Green based part of her masters' thesis on Ursula Le Guin's classic novel, The Left Hand of Darkness. We're delighted to be able to take advantage of her extensive study and offer you, dear readers, a review that's both interesting and rigorous. She tantalizes us in her first paragraph with: 'The Left Hand of Darkness could be historical fiction set just about anywhere -- until we learn that the king is pregnant.' Now, of course, you've just got to read the rest of the review!
Liz Milner, who has been turning in superb review after superb review of Tolkieniana, weighs in again this week with David Colbert's, The Magical Worlds of The Lord of the Rings. Liz says, 'My first thought at looking at the jacket of this book was 'Aha! Tolkien for Dummies!' The blurb on the book jacket, that David Colbert is the author of The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, and the publication date -- 2002 -- seemed to confirm my suspicion that this book was an attempt to milk the popularity of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of The Rings for all it was worth.' So, should you read it? Read Liz's review to get her final opinion...
We may only have three book reviews for you this week, but all of them are of such high quality that they earn Excellence in Writing Awards across the board -- that's right, every one of them!
Be sure to come back next week for Cat Eldridge's review of the as-yet-unreleased-but-ever-so-eagerly-awaited new Newford short story collection from Charles de Lint, Tapping the Dream Tree!
Kim Bates has been out and about lately. She recently caught the splendidly named 'urban folk' performer Atlas Stucco in concert, supported by the equally intriguingly monikered Mad Love. Fortunately, she didn't come away empty handed and provides us with a review of Stucco's Head Start and Mad Love's If I Had My Way. Kim says of one of the CDs 'watch for Mad Love -- if they get their way, they are likely to show up in your CD player, or on a stage near you.'
Eric Eller has been sampling the delights of Italian traditional dance music in the form of a CD entitled Sangue Vivo by a group called Zoe. According to Eric, this music 'fires the soul with it's raw energy and enthusiasm.'
Judith Gennett has also got the European dance bug, courtesy of English band Stocai. She reckons that After the Brawl exhibits 'a charming and diffuse array of European dance music.' Judith also reviews Slaughterhouse by Bruce Piephoff. While the CD title may evoke uncomfortable memories of the likes of Iron Maiden, it transpires that Piephoff is, in fact, a North Carolina singer, songwriter and poet.
Debbie Skolnik is something of a transatlantic adventurer, who likes to visit England as often as possible. It seems that she's unearthed a real treasure on her most recent visit in the form of My Prayer by rising Brit folk star Deb Sandland. Debbie (Skolnik) is not known as a reviewer to be easily swayed, and notes 'I don't give out kudos unless what I'm reviewing really, really pleases me.' Debbie receives a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award!
Mike Stiles is another very happy reviewer this week, thanks to Olive Drab's Songs Rarely Ever Sung . Mike says that the CD 'combines some of the best elements of alt. rock and classic country,' and that Olive Drab are 'one of the most fun American bands I've listened to in years.'
In an Excellence in Writing Award winning review, Gary Whitehouse reviews two CD's for us this week, with mixed feelings. He definitely recommends Sweet Bama by Red Mountain White Trash, who 'play old-time Southern string band as what it is: energetic dance music'. (Hang about folks... 'Mad Love,' 'Olive Drab,' 'After the Brawl,' 'Red Mountain White Trash' ... is there some kind of contest going on for the wackiest band name or album title this week? Wasn't everything so much simpler years ago when folk albums were called things like 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion, by the Incredible String Band? Ok, maybe not.... ) That little digression back to the sixties wasn't completely irrelevant, as Gary also reviews a CD from enduring American music legend Roger McGuinn. Treasures from the Folk Den is a collection of traditional songs performed by the 'Big Byrd' in the company of such luminaries as Pete Seeger, Odetta, Judy Collins and Joan Baez. Surely any CD with that kind of pedigree (and Eliza Carthy in there, too), couldn't possibly, by any stretch of the imagination, actually be 'a dud,' could it? I'd definitely advise reading Gary's review before taking the decision to part with any hard-earned dollars, pounds, shekels or yen....
Kim Bates, our most excellent Music Review Editor, recently caught one of her favorite groups, Danú, at one of her favorite venues, Hugh's Room, where she thoroughly enjoyed the music, the ambiance and an apricot pale ale (in no particular order). Her review closes with the following comments: 'Let me sum up: If you have the chance -- go see Danú. I've used up most of my pat phrases and gushed about the band on several occasions now, so I won't go on with overblown verbiage. You'll thank me when you see them for yourself!'
Barb Truex, one of our newest reviewers at GMR, loves Nordic music. She recently attended a performance by the Swedish group Vasen in Brunswick, Maine, and says, 'To date, not too many of these [Nordic] musicians have been able to incorporate Maine into their tours, but recently Vasen performed in Brunswick, Maine, and I have transcended 'happy camper' to some higher level of satisfaction. Their music just sits right with me, no matter what, no matter when.' Check out her review to see why she enthuses about them so highly.
This week, Rachel Brown brings us another of her wonderfully tantalizing reviews of an offering from the Hong Kong movie scene. She says of 2002 'The movie doesn't just feature coolness, it's about coolness: slow-motion shoot-outs and rain-slicked streets and looking chic in black leather. For sheer delirious style, 2002 is hard to beat.' Read her review, and you'll wonder along with her, 'why hasn't this movie been snapped up for another not-quite-as-good U.S. remake?'
New staffer Mark Oakley debuts with a thorough essay contrasting the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind with the biography by Sylvia Nasar upon which the script was based. Find out why Mark compares the subject of the biography and film, John Forbes Nash Jr., to Tolkien, and what he believes that Joseph Campbell might have said about Nash. If you've seen the film, but not read the book, or vice versa, this interesting essay should definitely have you on your way to the library, the video store, or both!
This winter, I'll been treating myself to books that I've been meaning to read but never got around to. Once the cold weather truly sets in, I'm going to read Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, which will keep me occupied for quite a while. Right now, I'm spending quite some time in the the stacks of the Green Man library seeing what catches my interest. Charles de Lint's Triskell Tales looks neat; it has a lot of his early pre-Urban Fantasy fiction in it. Ahhh, there's a first edition of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes that William S. Baring-Gould did. Can't think of a finer way to spend a winter's night than lost in the Victorian world of Holmes and company! Why, there's a complete set -- in hardcover! -- of The Years Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies (quiz question: what was the first volume called?). That would keep me busy for quite awhile! And do I see one of the two copies of Bradbury: An Illustrated Life that William Morrow sent us? Yes, I do! So many choices, so little time...
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Updated, 3 November 2002, 18:04 GMT (JM)
Entire Contents Copyright 2002, The Green Man Review. All Rights Reserved.