'Night fell and the tribes hit the street. Their yelps and howls filled the night air -- a cacophony of mock beast sounds to match the beast masks they wore. Underpinning the dissonance was the insistent rhythm of palms dancing across skin-headed drums, of hands banging sticks against each other, or cans and sheets of metal. Mouths lipped whistles and flutes to cast out brittle handfuls of high skirling notes. Fingers plucked chords from oddly shaped guitarlike instruments, or else drew bows across tightly wound strings to wake weird yowls and moans.' -- from Charles de Lint's 'A Tattoo on Her Heart', reprinted in his Waifs and Strays collection.
29th of December 2002 CE
I'm coming... Come on in. Conas tå tü? There's 'nought but me, Jack, for staff here in the Green Man offices, as we're taking our customary post-holiday break. Anyone trying to publish this week online is just nas bailbhe. I'm surprised that you made it here even on Nordic skis given the bleedin' snow storm we're havin' right now! So what brings you here? You heard that Bela and the rat fiddlers were keeping the neverending session going this week? Well, you are indeed correct. The storm's kept most of the regular session members from getting in, but the rats decided to keep it goin' -- we can't let centuries of tradition fall by the wayside. I see that you fetched your Steintjønndalen fiddle along, so let's get down to the Green Man pub... Ahhh, I see O'Carolan is here too. He's rather proud of that bright blue electric fiddle. Found it at a local luthier. Methinks Laurie Anderson would lust after it!
And if you look very carefully in the shadowed area just beyond where Reynard, me mate in Danse Macabre, is instructing Bela on how to call an English Ceilidh (which is a neat trick given that I've never heard Bela speak a word of English, so they're discussing it in either German or Hungarian), you'll see two of our resident ghosts. Hell, what old building full of musicians, actors, and book lovers doesn't have ghosts? That this building is haunted is not 'tall surprising! One of them is the mad Irish poet named Will who lusted after Liath; the other has never admitted who he was -- just that he was a poor street fiddler that ran afoul of the law around the time that John Gay was penning The Beggar's Opera. Fatally afoul of the law. Let's join them now in a round of Thames Welsh Bitter Ale. And rosin up your bow! I'm itchin' to play some lively tunes! What shall we start with?
Ahhh, that's better... Good tunes played with other fine musicians, real ale, and a warm fire -- What more could a fiddler want?
Now I should mention what some of our staff are up to... (There were far too many notes from our staff to put on this page, so you can find all of them here). One of them, Ryan Nutick, our Master Indexer, has finished the work on updating our indexes so that they look better than ever. Oh, he had a little help from the fey in doing so, but it was his craftmanship that gave the indexes the new look they deserved. He's now relaxing with the copy of Night Watch, the new Terry Prachett novel, that he got from Green Man. (Our Editor has had an immense amount of fun handing out the dozen copies that the publisher sent! Both James Hetley and the writing couple of Emma Bull & Will Shetterly got copies!)
But before we go, I must deal with a question from Master Hunt. He just read the following from Five Denials on Merlins Grave: '... the shadowlit whispering marefaced catfaced owlfaced ageless huntress and thrice queen who musing in the blood whistles and whirls her hounds and ravens, beyond all sacrifice craven....' and he asks if perchance, I, Jack, had ever brought Robin Williamson to a Green Man staff party, gotten him drunk on Applejack, and introduced him to Grey, Kim and Debbie simultaneously? Actually I think it was Liath and the rest of the Ladies here that Robin met while attending one of our all-night storytelling circles, but I can't swear to that as I had far too much ale for me own good... Was it Robin Williamson? Maybe, maybe not -- It could have been any of a number of storytellers that visit the Pub here from time to time.
We'll see you next week with what we're calling The Holly and Ivy Issue! 'Eh, What's that?', you ask... Just come back next week and you'll find out...
Midwinters Day, 22nd of December 2002 CE
'The table stretches the dim length of the room. What amazing bounty. Ribs, roast beef, roast piglet, roast lamb, an astounding goose with a chicken inside her cavity, and a grouse inside her, and a quail inside her, and far in the fragrant center a hard-boiled egg with a gem in the middle like a pomegranate seed, perfectly divided just this minute by a grinning chef waving an whacking great cleaver. Glazed fish, their scales picked out in jelly. Fish in cream, fish in wine, red-fleshed fish shaved thin, smothered in capers and heaped with grainy caviar. Hot vats of noodles Swedish style, noodles with sauerbraten, noodles layered between pork chops, noodles tossed in sesame paste and ginger and red hot peppers. Fruits in and out of season: musk melon, honeydew, pears and alligator pears, mangos, pineapple, a dozen kinds of apples: golden green orange crimson scarlet blue-black and white and their piebald miscegenations. Breads shaped like suns, breads studded with raisins. Doubled buns steaming indecently, with butter running in their crevices.' -- The feast in Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice' tale
Dia Daoibh. Jack here. Everything was fine until we started our Midwinter's Day preparations... The problem wasn't the Winter Court insisting that we throw a really cool party to celebrate the last day of their Rule, because we were planning on doing that anyway. No, the problem was that they honour the old ways, the really old ways. Well, we compromised by, err, 'sacrificing' a rather elderly boar (Don't ask what they wanted to hunt and kill... even The Wild Hunt has more decency than that! We simply won't abide that sort of behaviour here. Ever.) If you join us for the feast at midnight, you too can partake of that well-cooked wild boar -- he's this very moment being roasted on the open fire in the kitchen. And we'll be tapping a fresh cask or two of Avalon Applejack. Maggie, you rag of a corvid, leave the tap on that cask alone!
The party itself, to say the very least, will be magnificent. I seem to 'member a blind harper who said that his name was O'Carolan himself tuning up downstairs -- where do those musicians come from? -- and the aughenfil, that Welsh ogre whose true name I never did discover, is back again. She actually manages to make a carnyx sound sweet. Excalibur Rising, our mostly fey band -- with a fanatical liking for all things Celtic that most fey have -- has even convinced O'Carolan to play with them. Guess he can play an electric fiddle, too
May I suggest a reading of Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice' story? (Read Grey Walker's wonderful review of it here.) It's set at the Winter Solstice with the Winter King, the Summer Queen, various fey musicians, and one puzzled but soon-to-be very joyful human musician at the party. I meself want to attend that party -- if only for the feast depicted in the tale! A reading of Jane Yolen's The Wild Hunt, which was reviewed for Green Man by Jo Morrison, would also be appropriate. And don't forget The Dark Is Rising series (which Our Greyness also reviewed). The Midwinter traditions in the second book of the series, The Dark is Rising, are fascinating.
Ahhh, but 'nough of me prattling on. This issue's our first ever all-Celtic outing. Surely you've noticed by now that that Green Man, like the fey, has an affinity for things Celtic? Having reviewed well over a fifteen hundred Celtic CDs, and more books than I can count that are Celtic in nature, we decided that it was high time to do this. The Summer Court, as represented by Liath 'Leaf' ó Laighin, now about to begin their rule as the Waxing of the Year has begun, agree wholeheartedly, as they count many a Celtic artist among their friends down the centuries. So delve into the offerings... and do grab a mug of the mulled spiced wine to keep your hands warm as you read!
Would you believe that this career retrospective of Robin Williamson by Stephen Hunt is awesome-ultra-infinitus-excellent? (The words are from Ryan Nutick, our Indexer, who may have had too much of Brewmaster Bjorn's Avalon Applejack...) 'Tis truly that good. Yes, it gets an Excellence in Writing Award, but as Debbie Skolnik, who edited it, says, 'It is one of the best pieces of writing I've had the pleasure to edit and/or read since I've been on the GMR staff.' Now pop open that bottle of Krug Clos du Menil champagne from Sherry-Lehman, as we're going to toast our newest Master Reviewer! Yes, Stephen Hunt has been promoted. The quality of his writing has proven that he is indeed reviewer par excellence. And where's that caviar that I was keeping hidden for this moment....? Ah, here it is. Help yourself -- yes, it's Beluga Prime from Caviarteria. Brigid and I brought it back from St. Petersburg with us. Oh, I nearly forgot! (Too much champagne, good caviar, and not 'nough sleep makes Jack a forgetful lad.) Here's the link to this review!
Kim Bates, in the midst of editing the droves of wonderful music reviews for this issue, also made the time to write a review, of Helen Brennan's book, The Story of Irish Dance. Kim says, 'With the popularity of Irish dance driven by the spectacle of Riverdance and its competitors, many have been drawn to this dance form, but often without a background in the subject. The Story of Irish Dance is a great place to start learning about it.' Read the rest of Kim's review to find out why.
Andrea S. Garrett says in the first paragraph of her review of Pagan Celtic Britain by Anne Ross, '[this] is a scholarly book, but this is not a scholarly review.' Well, her review may not be scholarly, but it's certainly thorough and interesting (no surprise, coming from Andrea)! 'You can trust [Ross'] conclusions to be well thought out and based on research,' Andrea assures us. 'She presents the evidence and uses her linguistic skills to interpret it, but stringently applies her rule of the three aspects of her study -- archaeology, contemporary accounts and folk ways -- to back up her deductions.' Andrea's review earns her another Excellence in Writing Award for her mantel.
Michelle Erica Green has two reviews for us this week. The first is of a book-and-CD combination entitled Far from the Shamrock Shore: The Story of Irish-American Immigration through Song by Mick Moloney. Michelle enthusiastically praises Moloney's work. 'Many pages fold out to provide sidebars, song lyrics and additional illustrations, and the central narrative is written so clearly and vividly that readers from young adults to graduate students can glean a wealth of knowledge.' As for the accompanying CD, Michelle says, '[It] seems meant more for representational purposes than to put a new spin on the music... using relatively simple instrumentation and emphasizing memorable lyrics in the singer's clear but not particularly stunning voice.' Michelle has mixed praise, on the other hand, for Sherwood Forest, Lisa Croll Di Dio's new take on the Robin Hood myth. 'This reinvention of the tale has certain appeal for Wiccans and anyone interested in feminist spirituality,' she says. However, 'nearly every section begins with a dramatic event like a death or kidnapping, moves into action with a ritual or counter-attack, then dissolves into silliness as all the major players rush off to make love under the trees in the name of the Goddess.'
Stephen Hunt has a similar criticism of The Dragon Queen, Alice Borchardt's interpretation of The Matter of Britain. Silly? Yes, quite. Stephen, who makes no bones about being one of 'the horny-handed peasantry' of the West of Britain who cherish their 'enduring superstitions' about the One King, says that Borchardt 'hasn't so much sought (like her predecessors), to reinterpret the existing myth, but to create a wholly original work of fantasy fiction around that myth's characters.' Guinevere, in this story, 'suggests a childhood happily engrossed in 'Marvel Comics,' reading the adventures of 'The League of Superheroes' and 'The Fantastic Four.'' This Guinevere's super powers include really cool tattoos that can stand up out of her skin in times of danger to make metal armour! It was a real toss-up between Michelle's and Stephen's two reviews, as to which one ought to win this week's Grinch Award. In the end, Stephen's, err, 'pungent' phrasing won the day.
John O'Regan gives us an insider's look at two books with Irish themes this week. Stone Mad for Music: The Sliabh Luachra Story, by Donal Hickey, provides 'a musical discourse and a social history' for Sliabh Luachra, 'an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents.' Whether that just sounded like Greek to you, or you're an Irish music enthusiast who already knows about Sliabh Luachra, you'll want to read John's review. You'll also want to read his review of R. F. Foster's The Irish Story. 'This book is subtitled 'Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland,' says John, 'and assays to examine, in the author's own words, 'how the Irish have written, understood and misused their history over the past century.' For an Irish person to read that and swallow it is a tall order, but that is exactly what the book demands.' John, a native of Limerick, finds that several of Foster's assertions about that city are incorrect, and has no inclination to trust him on much else, either. When he turned the review in, John included a note: 'This is my honest reaction to it. Hope it's not too controversial for you to use.' Absolutely not!
Steve Power reviews The Celts: Uncovering the Mythic and Historic Origins of Western Culture, by Jean Markale, a noted poet, philosopher, historian and storyteller. 'Seriously interested readers who perhaps have 'dipped into' other less comprehensive works will, I have no doubt, be impressed by this book's complete and thorough exploration of a fascinating and wide-ranging subject.'
Kimberlee Rettberg offers a thoughtful view of three books on Celtic wisdom. She endorses The Celtic Book of Living and Dying by Juliette Wood. '[It is] one of those books which is a rare pleasure to find, and an absolute joy to read. It is also unique in that it does not fit neatly into a category, being neither a 'history' volume, nor a rehashing of Myth Cycles, grimoire, magical study, nor devoted to arcane devotional sites. It is exactly what it claims to be: a neat compilation of definite and genuinely Celtic philosophy.' Kimberlee also compares two books which treat the subject of Ogam (or Ogham), the Celtic tree alphabet. She considers Paul Rhys Mountford's book, Ogam: The Celtic Oracle of the Trees, 'the better and more focused book... giving a comprehensive, knowledgeable, and very straightforward body of information. While he gives attention to the historic myth cycles, deities, visualization techniques, and accompanying folklore to better provide an encompassing overall picture of the nature of the enigmatic Tree Oracles, his is a book primarily dedicated to their wisdom, and to the use of Ogam in divination.' Douglas Monroe, author of The Lost Books of Merlyn, on the other hand, 'may think he is the heir to the lost wisdom of Atlantis, but apparently authorities on the subject of Druidry and Celtic history think he's a fake. Their word's good enough for me.' Read the rest of Kimberlee's review on this fascinating topic.
Green Man reviewers and readers alike are more than just a wee bit fond of the Chieftains. We've reviewed CDs such as The Chieftains Collection:The Very Best of the Claddagh Years, books including John Glatt's The Chieftains, The authorized biography in both print and audio form, and even them with Ashley MacIsaac and other guests in concert. But until now we've never reviewed them on that wonderful new format called the DVD. Maria Nutick has the honour of doing this review as she considers the matter of The Chieftains -- An Irish Evening and The Chieftains -- The Long Black Veil, two DVDs from BMG Special Products. Now I don't have to tell you who the Chieftains are, how wonderful they are, or how the death of one of them recently saddened us, so let Maria simply note 'An Irish Evening and The Long Black Veil are treasured pieces in my extensive film collection, and I recommend them highly.' If you need any more reasons to buy these DVDs, go read her review! If you don't, join me at the bar in the Green Man pub and we'll discuss the Chieftains, what a proper Irish fry should be, and why it's so hard to get a properly poured pint of Guinness these days.
Gary Whitehouse continues his wonderful series of articles on the 2002 Celtic Colours festival this week. He says 'Among the 44 concerts and workshops at this year's Celtic Colours Festival were a few known as 'heritage concerts,' in which the community honors the musicians of an older generation. Among them this year were 'Winston's Home,' 'Tribute to Bill Lamey,' and 'Kinfolk,' of which I attended the latter two.' And then he proceeds to tell us all about these two concerts in his own characteristic style, which puts you right there with him enjoying the show!
Come in! Ah, the kitchen staff is fixing breakfast for the Neverending Session musicians who played for the overnight dancers. (I've no worries 'bout the session continuing without stopping as Bela and a couple of the really caffeinated fiddlers are keeping the music going! You can hear the Transylvania Suite from here...) 'Tis a fine Irish fry indeed: plump sausages, thick slabs of crispy bacon, fried eggs done as you please, fried tomatoes, black pudding, white pudding, toast with Kerry Gold butter, and soda bread, with marmalade and honey on the side. And let's not forget the ample supply of freshly brewed Irish breakfast tea with fresh cream! All as me granny used to make. Hungry? Of course you are! Put your conremuse over there, and rain splattered jacket and boots over there... Grab a plate of food... get a mug of tea.. ...and settle in by the fire as we discuss the impressive batch of Celtic CDs that we have reviewed this week. Just keep Maggie, our resident corvid, from stealing the bacon off your plate, but do feed Blodeuwedd, the newest of our cellar cats, scraps of bacon and egg as she's still fillin' out!
Kim Bates enjoys both a good session and lively dancing, so it's no surprise to this fiddler that she loved Niall and Cillian Vallely's Callan Bridge. She notes that 'this instrumental album rises above the pack. It's lively, extremely precise, quick, and contains some great tunes. Niall Vallely shows himself to be a promising composer writing within the Irish tradition, as well as a wonderful concertina player; and Cillian is no slouch on the uilleann pipes. Combining these with a selection of tunes drawn from what the liner notes refer to as 'old manuscript collections' makes for a fresh listening experience. The brothers are able to turn their long association into a great sensitivity for each other's playing, another factor that elevates this disc above the pack.'
Jennifer Byrne is an Irish lass now living in London who, not surprisingly, loves Irish music. Now that doesn't mean she likes everything in that genre her ears are subjected to, and Tommy Fleming's Sand and Water was a bit boring for her liking: 'There are huge Tommy Fleming fans out there - he certainly has his niche in the market, and he probably fits quite well into the general Celtic category. However, it is a pity that a singer with such obvious talent settles for such bland arrangements; that someone who is potentially a great folk singer is happy to let himself veer towards the unchallenging middle ground. Giving 'The Bantry Girls Lament' the Streisand treatment just cannot work. Sometimes, just sometimes, less is definitely more.'
Judith Gennett has proven to be one of our finest reviewers bar none, which is why she's promoted to Senior Reviewer, and I hear she's a damn fine contradancer too! She leads off her reviewing for this special edition with some neatly phrased commentary on James Scott Skinner's Strathspey King. This is, she notes, 'Original recordings of the great Scottish Fiddle maestro 1905-1922' [and] 'this Temple album is a re-release of two LPs released by Topic in the 1970s, which in turn were compiled from the original 78s. Skinner himself was born in Scotland in 1843 and rose to artistic fame as a fiddler and composer -- and to personal infamy as well. A colorful character with an eye for women and the bottle, he drove one wife crazy. Life was a continuing weird drama. 'The King' was known to do things like fiddle standing on his head or end a performance by leaping over the back of the couch wearing a kilt.' So now we know that he was as weird, errr, as flashly as the present-day Ashley MacIssac... But was he any bloody good? Oh, yes -- read her review for her reasons why so! Judith also likes the traditional sound of Martin Pheaits O Cualain's Martin Pheaits: Traditional Songs From Connemara: 'Pheait's voice isn't all that bad and it's even hard to tell whether the waver comes from his age or the ornament -- in any case it is still melodic and pliable. His songs 'grow on you' as you listen over time and as you let yourself fall into them as if into a wave on the ocean. Well, actually a wave from your CD player, but they do hold strong ties with 'ancient' Ireland, the bogs, cottages, and seaweed of the West. Apparently some notes are built into the songs as drones and, though structured differently, the songs can be as mesmerizing as shamans rocking back and forth singing the Kalevala, or whatever other ethnic trance musical experience you want to come up with.' She also looked at Gwen Knighton's harp focused CD, Box Of Fairies, which she thinks should be 'recommended for fantasy and harp enthusiasts...and people who like interesting and different lyrics!' Ahhh, but Judith has two more CDs that she's reviewed for us -- prolific lassie, isn't she? -- and they are Full Frontal Folk's Storming The Castle and John Leeder's Fresh Forest Breeze. She says 'Here are two self-released CDs which are part Folk and part Celtic -- and more!' Go read her succinct but informative review to see what in 'ell she means!
The first review by Scott Gianelli is of Marie & Martin Reilly's selt-titled Marie & Martin Reilly. I have me suspicions that Scott's going to be a very fine writer. Just savour his intro paragraph: 'Though only in their twenties, fiddler Marie Reilly and her younger brother, accordionist Martin Reilly, have been highly regarded players in New York City's Irish session scene for quite some time. Both have also recorded and toured with a number of different acts, including several incarnations of Riverdance. In addition, Marie has been part of Cherish the Ladies for several years now, and Martin just recently broke the gender barrier for the musicians in that band when he joined as well. This past year, the two siblings recorded their first album as a duo. Self-titled, self-produced, and issued on Marie and Martin's own label, this collection of thirteen instrumental tunes has a warm, homemade feel to it -- which, for Irish traditional music, is a very good thing, especially when the quality of the playing is as high as it is here.' Now go read the rest of his superb review!
Let's see what else Mister Hunt reviewed for us... Well, there's two Cornish CDs, Tezen Koynt's Piskie Led and Tony Truscott's A Moment of Fire. Read his review to see why both CDs, though not quite up to snuff, are worth hearing. And there's the matter of Sinead O'Connor... Wot? She of the shaved head and strange religious beliefs? Errr... Yes. And her CD, Sean Nos Nua, is quite good: 'This is a collection of familiar, traditional Irish songs, performed by Sinead O'Connor. The mere statement of that fact has already provided enough ammunition to get the critics and commentators queuing up to deliver judgments of this particular work, usually based on prejudices against the artist. When O'Connor declared: 'I've been dying to make this record all my life,' the grunting and snorting of the cynics became almost deafening, and an album best described as 'irrelevant,' 'irritating,' and even 'ridiculous' was widely predicted. So, does Sean Nos Nua actually conform to any of those descriptions? No, it certainly does not! This, my friends, is something genuinely and profoundly beautiful.' An Excellence in Writing Award goes to our reviewer for this well-crafted review.
David Kidney got the latest of the many Chieftains CDs we've had sent us for review which is how he came to write an Excellence in Writing Award review of Down The Old Plank Road. David says of this latest effort: 'All right! A new Chieftains CD! Just what the doctor ordered. Down The Old Plank Road is subtitled the Nashville Sessions and just like their earlier album Another Country, this one seeks to track the Irish influence in American country music. Where ten years ago they welcomed guests like Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins and Don Williams, 2002 sees Paddy and the fellas playing host to John Hiatt, Buddy & Julie Miller and Alison Kraus. It's a new generation.'
One local Celtic Music DJ who heard Kirk S. McWhorter's Eye of the Storm was not wildly enthusiastic 'bout it, but Peter Massey is: 'if you have never heard of Kirk S. McWhorter, you would be in good company, because before listening to this album neither had I. After listening to it, I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more from Kirk. For those living in the New York area, you will know Kirk as the lead singer with the band Kilbrannan. He has yet to make waves on either side of the pond, but with songs such as he writes, it might be sooner rather than later. Kirk S. McWhorter comes from Attica, NY, and he is a fine singer. He has the ability to write songs that have an easy listening format, that cry out to be heard. Then he can change the mood completely and deliver a serious ballad or shanty with same ease.' And Beyond the Pale's Strange Turns found a favourable reviewer in Peter: 'Someone once asked me why I like Celtic folk music so much. I replied it must be something in the blood, my being of Scottish Celtic descent. I am sure this is the case with Beyond The Pale. It is a nice easy album that is going to please the listener. This band deserve to be heard by a wider audience, and not just in their home state of Texas. I can wholeheartedly recommend this album and be sure you won't be disappointed.'
Jack Merry wins an Excellence in Writing Award for for his Breton omnibus. (Oh, that's me!) If I may quote meself -- and why not? -- I said in me introduction to this rather detailed omni, 'Come, come in! We're having an informal cheese tasting. Kim says to try the Llangres cheese -- a soft but sharp improvement on brie, at about 3 times the price! Or go across the border into Germany for some St. Julian - the walnut dream cheese. Martin recommends the San Miguel, which comes from Portugal -- mild but fruity. I'm partial to the Northumberland cheeses, particularly Berwick Edge. I recommend Ardrahan, a pungent washed rind Irish cheese. And be sure to try the enjoyable cheese, apple and onion soup that the kitchen prepared -- Most excellent with draught Coreff Ambree from Breton! Speaking of Breton, did you know that there's some really great music from the Celtic nation available these days? And that Keltia Musique is releasing some of the finest CDs of Breton music that one could hope for!' Oh, you want know what I reviewed... I looked at eleven CDs (!): Bagad Kemper's Hep Diskrog, Skolvan's Chenchet'n eus an amzer, Kerzh Ba'n' Dans, and Swing & Tears, Storvan's An Deiziou Kaer and Digor 'N Abadenn (Join in the Round), Cocktail Diatonique's Cocktail Diatonique, Yann-Fañch Perroches and Fañch Landreau's Daou ha daou, Jean-Pierre Lécuyer's Matin 1 - Vielles à roue, and two collections: Fest Noz Live and Musique de Bretagne. Whew! I need some more of that champagne!
Lars Nilsson is a Swede who really loves Celtic music! HeartSounds' Shule Aroon and Pure Blarney's Here's to the Craic are the two Celtic CDs he looks at in his review. He comments approvingly: 'These two CDs have both similarities and differences. One similarity is that both include a number of well-known songs and tunes. This reviewer wonders, 'Why record songs that have already been recorded by many others?' There are two main answers to that. The performer could be trying to add a new dimension to those songs, by treating them in a different way. They may have found that legendary missing verse or maybe they're attempting to bring out new emotions in the songs, to aim at an audience who are new to this kind of music. Many listeners have not heard Five Hand Reel's wonderful recording of 'Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore', a song on the Here's to the Craic, or the same group playing 'My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose', on Shule Aroon.'
I've never known Gary Whitehouse to write a less than stellar review, and his review of Cucunandy's Contented Minds is no exception! Though he generally liked this Cape Breton act, he did note 'that it's all a bit too pretty and lacking the controlled abandon that is so apparent in their live sets. But Cucanandy is an impressive and personable young band, chock-full of talent and alight with an obvious passion for the music.' Gary also looks at Keympa's Reviralo which, as he notes is an example of how, 'Celtic music can be found in some surprising places, from Spain to North Carolina. Spain's Galicia region is home to some curiously dislocated vestiges of Celtic culture and music. From Llan de Cubel, which hews pretty closely to the traditional line, to the electrifying jazzy folk-rock of Carlos Nunez, Galician music pretty much covers all the bases of Celtic-style music.'
Now I must hasten off as the Chy Spriggan Theatre Company is about to do their midnight performance of All Silver and No Brass, their take on Irish mumming, Christmas, and the Celtic love of food, drink, music, and all things to make merry with. You coming, too? Let's grab some food and drink from the buffet. Make sure to sample the Blackberry smoked salmon from Oregon that Maria Nutick contributed to the feast, and there's a fricasseed eel pie that must be tasted to be appreciated. That's not to your taste? Well, the roast goose with chestnut stuffing is quite good -- or at least a certain Mr. Dickens says it is, and he should know as he's already partaken of it!
But come now, Bela will be anxious to see how the rat fiddlers of the Gulow ha Tewldar Band do tonight with the Irish music that they will be playing.
And we musn't forget to say our farewells to Anwir ap Evnessyen, who's been with us as the liaison from the Winter Court this six months past. He's taking his leave tonight.
So we can all spend some relaxing time with our families and friends over the holidays, we won't be publishing an issue of Green Man next week. We'll publish the next issue of Green Man on the 5th of January. That issue will be our The Holly and Ivy Issue (Carol singing, Yule traditions, the court of the Winter King, the Green Man, and related material), so until then we hope those of you have a safe and joyous time over the next two weeks.
In the meantime, do not bother our Editor as he grabbed the extra copy of Diana Wynne Jones new novel, The Merlin Conspiracy, and is in the reading room here at GMR with a cup of Belgian hot chocolate busily devouring it. It is a superb novel, and our own Grey will be reviewing it in a future issue! (Our Greyness will also be reviewing Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom, an interesting look at the author and her work.) Indeed it was g'nough that it turned him aside from his plans to read Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence without interuption!
The Day after The Two Towers
or, 19th of December, 2002
'As soon as the whole company was assembled, standing in a wide circle around Treebeard, a curious and unintelligible conversation began. The Ents began to murmur slowly: first one joined and then another, until they were all chanting together in a long rising and falling rhythm, now louder on one side of the ring, now dying away there and rising to a great boom on the other side... After a long time, [Pippin] found himself wondering, since Entish was such an 'unhasty' language, whether they had yet got further than Good Morning; and if Treebeard was to call the roll, how many days it would take to sing all their names. 'I wonder what the Entish is for yes or no,' he thought. He yawned.'
--from The Two Towers
Those of you who have been waiting... and waiting... may perhaps wonder if Grey Walker was writing her review of Newline Cinema's The Two Towers in Entish. Well, here it is at last! And, just to add to the fun, Cat Eldridge has a review of the special-release, extended-version DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring, for anyone who is still looking for the perfect last minute holiday gift. Cat and Grey both get Excellence in Writing Awards for their reviews.
Comfort and joy to all, and come back for the All-Celtic Issue on December 22!
15th of December 2002
'It was Christmas and Kinlocochbervie had a festive atmosphere about it. Decorations and fir trees decked out with tinsel stood in windows, lighting the dull afternoon with flashes of cheerful Technicolor brilliance, and the door to the Compass was adorned with a massive wreath. The smell of burning wood was in the air, as the wind tugged at the ribbons of smoke issuing from most of the chimneys. I walked past the Compass, and my nose was assaulted by the wonderful odor of roasting chestnuts, something I had not smelled in years. It conjured many images of Christmases past, and as I walked to the first of the shops on my list, I was whistling a merry carol.' -- Richard Brennan in Paul Brandon's Swim the Moon
Green Man staffers start celebrating the turn of the year in October. Really. Truly. We start with the Celtic New Year, and stop celebrating with the Russian Christmas. (After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout all of Russia. It wasn't until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was safely observed. I am now reading Natasha's Dance: a Cultural History of Russia, which looks at what happened to culture under the Soviets. It ain't a pretty picture.) I mention this as Bela, the Balkan violinist who drifted in and stayed, confessed that he wanted to be part of a group where music and general merry making were something that happened every day. Now, being broke as many itinerant musicians are, a warm bed, hearty food, and free drink were not something for him to pass up either, but music is what pulled him here. (Don't worry -- he's earning his keep!)
At any rate, we're planning a special party here in the Green Man offices around the release of the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers. (OK, anything will do as an excuse for a party in these offices.) Come back December 19th for a review by Grey Walker. She has a press pass to see it, so she's going to the first showing on opening day, the 18th, and then coming straight home and writing a review! And I (Cat) will be reviewing the expanded DVD edition of The Fellowship of The Ring film. Several days after that, we'll have our first ever all-Celtic issue. Now, given that we already do more Celtic material than anyone else on the net, it should be a corker of an issue! I'll tease you by noting that Stephen Hunt will be doing a Robin Williamson omnibus. And I do believe that Jack Merry will be doing a rather extensive look at CDs from Breton bands, including Fest Noz favorites Skolvan and Storvan.
Some staff updates for you... No'am Newman has been added to the proofing team and is still awaiting his assignment. Ryan, husband of Maria Nutick, has been added to the proofing team where he's responsible for indexing. Maria has been promoted to Copy Editor. (Poor lass!) Oh, and Michael Jones and David Kidney are busy learning HTML programming so that we can offer you even more reviews!
Ray Bradbury's fans await each of his new books with bated breath. While we ordinary readers will have to wait a liiiitle bit longer for Let's All Kill Constance, Craig Clarke makes our wait more bearable with a pre-publication review. Well? Is it worth the wait? Is Bradbury as wonderful as always? Go see what Craig says!
Craig Clarke, whose review of Let's All Kill Constance is featured above, went back and re-read an earlier book in the same Bradbury series, Death is a Lonely Business, sort of as research.... Since Craig was willing to suffer through another superb Bradbury book, we can't let his efforts go to waste!
Eric Eller takes a look at a collection of speculative stories on a serious subject, genetic engineering. The three stories by Jack Williamson in Dragon's Island and Other Stories 'show some ambivalence towards genetic engineering, but the overall tone is one of hope.'
Michael M. Jones reviews two books that sound downright delectable, if his praises are to be believed. The first is A Morbid Initiation, by Philippe Boulle, a novel set in White Wolf's Victorian Age Vampire game world. 'Overall,' Michael enthuses, 'I was extremely pleased with A Morbid Initiation. It evokes the proper atmosphere, and remains true to the source material without relying overly heavily on it. While it may not be entirely historically accurate, it does capture the feel, the essence of that time period.' Michael waxes even more eloquent about Mercedes Lackey's latest Valdemar novel, Exile's Honor. 'This is, without a doubt, one of the best Valdemar books Mercedes Lackey has done.... I'm not sure how she can top this one, given that Alberich is one of her most compelling and complex characters, and she's fairly well mined the recent past, present, and future of Valdemar, but damned if I don't hope she tries.' Dunno if Michael's been eating Wheaties or what, but he's on top of his game as a reviewer. He gets Excellence in Writing Awards for both of these reviews.
Patrick O'Donnell garners an Excellence in Writing Award as well, for his outstanding review of DAW Books 30th Anniversary Science Fiction Anthology. It's not easy to give a critical overview of an anthology of stories without sounding like an annotated bibliography, but Patrick pulls it off. He tells us just enough to give us a taste for this important anthology, while leaving plenty of juicy details for us to discover on our own.
New reviewer Wes Unruh chose to write his audition review on Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, a seminal work in dystopian fiction. Not only did the review convince us to take Wes on, we decided you'd like to read it, too. Merry welcome, Wes!
Grey Walker was browsing in the library last week, looking at the new books in the art section, when her eye chanced to light upon A Fairy's Child, a book of photographs by Anne Dahlgren and Douglas Foulke. 'If this were a book of photographs alone, without a word of text, it would be a wonderful and powerful work of art. However, the artists take things one step further. They intersperse their photographs with poetry about fairies. The poems they have chosen are all from the same evocative realm as their images. By poets as diverse as Jane Taylor, Robert Graves, Ben Jonson and Edgar Allen Poe, the poems are variously romantic, eerie, sweet and nonsensical.' Grey recommends this book, for yourself or to give as a gift. (Cat here. Grey will be reviewing another fairy book in our 5th of January issue: Faire-ality, The Fashion Collection. I have another copy here, and this book is a must for anyone interested in the lifestyles of the truly chic fey. Really. Truly.)
This week, Craig Clarke reviews the Martin Lawrence comedy Black Knight, a film which he says 'was not as bad as I thought it would be'. Find out why not, and learn what he ultimately thought of this medieval farce, in this fair and even-handed review by one of our most prolific film reviewers.
Three of our staffers enjoyed three very different performances recently.
Peter Massey was lucky enough to attend one of the Steeleye Span Reunion Tour shows in Southport, Lancashire on December 7. Steeleye is one of the seminal English folk-rock bands, and this tour reunited most of its long-term stalwarts, which included Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp, Peter Knight, and Liam Genockey. Bob Johnson, also part of this lineup, couldn't tour with them for medical reasons, but Ken Nicol, late of the Albion Band and a variety of other groups, filled in quite ably. This show was unusual in that 'The playlist for the concert and the album, 'Present,' was selected from votes placed online by fans on the Park Records Web site. Peter was a bit disappointed that there was no newer material in the set list, but he says, 'I know it is hard to put a band together with a lineup that creates that little bit of extra magic, but I have said it before and I will say it again: 'This is the line up, they are the Steeleye Span that everyone remembers and loves.' Long may they reign!'
Liz Milner had the chance to see guitar god Adrian Legg perform at Jammin' Java, a small coffeehouse in Vienna, Virginia (better known as the location for outdoor music venue Wolf Trap). Liz wins an Excellence in Writing Award for doing an especially fine job of both describing Legg's music, (for example 'Legg achieved a very 'three dimensional' sound by simultaneously playing melody, rhythm and a bass countermelody which blended with the overtones of notes he'd struck previously.') and giving a very honest review of the venue.
Finally, Vonnie Carts-Powell immersed herself in music of a culture previously unfamiliar to her, that of the Sephardic Jews, as performed by Voice of the Turtle. She found the music to be 'a learning experience for me -- an introduction to an unfamiliar tradition with a language barrier between me and the songs -- and although I'm not likely to become a great fan of Sephardic music, it was a pleasant evening. I walked into the Somerville Theater expecting a holiday concert -- and was not even sure of which holiday -- without context. The music, though, ranged from intriguing to absolutely spell-binding.'
Next week is our special, all-Celtic, midwinter issue! OK, you already know that, but what the heck. 'Blockbusters' are always heavily 'plugged' elsewhere, so why not here at Green Man? That doesn't mean that our crack team of music reviewers have been idle this week, far from it! Instead, they've been turning their attentions to some releases from the other traditions and musical genres that we cover. They've unearthed some real 'hidden gems' along the way (without a bodhran or harp in sight), so 'read on MacDuff!'
Kim Bates has been getting well and truly festive with an omnibus review of four Christmas music albums. Our music editor informs us that Ensemble Galilei's A Winter's Night Christmas in the Great Hall , is 'one of the best holiday discs I've heard in years.' What sets this female ensemble apart is 'their exquisite taste, individual and collective artistry, and their unerring sense for arrangements.'
St. Agnes Fountain are nothing short of a British folk-rock Christmas supergroup (!) consisting of Chris While, Julie Matthews, David Hughes and Chris Leslie of Fairport infamy. Kim's reviewed both of their CDs, and very enticing they sound, too! St. Agnes Fountain 'consists entirely of traditional carols,' and 'the four principals are joined by Gerry Conway (drums/percussion), with some help on selected tracks by Kellie While, Dave Pegg, and Mark Tucker. Kim's verdict: 'it's lovely.' Their another CD,Comfort and Joy, also contains traditional carols, but is a more eclectic album with 'lots of new material.' Personally speaking, I'd advise buying it just for 'the bonus track, where Ralph McTell reads a selection from his autobiography entitled 'Uncle Alf, Two Turkeys and a Piano Accordion!'
After all that British 'traditionalism' Kim notes: 'you'd expect me to hate Oh Christmas Tree - A Bluegrass Collection for the Holidays , which contains a large selection of original bluegrass compositions written with true blue American sentimentality, full of predictable motifs about family, holly in the window, icicles on the barn, and so forth. But I can't. Somehow this all works. I'm not sure why!' A glance at the cast list for this compilation should provide some serious clues as to why, as there are names like Tony Trischka, Rhonda Vincent and The Cox Family here folks! Oh, and it's a Rounder Records release, which should in itself be enough of a guarantee for Bluegrass aficionados. Now that Kim's filled us with Christmas cheer, we'll reciprocate by giving her a gift-wrapped Excellence in Writing Award!
Craig Clarke introduces us to the delights of The Lonesome Brothers from western Massachusetts. Well, he introduces me anyway, you may already be familiar with a group 'well into their second decade of playing together.' Their CD, Pony Tales is, according to Craig: 'the very best in roots rock and soulful alt-country crooning.'
Judith Gennett tackles the imposingly titled Dancing On the Edge Of A Volcano: Jewish Cabaret and Political Songs 1900-1945 from New Budapest Orpheum Society. This is a '2 CD set of classically oriented Jewish show music from Vienna,' which, as Judith wryly observes: 'may be difficult for a down-home folkie to appreciate as recreational music.' Judith seems to have found the necessary effort ultimately worthwhile, and deems this collection 'a moving, if chilling, experience.'
Stephen Hunt found himself joining the ever-widening ranks of Ramsay Midwood admirers. Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant has already elevated this American singer, songwriter and 'B-movie actor,' to cult status in Europe, and the American release of this CD should repeat the trick in the US. Stephen says: 'anyone who's ever held a special place in their heart for Dr John's 'Gris-Gris,' Dylan and The Band's 'The Basement Tapes,' or Tom Wait's 'Swordfish Trombones,' can just stop reading right here, and go and buy this CD with confidence! This is probably Stephen's shortest ever review for Green Man, but it's still earned him an Excellence in Writing Award!
Peter Massey is another of our British reviewers clutching an Excellence in Writing Award this week. (And expensive little buggers they are as they are hand-crafted each time in Wales exclusively for Green Man.) Quite right too, as his review of Further Adventures of Darling Cory by English folk-rockers Lehto & Wright is full of the kind of honest, knowledgeable enthusiasm that only comes from a writer operating in their field of expertise. Peter declares this CD: 'a benchmark that will influence others,' and advises Green Man readers to 'get it as soon as you can.'
Lenora Rose picked up OMM , a compilation from Omnium Records . 'As an overall work, it's a good selection, fun to dance to and a delight to anyone who likes to see traditions shaken up, and occasionally put through a blender.' Boiled in Lead, Oysterband and The Ukranians are among the artists doing the shaking and blending
The Ukranians are also the subject of an Excellence in Writing Award winning review by Big Earl Sellar. Both 1991's The Ukrainians ( and their new release Respublika found approval with our resident world-roots specialist and self-confessed aging punk-rocker, who declares the latter CD to be 'definitely in my top 5 discs of the year.' Finally, Big Earl reviews two CD's of djembe drumming, which as he notes, 'is something with a limited target audience.' The two discs are Jebebara - The Bamana Djembe and Tambacounda Senegal - Live Sogoni . The Big Man asks the rhetorical (but nonetheless pertinent) question: 'how do I write several paragraphs on a couple of hours of badabiddlebadathumpthump?' Read his review for the answer to that one, and make a date to join us again next week for the return of the bodhrans and harps...
I forgot to mention that Childsplay was wonderful a few weeks back. We loved every minute -- more fiddlers and other musicians than one can dare hope for in one concert! (Barb Truex will be giving you a review of it in the near future.) I'm also happy to note that Endless Jam, my plan for days of continuous music, is proceeding nicely -- the only change being that it'll be on the Winter Solstice next year, instead of All Hallows weekend! I've got interest expressed from bands ranging from Medieval and Contradance to even a few Celtic bands. Oh, and one more fiddling note -- Frifot, the truly cool Swedish neo-trad band that Green Man staffers are very fond of, will have a new album out in March! Yea! (Lunasa and the Old Blind Dogs will also have new CDs out in the spring.)
We don't normally talk about print endeavors here at Green Man as regards zines, but I have news of one, Tradition Magazine, that all of you interested in myth and music will want to check out. When the website went online, we noted 'Paul Salmon, the Editor, describes it thusly: 'Tradition magazine features customs and traditions mainly from the British Isles, a land with one of the richest and most varied folk heritages in the world. Whether its accounts of living events such as our numerous Mayday ceremonies, our customs, superstitions, music, song, dance, story telling, folk medicine, crafts such as thatching and blacksmithing, costume or the wealth of myth and legend in which this nation is steeped, you'll find it all here in the pages of Tradition. Visit our shop where you will be able to purchase a Green Man t-shirt along the way.' Another United Kingdom website worth checking out is Folk and Roots which is described by its creator as 'a resource for people who enjoy folk and acoustic music with links to artists, venues, reviews and a frequently updated events guide to all folk/acoustic events in London and the South East of England.' Well, Paul decded that he would prefer it be in printed form which it now is. The first issue, appropriately dated Winter Solstice 2002, arrived at the Green Man offices today. And what a glorious issue it is! Being a truly English undertaking, it has articles the symbolic means of the Oak, the Lostwithiel Giants, a Cornish Christmas celebration, a nice piece on earthern giants, a look at Pretty Grim, a Border Morris team, an essay of Christmas superstitions, and a whole passle of CDs reviews including many not covered here. Oh, I forgot to mention the absolutely brilliant article the customs associated with Ivy. You can email Paul for all the details on how to get what is now called Tradition -- Keeping Traditions and Customs Alive. And do ask him about their ever-so-cool Greenman t-shirt!
Now I'm off to read more of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, as I promised myself that I'd spend December reading it. You can find me in the Library by the fireplace in an overstuffed chair with a cup of hot cocoa if you really, really need me.
8th of December 2002
'At Christmas 1914 there took place in some parts of the British line what is still regarded by many as the most remarkable incident of the War - an unofficial truce. During the winter it was not unusual for little groups of men to gather in a front trench, and there hold impromptu concerts, singing patriotic songs. The Germans, too, did much the same, and on calm evenings the songs from one line floated to the trenches of the other side, and were received with applause, and sometimes with calls for an encore.' -- Stanley Weintraub's Silent Night -- The Story of The World War I Christmas Truce
A rather rumpled Balkan violinist, who says his name is Bela, stopped by the Green Man offices to make use of the Library and its extensive tune collection -- including the tunes he himself composed between the Wars. Other than having to be told that he couldn't smoke anything other than his Meerschaum in the pub, he's a perfect gentleman who's been putting on quite a performance of his country's dance tunes, to the delight of all present. His favourite tune is 'Neda Voda', a traditional Balkan tune, which he claims to have learned from Boiled in Lead while playing on an American tour a few years back. It's such an impressive performance that Stephen Hunt, our barkeep this afternoon, rummaged 'bout the bar and found a case of Slaty Bazant, a Bratislavian beer that Bela said he's quite fond of, but hasn't drunk in decades! Mind you, after quite a few bottles he started rambling on in German about Cossacks, sent by the Czar with snow still on their great coats, being seen in Dover waiting to embark for France during the Great War, but we ignored that...
Meanwhile, upstairs in the Green Man offices, Asher Black, with the help of fresh brewed Turkish coffee and lots of pipe tobacco, used our bleedin' edge computer technology to redesign the Web site while we were away last week, so that the graphics will load even faster. He's also made a list of dead links and the like that our crack proofing team of himself, Maria Nutick, Ryan Nutick, Michelle Erica Green, April Gutierrez, and No'am Newman will be fixing over the next few weeks. With more reviews than any comparable zine, there's always work to be done that you, our dear readers, never see, but which you'd appreciate if you knew it was being done!
A few book notes before I go... Grey Walker will have a review of the Charles de Lint collection, A Handful of Coppers, in our first issue of Jnauary which will be on the 8th as there'd be an insuurection here if we tried put out an issue on New Years! And I (Cat) will be doing an indepth look at The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales which noted folklorist Maria Tatar edited. Annotated Classic Fairy Tales is, as the W. W. Norton website notes, 'a remarkable treasure trove, a work that celebrates the best-loved tales of childhood and presents them through the vision of Maria Tatar, a leading authority in the field of folklore and children's literature.'
Lastly, I should note that our all-celtic issue is coming along nicely -- it should be a 'bang on the ear' affair! Indeed, I can hear Jack Merry muttering 'bout the large pile of Breton music CDs from Keltia Musique, which he'll be reviewing for that issue (coming in a fortnight, in case you were wondering....). Now, let's see what's going on in the Great Hall...
Our esteemed music editor, Kim Bates, has been listening to the 'tense, compelling music' of Nordic roots music adventurers Gjallarhorn, on their new CD Grimborg. We're featuring this review -- and giving it an Excellence in Writing Award -- because she did a splendid job with a challenging sort of review. When you're delighted with the music a group has made in the past, how do you critique a new album by that group which is quite different in style? Read Kim's review to find out!
Pratchett fans, rejoice and be exceedingly glad! The new Pratchett, Night Watch, is now here! What's that? You're not a Pratchett fan? Well, you'll want to read Christine Doiron's review anyway. 'There are still plenty of laughs to be had here,' Christine assures fans, 'but they are almost overshadowed by the sheer darkness of this story, and by the remarkably sympathetic, shockingly un-bumbling lead character Sam Vimes. The man is actually deep. He's sensitive, conflicted, intelligent, and Ill be damned if he's not a do-gooder! What's going on here?'
Donna Bird took advantage of the long Thanksgiving weekend to write us a review of The Circus Age, 'an interesting amalgam of social history and cultural criticism' by Janet M. Davis. Davis, says Donna, 'focuses on the three-ring circuses and Wild West shows that traveled by rail around the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, providing entertainment and a limited form of cross-cultural exposure to residents of large cities and small towns alike.' Donna wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her review.
'Daniel Pinkwater's novels invariably pounce on the weirdness that underpins everyday life,' says Eric Eller. And he should know -- he just read five of them! Five Novels contains, under one cover, Alan Mendelson, the Boy from Mars, Slaves of Speigel, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, The Last Guru, and The Young Adult Novel, all by Pinkwater at his finest and oddest. Check out Eric's review to learn more about Pinkwater's worlds 'with avocado-powered computers and 800-year-old Venusian biker folksingers. Not to mention places where the most feared pirates in the universe are 300-pound men in leisure suits.'
Tim Hoke, who's studying storytelling with Tadhg Dhonn, GMR's resident seannachie, reviews a book of urban legends collected and briefly analyzed by Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker. These are the stories we've all heard from our best friend's mom, who heard them from her hairdresser, who swears they're true! This form of folklore, which has now spawned a whole new subset on the Internet, has a venerable history. Of 'The Vanishing Hitchhiker' in particular, Tim says, 'variants are mentioned that predate automobiles, instead using horse-drawn vehicles.' Why do these stories persist ... and persist? Read Tim's review for some ideas.
Michael M. Jones finds Hidden Truth, by Dawn Cook, to be a satisfactory sequel to her novel First Truth. 'Cook's use of mood and atmosphere really shines here,' says Michael. 'Read First Truth before this one, though, if you want the full experience.'
Jack Merry is often holed up in his office, come winter, drinking tea and reading history. Of course, that sometimes means fiction based on history. This week, it's T. S. Eliot's superb play in verse, Murder in the Cathedral, about that famous Canterbury saint, Thomas à Beckett. Jack wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his review, in which he says, among other things, that '[Murder in the Cathedral] reads well, which is rare indeed for the script of a political drama.'
Maria Nutick started her review of Jerry Weist's Bradbury: An Illustrated Life three times before she could finish it. Maybe it's because she knew that our Editor in Chief (also known as 'Chief') thought it was so good that he kept the other copy the publisher sent -- so she'd better write a darn good review! Or maybe it's because, as she says, 'It worried me when I first received this book and found myself spitting out profound commentary that began with the brilliant phrase 'Duuuude. This is cool. This is so cool. Honey, look at this, this book is just waaaaay cool.' Perhaps not my finest moment as a speaker of English, but in my defense, Bradbury: An Illustrated Life has provoked a similar reaction in everyone that I've shown it to so far.' At any rate, Maria done good! She even gets an Excellence in Writing Award for her cool review.
Guy Soffer thinks Aristotle and the Gun and Other Stories is an excellent presentation of the style of L. Sprague de Camp. The six de Camp stories in this collection, he says, 'are fairly short, very readable and mostly also very funny.'
Grey Walker has found a book that every serious fantasy reader will want to add to his or her reference shelf. Brian Attebery's The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature traces the efforts of American fantasists from Washington Irving to Ursula Le Guin to develop an 'archetypal analog' for America, a uniquely American 'fairyland.' Read Grey's review for an indepth look at this outstanding piece of scholarship which, while a little dry, is dry 'like a pleasant white wine, not like a mouthful of saltine crackers.' (Our Greyness was too modest to give herself an Excellence in Writing Award for her superb work in writing this review, but I (Cat) will do so now.)
Thomas Wiloch rounds out our book reviews this week with another interesting piece of scholarship, The Making of the Alice Books: Lewis Carroll's Uses of Earlier Children's Literature, by Ronald Reichertz. 'Reichertz argues convincingly that Carroll drew from a wide variety of sources, including nursery rhymes, fairy tales, didactic stories, and stories of the world turned upside down (stories or poems about nonsensical events),' says Thomas. '[And] in the course of delineating the sources for the Alice books, he presents a fascinating history of children's literature of the 18th and early 19th centuries.'
Craig Clarke has Issue the Fifth of 'The Book of Tales' for us this week, in which he takes a flashlight into the basement of the GMR archives and blows the dust off of a couple older anthologies, containing some humdingers of short stories by the likes of Bradbury, Bloch, and Edgar Pangborn. Craig wins a special award for Best Use of the Green Man Office Building!
Let's face it, we're all breathlessly awaiting the December 18th release of The Two Towers. Only 10 more days, folks! In the meantime, Craig Clarke suggests that we revisit an older film. Craig enjoyed the 1949 film It Happens Every Spring, which he tells us is 'a movie about a man who loves baseball utilizing a happy accident in the name of love'. Read his review to find out more about this classic Ray Milland fantasy.
David Kidney brings us two films about the creative process, Eisenstein and Frida. David observes that 'the motion picture and the portrayal of creative process has been an uncomfortable blend' and explains that '...two recent films seek to change that by dramatically overstepping the bounds of narrative film-making and going into a netherworld of imagination and symbol.' Read his excellent review to find out how each of these films succeeds in exploring this netherworld, and why he feels 'we are the richer for it'.
Judith Gennett, meanwhile, has been enjoying the studio albums of Ben Sands, Take Your Time and Roots And Branches. 'Ben Sands, from the legendary Sands Family, is from Newry, County Down in Northern Ireland... he sings and sometimes writes gentle songs that can have a punch beyond their subtlety.'
Summer Dancing is the latest CD from singer-songwriter Lenore. This album gets a review courtesy of our (similarly named)! writer Lenora Rose, who says: 'I can't condemn this album, there is talent here, but I can't quite recommend it, either.' Read the whole of Lenora's thoughtful and thorough piece to see how she came to the conclusion that 'the album is far closer to a winner than to a loser.'
The Wheeze and Suck Band's Vincent Street, didn't fare so well under Lenora's scrutiny, as she opines: 'the notable tracks make up significantly less than half the album.' A pity, as 'the Sydney-based band look and read like they ought to be a fun bunch.' (I see that this album's closing tune is called 'The Madcap Laughs,' but I've no idea whether it's got any connection to Syd Barrett )!
Assistant music editor David Kidney deserves special mention for the amount of quality reviews that he's produced this week! The Kidney house has been well and truly rocking to The Dexters, Hip To The Tip: Live at the Orbit Room. If The Dexters is a name as unfamiliar to you as it is to me, David should entice you in with this explanation: 'Dexter is a pseudonym for a Canadian super-group, sort of a Traveling Wilburys of the Great White North.' Among the guests, there's one Alex Lifeson (from Rush). Now, who'd have thought that we'd be seeing that name in Green Man?
Hey Stella! is, he says, 'a fine album of country rock, raw and invigorating,' by a band called (wait for it) Hey Stella!
David just kept right on going with his review of Room To Breathe by Delbert McClinton. 'This Texas blues is some good music!' declares Mr Kidney. So good, in fact, that either it caused David's imagination to run riot, or one helluva party broke out in his kitchen! How else would you explain such musings as ' ...the girls in their low-rise Levis. Don't those spaghetti straps look nice? Mmmmm.' Read the review to find out what's got him so hot under the collar, then go and have a cold shower or take a brisk walk round the block.... Alternatively, you can turn straight from the sensual to the sanctified with David's review of The Rough Guide to Gospel. With such artists as Mahalia Jackson, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Five Blind Boys of Alabama and The Soul Stirrers it's no surprise to find that David declares: 'It is powerful stuff. And that's good news!' No surprise either in the Excellence in Writing Award that David gets for this review!
Ever heard of 'New Age Blues?' Not a style of music that comes readily to my mind, but apparently the speciality of South African guitarist Aidan Mason. David enjoyed 'a remarkable and romantic hour,' listening to Azania.
Peter Massey was unequivocal in his enthusiasm for a new three CD set compiled from the archives of Vanguard Records called Roots of Folk. 'one of the very best compilations I have ever come across,' declares Peter, 'an album that every one should have.' He also enjoyed getting into the Seasonal spirit to Sir Christmas from California's Broceliande. 'If you are looking for something to give to your nearest and dearest for Christmas, this might be the ideal present.' Hmm, I wonder if he's going to wrap up his review copy for Mrs Massey?!
Master Reviewer Big Earl Sellar got a real 'goodie' with From Hell To Gone And Back: Texas Blues. This is a five-artist compilation, those five being Mance Lipscombe, Lightnin Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Pee Wee Crayton and Lee Roy Parnell. Big Earl's certainly got me interested in this CD with the observation: 'in this era of the cheap-buck Blues compilation, Texas Blues sounds like a labour of love.'
Big Earl's fellow Master Reviewer Gary Whitehouse also got into compilation territory with Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash, an album which includes Rosie Flores, Rodney Crowell, Kelly Willis and Billy Burnette among the contributing artists. Gary reckons that: 'tribute CDs are usually a hit-or-miss affair, but this one's a little more consistent than many.'
Finally, Gary reviews two more CD reissues from Joan Baez, with the albums 5 and Farewell, Angelina. Gary says: 'these two albums present a snapshot of the American folk music scene during the pivotal years in which the 1960s became The Sixties.' Read his superb review to discover why Farewell, Angelina is 'a powerhouse of an album' and why Gary's got another Excellence in Writing Award
All Silver and No Brass, the play which Chy Spriggan, our resident theatre group, is putting on, has been going well in rehearsal. However, several of the tunes needed are giving the rat fiddlers of the Gulow ha Tewldar Band a bit of confusion, as they don't normally work in the Irish tradition. Fortunately, our visiting violinist has offered to assist them. It's quite amusing to watch them working together, chattering away in a mix of Cornish, French, Hungarian, Slovakian, and Italian while quaffing bloody big pints of Russian Imperial Extra Double Stout. I think that they understand what he's saying -- or rather gesturing -- but I can't be sure... At any rate, as a result of his helping out, he'll be staying with us at least 'til Twelfth Night, so we gave him one of the guest rooms up in the garret under the slate roof. I suspect that I'll be hearing him playing late at night as I work in my office...
1st of December 2002
'I was exceedingly delighted with the waltz, and also with the polka. These differ in name, but there the difference ceases--the dances are precisely the same. You have only to spin around with frightful velocity and steer clear of the furniture. This has a charming and bewildering effect. You catch glimpses of a confused and whirling multitude of people, and above them a row of distracted fiddlers extending entirely around the room. The waltz and the polka are very exhilarating--to use a mild term--amazingly exhilarating' -- Mark Twain in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise newspaper, December 12th, 1862
Jack here. Ahhh... gently falling snow... horse-drawn carts... roasted chestnuts... vodka toasts... courtly dances... roaring fires... sugar plums... There'll be no new reviews this week, as most of the Green Man staff -- those not recovering from their Thanksgiving feasts -- are in St. Petersburg as guests of The Winter Court. They're preparing to open up their residence here once they leave us at Midwinter. 'Course we really didn't need to come to St. Petersburg, but how could we resist? When else will we get a chance to wear fur overcoats, leather boots, beaver hats, and dress to the nines? Not to mention the parties! Brigid, me wife, wears black and only black when in this city -- an amazing sight with her red hair, green eyes, and pale skin. 'Tis enough to stir the blood of the most jaded male! Now we're off to catch the evening performance of the Novaya Gollandiya Early-Music Ensemble, so I bid you adieu... Shall we go, me love?