'The meaning of a thing that brings you pleasure can come slowly but I got the fullness of this picture just when I saw it. Jack Dwyer puts his fingers to the strings of his fiddle. Artie Sweeney's shoulders fly up as he squeezes his accordion. The man at the piano leans over and drops as he hits the note like a swimmer diving from a rock. The tune begins. Eileen is very light. Her bones could be made from the lightest wood. The music is like an electrical current driving us all around the floor. Eileen knows the steps without looking or thinking. The steps are inside her. She throws her head back and laughs and it's as though something in her face breaks and falls away, a mask made of dried clay.' -- Timothy O'Grady, from I Could Read The Sky
30th of March, 2003
Hello, Stephen Hunt here. I'm in the back bar of the Green Man Pub, where the Neverending Session is in full flow. There's an amazing Galician guitarist sitting in tonight, so I've (been) volunteered to write this week's continuity notes while I'm here. Actually, I'm quite happy to oblige, as the session is an enjoyably different experience on the outside of the circle than on the inside, where I usually find myself. You start noticing people and things that you'd miss if you were playing.
Even so, I never noticed that quiet young woman who's now sketching portraits of the musicians...where did she come from? How does someone so striking manage to move about unnoticed like that? How come her long red hair looks damp when it hasn't rained all day? I'm snapped out of these musings by Jack, who gives me a playful bang on the ear as he squeezes past. 'What are ye staring at, Laddie,' says he. 'Ah, that's Morveth, she lives somewhere up on the coast. I'd keep your eyes on your notebook, not her, if I were you, as she's got a thing for singers!' I protest that my interest in the lady is purely observational. 'Aye, sure it is,' he chuckles, and he's off, hailing other customers.
Grey's tucked away in the corner there, reading, as always. With her fingers rhythmically tapping on the covers and the pages flicking over, she looks like a concertina player accompanying a song that only she can hear. Mia and Ryan are deep in conversation among the throng at the bar, Ryan's got his missus in a ballroom dance hold... I'm trying to read the Def Leppard tour dates on the back of his T-shirt when Mia flashes me a smile over his shoulder. Ryan turns to grin too, makes an 'air guitar' gesture and nods pointedly in the direction of the session. I smile back, shake my head, and do a 'we're not worthy,' towards the Galician guy.
So, here we all are. Reading, listening and watching. We're not outside of the circle after all, but inside the next circle, the next ripple on the pond when the stone gets dropped in the water. We've got enough books, music and films among our reviews to create a few waves this week. If anything makes a particularly impressive splash for you, we'd love to hear about it in our Letters of Comment page. It's worth visiting to read Jane Yolen's comments on Hans Christian Andersen!
The book review we're featuring this week wins its Excellence in Writing Award because it's so tempting that we simply had to give in! Reviewer and temptress Maria Nutick reviews three dessert cookbooks, putting them together in one omnibus review so that the cumulative effect is staggering. Yes, here in one review we have Celebrate with Chocolate by reknowned chocolatier Marcel Desaulniers; Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri, one of the world's foremost pastry chefs; and The Ultimate Brownie Book by Bruce Weinstein. Once she's done laying out the delights of these books for us, Maria asks solicitously, 'So, how are you feeling, after all of this? Any hot flashes? Are you finding it difficult to concentrate?' Oh, my, yes....
Using stirring vocal performances to interpret the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, for modern audiences is something that Mari Kaasinen and her group Värttinä excel at. Scott Gianelli had the chance this month to discuss with Mari the history of Värttinä and some of the influences on their new album iki. Take a look at Scott's featured interview of Mari for some insight into how Värttinä combines its inspiration from traditional poetry and song with modern musical influences, and then read his marvelous review for a taste of the music itself!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan Nathan Brazil begins our book review section with a review of the new bio of Joss Whedon, Buffy's creator. Joss Whedon: The Genius behind Buffy, by Candace Havens, isn't due to be released by the publisher until May this year, so read Nathan's review for a sneak preview!
Faith J. Cormier continues this week in her systematic coverage of the David and Leigh Eddings oeuvre. This time it's The Tamuli, the three-book series which is the sequel to The Elenium. 'The author of any sequel has a daunting task,' Faith says. 'How do you take characters who had achieved some sort of closure and get them back into harness? How do you make them fresh and interesting to readers of the previous work, who may feel they know them better than you do?' Does Eddings answer these and other questions satifactorily? See what Faith thinks....
Michael M. Jones has, by his own admission, looked past fantasy based on Asian history and folklore when browsing the shelves for something new to read. It just hasn't intrigued him as much as stories based on more familiar Western myths and tales. But Paper Mage by Leah R. Cutter has changed that. 'This is a beautiful, delicate, intricate book, the words origami-folded into one of those flowers that just keeps opening and opening and revealing more of itself with each new day,' Michael says enthusiastically.
David Kidney asserts that Tom Paxton is a legend! 'Legends are wont to write their autobiographies, while they're sitting around being legendary, and Mr. Paxton is no exception,' David goes on to say. 'Except, he did what all smart songwriters should do... he made it a songbook.' That songbook is The Honor of Your Company, and David can't say enough good things about it.
Jack Merry takes a look at a work by another legend, J.R.R. Tolkien. Beowulf and the Critics, edited by Michael Drout, is a newly-released, expanded version of a lecture Tolkien gave in 1936 on, err, Beowulf. Jack assures us that Tolkien 'does a rather neat job in some forty-five or so pages of giving you everything, and I mean everything, you'll ever need to know 'bout Beowulf.'
There seems to be no end to books retelling the story of Arthur the King, and we've reviewed many of them here at GMR. So why another one? Lenora Rose says that The King's Peace, by Jo Walton, presents a unique perspective on Arthur that's worth reading. Rather than telling the tales of betrayal and tragedy, of Lancelot and Guinevere, Mordred, and the seduction and fall of Merlin, this book recounts the efforts of the high king and his followers to bind Britain together in a lasting, secure peace. 'Unspoken, but certainly present, is the implication that the creation of the peace -- and the concept of peace itself -- and not its shattering, should be the part of the story the people treasure and re-tell.' Lenora wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her clear, thoughtful review.
Kelly Sedinger gives us a review of a book he hated, but couldn't put down. 'It was something like a literary car wreck,' he admits. 'I wanted to look away, but I couldn't.' The book? A Winter Marriage by Irish poet Kerry Hardie. Read Kelly's review to see if you want to take a drive past this literary car wreck yourself...
Like Maria Nutick above, Stacy Troubh has been revelling in cookbooks lately, and she reviews a bonny brace of them this week. Of The Good Enough to Eat Breakfast Cookbook by chef Carrie Levin Stacy says, 'Levin's language is so casual and conversational, it's as if she is standing in your kitchen chatting on a lazy Sunday over a cup of coffee.' And Catherine Cheremeteff Jones, author of A Year of Russian Feasts, is uniquely qualified to offer recipes for the sort of food eaten by real Russians; she lived in Russia with her parents and spent time in Russian kitchens, listening, eating and taking notes. Read both of Stacy's reviews to see why you'll want to add these two cookbooks to your own kitchen shelf.
This week it's Wes Unruh who finishes off our book reviews with a look at a classic in the fantasy genre, The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany. Months after reading it, Wes says, 'I realized that the half-lit imaginary Spain which Dunsany brought to life in my mind never faded over time.' But he warns that you may need to read the book twice to experience its full effect. Is it worth it? See what Wes thinks in his Excellence in Writing Award -winning review.
'For plantation workers in the American South, a juke joint was a safe place to congregate. Originally the joint might be nothing more than somebody's house, one room, the furniture removed, and a bucket of beer, where tired cotton-pickers would gather to dance and drink and hear some blues. They were open Saturday nights, since most workers only got one and a half days off a week. They'd finish Saturday afternoon, and start again bright and early Monday morning. Sunday was church...so Saturday night was time to party!' David Kidney could be talking about the staff here at GMR, and our own Green Man Pub! But he's really talking about a documentary film entitled Last of the Mississippi Jukes which we were fortunate enough to be sent for review. David says 'This is a film...that needs to be played LOUD! And often!'
Michael Hunter had the opportunity last week to talk to the Australian alt-country artist Audrey Auld. Audrey gave Michael some insight into the meaning and necessary honesty behind good country music. Read Michael's conversation with Audrey to learn about her recently released album, Losing Faith, and to get a look at how her background shaped her musical career. She also has some interesting things to say about the meaning behind her songs and the influences that other artists have brought to her songwriting.
In late January Judith Gennett refreshed her experience with the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Judith went to the kick-off peformance for their 30th Anniversary tour at the historic Arlene Schnitzer concert hall in Portland, Oregon. Check out Judith's review to find out how moving, thrilling, and powerful a Sweet Honey in the Rock concert can be.
This is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard Green Man Airlines, flight 30-03, destination everywhere. Our team of reviewers will provide you with everything you need to make your journey to Planet Music as enjoyable as possible.
Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for take off...
Jennifer Byrne starts our journey with a review of Pape Fall and African Salsa's Artisanat 'African Salsa is a unit that will inevitably exude a kind of nostalgic charm for African music lovers. They do possess certain warmth; a sense of reminiscence for humid, starlit nights spent in the bars of old colonial-style hotels.' And Singer Kandia Kouyate, says Jennifer, is 'one of Mali's greatest creative treasures.' Biriko 'is quite an incredible album in terms of quality, diversity and wealth of talent. Whether you like her or not, after one listen to this collection, you will never forget Kandia Kouyate.'
Richard Condon encounters Josh Lederman y los Diablos, a band who claim to have started life performing in the Boston Irish wedding circuit. The mind boggles, but with the aid of Richard's Excellence in Writing Award winning review it emerges that the music on their CD It's A Long And Lonely Time Until The Train Will Bring You Home is acoustic, tuneful, relatively unsophisticated and often folksy.
Richard's second review takes an in depth look at Arabic Grooves: Rebel Music of Algeria, The Rough Guide to Raï Richard's recommends that 'if you want to be taken out of the mainstream and hear the heartbeat of North Africa, you should not miss this CD.' Music production editor Maria Nutick was heard to comment that 'this is an incredibly fascinating review.' It is, which is why Richard's now clutching Excellence in Writing Awards in both hands!
Faith Cormier (and her kids) thoroughly enjoyed Sailing Ships and Sailing Men by Evans and Doherty with Jimmy Sweeny. This collection of maritime songs is 'part of the great body of music that had its roots in Ireland and spread all over the world.'
Judith Gennett introduces us to the work of one Mr Jones, via his CD, Waitin' For Me. 'German pseudonymic singer-songwriter Mr. Jones specializes in Texas music. He speaks with an obvious Deutsch accent, but amazingly sings in the perfect English of West/Central Texas.' Maybe that's not as bizarre as it seems... 'Germany and Texas are no strangers. During the 19th century, German immigrants poured into the land of the Lone Star, resulting in towns like New Braunfels, beers like Shiner Bok, and the accordions you hear on those Tex-Mex polkas.' And presumably, albums like this one!
The listening pleasure of Peter Hund this week was Come Back Down 'an excellent set of life observing Everyman country-folk-pop compositions' by Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter Aaron Scholz. 'What makes the record a real winner,' says Peter, 'is the 'pure' instrumentation...wedded to fine pop hooks and the best damn lyrics this side of the turn of the century. In other words, there's something here to please just about everyone.'
Inigo Jones has been celebrating in a West-London Asian style to Rahmania from the Bollywood Brass Band! This is a group who 'spontaneously morphed (according to the liner notes) from the world music street band Crocodile Style into an Indian wedding brass band during a long Diwali procession down the length of Ealing Road through partying crowds.
Inigo kept that mood going with Rough Guide to the Asian Underground. 'Overall,' he notes, 'a few themes emerge - a love of the sound of old records and scratchy radios playing traditional music; translation of Indian classical and pop styles onto electronic music and vice versa; a more than passing nod to reggae and dub; delicate instruments like flutes, violins and sarods - both live and sampled - floating over clattering drum & bass beats.' Putamayo's latest compilation, Global Soul 'explores the impact of American hip-hop, soul and R&B on music scenes around the world. Your enjoyment of this album will depend in no small part on your enjoyment of mid-tempo top-40 contemporary R&B.'
Assistant music editor David Kidney has a peerless reputation for producing concise yet comprehensive career retrospectives of significant artists. This week he turns his attentions to legendary blues man and world music pioneer Taj Mahal If this review makes you want to discover more about Taj Mahal (and it will), read David's previously published review of Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman. Fleeting Days is a new CD from Dan Bern and the IJBC. Bern is 'one of those little guys they always talk about; we used to call 'em 'new Dylan's.' Now they're all Elvis Costello-ey with dollops of Nick Lowe, and a touch of Dobro to display their rootsiness. Hey! What's wrong with that?' asks David.
Chris Whitley's Hotel Vast Horizon is a CD where 'the volumes are low, the drums brushed and the bass just providing a deep foundation over which Chris sings and works his magic on a variety of metal-bodied resonator guitars. This is haunting, haunted music. Music for night-time. Music for guitar lovers. Music for blues lovers. Not for everybody maybe but definitely for the adventurous listener who is looking for a challenge and a groove.'
Peter Massey headed into Australia with the Bushwackers and their album Australian Songbook.Peter opines that 'if you like Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, then I think you are sure to appreciate the Bushwackers. Unlike the trend in some folk music nowadays, which can have a tendency to be very dour, the Bushwackers have thankfully stayed in the time warp when folk music was fun!'
Jack Merry is an unabashed fan of Scotland's Old Blind Dogs. 'Live they are simply superb, easily one of the best Celtic touring bands ever -- in a recorded form, they sound just as good..' Their latest release, the gab o mey is, according to Jack, 'one of the finest listening experiences you'll ever have.' Jack receives an Excellence in Writing Award for his energetic championing of this album!
John O'Regan is another reviewer with a vast knowledge of, and passion for Celtic music. Time and Tide is the latest installment from Scots institution the Battlefield Band. John notes that while 'they're a sight mellower than before.. the energy ante is well in place, and neither long term fans nor new ears should claim disappointment with this excellent collection. This is a hearty reaffirmation of the Battlefield Band's lasting stature on the Celtic music scene.' John also reviews Evelyn - Music from the Motion Picture a soundtrack album which includes Van Morrison among the contributors. More surprisingly, it also features the singing of Pierce Brosnan 'yes you read right,' who 'reveals himself as a no shame balladeer on 'The Parting Glass' and 'Banks of the Roses''.
Lenora Rose reviews Simple Truths by Yasmine White, a singer who 'for the most part, both musically and conceptually, manages to make sweet-sounding music without unnecessary adornment. There is no bad track, and some real standouts. I'm already eager to see what's to come next,' says our impressed reviewer.
Pat Simmonds has been lending an ear to the music of the Irish diaspora, in different parts of the world. Pat heard 'a lot of potential,' in Mountain Air by young New Zealand fluter Brendyn Montgomery with Mike Considine. Bohola comprises Jimmy Keane on accordion, Sean Cleland on fiddle and Pat Broaders on strings and vocals. 'This band was born out of the vibrant but tough Chicago Irish Music scene. In order to rise above the crowd you have to be very good, and believe me these lads are,' says Pat.
Barb Truex joins that elite band of Green Man staff who have picked up an Excellence in Writing Award for their first published CD review! The CD Barb reviewed for us is Frå folk te' folk from Norwegian duo Knut Kjøk and Dag Gården. 'There is much emotion and soul, and their arrangements are superb. Norwegian music fans and initiates alike should find these tunes as comfortable and comforting as a hot cup of tea...'
Christopher White is happy to proclaim that with Beat Avenue Eric Andersen 'reaffirms that he is one of the great artists of his generation.' Christopher urges us to 'get this excellent double CD set as soon as you can,' and picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for his efforts!
Gary Whitehouse didn't receive the title Master Reviewer for nothing! (Reynard the barkeep here. It helped that he brings more than merely decent ale to the Green Man staff retreats.) His reviews are always beautifully crafted gems of articulate insight and his offerings for us this week are no exceptions. M. Ward is a Portland, Oregon-based musician who 'just keeps turning out charming, idiosyncratic albums that mark him as an American original.' Transfiguration of Vincent is a 'quietly powerful testimony to the potential of one young man with a guitar to make effective art.' . And according to our crack reviewer, Tucson, Arizona-based Calexico 'has made the most overtly political statement in its brief but prolific history' with Feast of Wires. Gary's verdict is that this album offers a cohesive vision of the collision of cultures in the desert borderland between the U.S. and Mexico. It also rocks.'
Once we've passed Gary his Excellence in Writing Award, that seems like a good place to conclude this week's CD section. Hey, we came in Salsa dancing in Africa, and went out rocking on the Tex-Mex borders. In between, we've visited several continents, shaken our stuff with Boston's Irish and London' s Asian communities, partied in Algeria, rattled our lagerphones in the outback and sung a few sea shanties as we sailed home again. Did you enjoy the trip? Come back next week and we'll visit some fresh destinations and do it all again!
Before we go this week, we must extend our congratulations to Maurice Sendak and Christine Noestlinger, the recipients of the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature. Established last year by the Swedish government, the prize is presented annually to promote children's literature and to honour writers whose work focuses on the rights of children. The prize will be presented to both authors by Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria on June 4th in Stockholm.
Right, that's done. From here on in I'm going to give my full attention to the hands of this guitarist, Mr Delgado, and see if I can figure out how he does it! There's some sandwiches and snacks being passed from the bar for the musicians now, and I just spotted a black and white blur above their heads, right on cue. Let's see how well he plays with Maggie flapping round his elbows, scoffing his chips....
23rd of March, 2003
'There was a boy who used to sit in the twilight
and listen to his great-aunt's stories.
She told him that if he could reach the place
where the end of the rainbow stands he would find there a golden key.
'And what is the key for?' the boy would ask. 'What is it the key of? What will it open?'
'That nobody knows,' his aunt would reply. 'He has to find that out.'
... Now all that his great-aunt told the boy about the golden key would have been nonsense, had it not been that their little house stood on the borders of Fairyland.'
-- from 'The Golden Key' by George MacDonald
Welcome, merry friends, to this all faerie and folklore issue of GMR! Given the theme, I (Liath ó Laighin) asked to be allowed to serve as your host. The fey are always here and there at GMR, but don't be surprised if today you see more of them than usual, or if you find our resident corvid, Maggie Pye, speaking more fluent English than you remember.
We have a fine flock of reviews for you this week. Many of them are of collections of fairy and folk tales. I must caution you that not all the tales are entirely to be believed. I have been reading the tales you mortals tell about the Other Realm for many an age, and I rarely find one of you that sets the story down straight. Of course, it is difficult to tell a true tale when you've been placed under a glamour... ah, but I digress. Regardless of the truthfulness of the tales, I can vouch for the reviews we have of them here. Every review is as sound and sweet as a newly ripe pippin.
But before we get to them, I have a lovely bit of news! Jennifer Stevenson has agreed to join hands with the Green Man Review in publishing a limited-edition chapbook of her short story 'Solstice' -- yes, the story we've mentioned enthusiastically here so often. However, this will be a slightly different version than the one previously published in The Horns of Elfland; the editors of that anthology made changes to the story, but Jennifer will be presenting the original uncut version here. The chapbook will have a print run of one hundred numbered, signed copies, and we plan to release it on the eve of the Summer Solstice, naturally.
Faith J. Cormier starts our book reviews this week with two collections of retold fairy tales from satirist James Finn Garner, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life & Times and Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Including carefully remastered favorites such as 'The Three Co-Dependent Goats Gruff' and 'Little Red Riding Hood' -- in which Garner assures us that Red Riding Hood's grandmother 'was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult' -- Faith assures us that these collections are not to be missed.
Cat Eldridge next reviews a more traditionally-inclined fairy tale collection, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, translated and edited by the inimitable Maria Tatar. Cat says that this collection, part of the Annotated Classics series being published by W.W. Norton, is as excellent as you might expect. Read the rest of his review to see why.
Moving out from fairy tales into the larger realm of folklore, April Gutierrez takes a look at Juha Y. Pentikainen's Kalevala Mythology: Expanded Edition. This scholarly work examines the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland 'set down by Elias Lonnrot in the 1830s and 1840s', and explores the significance of the Kalevala, not just for Finland, but for folklorists throughout the world.
Jessica Paige gives us her take on a novel based in part on the folklore surrounding William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, All Night Awake by Sarah A. Hoyt. Oh -- and Jessica says that the story is also plentifully populated with faerie folk. Does that sound like the perfect recipe for a great tale? Well... maybe. Read Jessica's review to see why she has mixed feelings about this book.
Grey Walker reviews two books this week, the first being another collection of fairy tale classics, Iona and Peter Opie's The Classic Fairy Tales. What sets this collection apart from the Tatar collection above, and why should you own both? You will need to read the entire review to find out, but Grey does say that the illustrations alone, collected from the work of illustrators over several centuries, are well worth the purchase price! Grey's second review is of a quite different collection, one on the cutting edge of fashion. Fashion? 'Yes, my dears, fashion. The fairies have finally agreed to release to the mortal world the name of their top fashion designer, and the name is David Ellwand.' Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand is a catalog of the House of Ellwand's recent designs for the coming Season, beginning with gowns for the Queen's Cotillion of the Pheasant and culminating with a glorious bridal ensemble for a Midsummer's Eve wedding. Grey has been awarded an Excellence in Writing Award for her facility in adopting the writing style of top fashion reporters for this review. Could fashion reporting be a possible moonlighting job for Grey?
As Faith notes in her review above, 'Retelling fairy tales has become a major sub-genre in the last few years.' Gary Whitehouse reviews for us a retelling of 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' by Terry Pratchett, entitled The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. In his trademark manner, Pratchett stands the original tale on its head, telling a story of an elaborate and lucrative scam propagated by a cat and a group of his friends, including 'a stupid-looking kid who plays the tin whistle'. Pratchett aims this book at the YA (young adult) market, and if you read Gary's review, we think you'll agree that he hits his target squarely.
Matthew Scott Winslow reviews a collection of new tales in the fairy tale tradition by former Monty Python member Terry Jones. Jones' Fairy Tales, says Matthew, are 'told in the forthright manner of traditional fairy tales. After having read ['The Corn Dolly'], I felt as if I had known of this tale since I was a young boy, so ingrained in the fairy tale tradition was it.' In fact, Matthew suggests, Jones' tales 'are subversive in that they take the modern idea that originality means totally breaking with the past, and turn it on its head. Instead, they embrace what has gone on before and add their voice to it.'
Leona Wisoker rounds off our book reviews for this issue with two reviews, the first of a novel that builds on an ancient myth. Sara Douglass' Hades' Daughter takes up the account from the point when Theseus, famed slayer of the Minotaur of Troy, dumps his accomplice Ariadne on an island and abandons her to go on to further deeds of glory. Douglass surmises that Ariadne would not be too happy about this, and her story goes from there... Read Leona's review to see if Douglass writes a believable sequel to the Minotaur tale. After that, take a walk in Moominvalley with the fairies' more prosaic and earthy cousins, the trolls, as you read Leona's glowing review of Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson. Leona remembers many happy childhood days immersed in the lives of the Moomin trolls, and she'd very much like for you to accumulate such memories for yourself.
Craig Clarke brings us 'Issue the Eighth' of his column The Book of Tales this week. It's perfectly in keeping with our special theme, as its subtitle is 'In Which Is Discussed Folk Lore of the Urban Sort.' Yes, you simply must read this column to see how urban legends, a largely American phenomenon, are modern folklore. In addition to the three main Web sites devoted to the collection and study of urban legends, Craig also covers Curses! Broiled Again! and Too Good to Be True by Jan Harold Brunvand, Hollywood Urban Legends by Richard Roeper and Urban Legends: The As-Complete-As-One-Could-Be Guide to Modern Myths by N.E. Genge. When you read his column, you'll agree that Craig deserves an Excellence in Writing Award.
We have a wonderful selection of fairy tale film reviews in our archives. Films such as The Princess Bride, La Belle et La Bete, The 10th Kingdom, Ever After, Hook, and Legend are examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly things that have been done to fairy tales in the movie realm.
Reviewer Andrea S. Garrett brings us an example of the latter. When we received it for review, we thought it sounded like a fascinating DVD -- a fantasy biography of famed fairy tale author Hans Christian Anderson which originally aired on the Hallmark Channel. Unfortunately, with a lead actor who Andrea claims is 'horrid proof of what would have happened if Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey had a child' and long periods of time in which 'nothing much happens but social interaction of a tedious sort', Hans Christian Anderson, My Life as a Fairytale turns out to be a less than stellar addition to Andrea's film library. Perhaps Andrea will be satisfied with her Excellence in Writing Award.
Now you've diverted yourself with our offerings, please do join us in the grove behind the GMR building this sunset for a round of eating and merriment. Eddie and the Fey are joining our house band, Excalibur Rising, tonight. And the Dartmoor Pixie Band has said they might be by to play a set for us as well. I do hope so. I have been so longing for a good dance...
Yet before we go, I have one more piece of rather more melancholy news. I regret to tell you that Asher Black has left our bright band. Asher has served GMR as reviewer, proofer, film & video editor, and managing editor. He will be sorely missed here, but can still be found at his online fiction and poetry magazine, Mytholog.
Do remember, if mortal you are, that every house stands on the borders of Fairyland, do you but look to see it.
16th of March, 2003
'She's looking for the music. She can
hear it but she can't find it. There are
candles everywhere. Some parts of the room are low-ceilinged and high-cushioned,
just right for kissing and gossip and splitting a bottle. Some parts are
ballroom-size. The floor slopes down, away from the stone ceiling. Dawn
trips a little, blames the drink. The bass gongs through her blood, a
fiddle skirls, the faraway downbeat (alone of a tinny fusillade) cracks
two glasses touching, a false blow, ting! Not in this room.
Nor the next.' -- Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice'
You here again? Come on in! Yes, that's Live at Selwyn Hall, the live recording of Shooglenifty that the Womad label released. Cool, eh? It took me far too many years to find a copy, so the Green Man review won't be up for a few weeks yet. We have reviewed their other albums ( A Whisky Kiss, Solas Shears, and Venus in Tweeds) so you can read those now. If you like acid croft Celtic music -- as this has been called -- I also recommend both albums from the Peatbog Faeries, Faerie Stories and Mellowosity. Waulk Elektrik also released three albums of acid croft music, House Music, Um Di Dum, and Uprooted before they broke up that are well-worth hearing!
Excuse the bloody mess -- me office is almost back together after the cleaning it got over the last two weeks, but it'll take a few more weeks to put everything away. Kim Bates, our Music Editor, is in worse shape. She spent the last two weeks cataloging the hundreds of albums that have come in recently to be reviewed. But more keep coming! In light of that, we've restructured our staff a wee bit to carry the load better. Maria Nutick, David Kidney, Judith Gennett and Sean Laffey are now Music Production Editors. Which means they take care of the work of getting our music reviews edited and put up here for you, darling readers, every blessed week. That leaves Kim free -- well, freer -- to catalog and send out CDs to reviewers, and to make new contacts to get even more...
Now, you might ask if we review everything comes in... Sweet Mab, Queen of All That Is Fey, no! We don't even try. Some of it is just plain junk, and some of it is truly awful, sent by folks who never should have got near a bleedin' recording studio or a word processor. Given that a book or CD reviewed by us will generally be ranked higher on Google than anyone else's review, we'd rather give the attention to stuff that deserves your attention.
(And speaking of deserving stuff, we have a cool online resource for you that's definitely worth your time. NorthWaves is one of the regional 'channels' that RootsWorld offers its readers to listen to the world's music. This program of songs from northern Europe is added to regularly, and currently includes music from Gjallarhorn, Spontaani Vire, Alwa, Goran Mansson, Faerd, Yggdrasil, Majorstuen, Ilgi, Pauliina Lerche and many more. This is just one of the channels offered in their Roots Radio section. Others include Radio Radici (Italy), Radio De las Raíces (Spain), and EarRadio (the 'outside and avant garde'), as well as the globe-hopping main program, Roots Radio.)
You'll also want to know that Eric
Eller has taken over as Live Performance Review Editor
from Debbie Skolnik. And Tim
Hoke is the new Assistant Film Review Editor, helping
Maria while she gives the Music Production team a good start. We're
most delighted to have all these new folks on the editorial team!
Reviewer Christine Doiron has had a power outage to deal with all week, but she still came through at the eleventh hour with a book review she didn't want you to miss. The book is Laurell K. Hamilton's Cerulean Sins -- and this is a sneak preview from us to you, because the book isn't due to hit the stores until April. So, a taste? 'Theres so much going on here,' says Christine, 'that in the hands of another writer, Cerulean Sins might be twice as long. Hamilton manages to cram it all in to a reasonable number of pages; quite a feat when you figure in all that sex.' Yes, you know the drill: go read the rest of the review! And Christine, thank you. You win an Odysseus Award this week for intrepid reviewing...
Songbook is the latest offering by novelist Nick Hornby. The book, though, is not a novel, but a collection of thirty-one essays on songs that Hornby likes. David Kidney writes that Songbook 'is filled with attitude, and opinion, and yet there are elemental truths conveyed about why we listen to music, what it means to us, as fans, as critics, or simply as people going through life with the radio on.' If it sounds like David is enthusiastic about this new book by Hornby, it's because he is! Check out the review for more of David's thoughts.
Check the back of your closet. Do you have an old pair of platform shoes hiding in there somewhere? Perhaps with just a little bit of glitter left around the edges? Ever have the urge to put on lots of makeup and go out somewhere, anywhere that has a mirrored disco ball -- as long as they're playing something electric, something a little psychedelic? Ha, you were a Glitter Kid, weren't you! Kimberlee Rettberg isn't ashamed to admit that she was, too, and so she's written a review of a film based in part on David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust days. She examines this film in the context of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and The Man Who Sold The World albums, and she says that 'Velvet Goldmine is a terrific magnifying glass under which to examine the Glam era.' Kimberlee gets a nice sparkly Excellence in Writing Award for this perceptive and interesting look at a film about a brief but influential time in our cultural journey.
Nathan Brazil starts us off this week by crawling into the deep, dark recesses of conspiracy theory literature with a look at Reg Presley's Wild Things They Don't Tell Us. Don't be deterred, Nathan warns, this is not just another conspiracy theory book. Wondering what makes this different? Read Nathan's review, but check over your shoulder first.
Conspiracy theory can be a scary thing, but Craig Clarke looks at another type of fright in his review of horror master Richard Matheson's latest novel, Hunted Past Reason. Craig tells us this novel of a hunt with a man as the prey is 'Matheson's first novel in seven years and it was definitely worth the wait.' Read Craig's review to find out more!
Tired of reading cover blurbs that declare a book to be 'written in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings'? Familiarity has sure bred contempt with that phrase, but Eric Eller takes a look at a trilogy that was intentionally written with Tolkien in mind and in the quarter century since its initial publication has become a classic in its own right. In his review of Patricia Mckillip's Riddle-Master trilogy, Eric tells us that, 'McKillip goes beyond simple imitation in Riddle-Master. The trilogy has a driving, action-filled plot and features a strong female protagonist. Women are also well represented in the supporting characters.' Eric concludes that Riddle-Master is still one of McKillip's best.
J.L. Emory took a listen to Ray Bradbury's One More for the Road as read by Campbell Scott. He found the reading to be 'mostly supurb, owing to the actor's subtle manner of communicating dramatic shifts through modulations in his voice.' The stories themselves, however, began to feel familiar. Check out the review to see if that's a good thing or not!
Kevin McGowin takes us back in time to the late-nineteenth century in his review of Thomas Hardy's The Well-Beloved. Kevin looks at not just the novel itself &emdash; which he finds to be 'an indispensable document in the history of English folklore' &emdash; but also at Hardy's place as a recorder of folk traditions that even in late Victorian England were already starting to become rare.
Wes Unruh also takes us back in time with his review, but nowhere near as far as nineteenth-century England! Instead, Wes looks at William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy (which consists of Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive) from the 1980s. Even though the trilogy is more than a decade old, Wes found it to be cutting-edge science fiction. 'It challenges while entertaining, and explores cyberspace as if it were Tartarus'' What does Wes mean by that last statement? Read the full review to find out!
Grey Walker reviews for us this week Loren Cruden's Walking the Maze: The Enduring Presence of the Celtic Spirit. As the title implies, this book takes a look at how we can apply Celtic spirituality to our everyday lives. Grey, however, was not too impressed with the conclusions that Cruden arrives at. Grey wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her insightful analysis of some of the assumptions underlying Cruden's conclusions and how those assumptions ultimately undermine Cruden's suggestions for applying Celtic spirituality.
And lastly, Matthew Winslow reviews for us the first volume in a fairly new epic fantasy by British author Steven Erikson. Is Gardens of the Moon just another entry in the long list of bloated epic fantasies or is there something that distinguishes this one? Matthew wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his thorough exploration of the author's writing techniques, how those techniques contribute to the overall impact of the book, and how they separate the book from being just another epic fantasy.
Hold onto your seats, folks, because our theme in the Film section this week is ACTION! From Chinese martial arts to renegade cops, with John Woo and Arnold Schwarzenegger both putting in appearances, these are some great reviews.
Rachel Manija Brown is our resident expert on Hong Kong action films and she brings us some amazing new offerings this week. Rachel recently attended the Heroic Grace Film Festival, a touring exploration of Chinese martial arts films, and thank goodness she took notes for us! Though suffering from the flu, she gamely attended a double feature of Blood Brothers and Last Hurrah For Chivalry; she says that one film 'is the most melodramatic movie I have ever seen. I regret to say that I don't mean this in a good way,' and that the other 'a perfect example of early Hong Kong cinema.' But I'm not telling you which is which...you'll have to read her review to find out!
But Rachel's not finished. Oh, no. I should warn you...her next review is not for the squeamish! She discusses scenes in the movie in which...well...I should say that a man does something that seems extremely...um...difficult, and, um...oh, heck, just go read her brilliant and fascinating review of Executioners From Shaolin and see what I mean!.
Rachel says of her final contribution 'this movie is all about the plot, and an excellent, twisty, and well-paced plot it is' and '[it's] as much a fun-house ride as an exploration of trust and betrayal.' Check out this review of Killer Clans -- how can you go wrong with a film in which 'subplots are myriad, including one which wavers between Monty Python and high tragedy...' And you can't go wrong with Rachel, either, which is why we're giving her a super-duper, extra-large Excellence in Writing Award this time. For which review? Read them all, pick one...and you'll be right!
picks up an Excellence in Writing Award this week, too, for
his tight, terse, cleanly worded discussion of an older '90s film.
Can you go wrong with such stellar performers as Anthony Quinn,
Mercedes Reuhl, Sir Ian Mckellen, Art Carney, and F. Murray Abraham?
Er...apparently. Find out Craig's thoughts on the highs, lows, and
wasted potential in Last
Welcome back to the music section of Green Man Review! Did you miss us? Our writers haven't been idle in the last weeks, oh dear me, no. They've been busy bringing you a whacking great selection of the best music reviews to be found anywhere.
Vonnie Carts-Powell begins our roundup with And now it's come to this by a band called Seven Nations. Vonnie says: 'I like this album, in a pleasant-if-I'm-in-the-mood way, but I don't love it. I would rather see them live.' Read the rest of her review to find out why.
Richard Condon got the German reissue of Christy Moore's 1991 album, Smoke And Strong Whiskey. This is a CD which amply demonstrates many facets of this remarkable artist's personality. As Richard observes: 'It is Christy the roaring boy, Christy the politically committed activist, Christy the cynical and world-weary social commentator, Christy the star able to laugh at himself, Christy the contemporary musician.' This superbly written review earns Richard an Excellence in Writing Award!
Judith Gennett reviews four CD's for us this week, starting with two from singer-songwriters. She describes Jason Eklund as 'a man of the road' who 'hitchhikes the socio-political highway,' and his CD Come 'n' Gone as 'a good pick for people seeking real, down to earth contemporary folk music!' Tiger Tattoo is the title of an album by Andrew Calhoun, of whom Judith notes 'like many of the best songwriters, his songs are poetry set to music.' She also demonstrates no small talent with words herself, with her observation that 'listening to the poems, the vocals, the arrangements, is like leafing through a black and white book of street photography.'
Next up from Judith are 'two albums, rooted in Jewish tradition and recently released by members of prestigious klezmer bands.' Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg, and Rob Schwimmer's The Zmiros Project is declared 'the folkier and more fun of these albums,' while Marilyn Lerner & David Wall's Still Soft Voiced Heart 'is much closer to art music.... The traditional content is evident in most of the tracks, but these expert arrangements...and expert musicianship...pull the ambience far from the fields and homes into the grim city streets...and on into the concert halls and lounges.'
Peter Hund receives an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of the latest reissue of the sole album from The Contenders. If, like me, you missed out on this group first time around, Peter makes a persuasive case for discovering them now. He notes: 'Setting them apart was an instrumental prowess that avoided self-indulgence, in addition to harmony singing as pure as a bluegrass brother band yet as loose as the Fab Four.'
Stephen Hunt followed a similar pattern to Judith Gennett, by reviewing two contemporary singer-songwriter CD's, and three from distinctive ethnic traditions. People With Oomph! by Damon Davies put a big smile on Stephen's face and introduced him to a fine 'singer, songwriter and self professed exponent of the well known down-home, funky bluegrass, delta slide, country-pickin' acoustic blues style' from Australia. Ku Sema by English artist Mike Silver represented a happy reunion for Stephen, who writes: 'I first encountered Mike Silver back in 1986 at the Cropredy Festival, where he performed the impressive feat of successfully captivating several thousand ale swilling Fairport fans with no more than a voice and a guitar. From that, you'll have probably surmised that we're dealing with a class act here.'
Galicia, which is the Celtic region of Spain, is the homeland of Susana Seivane: 'the daughter of a bagpipe maker and granddaughter of one of the most influential and highly regarded remaining 'old' pipers still alive.' Stephen declares her latest CD Alma De Buxo as 'joyous,' and Seivane as 'a young woman born into a tradition and having the talent, vision and vitality to carry it forward in unexpected, exciting and popular directions.'
Brittany is a land with many links and similarities to Cornwall, so Stephen was delighted to receive both guitarist Dan Ar Braz's Made in Breizh and a double CD compilation called Fest Vraz for review. Stephen picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for his enticing combined review of these two albums, in which he asserts: 'anyone who claims to love Celtic music but owns nothing from Brittany has a gaping hole in his or her CD collection.'
David Kidney is 'reliably told that Jeff Black is one of the finest Nashville songwriters working today.' The songs on B-sides and Confessions, volume one 'each have influences and little bits of sounds which will spark the memory of listeners who dig Americana and roots music.'
FIGMENTS is a CD from South African session musician, Anton Fig. David says that Fig 'has created an album that has more than enough styles; he has managed to combine rock, world, alternative rock, smooth jazz, and folk into one persuasive whole through sensitive compositions, the art of creative collaboration, and artistic vision.' He's certainly assembled an intriguing cast of collaborators, with Brian Wilson, Richie Havens, Ivan Neville, Sebastian Bach, and Ace Frehley (of Kiss!) among the credits.
Now, here's an extraordinary coincidence! All this week, folks have been urging me to listen to David Lindley. Right on cue, here's an Excellence in Writing Award winning, career-spanning, retrospective review of every David Lindley CD! David lauds the maverick guitar genius and polyester style icon for 'his sparkling sense of humor,' and 'his ability with stringed instruments -- to find the right sound for whatever environment he's in at a given time, to play like a man possessed, or to melt your heart with his sensitivity.'
Celtic music guru John O'Regan this week turns his attention to no fewer than thirteen CD's of bagpipe music! 'This selection,' says John, 'deals with a more traditional approach to the pipe band style and sound. There isn't an electric guitar in sight and superstar guests are obviously not invited -- what we have instead is solid quality piping of the meat and two vegetable variety.'
Mike Stiles was completely captivated by Herne's Apprentice from British Bardic musician Damh the Bard. Here's a short extract from Mike's Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'This guy stands shoulders, head, and horns above those who've attempted to do what he does. Damh draws deeply from Cymric myth and legend as found in primary sources like the Mabinogion. This CD is not just a tribute to that material, it rebirths it and creates a wonderful gateway for those who should explore it.'
Smithfield Fair are 'an innovative trad-based Scottish trio' from Louisiana. Mike declares Burns Night Out! to be 'a muckle collection of the Highland Bard's greatest hits,' and advises the listener to 'break out your finest aged malts for this one!' High Road to Heaven is the title of a CD by The Indulgers who Mike describes as 'a band that slipped its moorings from Country Rock and found its way to the heady heights of the Celtic realm.' Mike goes on to note that: 'the interplay among the various musical styles is the source of this CD's vitality.'
Last up from Mr Stiles is Freedom Ride by Drew Emmitt, who Mike says 'already belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Newgrass.'
Gary Whitehouse reviews Sweet Honey in the Rock's The Women Gather which celebrates the 30th anniversary of this singing institution whose 'every utterance is a celebration of rhythm, harmony and melody, and a testimony to the joy of the human voice raised in song.'
The Rough Guide to the Music of Mexico is a compilation which: 'covers a lot of bases, from brass bands to acoustic trios, lovely traditional ballads to raucous rootsy rock... this is a worthy addition to the Rough Guides catalog, and one that should pique some interest in Mexico's rich musical heritage.'
Gary concludes our CD reviews this week with a review of two recent Jimmie Rodgers tribute albums. The first of these is by Steve Forbert, who has created an album where according to Gary, 'nearly every track here has something to say for itself, and in the end it found a home in my heart.' The second is a multi-artist compilation with contributions from some real 'heavyweights' including Bob Dylan, Bono, Van Morrison, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. The last recording by Jerry Garcia (with David Grisman) is here too. This review is a real beauty, so all that remains for me to do is hand Gary an Excellence in Writing Award!
Now where's Bela and his friend Josef gotten off to? Excuse me while I see if they are down at the Neverending Session!
The fiddlers in Mad Lydia's Waltz left us a few cases of Pendle Witch's Brew, a Welsh ale with a thick, malty, and rather earthy taste, as payment for allowing them to stay here during one of our many bad winter storms. Now this brew isn't quite as good as me favourite Welsh ale, Thames Welsh Bitter Ale from Felinfoel Brewery Co. Ltd, but it's quite tasty. It was amusing to watch the rat fiddlers, who normally stick to cheese and cider for their fare, comparing notes with Bela, who has apparently become their 'adopted' grandpere, on this brew. And I did note that Master Hunt had the barkeep tuck away a case for later drinking? Or did he have it put away in his office? No matter -- there's 'nough for everyone!
We'll save some to enjoy next week while reading our special All Fairy and Folk Tales issue. We'll have reviews of Fairy and Folk oriented books and films...no music, though, for isn't all music fey in one way or another?
Now come with me, for a bit, and help raise a toast to one of our own who's decided to leave us for new endeavours. Debbie Skolnik has been with GMR for almost as long as I can 'member. She's written cracking great reviews, and she's proofed 'em and edited 'em, too -- not her own, o' course, but many, many others. She's been Senior Writer, Managing Editor, Live Performances Editor and Editor-at-Large. Staff who've had their reviews edited by her will miss her keen eye and deft touch. We'll all miss her wisdom, common sense, humour and love for music. Excellence in Editing? Debbie's got that award by unanimous acclaim -- for life! Now let's have three cheers for our Deb!
We'll miss you, Debbie. Come back often for a drink on the house.
9th of March, 2003
'I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.' --Albert Einstein
Jack Merry here. We'll be having The Greenies, our awards for 'bests of' in the past year, be they CD releases, novels, films, live performances or whatever, in a few minutes. But first I need your help with these casks of txakoli. What's that? Oh, txakoli's a tangy Basque wine. The Akelårle (Witches' Coven), the Basque Women's Choir, left this for Green Man as a gift. We allowed them to hold their first annual Women In Black Cultural Festival here. It was an interesting experience with everything from a historically accurate performance of a reading of Aristophanes' excruciatingly bawdy anti-war farce, Lysistrata to Daughters of Bede doing 'lost' Celtic chants. Akelårle finished off the Festival with the well-known Basque song, 'Agur Xiberua!' which ends with the refrain, 'Not in Paris, nor anywhere else, will I find anything quite like my homeland.'
Got that cask? Good! I'll grab the other one. Now let's head to the Great Hall. The Greenies are about to be presented... Or at least I think they're about to be... Clocks in this building have acted quite oddly for as long as anyone here can 'member. And Maggie Pye, our resident corvid, has made the situation even worse -- clockworks are too fascinating not to play with! Now they are nowhere as dependable as the clocks in Stoddard's High House series. Oh, well... If the musicians in the Neverending Session don't care what time it is, why should we?
I wonder if Maggie'll offer commentary on the choices this year. Last year she objected quite strenuously to one Celtic artist who was about to get a Greenie -- so strenuously that the judges changed their minds! And I still 'member what happened when she heard that a Charles de Lint novel was not chosen. Master Hunt had to console her with nibbles of smoked salmon, cheese, and caviar before she became reasonably quiet.
'The artist is nothing without the
gift, but the gift is nothing without work.' --Emile Zola
I (Cat Eldridge) usually don't pick things for awards, but I feel that for the sake of harmony with Maggie, our resident corvid here in the Green Man offices, I should select just one. Maggie is a great fan of Charles de Lint, the Canadian writer of urban fantasy, as she believes that he fully understands her kind. And she really, really has fallen in love with Tapping the Dream Tree, which features a wraparound illo of a fey-looking female fiddler sitting in the branches of the Dream Tree, with myriad crows keeping her company. I wholeheartedly agree with Maggie that this art work by Charles Vess is great, but the ever-so-wonderful contents are why I'm picking it for an Editor's Choice Award for Best Author Collection. Tapping the Dream Tree is so perfect that, as I said in my review, 'don't ask me to pick favorites, as I can't. Everything here is in one way or another memorable. I've long since come to expect that a de Lint tale will be well-worth reading. If you haven't read his Newford tales to now, this is the perfect introduction.' This collection demonstrates just how fine a writer de Lint is.
Both Maggie and I are great fans of English fiddle music. Now, Fairport Convention is only in part centered around English fiddle music, but they, like Charles de Lint, have had a long, illustrious career that shows no sign of ending soon. 2002 saw the release of a boxed set from Free Reed Music called Fairport unConventional, a set of CDs so cool that David Kidney had to cover it in two separate reviews! David exclaims: 'Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy's birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don't miss it!' This set is worthy of, and receives, an Editor's Choice Award for the Best CD Release of '02. Fortunately for me, I kept the second set that Free Reed sent, so I too can revel in this music!
'The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.'
I (Grey Walker, that is) have made this sort of disclaimer before when asked to pick 'bests of': the following titles were arrived at after a lot of wrangling among our very interested staff, and in some cases by a desperate last-minute eeny-meeny-miny-moe between two books that seemed equally good; ask me next week, and you might get a slightly different list.
Best First Novel: tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black. Black satisfies our hunger for the fey we think we remember, while looking at them from a fresh and energetic perspective.
Best Novel Overall: Summerland by Michael Chabon. As our review says, Chabon starts with the premise that 'baseball exists primarily to serve as a metaphor for the meaning of life', gives his protagonist a bat made from the wood of the sacred Lodgepole, and pits him against Coyote in a mighty game. This is the sort of book GMR loves to review. It crosses genres and confounds our expectations, while remaining warmly satisfying in the end.
Best Book for Younger Readers: I really, really wanted to award Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord the Greenie for this category -- but I can't. It was originally published in 2000. Read it anyway, if you haven't yet. It's fabulous! Another splendid book for younger readers, however, is Neil Gaiman's Coraline. It has 'an odd setting and a really weird plot line' illustrated perfectly by Dave McKean in a style reminiscent of The Nightmare before Christmas.
Best Anthology or Collection: This one was a no-brainer. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume Fifteen, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, easily sweeps the charts for its combination of excellence and diversity of stories -- and for the splendid Summation that we drool about every year!
Best Non-Fiction or 'Book of Information': Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia by Charles and Angeliki Vellou Keil (text), Dick Blau (photographs) and Steve Feld (soundscapes), swells to bursting with superb black and white photographs, clear, vivid cultural commentary and carefully transcribed personal narratives. And it includes a soundtrack. Did I mention that the topic is riveting?
Best Biography: GMR reviews a good number of biographies each year, mostly of musicians. 2002's best was Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, a biography of Frank Zappa by Kevin Courrier. Courrier wins the Greenie for producing a entertainingly readable, yet respectful, account of a colorful, controversial man and his music.
'It is not sufficient to see and to
know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.'
I (Maria Nutick) have to agree with Grey on the idea of picking just one 'best of' for films. Hundreds of films are released each year, and many of them never get the publicity or the attendance that they deserve. Big budget productions dominate the market and small, independent, high quality films are often overlooked. Then again, once in a while a miracle occurs, and a small film explodes onto the scene, as My Big Fat Greek Wedding did in 2002. We're giving Greenies to just a few of the very highest quality films this year, but you can bet that for each award winner there are a dozen that are just as great hiding in the wings.
Let's begin with the Greenie for Best Documentary or True Story. This is an important category at GMR, because we (and you, our readers) take such an interest in the histories, lives, and behind the scenes tales of our favorite authors, musicians, and subjects. This year we award Greenies to two stunningly beautiful documentary films. The first award goes to Standing in the Shadows of Motown. This film tells the story of The Funk Brothers, the house band at Motown Records. David Kidney labels this poignant film 'a life enhancing experience.' Another Greenie goes to a lovingly produced tribute film which I was fortunate enough to review this past summer. Produced by Joel Greengrass and Rick Mueller and narrated by Neil Gaiman, Life, the Universe, and Douglas Adams is an honest, sad, and moving look at the life of the late great author Douglas Adams.
I'd thought to have a Foreign Film category, but really, as the Green Man staff, not to mention our readers, are spread out over half a dozen continents and a layer or two of Faerie, what exactly would we call a Foreign Film? Instead, I'll just point out that several of our Greenie Award winners did not originate in Hollywood.
The Greenie for Horror goes to a French film, Brotherhood of the Wolf, reviewed for GMR by our Managing Editor and Film Editor Emeritus, Asher Black. Asher says 'this is a cool film: ninja-esque overtones to the costumery and outlandish weaponry, an ethereally scary monster (courtesy of Jim Henson's Creature Shop), conspiracy, surreal mood-setting, a nagging tension over whether what one is seeing is natural or the supernatural, and fight scenes dazzling and fresh...'
Another French film takes the Greenie for Modern Fantasy. David Kidney says 'this whole project is filled with charm...' and that 'the film lures the viewer into a very special world where, for an hour and a half, you believe everything you see.' David is speaking of Amelie.
Hollywood loses out again as the Greenie for Fairy Tale Fantasy goes to the 2002 American release of a Japanese film. Spirited Away is another amazing film from Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. The artwork and animation is flawless (reviewer Rachel Manija Brown calls it 'exquisitely detailed' and 'painterly'), the voiceover acting is subtle and inspired, and the entire film is, to quote Rachel once more, 'magic'.
I see Cat out there in the audience tapping his foot...don't worry, Chief, your favorite is the winner in the next category, Best DVD Release. The Chief himself reviewed this Greenie Award winner, a four disc set which includes not only the film itself, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, but also five hours of bonus material. Five hours! Every detail of the making of the film was videotaped, and that footage has been distilled into two of the four disc set. What an achievement.
Films of fantasy, folklore, science fiction, and horror require not only good writing, directing, acting, and production. Above all other genres, these films require a touch of magic. Therefore, Greenies go to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets reviewed, respectively, by Grey Walker and Michelle Erica Green; these films come to life through their spectacular and breathtaking Special Effects.
Finally, we'd like to award an Honorary Greenie to someone we've never reviewed in Green Man. Our readers across the globe may not be familiar with the recipient of this honor, but to our American readers, and I daresay many of the Fey folk, he was a beloved icon of childhood. A television star who never required champagne, bon-bons, or adulation; a minister who never proselytized; a gentle teacher who helped several generations of children to develop imagination and character (who can forget the Kingdom of Make-Believe, King Friday, Queen Sara, or Lady Elaine? what about 'You Are Special'?) -- this was Mr.Rogers. Though he retired several years ago, his passing this past February was a heartfelt shock to those of us who grew up with his humble goodness. His Greenie may pale in comparison to his Lifetime Achievement Emmy or his Medal of Freedom, but we offer it anyway, with our affection and gratitude.
'The stage is not merely the meeting
place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life.'
Debbie Skolnik here. A live performance is an irreproducible event. Even if you managed to audiotape and videotape it, you still would not have the ambience that the synergy between audience and performer contains. That being the case, it's pretty difficult to select the best of the live performances from the 2002 archives of Green Man Review. However, a good writer can bring the essence of an event to life, and so I offer you my top three picks for Greenies for Live Performances I Wish I Had Attended, based on reviews by three of our gig-going staffers.
My first pick would be The Eleventh Annual Gosport & Fareham Easter Festival, Fareham, Hampshire, England which took place on March 28 - April 1, 2002. Stephen Hunt did a really great job of letting me virtually tag along with him during four of the festival's five days as he sampled performances from lots of the UK's best and brightest folk performers. Any festival that has Show of Hands, Ralph McTell and the Oysterband on the bill would be an automatic 'must go'for me if it were a bit closer geographically, but these artists were only the tip of the iceberg. I'm not a big Waterboys fan (unlike Stephen, for whom they seem to represent nirvana, or close to it), but perhaps it's because I've never seen them live. There were lots of other acts I would have enjoyed dropping in on, not to mention being a fly on the wall at the festival's own hotel, occupied solely by the performers. Stephen has a knack for squeezing the last drop of enjoyment out of anything he undertakes, and all of his reviews reflect that, this one especially. Check it out!
My second pick would be the performance by Portland Taiko: Taikokinesis, Newmark Theater, Portland, Oregon , which Maria Nutick profiled for Green Man in September of 2002. I'd obviously have to hop on a plane to catch these folks, since they largely perform on the Pacific Northwest, West Coast, and places 'nearby'(if you consider Hawaii nearby) and don't seem to visit the East Coast, where I'm based. I'm out of my comfort zone with this group, since I had never heard of taiko (Mia describes it: 'modern taiko drumming (kumi-daiko) is something of a meditation, a bit of a prayer, a form of martial art, a heck of an exercise, by turns soothing and exhilarating, and in general an incredible experience,' but, you know what? I need to try something new every once in a while instead of sticking to the same old, same old. Mia is another writer who manages to put you in the seat next to her.
And finally, I'd have to join Gary Whitehouse at the kick-off show for Linda Thompson's recent tour in support of her quite favorably-received CD, Fashionably Late, also in Portland, Oregon, in October of 2002. Linda's a pretty gutsy lady, having overcome not only a highly-publicized divorce from one of my very favorite performers, Richard Thompson, but a long-term bout with an ailment known as hysterical dysphonia, which prevented her from singing for years. The physical basis of this problem has only recently been understood, and luckily there is treatment for it which has given Linda back her beautiful voice. She drew on both her new CD and some of her Richard-and-Linda repertoire, and was accompanied by two of her children with Richard, Teddy and Kamila Thompson., who have clearly inherited their parents' musical genes.
'It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.' --Ursula K. Le Guin
Stephen Hunt here. Kim Bates is off keeping Maggie from acting out too much, so I'm announcing the Greenies for Music. Yes, I'm uncomfortable in this ill-fitting suit that I borrowed from one of the rat fiddlers, the stage lights here in the Great Hall are too bright, and the bleedin' microphone's acting out, but welcome anyways!
Let's start with the award for Best CD in the North American Traditions category, which goes to Dolly Parton for her album Halos & Horns. Our Music Production Editor David Kidney declared this 'a beautiful album to listen to.'
For the Best CD in English Traditions, the award goes to Kate Rusby whose CD 10 arrived at Green Man in the nick of time to be included! I (Stephen) am just one of the many admirers of this singer at Green Man and as I recall my review lauded her 'uncanny ability to select, interpret and alter traditional songs in such a way that they come up sounding as fresh as a daisy and as topical as the morning newspaper.'
The Greenie for Best CD in the European/Russian Traditions also goes, perhaps surprisingly, to England! Huge applause to The Ukrainians for their album Respublika. Big Earl Sellar's review states: 'Simply put, this disc is a monster. Blasting the tradition through a filter of classic British punk, The Ukrainians have recorded one of the best albums of the year.'
The Best CD for Singer-Songwriter proved to be the most fiercely contested, but the eventual winner is Tom Paxton for his CD Looking For the Moon. Judith Gennett's review demonstrated remarkable prescience in describing Paxton as an 'honored folk musician.' We're delighted to honour him with a Greenie.
Kim, Maggie's found a piece of the blackberry smoked salmon that Mia and Ryan provided. Just watch that she doesn't nip your hand!
We've decided to award two Greenies for Celtic Music, Traditional and Contemporary.
The recipients of the Best Traditional Celtic CD award are Seamus Quinn and Gary Hastings for Slan le Loch Eirne. As I said in my review, these guys 'demonstrate an uncannily intuitive understanding of what, exactly, makes this music 'tick.' They've somehow tapped directly into the 'pulse' of these melodies in such a way that the listener is subtly and powerfully compelled to 'a spring in the step' and 'a smile on the face.'
The winner of the Best Contemporary Celtic CD is Sinead O'Connor, whose Sean Nos Nua appropriately translates as 'old style new.' It's an album of traditional songs performed in an inventively modern way which, rather than being merely a collection of 'cover versions,' actually reveals much of the true identity of this often controversial artist. I reviewed this one too and called it 'something genuinely and profoundly beautiful.'
The Best Folk-Rock CD category proved to be the one with the most widely successfully predicted outcome. Step forward, Oysterband, and accept this with our admiration for Rise Above. Vonnie Carts-Powell paid tribute to the band's '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.'
Green Man reviews an enormous amount of albums from Scandinavia, so Jord can take pride that their CD, Vaylan Virrassa, is the winner of the Greenie for Best CD in Nordic Traditions! Judith Gennett called this one 'truly a nice album! Recommended for anyone interested in northern European...and Celtic...music.'
If I tell you now that the Best CD in the World Music category originates from Cuba, you'll have probably already guessed that it's Mambo Sinuendo by Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban. Anyone reluctant to sample the delights of this album should listen to David Kidney who says: 'this is vibrant, exciting, hot, even sexy music...it's a mambo!'
Finally, we present the award for the Best CD in the category of Compilations and Historic Recordings. Our winning album was recorded in 1978 but didn't see the light of day until 2002. That album is The Liberty Tapes, a recording of what Judith Gennett accurately described as a 'legendary concert [which] was put together to promote the release of Welcome Here Kind Stranger.' This is Brady at the absolute peak of his powers as a singer of traditional songs, joined on stage in Dublin by Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Paddy Glackin, Liam O'Flynn, Matt Molloy and Noel Hill.
That's it from the music section of Green Man for this year. I'm going back to my seat to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
My goodness! Have you seen our Film Editor Maria Nutick in that sequined gown? Wow, those, movie folks really know how to do these awards ceremonies, don't they? Remind me to get a better suit for next years awards. Someone just asked me if I'm the guy who's come to polish Maria and Ryan Nutick's limo before they depart! Pass that bottle thisaway please, Jack.
Me pleasure. It's Xingu Beer from Cervejaria Sul Brasileira. Drink deeply, but be careful of the kick it has!
'In anything at all, perfection is
finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add,
but when there is no longer anything to take away.' --Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Maria Nutick here again. Before I relinquish the stage to our Master of Ceremonies, Jack Merry, I have a few more awards to announce. While we don't review Web sites per se, we always try to provide pertinent links in our reviews. During our many years of publishing this 'zine, we've learned to relish some of the fine sites devoted to our favorite authors, musicians, and subjects. We'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge some of those sites which we've found to be informative, entertaining, and well-designed.
First, in the category of Folklore, Fantasy, and Fairy Tale Resources, we have three Greenies to award. As we mentioned in our last issue, the incomparable Terri Windling has revamped her beloved Endicott-Studio Web site. With the assistance of the obviously inspired Anita Roy Dobbs and Helen Pilinovsky, Terri maintains one of the truly superior sites -- of any type -- that any casual surfer or dedicated fan can ever hope to visit.
Heidi Anne Heiner is the hard-working talent behind our second FF&FTR Greenie winner, the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages. Annotated fairy tales, over 1000 illustrations, and a discussion board where you can discuss fairy tales, fantasy, and folklore with Heidi, Jane Yolen, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and other legends of the industry make this an absolutely fabulous site. Brava, Heidi!
Content takes precedence over entertainment value for our third pick. Professor D. L. Ashliman cultivates a mind-bogglingly thorough and incredibly useful garden of folklore. He earns his Greenie and then some for the lifetime of work catalogued on his utterly superb site.
When I asked for staff nominations for Web Greenies in the Author category, I found myself absolutely deluged with email. The following winners are, as I said above, informative and entertaining, as well as pleasing to the eye. The best Author sites make you feel that you know the author intimately, that you've been invited at least some small distance into his or her life, and that you, the reader, mean more to the author than just another royalty. The following eight sites more than fulfill these requirements. Author Greenies, then, go to:
Black, who earlier received a Greenie for Best
First Novel, and who already has one of the best sites we've
seen; author of such fantastic works as Ender's Game and the
Scott Card; odd but brilliant, the late, great Roald
de Lint -- need I say more?
The most personable of authors, his daily Weblog is a must read. He's funny, he's smart, and he's terribly generous to share as much as he does with his readers. Thanks, Neil Gaiman!
Not truly his site, but a site he authorizes and supports, Bright Weavings is devoted to a favorite of many GMR staffers: Guy Gavriel Kay. And have you read Jane Lindskold? If not, you'll want to after you visit her site...and meet Raven! There aren't enough superlatives to describe our affection for Jane Yolen. Go visit her.
Now, authors aren't the only creators who maintain sites for their fans! We've got some Greenies for Musicians, too. Naturally, these sites live up to the same standards as the Authors do -- and they frequently have samples of their music available! We hereby award Greenies to:
The fabulous, the beautiful, the talented Heather Alexander. The Be Good Tanyas: in the words of Gary Whitehouse, 'a great example of what a band's site should be -- simple, informative, uncluttered, and generous'. Scottish musician Dick Gaughan. Wow! Great job, Dick. Hayseed Dixie -- pure fun! A photo gallery, tour information, sample songs, and lovely to boot...Oysterband. And of course, no doubt about it, The Waterboys. Well done!
Now, don't play me off yet, we've one more category to consider: Artists. What would fantasy and folklore be without illustrators to bring it to life? Many artists don't maintain adequate Web sites, perhaps because it's all too easy for the unscrupulous to appropriate their work if it appears online. But we'd like to give Greenies to the following for their wonderful Web offerings:
An amazing illustrator and photographer with many album covers to his credit, Jim Fitzpatrick. And of course, a collaborator with writers such as Charles de Lint, and a genius in his own right, Charles Vess.
Thanks for coming. Back to you, Jack.
Right then, that's it for the Greenies until next year.
Hope ye enjoyed this special edition of Green Man; come back
next week when we'll be offerin' up a new batch of splendid reviews.
I'm heading down to the pub for the post-Greenie party!
2nd of March, 2003
'There's a difference between getting money for what you do and doing it for money. If you don't do it for love, or because you think it needs doing, get out and let somebody else do it. If nobody does, maybe that means it shouldn't be done.' -- Emma Bull's Bone Dance
Come in, but mind where you tread. We've started spring-cleaning early this year, which is why there's no issue this week or next.
I'm Stephen Hunt, by the way, and I've been delegated to write this as Jack's busy shifting everything out of his office before sanding and resealing his office floor and cleaning his centuries-old Persian rug. He's providing a highly entertaining soundtrack for my endeavours, by loudly demonstrating his mastery of obscure and colourful Welsh curses. These are punctuated by frequent whoops of triumph, as he unearths another half-forgotten treasure from the black holes that usually occupy the spaces between his furniture, walls, floor and ceiling. What the heck's he waving at me now? Is that a signed Jane Yolen poster? That'll go in the big wooden crate (on which somebody's helpfully written 'Jack's Treasure Chest') along with the original War for the Oaks script, the two ancient bottles of Avalon Applejack and all those live recording CD-R's marked 'Big Bad Wolf and Danheddog Ymyl - Great Hall, Lammas', and such like. I'll remind Jack to fasten the crate up securely before he leaves the building or Maggie, our resident corvid, will be in there for sure.
One or two folks have enquired how, exactly, a semi computer-literate, silver jewelry obsessed, Celtic music loving magpie came to be living in the Green Man offices. She was little more than a fledgling when Grey, our book review editor, spotted her perched on the twist-grip of Jack's Vincent motorcycle, admiring herself in the handlebar-end mirror and attempting to preen her unkempt plumage. Being a kindly soul, Grey brought her indoors and fed 'the poor little thing' some homemade kugel. Within what seemed like minutes, Maggie had 'revived' sufficiently to figure out how to operate the eject button on the office hi-fi and send an ambient new-age CD spinning like a discus towards the window. She followed this feat by replacing the offending item with an early Battlefield Band disc before flying up to the rafters brandishing one of Maria Nutick's exquisite Celtic knotwork earrings for an encore. 'Thus every kind their pleasure find, the savage and the tender...'
Hang about, Jack's just passed me a note! Here's what it says: 'Our 10,000th review went up sometime in the last month. It could have been a CD review; it could have been something else. Yes, I know there are 'zines who can tell you every review that a staffer did -- We don't waste our time with silly things like that! Every review and every reviewer counts equally without us attempting to keep track of things as if it were a bloody cricket match. So go look at the archives for the next fortnight while we finish our cleaning break!' And I might add, come back next week for our Greenie Awards, when we reveal our picks for 'best of' last year's books, CDs, films....just a moment. What's that? Ryan's shouting something at me from his office. Whoops! I almost forgot, we do have some links to keep you occupied this week!
We here at Green Man are terribly fond of Neil Gaiman, both his fiction and the wonderfully entertaining online journal he keeps up at his Web site. And this past week, Neil very thoughtfully pointed out a new Weblog belonging to another of our favorites, Will Shetterly. You'll definitely want to take a side trip and spend some time with Will. And last, but definitely not least, be sure to visit Terri Windling's Endicott Studio, which has been thoroughly revamped and now has even more ingenious content to capture your attention. By far one of the best sites out there for interstitial arts devotees and fans of great fantasy art and literature.
That's almost it from me, I'm away with Jack to the Green Man Pub for a spot of well-deserved refreshment. Apparently Tadhg's already ensconced in the snug with two distinguished looking elderly gentlemen, all three conversing animatedly in different languages about the relative merits of different floatation systems for millstones. We always seem to attract a few 'Saints and Scholars' during the month of March, what with the Welsh, Cornish and Irish all celebrating their National patrons' days.
So, Mr. Merry's got his fiddle, Kim (our music editor) is going to be along later with hers, and I've got my guitar. I wonder if those two will want to try some of those intoxicatingly tricky 7/8 fiddle tunes that Bela introduced us to? Ah, we'll be grand for the night. Errr, Jack, did you remember to fasten that box?
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Entire Contents Copyright 2003, The Green Man Review. All Rights Reserved.
Updated 30 MAR 03, 17:41 GMT (MN)