'Hal an Tow, Jolly Rumbalow,
We were up, Long before the day-O,
to welcome in the summer time to welcome in the May-O,
Summer is a comin' in, and winter's gone away-O.'
What's that? A Maypole going up in the courtyard in front of the Green Man Pub? There can be no surer sign that summer's 'comin in!' It looks like the denizens of the pub's Neverending Session may be lured outside, along with staff members tucked away in offices in the most unlikely places. If you think Harry Potter had it hard, you should try being Assistant Music Editor -- now which sub-basement has David Kidney's cubbyhole tucked under the stair case? And who's sharing that turret with Maggie Pie? The one with the untidy nest filled with 'treasures'? At least the window box filled with spring blooms is a nice bright addition!
Yes spring has burst out all over, and some of the folks around here seem to be feeling the effects of the impending May Day. Who was that slipping into the green wood just now? Well, spring is as good an excuse as any I suppose.
Before I get too distracted, I have a happy announcement to make. From time to time we award the rare and prestigious accolade of Master Reviewer to Green Man writers who have continually shown an extremely high level of knowledge and interest in the subjects of their reviews, as well as produced work which is not only of technically superior quality but which is also highly entertaining. We'd like to extend a warm welcome to the latest member of this stellar group, our beloved Assistant Music Editor David Kidney. Well done, David!
We've got spring greens in our salad, and the last of the winter vegetables roasting on the grill, along with some tender lamb steaks, braised with mint and garlic. Are we starting early? I suppose, but this is the Green Man Staff, after all! Mind you, we won't elect the king and queen until the actual day, but that's no reason to delay a party! So pull up a chair, fill your plate, get Reynard to pour you a pint, and feast your eyes on this week's set of reviews.
We've only one film this week, as Maria and Tim are busy with some sort of strange project -- they won't tell us what it is but there has been a lot of hammering, sawing, and maniacal laughter coming out of Mia's tower office this week. At any rate, this film review rates a spot in our Featured Reviews as well as an Excellence in Writing Award for reviewer Kevin Lau. This week he looks at a newly released English dubbed version of a Japanese anime by master filmmaker Hiyao Miyazaki. See why Kevin says that Castle in the Sky is 'one of Miyazaki's finest achievements'.
It's a wonder Matthew Scott Winslow got to review the book we're featuring this week, because his children kept running off with it! That's a good review in and of itself, though, because the book is The Faeries of Spring Cottage, another delightful collaboration by Wendy Froud and Terri Windling. This book isn't out in stores yet, but read Matthew's review to see what you've got to look forward to.
Cat Eldridge turned in a book review this week that strikes that fine balance of giving you a good idea of what the book's about without spoiling any surprises. The book in question is Haunted Ground, a murder mystery set in the peat bogs of Ireland. Naturally, since this is GMR, one of Cat's favorite things about this book is the descriptions of the music sessions! Cat says, 'Ahhh, but the sessions here ... catch the very feel of what a session is like. I have no doubt that it helps that Hart's married to Paddy O'Brien, whom Green Man has reviewed in the guise of Chulrua and their CD, Barefoot on the Altar. Though it's just a bit of a stretch as regards believability, all three of the characters looking into the matter of the two mysteries in this book are musicians!'
Eric Eller gives us a solidly informative review of a book that folks with an interest in folk lore, both amateurs and professionals, should definitely take a look at. Nart Sagas from the Caucasus, compiled by John Colarusso, is a collection of 'the myths and legends of the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs of the Caucasus region. The valor and determination of the Narts,' says Eric, ' ... is reflected in the durability of their stories. The peoples of the Caucasus have survived centuries of invasion and conquest, including forced exile into Turkey for entire ethnic groups. The Nart legends stand as an example of the will of a people to survive.'
David Kidney agreed a couple of weeks ago to take a look at White Christmas: The Story of an American Song by Jody Rosen, but he wasn't in any hurry to review it. After all, he says, 'Nobody wants to read about Christmas at Easter-time, do they?' But David found this story of how Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, came to write a song about a Christian holiday that has become as emblematic of America as apple pie, to be impossible to put down. Read his review to see why.
Nellie Levine has a review for us of another book with a Jewish theme, but this one is a little darker. Thane Rosenbaum's fantasy novel, The Golems of Gotham, explores the questions that survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust still ask. When the main character, Ariel, attempts to use the Kabbalah to raise the ghosts of her grandparents, she accidentally oversteps and manages to also raise the ghosts of six noted Holocaust survivors, all authors who committed suicide. 'Rosenbaum puts words into the mouths of Primo Levi, Jean Amery, Paul Celan, Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski and Tadeusz Borowski that may never have been there otherwise, and has them romping through streets and subway tunnels, freely engaging in religious argument and political discussion. It is Rosenbaum’s imagining of these six famous authors that comes through here, but in bringing them back to life, even for a fictional moment, Rosenbaum reminds us of their lives, their deaths, and their legacies of work.' Given that April 29 is Yom ha-Shoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, such a reminder is timely.
Guy Soffer reviews Dragon Moon, the second novel by Alan F. Troop about the family of weredragon Peter DelaSangre. Guy says, 'This book reminded me of what Anne Rice did with vampires. It shows dragons who try to lead normal lifestyles -- they feel compassion when they kill, and they try to help others, killing only when there is no other choice.'
And finally, Leona Wisoker gives us another look at those classics for children, Tove Jansson's Finnish Moomintrolls. This week Leona reviews Comet in Moominland, the second book in Jansson's series. 'Peeves aside,' says Leona, 'this tale is still a grand trek over and under and through life, driven by lively characters and lit by Tove's trademark simple/evocative artwork.' Read Leona's review to find out more about the Moomintrolls, including a link to the official Moomin Web site.
Greeting and Salutations! Craig Clarke here, your friendly Green Man Review Letters Editor. I'm generally found milling around the lower levels of our offices, eagerly awaiting the delivery of mail from you, our Beloved Readers. But this week, I've been asked to arise from my safe haven and tell you about the more interesting mail we've received lately.
First up, Haley Bergstrom really gives it to Senior Reviewer Peter Massey. Aside from calling him a "dolt" and his review "slipshod and erroneous," Bergstrom accuses Mr. Massey of an even more despicable act (for a reviewer). Read the review in question then Bergstrom's letter and form your own opinion.
Some of the most passionate letters we receive are from the young fans of David Clement-Davies' novels Firebringer and The Sight and they don't hesitate to let Film Editor and Senior Reviewer Maria Nutick know exactly what they think of her less-than-flattering opinions. The latest in this ongoing series is from Sharon, who paraphrases a curse from The Sight in order to illustrate her "outrage."
And there's much more to read! Most of our readers actually like what we have to say, and along with the effusive praise we get, we have received mail from a genuine movie celebrity as well as authors Charles de Lint and Jane Yolen (yes, famous authors read Green Man Review, too).
So, come on over and visit me in the mail room and wade through the Green Man mailbag. Be sure to check out the archives as well and don't hesitate to send in your own thoughts and opinions to email@example.com.
Who knows? Maybe you'll see your name on the Letters page!
Stephen's off making making music elsewhere, so Reynard, Bela, and I, Jack Merry, are, over a few pints of a particulary good Hungarian ale by the name of Stella Artois which Reynard got in here at the Green Man Pub, discussing the excellent selection of music reviewed this edition. So sit, grab a bottle of this excellent ale, and join in our conversation... Now where were we? Ahhh, yes...
Jez Lowe's Tenterhooks is Daniel Bangs first review for us. And I can see that he can smith words rather well: 'The term songsmith is rightly underused. A songsmith does not write a song, he or she creates one. It is the musical equivalent of sculpture; music that has been carved and forged into a song that captures your attention with a blend of melody and lyric, as one whole, not as components. Jez Lowe is a man deserving of such a complimentary term, and Tenterhooks as an album is symbolic of his art.'
Judith Gennett collects many a singer-songwriter CD from a variety of sources. Two of them, Rebecca Hall's Sunday Afternoon and Erica Smith's Friend or Foe, are the subject of her attention here. Unfortuntely, they are not the best of the lot she's heard: 'Rebecca Hall and Erica Smith have a lot in common. They are both from new York City and record on the same label. They both have quiet and melodious voices and have recorded both original and traditional music on their albums. They have both been compared, according to their biographies, to the late Fairport diva Sandy Denny. Unfortunately their albums share the same problems, especially for the traditionalist. First, the original songs are not particularly striking. Secondly, the production and arrangements often seem synthetic, like a house bought in a subdivision rather than one built by choice and thought.'
David Kidney says of American Son that Tim Rose is the artist behind this CD and he is 'perhaps best known for providing Jimi Hendrix with 'Hey Joe.' [but] he was one of those American folk singers who, like David Blue, Tom Rush, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, and Phil Ochs, were declared to be the 'new Dylan' when in fact they were Dylan's contemporaries, and deserving of being judged and enjoyed on their own merits.' Read his review for all the details on an artist who should remembered by all of us!
You may need some Dragon's Breath stout before reading his next review of Johnny Society's Life Behind the 21st Century Wall as he says that it's both a sound you'll recognize and a sound you won't. Go read his review to see what the bleedin' 'ell he means!
I found the review by Peter Massey of Irish singer-songwriter Pol MacAdaim's If We Don't Help Them Now to be bang on: 'As a debut album it is good and radical; devotees of contemporary Irish music will love it. A lot of time and thought have gone into the arrangements.' He does rightfully note that the buggers who released this were rather miserly as there's only a little over 31 minutes of music!
Reynard notes that me review of two CDs that cover Centuries-old English bawdy songs (City Waites' Thomas D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy and Baltimore Consort and Merry Companions' The Art of The Bawdy Song) reminded him of how difficult it is to be truly filthy! As I said, 'Mad poet Oscar Wilde once said that 'we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.' Humph. He may be looking upwards, but we're definitely looking elsewhere on these CDs; both are far more interested in looking up the skirts of a blowsy lady to see if she's wearing knickers with her garter belt. In the case of one CD, 'tis fair to say that the garter and the knickers got, errr, lost; on the other CD, me wee mam would not be offended in the slightest by what the buggers are singing 'bout. On one, there is enough fucking and general cavorting going onto keep a company of actors in material for seasons to come; on the other, that same company would be stifling their yawns from the very first cut. By the time that CD was finished, they'd be far too sleepy to give a fuck about what happened after the first song had been sung.'
What's that, Reynard? Oh, cool. He says that I won an Excellence in Writing Award!
A side-note... Yes, Reynard just reminded me that Blowzabella, the great English neo-trad band, took its name from the tune 'Blowzabella, My Bouncing Doxy' which is in Thomas D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy. They are as bawdy in their own manner as the City Waites are!
Bela loves Bluegrass in all its myriad forms and there are several Hungarian bands that play it these days; he was very excited and wanted to hear Railroad Earth's Bird in a House after we quoted Patrick O'Donnell from his Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'There are moments in life of pleasant surprise and bliss that come upon you softly: a short, cool rain shower in the middle of a hot sunny afternoon; a meal that tastes far better than you expected; a pint of lager at the end of a hard day; and popping Railroad Earth's second release Bird in a House, into the CD player for the first time.'
Master Reviewer Big Earl Sellar is not shy at letting us know when he doesn't like something, so you know that he really likes three Rom CDs he got from us (Los Niños de Sara's Gipsyole, Jony Iliev & Band's Ma maren ma, and Besh o droM's Nekemtenemmutogatol! (Can't Make Me!) ). Just savour the opening lines of his Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'The Romany have long been the makers of the soundtrack of working life throughout Europe. Whereever they roam, they quickly establish themselves as entertainers of the first order, often mixing the popular music around them with their own age-old tradition. These three discs show the continuation of this unique skill among a most unique people.'
Gary Whitehouse wants all of us to check out Chuck Brodsky's Baseball Ballads! Why? Let him tell us: 'Jealous lovers with guns. Racism. Illicit drugs. The pain and confusion of growing up. And ... spies? All of these, except perhaps the last, are typical fodder for American singer-songwriters. But this isn't a typical record of folk songs. Troubador Chuck Brodsky has made an entire album of ballads inspired by baseball.' And Alt-Country in the guise of Last Train Home was greeted warmly by Gary: 'With Time and Water, their third full-length CD, Washington, D.C.'s Last Train Home has become a full-time alt-country band. Led by former Washington Post music writer Eric Brace and his brother Allen, LTH members have reportedly quit their day jobs and gone on tour full-time to promote the album. It's a strong enough album to give them some hopes of success.'
A note regarding editorial practices before I leave to see if the promised Mulligans Stew is ready in the Kitchen. (Mulligans Stew with fresh baked Cheddar rolls to be precise. And possibly even a lemon curd for dessert!) There was one more CD review this edition, but it was not up to our exceedingly high standards. We pulled it. Unlike many zines, we will not run reviews simply to fill space.
On the occasion of May 1st being a Working Class Holiday celebrated in every Western Industrialized Country, saving the USA, Harlan Baker, an adjunct faculty member of USM and instructor in Speech, will be reading portions of The Communist Manifesto as a staged reading May 1st at 7 pm at the University of Southern Maine Woodbury Campus Center boiler room. This event is free an open to the public. A discussion will follow and continue at a local bar. For more info contact Harlan Baker.
Come back next week for some juicy gossip on our May Day festivities -- and more reviews of the traditional, the neo-trad, the semi-trad, the trad-derived, and both very old and very new works by Charles de Lint -- and everything else that's sprouting up around here.
20th of April, 2003
'There's all sorts of stories about us, and the myths are mixed up with the facts. Fellows would be telling me things that are supposed to have happened which didn't happen. All the good ones, you can't tell. You might offend somebody.'
-- Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners
We lost Grey Walker. No, that's not quite true. We know where she is, but we can't get her back (yet). She slipped off to London Below late one night last week in search of a book that she says must exist, but which no one has ever actually seen. She wouldn't tell any of us what that book was, or why it was important, but she was quite convinced it was real and not just a myth. What this means to you, dear readers, is that there are no book reviews this outing, as she took all the especially book-inclined staff with her, including our archivist, Liath ó Laighin. She had me, Reynard, furnish them with enough cheese, smoked ham, bread, and ale from the Pub stores for a handful of days, so she must be planning to be back before the next edition's due. At least we hope so!
Bela, who apparently knows London Below rather well, refused to go along with them. (What he was doing there is a mystery. We know little about him beyond the various tales the rat fiddlers of the Gulow ha Tewldar Band tell when they've had rather too much cheese and cider.) Smoking his pipe and sipping a fine Slovenian wine here in the Pub, he told me that he had quite enough 'roughing' it for this lifetime. He'd said he rather be snug and warm here.
But we really don't need to go the Floating Market in London Below to find tasty things to review in Green Man that'll tempt you to spend your silver coin. Recently I listened with a great deal of interest as the editorial staff discussed over lunch in the Pub what's coming up for review in future editions of GMR. Kim Bates, our Music Editor, noted that she's reviewing If I Should Fall from Grace, the film about Shane MacGowan that the publicist for the Sundance Channel sent us. She also noted that Stephen Hunt will be doing a detailed look at Free Reed's Dave Swarb box set! The Nuticks, Ryan and Maria, are doing a joint review of Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal in the next two or three weeks. Nellie Levine is doing a Nosferatu film omnibus. Grey's doing a CD of Tolkien poetry read by Christopher Lee with music by The Tolkien Ensemble. Matthew Winslow (assisted by his children) is reviewing Wendy Froud and Terri Windling's new enchanting book, The Faeries of Spring Cottage. And Maria's doing an omni of CDs by Tears for Beers, a German rock band that does traditional folk songs.
Grey mentioned that our review copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be here on June 21st -- Michael Jones will be doing that review. What he had to offer in exchange is, well, let's just say it's between him and Grey... and a few members of the Unseelie Court.
On a slightly weirder note, Tim Hoke says that he's working on an omni of film versions of MacBeth (Orson Welles, Roman Polanski...). He doesn't know when that will be done, though, as he's waiting to get hold of Kurosawa's Throne Of Blood.
Oh, and before I forget... Grey asked me to mention, if she wasn't back yet, that Tor has just released a fine trade paperback edition of Terri Windling's The Wood Wife. If you've yet to exchange your silver for a copy of this lovely novel, there's never been a better time...
Tim Hoke earns a special place this week with his look at contradancing. Tim says '...I found myself pulled onto the floor, protesting all the way, into my first contradance. To my amazement, it turned out that it really was as easy as my new friends said it would be, and even more fun. That was twenty years ago, and it still manages to hold my interest, so I was pleased to recently get hold of a pile of contradance materials.'
This pile of materials includes a video -- Together In Time; two books -- Along The River edited by Susan F. Conger; The Portland Collection from Susan Songer with Clyde Curley, and five CDs --a compilation called Contra Music: The Sound Of New England, Susan Conger & Friends' Along The River, A Portland Selection by George Peek, Clyde Curley, & Susan Songer, The Portland Megaband Live, and The Clayfoot Strutters, Going Elsewhere. Sounds like Tim was busy with this lot! Go ahead, read his review of a these great selections, and see why he says 'this is a form that is dynamic, and continuing to grow'!
Rachel Brown always brings us interesting reviews, and this week is no exception. First up is Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart at the River Styx, a film which Rachel sums up with 'A disgraced samurai bent on vengeance becomes Japan's most deadly assassin... while taking his three-year-old son in a babycart with him wherever he goes.' Say what? It's based on a comic series now carried by Dark Horse Comics, and you'll have to read Rachel's review to understand why it's a must-see.
Rachel also reviews a film described by one science fiction writer as 'the weirdest film ever made.' Does Rachel agree? Well, Rachel says 'Although by the time I finish describing Wicked City, it will probably seem to have earned that superlative several times over, the truth is that while you're watching the film, it only feels like the second-weirdest movie ever made. Especially if you've seen lots of Hong Kong cinema already.' Let's just say that after reading this review it might be difficult to find enough synonyms for 'weird'...but then if the film is half as enjoyable as the Excellence in Writing Award winning review, that might be a good thing!
Craig Clarke is next, with a whopper of an omnibus full of chills and thrills...in small doses, that is. Craig takes a look at a passel of horror anthology films; he tells us 'Episodic films like this give directors opportunities to make shorter films of a similar theme and link them together with a "wraparound" story -- giving the audience, in effect, several movies in one.' Dead of Night, Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, Creepshow 2, Cat's Eye, Night Gallery, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, Tales from the Hood -- find out which, according to Craig, are the best and the worst of this particular genre.
'Gladiator was, to today's generation, the ultimate gladiator film. Action scenes of man to man, hand to hand combat; close-ups of blood and sweat; and a mystical spiritual subplot to give the film depth. Russell Crowe provided just the right amount of hunk status and acting ability. Well, ladies and gentlemen..."you ain't seen nothin' yet" if you haven't seen Spartacus!' So says David Kidney in his review of the DVD version of the Kirk Douglas classic. Find out why David opines that 'Stanley Kubrick may have felt that his intentions were dulled in the editing, but the film that remains is still a remarkable testimony to his vision.' Now if David had a nickel for every Excellence in Writing Award he's won...well, here's another one for the wall, David!
Nellie Levine turns in her first film review this week, and it's a lovely look at a beloved children's classic, Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit. No, this isn't the horrific 1984 television special starring Marie Osmond, but an animated version made in 1985 and now available on DVD. Ah, who can forget the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse, and the story that teaches 'that love has the capacity to bring about transformation, and that love should know no bounds -- even the shabbiest of us is real enough to receive love.' Narrated by Meryl Streep and scored by George Winston, this version, according to Nellie, is a version worth watching.
Kim Bates here, taking a break from hunting down the odd, the unusual, the wonderful, and the well... rotten fruits growing on the branches of music tradition, to tell you about the wierd and wonderful discs we've reviewed this week. OK, so not all are wonderful! But the same can't be said about our reviews of these items. Whatever the disc, our reviewers are up to the challenge, so sit back, and enjoy our take the roots and branches of tradition.
Cat Eldridge is first with a look at three pieces from former members of The Men They Couldn't Hang: Liberty Cage's Sleep of the Just, Odgers & Simmonds Folk at the Fortress, and Odgers & Simmonds Live -- Offenburg Spiltakeller 6.5.2000. Cat was delighted with all three offerings; as he says in his Excellence in Writing Award winner of a review: 'Over the years, I've collected some twenty TMTCH CDs, both full-length and EPs, in their full-band mode and in the form of these 'side-projects'. All are great, all are worth the considerable hassle it would take to acquire them these days'.
Eric Eller is next with a review of an ambitious under taking by Richard Shulman that wins our next Excellence in Writing Award. 'With Keeper of the Holy Grail and Camelot Reawakened, Richard Shulman lays out a program of music designed to inspire'. According to Shulman, these albums are part of an ongoing process 'to create music which will help set the stage for a harmonious society we are all co-creating with the Divine. That's a tall order; though for the most part enjoyable and noticeably moving at times, the albums don't quite deliver on that program.'
Perhaps this sort of effect can't be planned, because Judith Gennett tells us that a disc blending hillbilly, zen and English traditions in one album 'is positively inspirational, Julian Dawson's voice is pleasant and low-key and Gene Parson's instrumentals are quiet yet wonderful. Recommended for folks who like good singer-songwriters with solid, integrated low-key country-folk arrangements, and for devotees of British folk-rock...you might hear these songs at Cropredy sometime and be tested on them!' I"m not sure how Julian Dawson and Gene Parsons manage to weave these disparate influences into a transcendent album, but apparently on Hillbilly Zen that's exactly what happens.
Speaking of Cropredy, Stephen Hunt is looking forward to seeing Damien Barber's new band out on the festival circuit this summer, and finds Uncut to be a welcome follow on to his last disc. As he explains, 'If your name was Damien Barber and you formed a group, you'd want to call it The Demon Barbers, wouldn't you? Damien last appeared in the pages of Green Man with a CD entitled Boxed, made during his brief sojourn in Ireland. Since then the prodigal has returned to his native England, eager to consume the fatted calf, and skewer a few sacred cows into the bargain.' You'll have to read his review to find out why he thinks the Demon Barbers belong on the festival stage.
Stephen also enjoyed 3 albums by various combinations of the Lakeman siblings, from the band Equation's First Name Terms to Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman's 1 to Seth Lakeman's The Punch Bowl. He loves their restraint, sensitivity and good taste -- read his review to find out which album he likes best of the three.
Back on the other side of the pond, David Kidney knows his blues, and takes us back to the Michael Pickett's roots in a 1960s Toronto band called Whiskey Howl. Does he like this 21st century solo effort? Indeed. 'This is the sound I love in solo recordings; the intimacy and warmth of live performance. Pickett and co-producer Alec Fraser capture it wonderfully. Solo is a fine addition to the blues collection. Now I'd like to hear Michael Pickett with a band! "
Peter Massey found Magpie Lane's Six for Gold to be well worth the coin, with solid roots in middle England's tradition of songs. It reminded him 'very much of the early days of the Albion Country Band, I am pleased to say. Lovely stuff. Yes, this is an album well worth having.' Read his review to find out why.
Our own Jack Merry reviews one of those items that it may take Emma Bull's Sparrow to find. (Especially after this review comes out!) It's Boiled in Lead's live 17 March 2001 recorded at First Avenue in Minneapolis, a venue that this Music Editor remembers fondly. After a lively romp through the Lead boys history, Jack weaves a spell around this disc that will have you reaching for your virtual plastic. 'There's not a single thing that I can complain about here. Well, yes there is.' But I'm not telling! You'll have to read the review of this live recording from a band that know how to deliver live and in person.
There may be some complaints about this next offering, though! But don't blame Jack. Really. Jack's take on the commercial release of a live Pogues concert, previously available as a bootleg, is priceless. Amidst the mayhem and the madness surrounding Streams of Whiskey he asks a great question: 'Now given that the Pogues are, on their commercial released CDs such as If I Should Fall from Grace with God and Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash, rather well-produced by acknowledged producers such as Steve Lillywhite and Elvis Costello (who would marry and later divorce Pogues vocalist Cait O'Riordan), how they sound live is a question very much worth having the answer to.' Again, dear readers, I must point you to Jack's review for the answer to this question, where you'll also discover why it received an Excellence in Writing Award.
And he's got nothing to complain about on Steve Holloway's Next Stop, Seelie Court. As you might imagine, with a title like that, and Celtic music to boot, we couldn't let anyone else review this one. Do Steve and friends really take you the Otherworld? Jack thinks so! 'Next Stop, Seelie Court is an album that gets me wholehearted approval as it consists of tunes and nothing but tunes. Bliss! Just how blissful is a matter of how much you like the musicians involved, and I like this group of musicians a lot.' Who are they? Read his review to find out.
Big Earl Sellar
couldn't get enough of Hayseed Dixie's latest offering Kiss
my Grass. Yes, the same band that brought us a bluegrass tribute
to AC/CD has taken on Kiss, and Big Earl opines 'Go and track down this
disc; even if you thought Kiss were a joke, its still a great listen.
Hayseed Dixie tunes are heavily traded on peer-to-peer networks; track down
and buy their stuff. If half the artists recording today had the cojones
to release stuff like this, youd buy more discs too!'
Matapat's Petit Fou was hotly contested by our reviewers, so it's no surprise that Big Earl positively raves about them. 'Matapat is the voice from Quebec that the rest of us long for: another beautiful tradition meeting with the rest of us. Strongly recommended.' Read his review to find out how the band fits into the revival of Quebecois culture.
Mike Stiles was equally pleased with the inimitable Black 47's live disc, On Fire, noting that "I would have launched me coracle for this one in yet another installment of Saint Stiles Among the Mystic Isles of Celtic Rock, but the territory has been admirably mapped out for the Green Man already. So here's an update on an Irish American band that's just beginning to reach the prominence it deserves." Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for his take on one New York's most innovative, irreverent, and yes, discontented Irish music icons.
Christopher White felt that he needed more of a connection with Jane and Gord in order to really appreciate their album The Blue Madonna. As he says, 'If they appear in some comfy folk venue near you, by all means go and see them. You might find yourself pleasantly entertained and want to get a copy of The Blue Madonna for your collection.' Read to find out why.
Gary Whitehouse gives us an elegant take on Richard Thompson's Old Kit Bag, a review that many of Thompson's fans will appreciate. Don't say we didn't warn you about the strange lure of this songwriter with the instantly recognizable voice and hypnotic guitar! As Gary tells us, 'In these angst-ridden times, it's appropriate that Richard Thompson subtitles his first studio release of new material in nearly four years, "Unguents, Fig Leaves and Tourniquets for the Soul." But one can rarely take anything about Richard Thompson at face value, so it's best to read the ingredients on the unguent, make sure you know what's hidden under the fig leaf, and don't let the tourniquet get drawn too tight. There's little here to comfort the afflicted, except the music itself.' Read his review to see why Gary has earned yet another well deserved Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
I won't say Gary's take on Tresa Street's Ain't Nothin' Changed isn't elegant as well, it's just that he's encountered something corporate masquerading as something country, and that has his back up! Unfortunately, Gary reports, 'The only roots [Tresa]'s acquainted with are the type that grow in dark about once a month and have to be bleached again.' Ouch. Now why do I feel I should stand in solidarity with bottle blondes everywhere... and when is my next hair appointment anyway? But I digress.
If Ms. Street suffered from over-production, Linda Finkle's debut A Piece of Me suffered from a certain lack of experience with the live audience and professional production. 'In her press kit, Ms. Finkle says she bypassed the songwriter's usual route to a recording career -- that of playing open mics for a few years, maybe touring regionally -- and just went straight to recording. She put a few songs out on the Web and "got some great responses to it," so decided to go ahead and put out a CD. The results speak volumes for the advantages of the more traditional path.'
Well, that's it for recorded music this week. From the live,
the over produced, and the debuts, to the return veterans, and the bluegrass
Kiss tribute albums, we find many strange mutations of traditional forms
of music! And what next? Only the mailman knows for sure.
Now let's step out and join the rest of the staff who didn't
go with Grey down at the Living Tree Cafe. I hear today's special is roast
suckling pig, perfect with Jamaican pepper pot soup, some spicy fried plantain
chips, a proper Ghost Ki Kashmiri Biryani, and some of the Three Lions ale
that Stone, the proprietor, imports from Hindustan. Yes, it's really a cafe
built into a very large tree. No species that I've ever seen elsewhere,
but it looks like it'd give Yggdrasil a fair run for which is the larger
being. It makes for a unique eating experience, as all the windows are open
in the summer, and Maggie and her kin fly in and out. Just mind your fingers
when they see something tasty that they want now! And look out for
13th of April, 2003
He said I don't have any further use for these
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
swooping down from heaven to carry me home...
--- Richard Thompson, '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'
She said, with a touch of bitterness in her voice, that it was all the fault of Richard Thompson. I made her an Irish coffee to keep her talking as it had been a slow day in the Green Man Pub, cold rain falling outside the doors. She was a fetching darling with her black leather jacket, Borderlands t-shirt, black jeans, and black soft leather boots, not to mention green eyes and spiky red hair. She could've been twenty, she could've been fifty -- who could tell? And then she said it -- 'Do I look like an angel to you? Well I am, even if I don't have the wings coming out of my back.'
Now you might think that I, Reynard, musician and barkeep here in this pub, would've been surprised, but I was not. I've experienced much weirder things in this old brick and stone building. She drained the cup and asked for another -- paying once again in silver coin that was old when the Romans tried to conquer what would be Britain one day.
Sighing deeply, she looked up at me and spoke. 'That man is far too good to be of mortal blood -- he must be fey. How else could he have convinced so many mortals that we must arrive on motorcycles? How trite an idea!' I kept my silence, anticipating something more. 'I must be going,' she said, 'but he got that right, you know, and I am here to take someone back with me.' She rose and left the Pub, walking out into the rain until I could see her no more... Meanwhile the musicians in the Neverending Session must have sensed who she was as they are now playing 'The Shaking of the Sheets' tune from John Playford's English Dancing Master.
Speaking of the Fey... Emma Bull has agreed to let GMR publish her short story 'A Bird that Whistles' as a limited-edition chapbook. For those of you who don't know, the story was originally published in Diana Wynne Jones' anthology Hidden Turnings and republished in Emma and Will Shetterly's own anthology Double Feature. It's a prequel to her novel War for the Oaks.
The Green Man Review edition will have a 200 copy print run, numbered and signed by Emma. We plan to release it sometime this fall, with all proceeds going to Emma. Keep your browser pointed here for more information later about when and how you can order your copy!
One of the great things about a publication like Green Man Review is being able to bring attention to a book or CD that might otherwise be overlooked by our readers. Now, that's hard to do because you, our readers, are so well-versed and well-read, but still it happens, and it brings us no end of joy to present reviews of something you just might not have considered before. This week's featured book review is one such item. Michelle Erica Green reviews Pete Hammill's latest book Forever. It tells the story of Irish emigrant to the United States, Cormac Samuel O'Connor, who on his way to the land of promise is granted eternal life by an African holy man so that he can exact revenge on the evil Earl of Warren and his descendants. Michelle earns herself an Excellence in Writing Award for her wonderful turn of phrase and enthusiasm in conveying the wonder and beauty of this novel.
Steve Power has fond memories of Steeleye Span in their heyday. So, it seems to plenty of other folk, which may explain Present: The Very Best of Steeleye Span, an album which 'consists of songs selected by the band's army of staunch followers, via an online poll.' Steve has provided us with a superb review! And he has many a tale to tell: 'It is somewhat ironic, then, to recall that as we stood there, five long-haired, scruffy individuals in long wool-lined kaftan coats politely broke through our line, approached a nearby stage door, knocked on it and were given entrance. The irony being that no one -- including me -- said anything to them. They were certainly not mobbed or molested, in the way one might expect Robbie Williams or Justin Timberlake to be treated should they push through crowds at their own shows. I even recall thinking that most of those that saw them (not me, obviously!) didn't even recognise them for who they were. Steeleye Span, for Martin Carthy's sake!' Have an Excellence in Writing Award, Mr Power, you richly deserve it!
We start off this week with reviewer Craig Clarke taking a look at a modern classic, The Collector by John Fowles. Craig tells us that the central character of Miranda is 'one of the great female characters in literature' even when she's being held captive by Ferdinand.... Wait a sec! Ferdinand? Miranda? Do we sense Shakespearean overtones here? Read Craig's review and find out.
Stephen Hunt leads us this week to Ireland by way of New Jersey with his review of Frank Gannon's Midlife Irish. Gannon, Stephen lets us know, is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and GQ, and has written for Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, National Review, and Vogue. Not the sort of author our Mr. Hunt regularly reads. He was, however, thoroughly enchanted with the book.
Next, we wander off into fairly familiar territory with urban fantasy Yesterday's Dreams by Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Reviewer Lenora Rose writes, 'My first impression of this book was that the author was trying to imitate Charles de Lint but lacked deft prose, easy characterization, and a strong sense of the wider world.' Lenora's impression of the book did not improve much. Lenora gets a Grinch Award for her cutting but insightful review of a book that 'the world should see ... in one more draft or two.'
Wes Unruh continues our reviews of not-ready-for-primetime books with his review of Gregory Cicio's The Seed of the Dogwood Tree, a new conspiracy thriller. Like Lenora, Wes was not impressed by the writing skills of this new author. Wes comments that 'While 'omit needless words' is something I came away from this book comprehending more fully, without a doubt the most important lesson this book teaches is the importance of 'showing, not telling' when composing fiction.'
Luckily, though, we finish off our reviews this week with a look at a book that was expected to disappoint and instead impressed. Grey Walker reviews Readings on J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Katie de Koster. Grey writes that she was 'biased against it from the beginning' because it was marketed as 'accessible to a young adult audience.' At best, such books 'tend to be earnest and useful, with no pictures or conversations, to quote Alice. At worst, they are either dull, pedantic and heavily condescending; or arch, full of unobservant adults' attempts at adolescent humor and heavily condescending.' However, 'Readings on J.R.R. Tolkien is a pleasant surprise,' Grey tells us.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Cat Eldridge, helps expand our idea of a venue this week with a look at Sophia's. Located in Portland, Maine, Cat asserts, 'there's without any doubt a lot of places to eat good food and Sophia's is certainly one of the best!' With a wonderful selection of authentic Italian breads, desserts and other fantastic delicacies, this venue is one that certainly makes my mouth water.
Craig Clarke is one of our resident horror experts, and he's always willing to plumb the depths or scale the heights of the genre in search of new fare for GMR readers. This week he brings us a tantalizing review of a lesser known film from director Bernard Rose. Craig says that Paperhouse is a 'delightfully scary look at the blending of dreams and reality.' Craig's review is a delightfully well done look at this film -- just another one of Craig's reviews that should send you off to the video store, shopping list in hand!
David Kidney tells us 'I am a child of the 60s, I guess. The Beatles will always be the standard against which I measure pop music. There is nothing like them today -- maybe that's why I don't listen to pop music anymore.' What he does do, frequently and superbly, is take us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, otherwise known as his youth in Canada, where his musical expertise first began to form. In this review of the Beatles 5 DVD set Anthology, David says that the material on these DVDs is history...'Musical history. Social history. Magical mystery history. My history.' Whether you lived it or just learned it in school, David's review will make you want to experience it through Anthology.
Lenora Rose is knowledgable in a variety of areas, and she's always ready and willing to share her bounty of learning with us. This time it's a deft and insightful look at Pleasantville, a lovely film which 'puts forth a simple concept: the world changes, for good and ill, and people change with it -- or against it.' Enjoy Lenora's wonderful look at this 1998 film, and Lenora, enjoy your Excellence in Writing Award!
Vonnie Carts-Powell opens this weeks music reviews with El Agua de la Vida from Scottish dance band Salsa Celtica. Our reviewer notes: 'This is fine, fiery music and I enjoy it very much. Just understand that the music is more salsa than Celtic. Sabrosa!'
Judith Gennett turns her attention this week to John Terlazzo, a poet from York, Pennsylvania. The musical settings of his poetry on Hand of Mercy 'are within someone's span of 'folk' and are at their best rockish or gypsy-like.' Judith receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this fine review.
David Kidney is also a huge fan of the slide sound, and an exponent of the lap steel guitar in his own right. Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar 'is a collection of newer recordings; a new generation of guitarists, influenced by those originators, who are taking the plank in new directions, squeezing out every bit of emotion and sound.' David also reviews The Rough Guide To Highlife which he describes as: 'Fifteen vibrant, rhythmic, hypnotic tracks of exotic and exciting music. It's a wonderful introduction to this music.' That last sentence is equally applicable to David's review, which is why he receives an Excellence in Writing Award.
Peter Massey notes that Bill Jones (whose real name is Belinda) 'may be a new name to most folk fans outside of the UK.' Her debut album Turn To Me originally released in the UK in 2000, is 'a strong statement for what we might come to expect in future recording.'
Finally, Gary Whitehouse reviews Ambra by Maria Kalaniemi and Timo Alakotila. Accordionist Kalaniemi 'is perhaps the best known and certainly one of the most prolific of the new school of Finnish folk musicians who are pushing the boundaries of their music.' This pairing with pianist Timo Alakotila provided Gary with 'an exquisite listening experience.'
Last call, lords and ladies. Drink up, and tread ever-so-carefully as you leave our Pub tonight, as Death Herself and Her Angels may well be out there in the fog. Oh, I may be telling you a story woven out of pure fancy, but do you really know that I am? Sweet dreams!
6th of April, 2003
'...but Aslan said: 'Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.'
So they all let themselves go. And there was such merriment that the Jackdaw himself plucked up courage again and perched on the cab-horse's head, between its ears, clapping its wings, and said:
'Aslan! Aslan! Have I made the first joke? Will everybody always be told how I made the first joke?'
'No, little friend,' said the Lion. 'You have not made the first joke; you have only been the first joke.' Then everyone laughed more than ever; but the Jackdaw didn't mind and laughed just as loud till the horse shook its head and the Jackdaw lost its balance and fell off...'
--- C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew
What? Oh my goodness, is it time for the new issue already? Well, come in, come in. I'm Maria Nutick, by the way...I'm not usually this disheveled and the office is rarely in this sort of disarray and well, you'll just have to be patient with us. And mind where you step! I'm sure you understand. Why? Well, because we're still recovering from April Fool's Day, of course! You've no idea what sort of chaos April Fool's Day is when the fey are involved!
What happened? Well, there's Maggie Pye, for starters. Jackdaws, magpies, rooks...all of the Corvidae are tricksters, you know, but our Maggie takes it to the extreme. Tuesday she was in her glory! We're still searching for various items: Grey's silver bracelets, Craig's watch, David Kidney's favorite antique fountain pen, not to mention a dozen of Cat's favorite CDs. And she doesn't just take them. Oh, no. No, she leaves them in the rafters, or hangs them high in the trees down in Oberon's Wood. And I am absolutely useless when it comes to climbing trees!
And the brownies...you'd think that, being the very embodiment of cleanliness and order, they at least would behave themselves on April Fool's Day. Well, that's what we thought, too, until poor Stephen went down to the kitchen for a plate of bubble-and-squeak, only to find that it -- well, it actually bubbled and squeaked. Ugh. Naturally there was sugar in all of the salt cellars, salt in all of the sugar bowls, and I do not want to know what exactly was in the pepper mills. Why Liath, staid and steady as she is, was heard shrieking what can only have been arcane curses as she chased Peaseblossom around the dining hall. Jack Merry tells me that Liath's customary morning cup of Earl Grey was found to have been replaced with rhubarb juice.
So you can see, what with trickery and bedevilment at every turn, this has been a most trying week here in the Green Man offices. Fortunately, we did accomplish one very important thing amidst all of the chaos. We're proud to announce that Rachel Brown, Richard Condon, Christine Doiron, Pat Simmonds, Matthew Winslow, and the Chief himself, Cat Eldridge, have all been promoted to Senior Writer. Their excellent writing and steadfast dedication to GMR have earned them not only this promotion, but our admiration and gratitude. Congratulations all.
Oh, and one more thing (we checked and this is not, I repeat not, an April Fool's joke): Will Shetterly and Emma Bull are doing some house cleaning, and have a selection of books and CDs by Cats Laughing, the Flash Girls, Samuel R. Delany, Steven Brust and themselves, as well as various other enticing items, on eBay. What a chance for fans! Yummy.
Now, why don't you go read some reviews while I try to catch a few more of the chirping crickets that somebody (don't think I'm not on to you, Tim Hoke!) let loose in my office...
Jack Merry here. Sometimes a CD arrives that is so bad or just plain not fitting for Green Man that one suspects that one of the staff here did it as a prank. Now 'tis true that we do get a lot of CDs which are merde here -- from self-released CD-Rs that aren't even technically proficient to CDs that make you wish that Maggie, our resident corvid, was the lead vocalist -- but rarely does one raise the ire of a reviewer to a level where the review wholeheartedly deserves both an Excellence in Writing Award and a Grinch Award. Wait, you ask what a Grinch Award.is... Well, all I know is that when Stephen received the very first ever Grinch, it was noted that his writing was 'pungent', fitting wording given the nature of the Grinch before he was reformed. Not that I fully trust that old bugger! A Grinch Award goes to a review that is, well, less than complimentary, but written entertainingly. Frequently a Grinch Award winning review is more entertaining, in fact, than the material being reviewed.
Stephen Hunt managed that, errr, mean feat this outing with his review of Mary Ann Redmond's Prisoner of the Heart. It's not so much that it's a bad CD per se, but rather that Stephen believes that we never should have gotten it: 'If you're one of those folks who bought all those Vonda Shepherd albums that were released in the wake of the 'Ally McBeal' TV series, then this is for you. Stick this CD on after a dinner party with your lobster munching friends, and you won't go wrong. It sounds great and won't interrupt the flow of conversation at all.' If you like lounge lizard music, this may be for you. But as Stephen goes on to note, 'how come we ended up with a copy? ...Green Man probably wouldn't be looking for the 'roots and branches of arts and culture' in the sort of venues that this singer established her reputation in...' I for one will trust Stephen's judgment and not give this CD a spin!
Craig Clarke opens our book reviews in rapid-fire fashion this week, with three reviews. The first is of Michael Walsh's, And All the Saints, a fictionalized biography of the famous Irish gangster, Owney Madden. Craig says, 'Owney's story is told by the one best to tell it -- Owney hisself, which makes And All the Saints sorta the I Claudius of gangster novels. (How's that for a promo quote?)' Holly Lisle's novel, Sympathy for the Devil takes a humorous look at what might happen if everyone were literally given a second chance. As Craig says, 'In a moment of concern over the likely-to-have-been-damned soul of her dead husband, [Dayne] prayed for every soul in Hell to have a chance to repent, and since she prayed with a 'pure heart' (the one criterion for having your prayer immediately answered), she got it. And, boy, did she get it.' Craig recommends this book as 'fun... intelligent and inventive.' He's not so complimentary about Ordinary Horror by David Searcy. 'Unfortunately,' he says, 'this book was an exercise in futility. With a title like this, one expects at least a little horror. There was none, not even the ordinary kind.'
'Fairy houses' have been a sort of children's folk movement recently. The rule is to build houses completely out of natural non-living materials, and then leave them for the fairies. Tracy Kane was inspired by this movement to write and illustrate a picture book called Fairy Houses, which she then followed with Fairy Boat. Newly promoted Senior Writer Christine Doiron reviews both books together this week. 'My conclusion about these books is that they are not the matched set they at first appear to be,' Christine says. Her two-year-old son loved one, but was completely uninterested in the other. But she goes on to say, 'There are precious few juvenile picture books about fairies, and that alone is reason enough to have these on your shelf.'
Eric Eller reviews Bone Walk by Kevin Howe, which is a novel set in fictionalized medieval world. According to Eric, Howe manages to capture perfectly what life must have been like in those times. 'The limited worldview of a medieval villager left most of the world a mystery. Each village was an isolated island, surrounded by the great unknown of the deep woods.' Howe capitalizes on this sense of mystery to fill his story with ominous horror and strange discoveries.
Assistant Film Editor Tim Hoke is also a musician, which makes him a good choice to review Echo and Narcissus, Mark Siegel's novel about musicians and magic. Tim's opinion is that this is 'a story with potential it never quite lives up to.' Read his review to see why, even with magic, references to classical mythology and voodoo, and extra-dimensional foes, Echo and Narcissus doesn't quite make it. Tim's concise yet insightful criticism wins him an Excellence in Writing Award.
When Stephen Hunt saw Robin Hood's 'long and preternaturally blonde hairstyle' on the cover of Jennifer Roberson's Lady of Sherwood, he was deeply suspicious that this novel would turn out to be 'one of those dumb romance/fantasy novels', but his fears were allayed. Roberson draws on history as well as folklore to create 'believable, three-dimensional characters' and a story Stephen enthusiastically endorses.
Michael M. Jones, as you know if you've read GMR for even a few months, reads a lot of fantasy. So when he says he started a book, read for two hours in line at the DMV ('that dreadful, banal government agency which regulates American drivers, for you non-Americans out there'), and then went straight home and kept on reading, we know the book had to be good! So what's the book that hooked Michael? The Assassins of Tamurin by S.D. Tower. Michael wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his review, which made at least two editors want to go out and find this book immediately for ourselves.
New reviewer Kevin Lau makes an auspicious start with his thorough review of the five-volume Homecoming series by Orson Scott Card. If you want a detailed, book-by-book exploration, full of a knowledgeable Card fan's praise and his honest criticism, you've got to read this review! Welcome, Kevin. It's good to have your opinions here!
Nellie Levine is another new reviewer who offers her first book review for GMR this week. Like Eric above, Nellie reviews a novel intended to show what life was like in earlier times. Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley is told from the point of view of a nun in the order of St. Brigid in sixth century Ireland, 'a time of reluctant Christianization, when druids walked beside monks and the magic of the land was as much a gift of God as was eternal peace...' Read Nellie's evocative review to see why she both enjoyed and learned from this book.
Kevin McGowin comes from a Scottish family, and remembers his father's friend, 'Duncan McFarlaine, a native Scotsman, who read and recited Burns with much more authority and fervor....' Kevin is quite pleased with Matt Muir's audio collection of Robert Burns' poetry, The Day Returns: Narrations of Robert Burns. '...[A]t once I understood Burns' appeal as a sort of pre-Byronic rock star-like figure. Muir's cadences are impassioned, with caesuras placed as many as three places in a single line so as to add to the breathless power of his rushing the next, and after a moment or two, I realized that what I was listening to reminded me less of other taped Burns readings I've heard than... rap music. Not the words, not even the themes, the meter!' Rap music? Yes, you read that correctly. Now go read the rest of Kevin's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to see how he makes the connection!
Liz Milner takes a look a two very different approaches to the history of the folk-rock movement, one scholarly and one a dishy tell-all. In Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60's Folk-Rock Revolution, Richie Unterberger 'strives for academic legitimacy... If you want to get all the facts, just the facts and probably more facts than you ever wanted, get Unterberger 's book.' On the other hand, there's David Hadju's Positively Fourth Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña, which is 'loaded with mean spirited, backbiting gossip and -- guess what -- mean spirited, backbiting gossip can be great fun to read.'
Matthew Scott Winslow, another newly-promoted Senior Writer, brings us a review of The Eye of Night a first novel by Pauline J. Alama. Matt praises this book for its fully-realized imaginary world and vivid characterization. He's also quite pleased with A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson. According to Matt, Dickinson takes the tried-and-true concept of time travel and uses it to create a story that doesn't break any new ground but is instead simply well-written and highly satisfactory. 'One problem with the book, however,' says Matthew... well, you'll just have to read the rest of his review to find out what it is.
Not too long ago, there was a big discussion in the GMR breakroom as to what each person's favorite venue was. Grey Walker said that her favorite was not what might typically be classifed as a venue. After reading her Excellence In Writing Award winning review of Poor Richard's Discount Book Store, we now completely understand her view of what a venue really is: 'a place where several thousand performances of all sorts, ancient and modern, funny and sad, complex and simple, are quietly waiting for me to launch them on the stage of my spread hands.' Poor Richard's sounds like a magical place. Go on, let Grey give you her delightful tour.
This week Craig Clarke takes a look at a biographical film which plays a bit of a dirty trick on the viewer, enticing us to believe that we'll learn more about its subject. But Craig says '[t]his is an author they're profiling; shouldn't there be a good bit of description of her literary side? I learned absolutely nothing about Iris Murdoch, the author.' This taut and honest look at Iris, an excellent but disconcertingly incomplete film, brings Craig an Excellence in Writing Award.
Michael Hunter delivers another insightful interview this week. He had a chance to talk with the Northern Irish singer Cara Dillon, who was in Australia for the WOMADelaide festival. Michael and Cara explored her musical background, her love of traditional music, and how that love infuses her own songwriting. Take a look at Michael's interview -- Cara also provides some teasers about the album she has in the works now, as well as the background behind some of the songs on her debut solo album Cara Dillon.
Chris White enjoyed the music and storytelling skills of Leo Kottke in Portland, Maine late last month. Playing to a diverse audience, Leo 'manages to combine jazz, classical, folk and blues elements into his playing style in such a seamless manner as to make it appear effortless'. Read Chris' review to find out how good Leo is at creating the ideal atmosphere for a performance.
Hello again, my friends. We have an unusually small selection of CD reviews for you this week, I'm afraid. If you've already read Maria Nutick's introduction to this issue, you'll understand the reasons for that! The annual Feast of Fools that we celebrate here on April 1st seems to unleash more mayhem every year. Still, I suppose there's nothing like surprises, which brings us neatly to our first reviewer....
Judith Gennett introduces us to the strange works of Sandy Weltman, and says: 'In truth, the all-acoustic The Klezmer Nuthouse, is more of a New Acoustic-klez fusion album than a bluegrass-klez album, but the rumors about banjos are true' Got that? Read the rest of this Excellence in Writing Award winning review and it'll all make sense. Perhaps.
Peter Hund reckons that 'this is a natural time' for Alison Krauss and Union Station to release their first live album. With Live 'the bluegrass diva neatly wraps it all up in a double-disc package culled from two nights at the Palace Theater in Louisville, Kentucky...............................................' Stop that! Dratted Maggie's hopping about on the keyboard again. Now, where was I? Ah, yes...
David Kidney contributes a review of five Contemporary Christian Music albums which 'show the breadth of influences, styles and genres that are now being used to communicate a two thousand year old story.' David's writing will always engage the reader, irrespective of their personal beliefs, and he gains an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Pat Simmonds had the very great pleasure of reviewing Cape Breton Tradition by Buddy MacMaster. Pat accurately observes: 'It is generally acknowledged that Buddy is one of the great living repositories of Cape Breton traditional music. This is a wonderful 'cd/cd.'
Gary Whitehouse rounds up our brief music section this week with a review of 1+1+1=4/The Return of Doug Salda-a, a two-on-one reissue of a brace of albums by The Sir Douglas Quintet. That band, says Gary, 'was but the first of many vehicles through which Texan Doug Sahm brought his sprawling musical vision to the world.'
That's it for this week, folks. I hereby salute that crack squad of dedicated writers who brought us this weeks fine reviews. If they hadn't successfully carried out a daring dawn raid on the CD shelves, risking water falling from doorways, whoopee cushions on their desk chairs, and other, far worse humiliations, we'd have had no music reviews at all to read this week, not even albums entitled 1+1+1=4 or The Klezmer Nuthouse. Normal service, or something like it, will be resumed next week. I'm now going to put my feet up and drink this mug of tea. One sugar lump please, Mia. Oh, look. There's a small dragon swimming in my mug. Thanks...
Now be careful on your way out. I'd invite you to sit in the lounge with me for a cup of tea, but the chairs aren't really safe to sit in just yet. One of Liath's cousins cast an Invisibility Spell on Hamish, our hedgehog, and since he likes to curl up and sleep on the furniture -- I think poor Bela is still walking a little funny. Next week, though, we'd love to have you stay for a snack. If you'll excuse me, I promised the Chief that I'd find out what happened to the third floor restroom. No, nothing's been damaged. At least I don't think so. It's just that we can't seem to find where the room itself has gotten to...
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Updated 30 April 03, 02:22 GMT (MN)