Crazy rooster crowin' midnight.
Balls of lightning roll along.
Old men sing about their dreams.
Women laugh and children scream,
And the band keeps playin' on.

Grateful Dead's 'The Music Never Stopped'



 28th of September, 2003


Now it is said that the very first Jack here got lonely for the sound of music being made by other musicians. So he invited in a few fiddlers, a piper, and even a hurdy gurdy player to play for the theatre company in exchange for a bit of grub and some ale. Keep in mind that it was a typically cold and damp British winter evening when he did this, so the musicians weren't terribly inclined to leave. One of 'em got the somewhat queer idea that if they didn't stop playing, they wouldn't be asked to leave, so they didn't. And they weren't asked to leave, as it was convenient to have musicians as part of a theatre company. So a deal was struck -- food and drink for all musicians who were playing, so long as the music never, ever stopped. So it hasn't. Ever. Down through the centuries, human and fey alike have made sure the music has gone on without stop. A player might drop into the session here for a few hours, or stay playing for longer than you and I would believe possible. But there's always at least one player keeping it going.

(The Old Man tells a different story, but we'll let Jack tell his here.)

The odd thing is that most folk assume that what is now called the Neverending Session is always resident in the Green Man Pub. Not so. I've encountered it damn near everywhere -- including in the main area of the Library, where recently three fiddlers (including Jack Merry) were playing every tune in John Playford's English Dancing Master! They had a bottle of Midnight Wine, which sparkled with a touch of frost on it, and were entertaining our Librarian, Liath, who was reading John Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture. I walked by quietly with my copy of Mythago Wood and listened appreciatively for a minute as I left the Library.

Another favorite place one finds the Neverending Session is, not surprisingly, the kitchen. The kitchen here is the cellar of this building, but in the back it has large leaded glass windows that overlook the greensward, drainage culvert/stream and wood which is part of our holdings. It's a very big kitchen -- some say that once this building had lodgings for the more respectable of travelers, which would explain the rooms on the top two floors -- and it has a cozy corner where half a dozen musicians can play, eat, and drink like fat, comfortable cats. Really comfortable cats. They're as likely to be here in the deep of Winter as they are in the Pub. Which certainly pleases the kitchen staff. Who doesn't love live music? Wouldn't you be here, too, if you could be?

Our featured review this week is Grey Walker's review of Ursula K. Le Guin's newest collection of short stories, Changing Planes, illustrated by Eric Beddows. 'Le Guin tells us that she's discovered a new way to reach other possible realities,' Grey says. 'You don't have to look far into the future or across space at all, she says. You simply have to be in airport. That's right ... any traveler who is stuck between flights, waiting on a delayed airplane, or otherwise sitting for hours in discomfort and anxiety in an airport, can 'change planes'. The strange state of being 'between' places in the placeless space of an airport, accompanied by the physical and emotional discomfort, provide the necessary impetus and energy to make the leap from our plane to another one.' Grey absolutely loves this book. Read her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to see why.

Rachel Manija Brown has two book reviews for us this week. The first is of Terry Pratchett's newest Discworld novel, Monstrous Regiment. Rachel assures all Discworld fans that this is another winner. 'Monstrous Regiment is a war novel, and though it's full of discomfiting reminders of present-day stupidities, its main thrust is about thirty degrees off-center from what one might expect. I hate to say what that is, because it will sound dire, but the truth is that it's about gender roles. War, gender roles, vampires jonesing for coffee, that sort of thing.' In other words, Pratchett up to his usual tricks.

We recently noticed a gaping hole in our review index where popular YA (young adult) horror novels like those by R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike should be. We thought, in the interests of exhaustive coverage, that we should review at least one such novel. Rachel valiantly accepted the mission of reviewing R. L. Stine's most recent offering, Dangerous Girls. Rachel acknowledges that Stine 'fills an essential ecological niche in the field of the young adult horror novel, that of the awful writer whose books fly from the shelves like horrid winged insects.' But she offers alternative authors and titles for those who don't want to be stuck in 'the 247 pages of stultifying hackdom that comprise Dangerous Girls.' Read her review to see who you should be reading, and also because her way with words will make you laugh. Rachel asked for a Purple Heart for this review. Our closest alternative is a Grinch Award.

Faith J. Cormier reviews a delightful small press offering, a pair of travel guides with a unique twist. By Sarah Valente Kettler and Carole Trimble, The Amateur Historian's Guide: Medieval & Tudor London and The Amateur Historian's Guide: Medieval & Tudor England, Day Trips South of London &emdash; Dover, Canterbury, Rochester have, in Faith's opinion, 'done a great service to scholars and amateurs alike by making many sites relating to a fascinating period in English history more accessible.' With these guide books and a good map (or three), Faith says, you're about to make your next trip to England much more interesting.

Judith Gennett's review takes us on another journey, the Road to Rembetika. This book, by Gail Holst-Warhaft, 'follow[s] rembetika from its wonderful early days in the underworld, through the golden era with familiar stars like Markos Vamvakaris, through persecutions and the war years in which rembetika lyrics carried political satire...' So, what's rembetika? Read Judith's review to find out!

Rebecca Scott is back with more Sandman. Yes! There's more. This week she rounds out her omnibus reviews of Neil Gaiman's revolutionary comic book series by covering three of his short story collections, the ones that fall in the interstices of The Sandman series proper, The Sandman: Dream Country, The Sandman: Fables and Reflections and The Sandman: Worlds' End. But Rebecca's not done yet. She also received by express mail the newest Sandman this week, The Sandman: Endless Nights. Was it worth the wait? Rebecca says, 'This is something I respect about Gaiman: he wrote this enormously popular series which made him internationally famous, and he only comes back to it when he can top himself. Not many writers manage that, despite their best intentions.' Rebecca wins Excellence in Writing Awards for her Sandman reviews this week.

Lisa Spangenberg also wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her thorough, knowledgeable review of John Matthews' Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman. Was it fair to subject this book to the gimlet eye of our resident Celtic scholar, who admits to being able to read early Welsh? Well, we think it's certainly fair to you, our readers. But Matthews doesn't fare so well. Like Rachel above, Lisa finishes out her critique of Matthews' work with a bibliography of Taliesin scholars you should be reading!

Wes Unruh thoroughly enjoyed Nancy A. Collins collection of horror short stories, Knuckles and Tales. 'I suggest going to the nearest bookstore,' Wes says, 'picking up this book, cover illustration by J. K. Potter, and flipping to page 221. There you will find the leading edge of Nancy Collins' razor-sharp dialogue, a two page piece titled 'The Worst Thing There Is'. Read it. Laugh. Then buy the book and take it home, because I doubt you'll be able to put it back on the shelf.' So there you go.

One final note -- Orb is releasing a new edition of one of Charles de Lint's earlier novels, Mulengro. It's going to be a nice trade paperback edition, good for reading, with a lovely, atmospheric, brooding image on the cover. If you haven't had the opportunity to read or own this book, now's your chance. And if you're curious as to what it's about, read April Gutierrez's fine review.

Craig Clarke opens his film offering this week thus: 'Director Sam Raimi's first big-budget mainstream offering (after the success of the first two Evil Dead films) is arguably the best comic book superhero movie not actually based on a comic book superhero: Darkman.' Note his use of the word 'arguably'. Want to argue with him? Well, first read his review of 1990's Darkman -- for which he adds another Excellence in Writing Award to his shelf -- to see if he makes his case.

New reviewer Denise Dutton made her debut last week and her offering this week indicates that she's likely to become a favorite of the film department here at GMR! This week Denise takes on a new release. 'I've always loved monster movies,' she says, 'and as far as I'm concerned, the more monsters, the merrier. Movies like Universal's House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein brought together Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. I watched them over and over, so when I heard that Underworld pitted vampires against werewolves in a blood feud (not just one or two, but all of them), I could hardly wait. And the tag line, 'When the battle begins, which side will you choose?' had me actually considering the pros and cons of each type of creature.' Find out if the film lives up to it's promising tag line in her review of Underworld.

Did he sell his soul at the crossroads? Oh, I'm not talking about the legendary Robert Johnson, I'm speaking of Master Reviewer David Kidney -- his wealth of knowledge about blues music and musicians is downright unearthly. David admits 'Robert Johnson has haunted my life for a long time.' So he was the natural pick to review the new DVD release of Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? The Life & Music of Robert Johnson, narrated by Danny Glover and starring musician Keb Mo'. Go see what David has to say about this film's take on the Johnson legend.

This issue's letters start out with a comment on a review we just published today. Carole Trimble enjoyed Faith Cormier's review of her works with Sarah Valente Keller, The Amateur Historian's Guides to Medieval England enough to write in immediately upon reading it. How's that for responsive?

Flash Girl Lorraine Garland (aka 'The Fabulous Lorraine') took time from being 'buried in things' to comment on Buried Things -- her first CD with Folk Underground -- as reviewed by Barb Truex.

Elsewhere Dave Nelson of the band Dick Smith wrote to thank Gary Whitehouse for his look at their CD Smoke Damage and inform us we have a new reader in him, Ingrid Heldt is borrowing her new mission statement from Lenora Rose's review of her CD Love Matters, and David Peck offered his thanks to David Kidney for helping to spread the word about The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966.

Anne Smith wanted to let Mia Nutick know how glad she was that they agreed on their interpretations of the Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. But do they really agree? You'll have to read the letter -- and Mia's response -- to find out.

As we all know, positive reviews are great -- the one non-monetary compensation every artist can agree on (as it generally leads to the monetary kind). So if there's one thing all artists have in common, it would have to be their intense dislike of negative reviews. Especially if one stands out among a plethora of raves. And what happens if that negative review appears in Green Man Review? What else? They write in.

Unfortunately, these normally creative people have blandly similar ideas about changing the reviewer's mind. 'Read my other reviews,' they say. And Jane Yolen's letter regarding Nathan Brazil's review of her new take on the Arthurian legend, Sword of the Rightful King is another perfect example of a long-standing tradition.

John Benninghouse brings us a pair of reviews this week; one by the age-defying Jethro Tull and one by the singer/songwriter Christine Costanzo. John saw Jethro Tull on a late summer evening where Tull 'put on an excellent performance that proved that they are most certainly not too old to rock 'n' roll.' The concert focused on the band's classic hits (how could there be a Tull performance without 'Aqualung'?), but the set included songs from some more recent albums and Ian Anderson's latest solo effort, Rupi's Dance. Read the review to see why, with a performance that made John's body 'reverberate', Tull isn't going quitely into the night.

John also checked out the performance of Christine Costanzo earlier this month. Costanzo is a thoughtful performer who 'lets her music invite you into her world rather try to drag you into it.' Performing many of the pieces on her recently reviewed EP and album, Costanzo displayed a 'beautiful voice that exudes a sense of weariness with a touch of hope.' Read John's review to discover the meaning and feeling that Costanzo draws out of her music.

G'afternoon, Reynard here. Spike and his new band, The Rat Bastards, have been playing the songs of the Clash in the Pub this afternoon, so the Neverending Session has drifted off to the kitchen again. The staff there promised them High Tea complete with freshly baked scones, strawberry jam, and drawn butter provided they'd play some English dance tunes. Bjorn's watching over the Pub right now, so I'm also in the kitchen, sipping tea, listening to them play 'Shave the Monkey' and writing up notes for the list of CDs reviewed this outing...

What do Keltik Electrik (Hotel Kaledonia), Peatbog Faeries (Welcome to Dun Vegas), Shooglenifty (Arms Dealer's Daughter), Horace X (Sackbutt), and Wimme (Bárru) have in common? Let's ask Kim Bates: 'Dance tunes. Yup, that's where a lot of music in the folk traditions started out, and that's where these discs are taking it. Except that now fewer of us dance in the crossroads or in old barns, and more of us dance in dark rooms where mixing is an art form, and sound systems have become instruments integral to the music. Hell, folk music has been changing all along, as folks mixed and migrated, discovered new instruments and technologies, and just got on with playing irresistible tunes, now with irresistible beats to match, whether programmed or not. Let's face it, this music has always been dance music, now it's just been made suitable for rooms with strobes, full of sweaty people with instant access to music from all over the world. Inevitable really, folktronica.' Kim receives a well-deserved Excellence In Writing Award for this example of why an omnibus is often the best approach to reviewing!

Hannu Saha's CD consists of Finnish lap music, so it does not surprise me that Judith Gennett, who loves Finnish music, loved it: 'Mahla is a solid, diverse album with incredible musicianship and it won't put anyone to sleep!'

OK, it is simply true that we get far more folk CDs for review than any other online zine, period. Case in point is the review by Stephen Hunt that looks at these CDs that Veteran sent us: Phoebe Smith's The Yellow Handkerchief; Betsy Renals, Sophie Legg & Charlotte Renals' Catch me if you can; The Rice Family's Merrymaking; Bob Cann's Proper Job!; Liam Farrell & Joe Whelan's They sailed away from Dublin Bay; John Kennedy's The girls along the road; Maggy Murphy's linkin' o'er the Lea; and John Cocking's Uppards!. Whew! As he wisely comments, 'Veteran is an independent English record company and mail order business that is wholly dedicated to the musical and performing traditions of the UK and Ireland. At first glance that might not seem like anything extraordinary. There are, after all, dozens of labels releasing the folk music and songs of these islands, but it's the word 'traditions' that holds the key to Veteran's uniqueness. While a 'folk' record may be defined by almost any criteria the performer or listener chooses to apply to it (how many times are we going to hear that old chestnut about singing horses before everyone tires of it?), a 'traditional' performance is defined not only by repertoire but by style, process and context.' Need I say that Master Hunt picks up an Excellence In Writing Award?

Inigo Jones had a very busy week. First up for him is La Sonera Calaveras's Numero Uno! which is from 'a Scotland-based Cuban son group, featuring a number of very talented musicians led by Gerardo Ballesteros, who sings lead vocals, plays percussion and shares songwriting credits on the majority of Numero Uno!, their first album...there is a freshness, sincerity and sensuality to their songs that makes it ideal for parties or for listening to on those occasions when you feel the need to be transported to a sunnier place.'

Inigo's next review is of Shubhendra Rao and Partha Sarothy's Ancient Weave which 'brings together the considerable talents of two of Pandit Ravi Shankar's most acclaimed students, Shubhendra Rao on sitar and Partha Sarothy on sarod. The album is comprised of two ragas, the first a Shankar composition entitled 'Raga Charukauns,' the second the more traditional 'Raga Manj Khamaj'... All in all, Ancient Weave contains some of the best playing by the current generation of Indian classical music stars, proving this generation to be a capable successor to the one which gave us such geniuses as Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Ravi Shankar.' An Excellence In Writing Award goes to him for this review!

Indonesia: Music from the Nonesuch Explorer Series, says this reviewer, 'serves up a heady stew of traditional music from Bali and Java, selected from a dozen or so of the label's Indonesian releases. Ranging from gamelan percussion orchestras to plaintive solo performances, the album contains not a few melodies and time signatures that sound very exotic to these western ears.'

Rough Guide to Ska was not all it could be, says Inigo: 'While intriguing as a document of the output of a particular Jamaican recording studio at a time when Jamaican music was beginning to come into its own, the Rough Guide to Ska ultimately sells ska as a genre short.'

Not so with the other Rough Guide he reviews: 'There is an astounding richness on display in the Rough Guide to the Music of Turkey, in terms of emotion, musicianship, and -- perhaps most important of all -- the revitalization of traditional music forms. The album moves thematically from the western-inflected pop sounds of the country's divas, progressing towards an ever-more-oriental sound which culminates in the spectacular 'Mavisim' by Kemani Cemal Cinarli and its exotic, chaotic soundscape of gypsy music that is surely as lively today as it was during its nascence a millennium ago. Led by virtuoso violinist Cemal, a ragtag group of musicians from his neighbourhood -- along with three female vocalists -- astound with their ability to create order out of chaos, then plunge headlong into the chaos anew. Similarly, Rough Guide's Rosenberg is to be congratulated for making sense of what is by all accounts one of the most varied and eclectic of cultures, while at the same time leaving enough rough edges intact to ensure a genuine, unpasteurized musical flavour' Both of these reviews were deemed worthy of Excellence In Writing Awards!

Borealis Records consistently turns out some of the finest Canadian folk releases, and two CDs, Ron Hynes' Get Back Change and Bill Garrett & Sue Lothrop's Red Shoes are no exception according to David Kidney: 'Folk music is still alive and well in Canada, and as long as Borealis Records has anything to say about it... it will continue.'

Peter Massey has this to say about Seka ('Sister') Vol 3: 'This is a songwriters benefit album for the SEKA Recreation House for Women and Children. It was produced and presented by the German magazine Blue Rhythm. On it all of the performers have donated tracks for free, and some of the profits from the sale of this album go to support SEKA House. The organisation provides support for traumatised women and children living in the war zones of former Yugoslavia on the Adriatic island of Brac (Croatia); here women and children of all ethnic and religious groups can meet in an atmosphere of respect. As I was born just before the end of WWII, and having a lot of relatives living in the London's East End and Liverpool, your scribe is 'young' enough to have witnessed at first hand the trauma that war brings to the ordinary people of this world, so I can identify the way these people feel. So what about the music? Well its good -- very good, a mixture of pop cum folk rock cum country, from 19 different performers, each one adding a track that has a different appeal. For me this is the charm of the album. It serves as a good introduction to many of the performers I had never heard of before. And it might well make you seek out some of the performer's albums.'

Pat Simmonds notes 'Andy Casserley is the reeds man in the English Dance Band Captain Swing. While Captain Swing may be a fairly eclectic outfit this record [A Curious Age] tips its hat fairly and squarely at the alter of English Tradition and a welcome recording it is too. Andy presents 14 songs and a couple of dance sets with no apology at all; what you hear is what you get. The songs are generally although not always accompanied by concertina or melodeon, in a refreshingly sparse manner. The themes run the usual gauntlet of seafaring, deception, religion and soldiering and are sung in a natural voice that sits very nicely on the listener's ear.'

Like slide guitar virtuosis? If so, than Gary Whitehouse says to check out Debashish Bhattacharya and Bob Brozman's Mahima: 'Calcutta native Debashish Bhattacharya and American Bob Brozman, both slide guitar virtuosi in their own traditions, have joined forces to create a masterpiece. Mahima is a joyous marriage of two major world music forms into something new and beautiful.'

An announcement before we go:

Next weekend, the 6th Annual Celtic Women International Conference will be held in Toronto, at Harbourfront Centre. The conference has classes on everything from storytelling to music, to straw weaving to leading Celtic women writers like Mary Condren Ph.D., an Irish writer and theologian, or Amy Hale Ph.D.,  Cornish scholar and folklorist. There will even be sessions withAnn Catrin Evans, a Welsh blacksmith. Who knew?   This year's conference is hosted by the Celtic Women of Toronto, who have been hosting lots of fund raising events over the past year to prepare for the conference.   The capstone of the conference (for our Music Editor at least...) will be the concert on Saturday evening, headlined by Mary Jane Lammond, which promises to be an evening to remember. You'll find our Music Editor, Kim Bates partaking of the delights of the conference, and no doubt bringing some interesting reports back to the Green Man pages. Readers in the area who are attending the conference would like to meet up for a coffee, or something stronger are encouraged to email her.

I should mention that Mythago Wood, which I'm re-reading right now, has just been released in a handsome trade edition on the Orb imprint of Tor Books. I can tell you that the original hardcover would cost you dearly these days, so here's a perfect way to read an adknowledged classic in the fantasy genre.




21st of September, 2003

'We read to know
we're not alone.'

-- from the film Shadowlands

Welcome! This is Grey Walker. Summer has passed today. Autumn has arrived. Along with the trees turning and the cooler nights, autumn brings school days back again. A boy who lives in my neighborhood called me yesterday to interview me. Seems he has a school report, and he has to interview someone who works as a writer. One of his questions was, 'What would you say to kids who ask you what's so important about writing anyway, and why should they learn to do it?'

Naturally, his question set me back a bit, not because I couldn't think of anything to say, but because I could think of so many things to say.

For millennia out of mind, we humans were not a writing people. We passed our stories, songs, histories, contracts, and so on from person to person by word of mouth. Some say that, with the advent of easier and easier voice (and soon video) connections via the Internet, we may be approaching that sort of life again.

But in the meantime, words on a page or a screen are one of the ways we communicate with each other, across time and around the globe. As I quoted above, we read to know we're not alone. But without the one who writes, where would we readers be? And, as Craig Clarke in our Letters Department will tell you, one of the most natural responses to reading is to write back.

Green Man Review is a place created almost entirely by written words. Through the wonderful gift we call imagination, we and you can step together into these words and share a space, ideas, and a kind of companionship.

So share our words this week, read the reviews we've brought here for you, which are our form of writing back to the authors and artists who have moved us. And if we move you, write to us, too. We'd love to step into your words.

Reviewer Rebecca Scott is back again this week with the second installment of her review of what many consider the greatest mythic comic book series ever published, Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. (If you missed her first installment last week, you can read it here.) It can be quite a daunting mission to review critically a series that has garnered so many rewards and accolations, but Rebecca proves she's up to the task and earns herself another Excellence in Writing Award for this in-depth review of The Sandman: Season of Mists, The Sandman: A Game of You, and The Sandman: Brief Lives. Stay tuned for her third and final installment, coming soon!

Our Editor-in-Chief has been wearing the tastefully macabre Folk Underground t-shirt most of the week and humming bits of their album, Buried Things, as he checks to see how this issue is coming along. So, you ask, why didn't he review it? Because he thought Barb Truex could do a better job of it, as she notes in her review: 'I must confess that Cat, our fearless editor-in-chief, handed me this CD and said, 'You'll like this, they're fun', or something to that effect. He knows my weird taste well enough that I could tell by the way he spoke something was a little different about this group. First indication of their sense of humor was the name of the group and album title: Folk Underground and Buried Things respectively. Right there I detect a smirk (a mischievous one, not a criminal one). I love musicians who smirk a bit. It's a good indication that they don't take themselves too seriously. Too much earnestness is the kiss of death for me.' Need I say that the Music Editors gave Barb a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award?

At GMR we're always trying to build up our archives of book reviews so that we can maintain our status as one of the premier sites for discussion of mythic and folk-based fantasy. Recently one reader notified us that we had a gaping hole in our archives in regard to Rosemary Sutcliff. Eric Eller stepped up to the plate and gave us two incredible reviews of the Roman Britain novels of the late Ms. Sutcliff. In his first review, Eric looks at five young adult novels -- The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, Frontier Wolf, The Lantern Bearers, and Dawn Wind -- that trace the history of the Aquila family in Britain from the beginning of the Roman period through to the post-Roman era. Then, Eric also reviews Sword at Sunset, which was the first of the 'real-life' Arthurian retellings, inspiring many later retellings. For both of these reviews, Eric earns an Excellence in Writing Award for the depth of his insight.

April Gutierrez takes us back to the new with her review of the comic book/graphic novel series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, not your ordinary superteam. And if all the Victoriana of LXG gets to be a bit too much for you, don't worry, April has also reviewed Jess Nevins' Heroes and Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which provides lots of information and insights into the series.

And again, we look back in time with Patrick O'Donnell's review of the third book in the Redwall series, Mattimeo. Patrick finds the book to be 'welcome escape from the harsh realities that surround us in the real world,' but the book does have its faults. Read Patrick's review for more.

Kelly Sedinger looks at another Jane Yolen book for us this week with a review of Take Joy: A Book for Writers. Kelly confesses that 'as a working writer, albeit one who is as yet unpublished in the fiction realm, I have a weakness for books about writing by successful writers.' But Kelly doesn't let that weakness get in the way of a fair review, finding Ms. Yolen's latest non-fiction to be worth a read.

Next, Stacy Troubh entices our tastebuds with her review of Laura Calder's French Food at Home. Stacy writes about encountering such mouth-watering delectables as flower press potato chips, orange juice chicken, and a coffee chop. Check out the review, but try not to drool on your keyboard!

Finally this week, we have Leona Wisoker's review of a new short-story collection by Rosemary Edghill, Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Leona tells us that 'I've never seen a collection of short stories, even by 'masters' of the form, that I found enjoyable all the way through, and this book is no exception.' But she still found plenty to praise. Read the review for details!

Rachel Manija Brown leads off the Film section this week with -- yes, you guessed it -- a Hong Kong martial arts film! Rachel has reviewed a number of such movies for us, sending readers and staff alike on quests to find these sometimes difficult to track down titles. Luckily, this time Rachel says '[I]f my previous reviews of Hong Kong movies have led you to comb the back alleys of your local Chinatown in search of video shops, or to stay up late searching the net to find a store which carries the original, uncut, subtitled DVD, or to curse my name for tempting you with visions of movies you can never find, then be at peace: this one's in theatres now.' So go read her review of So Close, and then run along to the theatre while Rachel polishes up her latest Excellence in Writing Award!

Had enough of politics yet? How about a look at a political mockumentary about '[p]oet, journeyman, folksinger, senatorial candidate' Bob Roberts? This film was made a decade ago but could probably have been made ten minutes ago and be just as relevant. Mockumentaries are a hard genre to succeed with...go read Craig Clarke's Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see if he votes yes or no on Bob Roberts.

Denise Dutton joins the ranks of new reviewers who've received an Excellence in Writing Award for their very first GMR review. Denise takes a look at the latest in a long line of...well, cheesy gorefests might be one description. 'Yes,' says Denise, 'this is another slasher film that fits nicely into the 'Modern Horror Movie as Medieval Morality Play' niche, but that is what I loved about these movies in the first place. You have sex, you die. You do drugs, you die. You‚re a jerk . . . well. You get the idea. Films like Halloween, Prom Night, and My Bloody Valentine all fall into this category, and the fact that you can predict who will die (and how, and when) only adds to the enjoyment. Why let the stress of wondering what will happen next hamper your movie going experience? Just sit back and enjoy the show.' Welcome Denise, and thanks for your fine review of Freddy Vs. Jason.

Our last review could just as easily have gone into the Recorded Music section, as it's an omnibus review of both a CD and a DVD. As Jack Merry says,' [i]t's not often that we here at Green Man look at a CD and a DVD in the same bleedin' review, but we are this time. So grab a whiskey, set over by the fire, and I'll tell you all about the best Southern boogie rock and roll band of all time. Yep, Little Feat. Surely you didn't think I meant the Allman Brothers Band, did you? Or Lynyrd Skynyrd? Not even close!' Jack makes our fourth winner of an Excellence in Writing Award in Films this week -- rare for every review to merit the award! See why Jack rounds out the category; go read his review of Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus CD, and their live performance DVD Little Feat - Rockpalast Live.

Mia Nutick gets an Excellence in Writing Award for her review of Portland Taiko's performance in (where else) Portland, Oregon this month. Mia has attended their concerts for several years, and she sees them getting better with each passing year. Portland Taiko blends traditional Japanese elements of Taiko with contemporary elements and themes. The result is 'a group that continues to forge, shape, and mold itself into new forms'. Read Mia's review to see why she thought this year's show was 'without a doubt the most impressive and entertaining' one she's been to yet and why you should be the next one in line for tickets.

Reynard here. My being the publican (mostly the afternoon shift as I'm usually performing with one of my bands such as Danse Macabre or Mouse in the Cupboard in the evening) has its advantages. One is generally getting to do the annotations for the music reviews as most everyone else is still terribly busy writing last minute reviews. So I grabbed one of the Green Man computers that I have a fondness for, an AT&T EO 880 with a newly installed wireless modem, and am writing these comments up while listening to the Neverending Session musicians play some Balkan tunes that Bela taught them earlier this afternoon.

Work & Pray: Historic Negro Spirituals and Work Songs From West Virginia is an ethnographic recording which John D. Benninghouse thinks overcomes its recording qualities: 'A note of caution: these songs were recorded in the field over 50 years ago so the sound quality is not what many of us are used to. However, what the recordings lack in fidelity, they more than make up in performance. The vast majority of songs here are a cappella and the set begins with a couple 'lining track' songs which were sung by gangs of men laying railroad track.'

John also looked at two CDs from singer-songwriter Christine Costanzo, Christine Costanzo and Big Sky, of which he notes: 'Costanzo's guitar playing is not slick but it doesn't need to be. It suits the songs fine and allows her highly expressive voice to shine.'

John rounds out his reviewing this week with a look at the Rough Guide to Salsa De Puerto Rico: 'If you're like me and cannot speak Spanish, don't fret. One doesn't have to understand the lyrics to get the message of the music. With infectious beats and zealous melodies, this music isn't about using your brain, it's about moving your body.' Sounds good to me!

Bon Appetit! is a result, as Alastair Brown tells it, of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer trying to be socially responsible folk musicians: 'Slapping a spurious 'Health Warning' on a recording is a common enough conceit. However, few performers can claim a positive review in the Health section of The Washington Post. Bon Appetit, the latest release by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer on Rounder Kids, addresses widely-held concerns about the eating habits of school children, and sends a clear and unambiguous message about good nutrition.' And a pint of Young's Double Chocolate Stout to Alastair who joins us on staff here!

Eve Goldberg's Crossing the Water was another CD that he found quite pleasing: 'This is a great album, with something for almost every taste within the acoustic spectrum -- classic country, blues, big band, jazz, hints of the southern mountains. Eve Goldberg has a true country voice: melodic, suggesting emotion rather than wringing it out; strong without being strident.' This review garners an Excellence in Writing Award for Alistair!

Thingumajig's Ceilidh Party and Desperate Measures' Milestone are CDs that cause Alistair to pose a question: 'Most dance bands with some experience together eventually get around to recording a collection of their tune sets; much as any working performer does. There is an added factor to consider though. The strength and success of a ceilidh, contra, Playford, or any other genre of dance band for that matter, lies in how well they make the dance work.Which leads us to a philosophical question -- when no one is dancing, is it a dance band? By what criteria are we to judge the music?' Read his insightful review to see how he answers the question!

Brisbane, Australia duo John Thompson and Nicole Murray are Cloudstreet. Their CD, Violet Sarah and Muckle John, impressed this reviewer: 'the album features no studio pyrotechnics, no cast of thousands, no extra musicians imported for the occasion (well, apart from the cello on one track, but cellos are special), just two very talented performers at work. Sometimes it is difficult to form an impression of a group in action from a recording, but Cloudstreet's Violet Sarah and Muckle John lets us know exactly what to expect from a live performance, and certainly leads us to look forward to an appearance a little closer to home before too long.'

If you're not Red, please skip this review as Les Barker and his compatriots on this CD, The Wings Of A Butterfly, are sure to offend you. As Richard Condon notes: 'This CD is unlikely to appeal to conservatives, whether of the 'neo' or plain old-fashioned varieties. It is a highly political and often angry recording, aiming its barbs at a range of targets in the past, present and near future and scoring hits on a range of enemies of the world in which Les Barker would obviously like to live. It is accurately attributed to 'various artists' but the hand of Mr. Barker is visible at every moment, even though he does not actually, so far as I can tell, perform on the disc.'

Faith Cormier poses a question: 'Celtic music, like everything else, isn't what it used to be. What can you expect from a CD featuring a Frenchman of Greek extraction teamed with an American, or a group of Austrians, or a whole series of Scots?' Read your review of three CDs ( Robin Bullock and Michel Sikiotakis' The Irish Girl; Ballycotton's Mondland; and the Celtic Spirit collection) to see how she answers that question! Other CD was a more downbeat effect on Faith: Chris Chambers' A Crack in Time is, she says, 'the most depressing CD I have listened to in years.' Go read her review so you too can be depressed!

Eric Eller has a comment on Altramar, From Galway to Galicia: The Celtic Shores: 'How do you interpret music written many centuries ago? If you're the medieval music ensemble Altramar, you rely on a combination of musical expertise, scholarship, and love for the music to produce songs in which the culture and atmosphere of the medieval world spring back to life. From Galway to Galicia: The Celtic Shores is a collection that smoothly transports the listener back through the centuries, conjuring up a long-lost era with ease. The essence of a slower, more inwardly focused civilization is brought out in all eight tracks.'

Judith Gennett has good things to say about Seattle schoolteacher and harmonica player Grant Dermody and his bluesy CD, Crossing That River: 'What a pleasant album for sitting aside the wading pool with a margarita without enraging the neighbors, whether they be Born Again or Pool Sharks! Everything ...or almost everything works... with diverse skillful musicians and originally diverse styles on various tracks happily merging, and contrasting, rather than clashing. And best of all, what a GOOD harmonica player!'

Colcannon's Trad is a collection of their previous albums. Judith who reviewed it notes 'Denver's Colcannon has a reputation for consistently putting out cohesive, skillful Celtic albums. Just look what great reviews GMR has given the previous five albums, Some Foreign Land, Athens Hotel, The Life of Riley's Brother, Saint Bartholemew's Feast, and Corvus! Colcannon's performances and albums feature a mix of traditional and original music, but Trad, as the name would imply, features their favorite traditional pieces.'

Tuuletargad (Wind Wizards) from the band of the same is wonderful, says Tim Hoke: 'Playing music from (mostly) Estonian tradition, Tuuletargad takes its name from the wizards of Estonian legend. There's some wizardly playing here from this Chicago-based ensemble.'

David Kidney has a comprehensive look at a blues group that you probably never heard, Family, and six re-released albums from them (A Song For Me; Anyway; Fearless; Bandstand; It's Only A Movie; and Live). David has a passion for this, so pay attention when he says: ' Family. Man, I can't tell you how much I love this band. They were so... different. Everybody else was trying to play the blues, attempting to impose an American sound on their distinctly English personas. But Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney went beyond that. Sure, they started by playing the blues, but soon found themselves writing original songs, and some of the most original songs ever heard. Family was not a big group. Did they have a hit single? Not in North America. Their original bass player (Rick Grech, who doubled on violin) left and joined Blind Faith. They were better known in the States because Chappo hit Bill Graham with a mic stand.'

Rory Block's last fair deal and Delbert McClinton's LIVE are blues albums that David really, really thinks highly of: 'There's a lot of talk about the blues these days, and once Martin Scorsese's PBS series airs...there'll be lots more. These two artists have both been working in the blues field for a long time. These offerings, their latest, show growth and development, and a range of influences that belies the simplicity of the form of music they have chosen.' (Kim Bates, our Music Editor, just leaned over and noted that we have a review copy of the CDs from the PBS series shortly!)

Taylor Robert's Show and Tell gets a succinct but appreciative review from Jason Erik Lundberg: 'When you listen to Taylor Roberts or see one of his shows, you can tell he's having way too much fun. His music is playful without being goofy, and full of heart. He fuses folk and rock into a blend that makes you want to clap and stomp your feet. Roberts's music is full of energy, his lyrics incredibly quotable, and his outgoing personality infectious.'

Dave & Julie Evardson's A Ramble On The Viking Way pleased Peter Massey: 'It is nice every now and again to hear a recording of what I call 'real folk music'. I define real folk music as what you might expect to hear from singers performing acoustically without the aid of any P.A. system in a small folk club, found just about anywhere in the U.K. these days. Imagine if you can, what it might be like if a modern day Cecil Sharp set out to capture folk songs that had never been heard before, using only a simple portable tape recorder. Imagine if you can, as his journey took him to many different areas of the UK, how the songs will have varied within that region. This is basically what you have with this album.'

What do Cantrip's Silver, the Duhks' Your Daughters & Your Sons , and 3Sticks's Crossing Currents have in common? They're all fine examples of that rough beast known as Celtic music. As Jack notes, 'Some fragment of a memory has crept into me mind, and when I try to hold it there and grasp it, it stays elusive. I'm reasonably sure it has to do with the Neverending Session, the first fiddler named Jack here at Green Man, and a time when there was nothing that was called Celtic music. Oh, there was the music of the Irish kitchen session where many a fine fiddler could be heard on a cold winters night, and there was Scottish traditional dance music as heard in village halls across that country, and certainly the music played at the Fest Noz in Breton for more centuries than one can comfortably remember, but nothing the 'til recently was explicitly called Celtic music. So what is Celtic music? A marketing term perhaps? In part, yes, but I'll argue that there is something called Celtic music that is at the root of Irish, Scottish, Modern American Celtic, Welsh, Cornish, and so on. I'm not so mad as to say what that is, but all of the albums in this review will, in different ways, appeal to the lover of good Celtic music. So drink deep of your Dragon's Breath XXXX Stout and we'll set by the fire a while...'

Pangéo's Northern Borders was the CD that Jack selected for the kitchen staff who were cooking Greek food last night. Why this CD when so many others are in the Green Man music collection? Or why not live music? Jack tells the tale better than I: 'The musicians in the Neverending Session were too distracted by the smells of the food to offer up any live music, so I offered to go the Music Library and find some really good Greek music. So now I'm starting at the stacks... I could give them the Athenians' Greek Songs, Dances and Rembetiko or Women of Rembetica, both groups from Greece itself, but decided instead on Pangéo, a group from Seattle, Washington in the USA! 'Huh', you ask, 'why this group?' Because it simply is some of the finest Greek music that you'll ever have the pleasure to hear, bar none! Here, have some of the lovely lamb and rice stuffed grape leafs... And nibble on some of Organic Kalamata olives grown in the southern Peloponess. Now grab a glass of Kourtakis Retsina and we'll discuss this ever-so-fine CD.'

No one doubts that Lars Nilsson loves instrumental Celtic music, so what did he think of three very different CDs? (Andy Sheppard & Kathryn Tickell's Music for a New Crossing; Kevin MacLeod & Alec Finn's Polbain to Oranmore; and Robin Huw Bowen's Old Hearth.) You'll have to read his review to see why he thinks 'instrumental music places a higher demand on the listener than songs'.

Ok, I'll admit that I'm glad that I'm not trying to pronounce the name of the band that Lenora Rose is reviewing! Finnish group Ulla Pirttijärvi, practitioners of yoiking, and their CD, Máttaráhku Askái (In our Foremothers' Arms) is a recent offering from Warner Finlandia which Lenora truly loves: 'From wind-swept opening to sweet close, this album is superb. The ancient feel of the yoik is here, filled out and supported by what the producers call 'urban sonics,' but not swallowed by them. The deep core comes through, better here than I've ever encountered it outside a live performance.'

Big Earl Sellar is a man who loves his funk which made him the ideal reviewer for The ReBirth Brass Band's The Main Event: Live At The Maple Leaf CD: 'Did you know how funky the tuba can be? ReBirth is the granddaddy of the fusion brass band scene coming out of New Orleans, a jarring collective taking a somewhat obscure tradition and bringing it into the modern era. The Main Event is a live showcase of some of the hottest music to come out of the American south in years.' But The Rough Guide to Pakistan caused Big Earl to gripe: 'Sometimes I have the feeling that the fine folks over at the World Music Network label are grasping at straws. I mean, a Rough Guide to Pakistan? Are we so reduced in how to market music that we have to rely on geopolitical boundaries? What's next, a Rough Guide to East Timor? Eritrea? Hibernia?'

Was Cape Breton Dàimh's Moidart to Mabou CD was as good as the buzz that Pat Simmonds heard about it? No, not quite: 'I first heard about this band through a bit of buzz that was coming out of Cape Breton a few years ago. I suppose that it was only a matter of time before the concept of a younger transatlantic band combining Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and America came to pass. So much of the music has gone this way as it is. Dàimh remind me of a festival organiser's perfect day. Five young guys, all playing 'hot' music, a blending of cultures, drinking beer and playing tunes kind of thing and that's pretty much what you've got here. A collection of bits and pieces falling into some semblance of Gaelic culture, as they put it; the result is not unpalatable.'

Pat also looked at Patrick Street's Street Life which as usual did not disappoint him: 'One of the great things about Patrick Street is that they are so dependable. Despite a few personnel changes and challenges over the years the central core has remained the same as has the musical ethos: Irish traditional music presented in a forthright manner with no gimmicks. Admittedly there are a lot of other influences apparent in the music but for the most part that doesn't matter.'

Smoky Finish's clear this planet... immediately! found a sympathetic ear in Christopher White: 'This quintet has produced a vibrant and engaging CD that is, as they state on their minimal liner notes, a 'blend of folk and rock music based upon a driving rhythm.' I am a bit more skeptical of their claim that it is 'entirely nonpolitical,' as it is also 'music about love and revolution, cats and dogs, exploitation and intolerance.' While somewhat sliced and diced, I've just about exhausted the liner text with those few phrases. No Web site is mentioned. I must assume they are determined to let the music speak for itself, and it does so admirably.'

It's been a lovely convocation of words this week, cheerful, biting, reverent, thoughtful. Thank you for joining us in them.

And here's one last tidbit to send you off with. Jeff Berkwits has written an article about how many well-known authors have gone on to set their words to music, bringing words and the oral tradition of song together. What could be more interesting or fitting to us at Green Man, or to you, our readers (and listeners)?

14th of September, 2003

'My father, he rides with your sherriffs
And I know he would never mean harm
But to see both sides of a quarrel
Is to judge without hate or alarm'

Fairport Convention's 'Genesis Hall' from Unhalfbricking

Long ago, the first Jack found his way to the Green Man building. Present-day staffers say he was a fiddler headed for the gallows for petty crimes that he may or may not have committed. In the British Isles of those days, all on the fringes of society were guilty of something. Rough justice was all there was. And rough justice was not something to be carefully measured out. Whatever the truth, Jack found refuge with the theatre company resident in this building at the time -- not that they were in good social standing, either! They made him a member of their group, gave him the name Jack, and told the sherrifs that he was not the man they were seeking. Were they believed? Perhaps, perhaps not, but enough coin passed from hand to hand that the matter was settled. Rough justice may not be fair or kind, but it can be bought off.

(The fiddle he played may well still exist. We do have the Green Man mask he wore for his role with the theatre company.)

Over the centuries, there has always been a fiddling Jack or Jenny living here -- sometimes also working as an actor, or even a publican. They (we, that is) are, in some sense, the Green Men and Women who represent the spirit of the place. As you might gather, Jack Merry is not my real name. I'm not sure that I 'member what it was before I came here. I've been here so many years now that I am unsure as to who I was. But I know that I'm a fiddler, a dancer, a bit of a rogue. And not everything I tell you is true. Choose to believe what you will! Me, I'll pour us pints of Dragons Breath Stout (although I'm not the publican here this century), and tell you a tale...

We lost some great ones this week. Funny how the world can get just a bit dimmer without much warning, isn't it? David Kidney and Gary Whitehouse stepped up immediately to provide us with some food for thought concerning two musical legends who left us too soon -- it's always too soon, really-- but who left us with an immense and solid legacy.

David Kidney reviews the final album from Johnny Cash: American IV: The Man Comes Around, an album he calls 'a potent conclusion to a life's work'; in the process he explores the man and his music. Gary Whitehouse takes an in depth look at the career of an artist who 'amassed an impressive catalog of songs that range from biting social satire to tender love songs, in styles that drew on folk, blues, rock, cabaret and everything in between': Warren Zevon. Both reviews garner Excellence in Writing Awards, and our thanks for these knowledgable tributes.

Rest in peace, Johnny and Warren. Thanks for the music.

Rachel Manija Brown reviews Time Travelers, Ghosts, and Other Visitors, a short collection by an author she really likes, Nina Kiriki Hoffman. She says, 'I was disappointed to find that Time Travelers, Ghosts, and Other Visitors is not a career retrospective collecting all, most, or even much of her short fiction, but a slim collection of eight recent stories.' But she did like most of the stories here, so see her review for a good look at them.

Cat Eldridge has said, on several occasions, that GMR is largely fueled by that old vice, avarice. If so, he just got a tankful this week, when SoulWave Publishing sent him copies of their limited edition of James Stoddard's two Evenmere novels. These lovely hardback books, Cat says, are 'compact but not too small. Perfect for holding in your hands. The paper inside is a crisp white with a highly readable font. Nice. And somehow the book reads better just because of this.' As you can guess, his review isn't about the actual contents of The High House and The False House -- see Michael M. Jones' superb review to get that. No, this review is by a lover of books as physical objects. If you're such a lover yourself, read it and drool.

Cat also reviews a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, a writer who's been so prolific, it's hard to believe she's excellent every time, but she is. Deep Secret was originally published in 1997, but has recently been republished by Starscape. 'Deep Secret works in all aspects,' Cat says. Read his review for details as to what those aspects are.

Nellie Levine became a mom, like many of us, so that she could read children's books without having to explain herself. Hence, she was disappointed when her daughter didn't want Darren Shan's Cirque Du Freak books. GMR to the rescue! Nellie got Cirque Du Freak to review (also like many of us, she's a reviewer so that she can read things she'd never buy for herself), and what's more, she says, 'my daughter gobbled them up -- in only two days. The books are quick reading, which might be one of the worst things I can really say about them. They are written for a younger audience than my daughter -- although they are recommended for ages nine to twelve -- but she enjoyed them nonetheless, as did I.' Nellie wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her review of this vampire series for young readers.

Nellie also read another series in the last couple of weeks, Wither and Wither's Rain by John Passarella. She begins her review like this: 'What would a young modern witch do if a murderous Colonial witch returned after three hundred years to feed on local townspeople? If she were Wendy Ward, star of Wither and Wither's Rain, she would kick some serious witch butt with her modern sky-clad rituals and sex magic.' Sounds pretty good!

Liz Milner is back this week with the eagerly awaited second installment of her review of The History of Middle-earth, the twelve volume collection of Tolkien's papers, edited with commentary by his son Christopher. In this part of her review, Liz covers those volumes dealing with Tolkien's writing of The Lord of the Rings (LotR). 'In an earlier issue of Greenman,' Liz says, 'Jack Merry described Christopher Tolkien‚s editorial work on the history of Middle-earth as 'a task worthy of Telemachus'. In his editing of The History of LotR Christopher Tolkien adds the endurance and cleaning power of Hercules to the mix.' Those of us who love Tolkien's epic will be as fascinated as Liz as she leads us through the evolution of Trotter the hobbit into Aragorn the man and king, along with various other developments in Tolkien's writing over the years. Needless to say, Liz wins another Excellence in Writing Award for this enthusiastic but knowledgeable review.

'Since 1972, when Richard Adams published one of the finest anthropomorphic animal fantasies ever conceived,' says Maria Nutick, 'lazy and ignorant book reviewers have introduced almost all reviews of animal stories with some version of 'In the tradition of Watership Down....' Wait, let me qualify that -- anthropomorphic wild animal novels are compared to Watership Down. Domestic animal fantasies are often said to resemble Charlotte's Web. Raven's End is not Watership Down; it is not Charlotte's Web, or The Wind in the Willows, or Winnie the Pooh, or Duncton Wood.' Read Maria's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to see just what this novel by by Ben Gadd is.

John O'Regan brings us a review of another book written recently about the burning of Bridget Cleary in Ireland in the 1800s. Of The Cooper's Wife Is Missing by Joan Huff and Marian Yeates, John says, '[It] is not just a good read in terms of entertainment value. It is an important contribution to unveiling some hidden truths of the past.'

Still-fairly-new reviewer Rebecca Scott turns in her second review this week, and wins her second Excellence in Writing Award. Rebecca has taken on the challenge of reviewing Neil Gaiman's The Sandman collections. This week she gives us an indepth review of The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and The Sandman: The Doll's House, which contain the first sixteen comics in the Sandman series. 'Dream is a subtle character,' says Rebecca, 'some have said a weak character. Perhaps that's even true (you'll have to judge that for yourself). But then, perhaps that's part of the point. The Endless, Gaiman says in The Sandman Companion, aren't causative, and are barely reactive. They are personifications of concepts. And in part, The Sandman is the story of how Dream learns to react, and to cause. But always very subtly.' So why does he so capture our imaginations that he draws us back again and again? Read Rebecca's review for an idea.

(In an upcoming issue, Cat Eldridge will be reviewing the new Death: At Death's Door by Jill Thompson, an artist who illustrated several stories in Gaiman's Sandman mythos.)

Lisa Spangenberg brings us a review of the first of several Celt-related books on her desk, Dáithí Ó Hógáin's The Celts: A History. Ó Hógáin 'attempts to provide a chronological description of the Celts throughout their long and wide-ranging history,' says Lisa. So, 'should you read this book?' Read the rest of Lisa's review for her answer.

Grey Walker gives a mixed review to A Group of One's Own: Nurturing the Woman Writer a book co-written by the Southern New Hampshire Women's Writing Group. On the one hand, Grey doesn't find their argument that women writers flourish best in groups of all women to be entirely convincing. On the other hand, she does appreciate some of their practical advice. 'Overall,' she says, 'the 'how to' nature of A Group of One's Own could make it a useful tool for anyone who wants to become seriously involved in a writers' group, or even for someone who already belongs to such a group but wants to make the experience more valuable.'

Christopher White's review of The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver is resoundingly positive. Chris wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his evocative review, in which he covers, among other things, Oliver's examples of ways to talk about beer so as to confound any wine snobs in your midst. Here's one: 'The aromatics are wonderfully complex, an herbal blend of hops, sage, hay, flowers, damp earth, and saddle leather. On the palate the beer is stunningly dry, with an appetizing knifelike bitterness opening onto a fruity herbal center. Hops bring up the rear, and the finish is clean and snappy.' Yes!

Matthew Scott Winslow begins his review this week by talking about The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. That's right. But the book he's reviewing is a young adult (YA) coming-of-age novel by Nancy Springer entitled The Hex Witch of Seldom. So how do The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and this well-paced, expertly written novel fit together? You'll have to read Matthew's review to find out...

David Kidney not only does fabulous reviews of the material we send him, he finds the most exciting things in his own collection to tell us about. Did you know he's our resident Hawaiian culture and music aficionado? On his recent trip to Hawaii he made some connections, resulting in, among other things, access to a cool documentary about Hawaiian cowboys. Yes, I said Hawaiian cowboys. Didn't know there was such a thing? Read his lovely review of Paniolo O Hawaii: Cowboys of the Far West, 'an evocative and moving film about Hawaii, about love for the land, and about pride in a job well done,' to learn more.

Of course you have to know that David is one of our GMR blues experts. The man has forgotten more about the blues than most of us will ever know...This week he reviews a DVD of lost material from post-War Germany brought back to light by Hip-O Records and Reelin in the Years: American Folk Blues Festival Volume One and Two. David enthuses '...Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf, and Lonnie Johnson,! I wasted no time buying them, and rushed home to play them. This is important and wonderful material. Thanks to all who had anything to do with creating, locating, and marketing these remarkable packages.'

Meanwhile, Lisa Spangenberg takes a look at a different musical tradition in her first film review for Green Man, and a good review it is, too! Lisa says '[I]f, like me, you were late in discovering the joys of British folk-rock group Steeleye Span, then you should first take a look at the excellent Steeleye Span Career Retrospective by Green Man Review's own Peter Massey. Shanachie's Steeleye Span: A 20th Anniversary Celebration DVD gives us an idea of what it would be like to attend a concert.'

Recently a book and film exploring the legacy of an American folk hero have captured the attention of readers and audiences everywhere. Grey Walker takes an Excellence in Writing Award winning look at the film version of this story. Grey says she 'cried at all the wrong places in this movie.' Does that mean she didn't like it? Not exactly. Read her superb look at Seabiscuit to find out when she did cry...

Reynard here. Yes, I know it's quiet here in the Pub. Many of the staffers are feeling rather saddened over the deaths of both Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon this week. As a result, there will be no music reviews this week other than Gary Whitehouse's look at the music of Warren Zevon and David Kidney's tribute to the Man in Black. If you are so inclined, you can can join the staff in the Great Hall where a celebration of the life and music of these artists is being held. There were giants in the earth in those days...

Oh, the tale I was going to tell? It concerns the Rat Fiddlers...

The staff is engaged in a discussion to name the group that the Rat Fiddlers are thinking of putting together -- medieval music with small pipes, hurdy gurdy, and fiddles.

Who are these Rat Fiddlers, you ask? And why haven't I heard of them? They play mainly in London Below stations where their appearence is not an issue. What they were before they became 'rodents of unusual size' is a tale known only to themselves -- and who transformed them into their near human shapes is something even Reynard doesn't claim to know. All I know is that they are some of the best dance music fiddlers I've ever had the pleasure to play with!

Grey suggested The Merrie Vestry, whereas Tim, after a few pints of Brasserie Artisanale Du Tregor, put forth two ideas -- Couer-de-Lionor or Lacklands Consort. The Rats aren't sure if they like any of those... have you got any ideas?

 7th of September, 2003

Where now the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk,
and the bright hair flowing?

Where is the hand on the harpstring,
and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest
and the tall corn growing?

They have passed like rain on the
mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West
behind the hills into shadow.

Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, a song sung by Éomer's riders
when met by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursuing
the two young hobbits captured by orcs.

The whole of green nature seems to be bearing now, giving up its best, preparing for death. The annuals are putting out their last flowers, vegetables, fruits. It's a heady time, difficult to resist feasting on the bounty of the garden and the farm. Everything is beautiful in the fall, even those stained leaves, those aged vines giving forth their last outpouring of zucchini, just in case someone's not completely tired of it yet. And yet with the sensuality of the harvest comes a sense of foreboding, a sense of regret for pleasure that cannot last. And for those of us in northern climes winter looms somewhere, sometime. Will we remember bright hair flowing, the tall corn when the days are dark? When Winter's got us in Her cold, dark grip? Or will we sing songs of remembrance, of abundance mingled with regret? Sentimental? Perhaps, but some things are just too good to last.

Kim Bates here, opening our harvest season here at Green Man. Along with the abundance of nature, we have some tasty reviews for you this week. So sit back, pop a few freshly picked cherry tomatoes into a bowl, and see what our reviewers have been up to over the past week.

Brian Froud and Ari Berk are getting ready to delight us again. In October, their new book, The Runes of Elfland will be released by Harry N. Abrams. Grey Walker brings us a foretaste of what we can expect in her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review. She says, '[Froud's] faerie throng presses closely around the runes, sometimes jostling them, but there's order here, too, of a kind. The runic 'alphabet' is laid out, one rune at a time. Accompanying each rune, along with the wealth of images, is a story by Berk, evoking the nature of that particular rune and sending the reader off on an imaginary path.'

Craig Clarke reviews two fresh perspectives on a folk villian who has fascinated us for more than a century now, Jack the Ripper. The first is a forensic tour de force by Patricia Cornwell (best known for her forensic mystery novels starring Kay Scarpetta), Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper , Case Closed. Craig says Cornwell offers, 'a controversial theory, to be sure, to point the finger at a semi-famous name, especially as From Hell based its storyline on a completely different perpetrator, and one more readily accepted by the people at the time of the murders.' From Hell is a movie which came out in 2001, starring Johnnie Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm, among others. Craig compares the movie to Cornwell's book in his review, and recommends both.

New reviewer Rebecca Scott brings us a pair of novels that she promises will set our mouths watering. Her review certainly does! The books are Michaela Roessner's duology The Stars Dispose and The Stars Compel. Roessner has set her novels in Italy in the first half of the sixteenth century. 'Throughout [both books], scattered like aniseed in a brigidini wafer, are glowing descriptions of the feasts and dishes prepared by Tommaso and his associates,' says Rebecca. 'Even a few lines of rich prose outlining these dishes is enough to set the mouth watering, and the stomach rumbling. Roessner even includes a good reference list for period cooking, some wonderful recipes in the backs of the books, and a brief glossary of food terms.' Welcome, Rebecca, and here's your first Excellence in Writing Award!

That's all for book reviews this week, but here are few titles you can look forward to in the weeks to come:

Nathan Brazil is reading a new take on the Arthurian myth by Jane Yolen, Sword of the Rightful King, and Cat Eldridge will be reviewing Peter David's hilarious new send-up, One Knight Only. Judith Gennett is working on a Norwegian Tune Book for all you tuneful readers. Michelle Erica Green enjoyed previous books by Richard Zimler so much that she requested his new novel, Hunting Midnight, for review. She poked her head out of the book the other day to say it's fabulous! Nellie Levine has a YA (young adult) series on her desk, Cirque du Freak, about teens and vampires, and teens who are vampires.

Let's wander down the hall and see who else is up to something interesting... Oh, yes. Maria Nutick has remained undaunted by the flood of reader letters disagreeing with her review of David Clement-Davies' The Sight, and has two more animal fantasies to review, Raven's End by Ben Gadd and Meredith Ann Pierce's Firebringer Trilogy. Rachel Brown is gulping down an ARC (advanced reading copy) of Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld romp, The Monstrous Regiment, due out in stores in a month or so.

Lisa Spangenberg, our resident Celtic history authority, is working on The Song of Taliesin and Taliesin, the Last Celtic Shaman, both by John Matthews, and The Celts by Daithi O'Hogain. Gary Whitehouse is doing an omnibus review of several books on Native American folk lore. And Grey Walker is enthusing over Changing Planes, the new book out by her idol, Ursula le Guin. Oh, and she's got Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea and Terri Windling's The Changeling waiting on her little rolling book cart.

And Cat reports that Neil Gaiman's new Sandman collection, The Sandman: Endless Nights, should be here in a fortnight. We don't have a reviewer assigned to it yet, but Grey Walker, Book Review Editor, will doubtless be getting offers of bribes from several staffers who're eager to land such a prize review item!

If, as the fiction pundits say, conflict is necessary for interesting reading, you're going to love our first letter. Stefan Petrucha, writer of Kolchak, The Night Stalker: The Devil in the Details, wrote a heated letter to object to 'several false statements and poor assumptions' contained in Craig Clarke's review. Craig responded rather sharply himself, resulting in plenty of defensive posturing and attitude from both parties. What was it all about? What are the facts? Could it have been avoided? Do you even care? Find out the answers to these and other questions in the epic exchange (or 'massive missive') that leads off the Letters page.

As you get further down the page, you'll find Mark Ganetakos' letter thanking Peter Massey for his review of The Outfit's Sense of Soul, and Peter's reply.

Amal was relieved, after reading Maria Nutick's review of Kim Antieau's Coyote Cowgirl, not to be the only one 'crazy' enough to find the book unsatisfying.

File this under New Discoveries. Leslye Jollymore came across GMR while googling a book about which she could only remember the character's name. Lucky for her (and for us), Kelly Sedinger's review of a set of John Bellairs' books was one of the first citations listed.

And when James Frenkel (of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror) learned that we would be interviewing anthology editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, he offered to be interviewed as well, giving us access to his vast cerebral stores of information, anecdotes, etc. Until then, let's get on with some more wonderful reviews.

You want to know what the case behind the bar is that's attracting all the attention from folks like Jack and Stephen? The one that they are obviously eager for me, Reynard, to to open? That's MacTarnahan's Black Watch Stout. Ryan Nutick arranged for a case to be delivered here, and I promised him that it wouldn't be opened until after the eventide feast on the Autumnal Equinox. I suspect that I'll be keeping it under lock and key to keep them out of it!

Listen to that red-headed young lass with the smallpipes in the Neverending Session -- she'll likely be the next great piper out of that blessed border region. Is she as good as the legendary Tickell? Only time itself will tell that tale! All I can say is that Billy Pigg, rest his soul, would likely be proud of her playing! She's playing the new Northumberland anthem, 'Northumberland Air', in honor of one of our session musicians, a fiddler whose name you'd probably not recognize. He passed on last week. Even here along the border, the turning of the seasons happens. Winter approaches, the wind grows ever colder, and old bones don't always survive the coming dark.

Says Craig Clarke, 'Don't like words cluttering up your enjoyment of beautiful music? Well, then, have I got three albums for you. Step right over here and I'll show you some of the offerings we have available today.' Intrigued? Read his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Christopher O'Riley's True Love Waits: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead; Quadruped's Barbeque of Souls; and Chatham Baroque's Henry Purcell: Sonatas and Theatre Music.

Faith Cormier has just listened to Fourtold and exclaims, 'If this is Fourtold's first such collaboration, I hope they do many more. There are countless other tales waiting for their voices.' In case you're wandering who they are, she notes, 'Fourtold unites four great American folk singers: husband and wife Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, Anne Hills and Michael Smith. Although they have collaborated before, this is their first effort combining songwriting and collecting, singing and playing as a quartet. Together they tell twelve songs, sing twelve stories, drawn from the rich traditions of the English-singing world in England and Canada, the West Indies and the United States.'

Judith Gennett picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for her wonderful look at The McDades' For Reel CD. Who's them, you ask? Judith comments, 'The McDades bill themselves as one of the most innovative Celtic bands, and they are or they're not depending on who you've been listening to and what you consider innovative. They're not exactly the Gogol Bordello of the Irish Pub circuits, but they are a good, strong band which effectively and variously intermixes international instruments and jazz into their programme. If they didn't sound Canadian, they would sound like a spicy version of the better class of Irish bands, along the lines of Dervish and Altan.'

Mitch Luckett's Tall Tales & Blue Grass was well-received by Tim Hoke. 'Music and storytelling are related arts. Often, they are inter-related arts; it isn't unusual to hear a musician break into a story, or a storyteller use music to decorate a tale... and that's not taking into account ballads, sagas, and other narrative songs. On Tall Tales & Blue Grass, Mitch Luckett interweaves songs old and new, dance tunes ('nonsense fiddle tunes' as he calls them), and funny narratives based on events in his own life.' Tim Hoke garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Michael Hunter found a gem in Fairport Convention's Scrum-Half Bricking: Fairport with Swarb at Derby. Eh? Let Michael explain: 'In 1969, Fairport Convention released three albums, the second of which had the title Unhalfbricking, which was a nonsense word made up by Sandy Denny during a game. In 2003, Fairport have issued a limited edition live album which was recorded and released to benefit the Belper Rugby Club in the UK in their quest to build a new clubhouse. What else could it be called but Scrum-Half Bricking?' You know it's good, but Michael wins an Excellence in Writing Award for telling you so convincingly why you must buy it now!

Chris Knight's The Jealous Kind was a new experience for David Kidney. 'Never heard of Chris Knight before, but here's his third album. The New York Times says he's 'the last of a dying breed... a hard-nosed iconoclast... a grown-up Huck Finn with an acoustic guitar and a college degree.' Hmmm. Okay, I'll buy that. There sure is a good sound coming out of the speakers when you play this album. It's not completely original, a bit of John Mellencamp, a touch of the Boss, maybe even some Steve Earle, but the songs are fine.'

Paul Brady's Song Book brought back memories for Peter Massey. 'I first saw Paul Brady in about 1968 or '69 as part of The Johnstons folk group, upstairs at Yardarms Club in the Bull and Stirrup Hotel in Chester. In those days the Johnstons were one of the cornerstones of my record collection and had a sound envied by thousands of folk fans. I think they made about nine albums before disbanding and going their separate ways. I often wondered why they split. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and Paul Brady has changed his musical direction. The Paul Brady we hear on this album is a contemporary pop singer who writes and co-writes some super fine songs -- and how!' And Peter says Sweet Nell's New Old-Time Tunes has 'some nice fiddle playing, and the band is very tight. This may not be an album that will suit everybody's taste. But it is certainly very interesting from the point of view that they have managed to come up with 21 'new' tunes in the old-timey mode. These needed to be recorded for posterity. A lot of Bluegrass fans on this side of the wishing well will find it a very good album from this standpoint.'

Goats, musical ones at that, are what Lars Nilsson looks at in West of Eden's A Stupid Thing to Do and The Faintin' Goats' It's Showtime. One CD impressed, one didn't. Ahhh, but which one was which?

Mike Stiles says, 'Cuig is the Irish Gaelic for five, which by some coincidence is the number of musicians on Prospect. The band derives from Northern English stock but takes on its Celtic heritage with originality and flair.' Mike also reviews Sunhoney's November, which he says is 'a briskly refreshing CD out from Scotland. Sunhoney is an intriguing cross between fellow Scots Capercaillie and Ireland's Bevel Jenny, comparisons I'm not known to make lightly.'

Barb Truex, who celebrates her wedding anniversary with fellow reviewer Chris White this week, says, 'Mandolinist Kenny Blackwell and guitarist Dorian Michael have released an exciting, fast-paced recording that shows off their instrumental and writing abilities. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and recommend it to anyone who likes acoustic music with the flavors of bluegrass, blues, western swing, old-timey, jazz, and even a nod to the Irish. The compositions are very strong and Blackwell's and Michael's writing styles compliment one another as do their playing styles.' Read her review to get all the details.

Gary Whitehouse missed seeing Dromedary live, but did snag the review of their latest effort, Live From the Make Believe. As he tells it, 'Dromedary is an acoustic duo from Athens, Georgia, that mixes music from all over the world to create its own unique blend. Rob McMaken plays dulcimer, mandolin and guitar, and Andrew Reissiger plays charango (the Andean mandolin-like instrument) and guitar.' Sounds cool. So why was the CD disappointing? Read his review to find out why. Gary's other review is of Vic Chesnutt's Silver Lake. Chesnutt, says Gary, 'is a Southern singer-songwriter who's more respected by other musicians than by the marketplace or the public. Partially paralyzed since a drunken-driving accident at the age of 18, he's put out a series of albums with songs that veer from accessible to inscrutible, his genre from folk to country to art-rock, his lyrics from straightforward to as twisted as his body appears on the back cover of Silver Lake, silhouetted against a window in his wheelchair. And this release is no exception; in fact, the variations are possibly even more extreme than usual.' We've given Gary an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

As you can see from the reviews this week, we get an amazing assortment of music sent to us to be reviewed. Over a pint of Hobgoblin Strong Ale from Wychwood Brewery from Askett-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, Kim Bates, our Music Editor, said to me that we generally have a hundred and fifty CDs out for review at any time. Like the music played by the Session musicians here, there's always fresh music for the reviewers! So let's play a bit more music, read aloud some poetry from days of old, and perhaps hold back the coming dark just a bit longer.

To close on a slightly different note... We've done quite a bit of reflecting this issue on the passings of seasons and of life. But there's a lovely scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which a family attempts to put the body of a dear departed gaffer on the burial cart going by. The old fellow sits up at the last moment and squawks, 'I'm not dead yet! I feel like going for a walk!' Come back next week. We'll be alive and kicking, ready with more reviews of stories and music fresh and lively!




GMR News is an e-mail list for readers of The Green Man Review. Each week, we'll send you a brief précis of the week's What's New. This is an announcement-only list. To subscribe, send an e-mail from the address where you want to receive the précis, to this address. Or go here to subscribe.


Entire Contents Copyright 2003, The Green Man Review. All Rights Reserved.

Updated 1 October 03, 01:30 GMT (MN)