'Fast away the old year passes.
Ring the new, ye lads and lasses!'
-- traditional

 

28th of December, 2003

 

Well met! I am Liath ó Laighin, archivist for our fair publication. Why archivist? Is that not just a fancy word for 'librarian'? Well, aye and nay. Most of my work that you see is indeed in the library, here in this tower. But I am also responsible for archiving all our documents and records, dating back longer than anyone here can remember -- I might remember, but I came to Green Man late, only three score years ago.

Be that as it may, it's a librarian's work I do today. All the new CDs, DVDs, cassettes, chapbooks, books and so on which arrive here over the course of a year are shelved together in one place, so that we can see how the year goes. At the end of the year, they are all taken and shelved in their appropriate subject areas throughout the library. Yes, that is indeed the purpose of the heaps and piles of materials you see on the tables in here. Staff have been wandering in and out for the past few days, looking through the piles and exclaiming, 'I remember this one! Remember how we all looked forward to this?' or 'This was the most outrageous album this year!' or 'I loved this book....'

And not only staff. We've seen an author or two, even a musician on occasion. Our Editor-in-Chief, who has fled his own home library recently due to renovations and encamped here, has been asking these illustrious visitors to tell him, if they would, what they esteem the best books they have read in the course of this year, 2003. Here are some of their responses.

From Holly Black, author of Tithe and The Spiderwick Chronicles comes this: 'This is my very personal list of favorites from 2003. I haven't read nearly as many books as I wished I did this year, but of what I read, these are the ones that stayed with me.' Here's her list in no particular order: Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires, Garth Nix's Abhorsen; Kij Johnson's Fudoki; Neil Gaiman and assorted others' Endless Nights; Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty; Laura Williams McCaffrey's Alia Waking, Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice; Cornelia Funke's Inkheart; Charles de Lint and Charles Vess' A Circle of Cats, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Swan Sister anthology; Kelly Link's Trampoline anthology; Sharon Shinn's Angelica; and Alice Hoffman's Green Angel.'

 

Paul Brandon, author of Swim the Moon and the forthcoming novel The Wild Reel, which involves Fey immigrants to his home city of Brisbane, claims he was a light reader this year: '2003 wasn't a particularly big reading year for me, as I seemed to spend most of it buried in research about old Cornwall, but here are a few that poke out. These are only in the order in which they tumble out of my severely coffee-deprived morning brain (I've only quaffed two cups of Merlo's Arriba Arriba so far).

Angel of Ruin and particularly The Autumn Castle by fellow Brisbane author Kim Wilkins. I loved The Autumn Castle for its lovely mix of de Lintian and Gaimanesque themes and can't wait for the next two in the series. Holdstock's The Iron Grail, which as always is up to his incredible standards. Dean Koontz' By the Light of the Moon and The Face weren't too bad, but I still get the feeling he's just marking time until he gets back to the final part of the brilliant Moonlight Bay stories. I also ploughed through quite a few Charles de Lints this year too, and as always they were grand, with A Circle of Cats, Spirits in the Wires, Medicine Road, and Seven Wild Sisters standouts. 

A few non-2003 stories that I finally got around to this year and loved: Elisabeth Hayden's Rhapsody trilogy helped restore my faith in the high fantasy genre, though that also might have been assisted by rereading The Lord of the Rings again. The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers, Sean Williams's Books of the Change, Matthew Reilly's rollercoaster, Ice Station, and Scott Westerfeld's Evolution's Darling (which I really liked despite not being a huge fan of the genre). Out of left field comes Priceless by Bradley Trevor Greive and The Natural History of Selbourne by the Rev. Gilbert White (I miss England sometimes). And finally, but by no means least, I'm currently nose-deep in The Talisman, which I'm finally reading after someone gave me The Black House this year. Oh, I loved that too.'

A few minutes later, I got a second e-mail from him: 'Bugger, can you slip Jasper Fforde's two books in there somewhere too -- I knew as soon as I pressed 'Send' I'd remember something. Oh, and Gaiman's Coraline... Stoopid coffee brain.'

(Fforde's two novels that he's referring to are the first two in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book.)

Steven Brust, whose latest works are a series called The Viscount of Adrilankha Adventures, The Paths of the Dead and The Lord of Castle Black, like Josepha Sherman has a single book to recommend 'I think the only '03 book I've read is Gene Wolf's The Knight. It would certainly qualify under 'the best' even if I'd read a bunch of others, for whatever good that will do.'

Charles de Lint says, 'It's been another great year for readers and anyone who complains that there aren't any good books out there anymore just isn't paying attention. My problem is trying to find the time to read all the great titles I do want to read.

My favourite of the year has to be Alice Hoffman's Green Angel (Scholastic), though her adult novel for this year, The Probable Future (Doubleday), is also a real winner. These are closely followed by The Parrot Trainer by Swain Wolfe (St. Martin's Press) and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Knopf).

I've also really been enjoying Holly Black's collaboration with Tony DiTerlizzi on The Spiderwick Chronicles (Simon & Schuster) and Hannah's Garden by Midori Snyder (Viking, 2002 -- which, for those of you keeping track, is actually a somewhat different version of what would have been the fourth book in the Brian Froud Faerylands series).

What else? Well, Peter Straub and Dean Koontz showed us once again just how good they are with, respectively, lost boy lost girl (Random House) and Odd Thomas (Bantam). Greg Keyes reminded me why I can still enjoy high fantasy with The Briar King (Del Rey) and Charles Dickinson's A Shortcut in Time (Forge) proved, as Niffenegger's novel did, that there's still innovation to be found in a time travel story.

And just to deviate from genre fiction for a moment, I have to thank Robert Crais and Andrew Vachss for so ably feeding my hardboiled fiction fix with their books The Last Detective (Doubleday), Only Child (Knopf), and The Getaway Man (Vintage Books); the latter two are by Vachss.

And finally, anyone who thinks YA fiction is too kiddie-lit for them, isn't reading what's out there. Many YA books are edgier and of far more interest (at least to me) than so-called adult fiction. These aren't genre books either, but were particular favourites of mine for this year: Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn (Simon Pulse), Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (Speak), and Define 'Normal' by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown).

For more detailed descriptions of why these books appealed to me, many of them were discussed at longer length in my column Books to Look For which appears monthly in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It can be accessed on the Internet here.

Happy holidays folks.'

Gwyneth Jones, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2001 for her novel, Bold As Love, says, 'Here's my list, the books of '03 for me. Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel trilogy -- Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar (Tor). I read the third one first and the second one last, which I don't exactly recommend, but it proves how keen I was. Alternate-Mediaeval Erotic fantasy, well over the top in many ways, highly enjoyable and a great page-turner. Lian Hearn's Across The Nightingale Floor, and Grass For His Pillow, (Bloomsbury) Young Adult romance, intrigue and adventure set in a fantasy version of sixteenth century Japan. Gripping: can't wait for volume three. Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier (Plume). Straight historical novel, about the Victorian Way of Death, and suffragettes. Yes, it's a bit farfetched in places but the quality of the writing is outstanding; I now want to get hold of everything Tracy Chevalier has ever written (starting with the huge bestseller Girl With A Pearl Earring). Then, the best of the science books. They're neither of them published in '03, but The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Oxford Press), by Charles Darwin, is absolutely fascinating, still perceptive today, and full of anecdotes and human touches. Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing, by Margaret Livingstone (Abrams,) is both riveting popular science and such a beautiful book, full of great images. Happy Holidays -- G'

Larry Kirwan, founder and leader of Black47, the best Irish punk/folk/rock band ever, and author of The Liverpool Fantasy, laments 'I'm afraid to say that my reading has been scandalously skimpy this year and seems to have been all over the place.  But from what's lying askance around my flea-ridden couch, I would venture to suggest that I've, at least, opened the pages of Through the Dark Labyrinth (a biography of Lawrence Durrell) by Gordon Bowker, In Search of Duende by Federico Garcia Lorca, The Master of Petersburg by J.M. Coetzee, Genius by Harold Bloom, Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, and Selected Poems by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. There must be more but that's all I can think of right now.'  

 

Ellen Kushner, who wrote two of my favorite novels of all time, Swordspoint and The Fall of Kings, has annotated her Best of '03 list: 'Cat, here are three of my favorite books this year:

Lynda Barry -- her new A! Hundred! Demons!!! is just BRILLIANT -- is it a comic? a novel? a memoir? She calls it Autobifictionalography (2002, Sasquatch Books, Seattle, WA.)

Elizabeth Knox -- Billie's Kiss (2002, Ballantine Books, NY). Is it a romance? a mystery? an homage to 19th century gothics with a whiff of Robert Louis Stevenson? with a severely dyslexic heroine and an autistic villain?

The author is quoted in the Reader's Guide to Billie's Kiss saying: 'I think genre labels are a marketing invention, and that 'literary fiction' is also a genre, and that literature -- the real thing -- can appear in any 'genre.' . . . Some [of my novels] are fantasy, or supernational, or magic realist (depending on your favored marketing description), but they are all of a piece -- novels that explore ideas about identity, memory, destiny and fate . . . .'

Just about the best novel I've read in ages: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon -- it won the Pulitzer, but it actually deserved to. One review called him a reader's writer and he is. Chabon talked to lots of the original comic book creators; his novel addresses why people write them.... Two immigrant teenage boys in 1930's Brooklyn create a series of successful superhero comix. Kavalier, the artist, studied Houdini-like escapes in Prague, and gets out a step ahead of the Nazis in a box that also contains the Golem . . . what's not to like?

I've also listed these on the Interstitial Arts site -- please send folks to this address. Old mythic arts friend Delia Sherman is the president, Terri Windling & Charles Vess are on the Board, along with me, Kelly Link, Midori Snyder & others... Interstitial Art is work that falls in the interstices -- between the cracks -- of recognized commercial genres. Interstitial Art wanders across borders without stopping at Customs to declare its intent. We're attempting to bring together readers, listeners, musicians, viewers and artists who may not be aware of one another to celebrate and further explore ongoing work that resists categorization.'

Sharyn November, editor of Firebird Books, and the editor for Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, reads more than anyone else I know of! Really. Truly. So here's what she says is her Best of 2003 list: 'Here are my favorites for the year. When I say 'favorites,' I mean that these are books that stuck in my head, that I fought with, that engaged me.' Her list is Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines; Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark; Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; Nalo Hopkinson's Mojo: Conjure Stories anthology; Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair; Ursula K. Le Guin's Changing Planes; Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires; Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman's The Fall of the Kings; Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Swan Sister anthology; Kelly Link's Trampoline anthology; Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warriors Apprentice and others; Neil Gaiman and others' The Sandman: Endless Nights; and Robin McKinley's Sunshine.

I own many 'stockpile' books: I hoard them for times when I am burned out and need something wonderful. The pile includes Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice, Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand, Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, China Mieville's The Scar, etc etc etc.

I am sure that I have forgotten loads of books. In fact, I know I have!

Sigh.'

Josepha Sherman, the author of many, many works, including the tastefully titled Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood, has but one recommendation, but what a recommendation it is: 'Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men has to be one of the best books he's written, a wonderful combination of fantasy and folklore, complete with such a strong feel for the young heroine's deceased grandmother, whom we never see, that she becomes a full-dimensional character in her own right. The Feagles (the Wee, Free Men) are a fascinating mix of Celtic lore and ant society, and the Faerie folk are NOT the sweet and pretty creatures of generic fantasy!'

Jennifer Stevenson, author of the Solstice chapbook that Green Man published, and the forthcoming Trash, Sex, Magic (out in July of '04) says, 'Cat, here's a list, not complete but a good start. It's heavy on comfort reads, except for Schneier's Beyond Fear and Wilson's Adrenal Fatigue.

These are the books I read and reread in 2003 that were published in 2003: Jennifer Crusie, Faking It (in paperback) from St. Martin's Press; Laura Moore, Night Swimming from Ballantine Ivy; Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear from Copernicus/Springer-Verlag NY; Isabel Sharpe, A Taste of Fantasy from Harlequin Blaze; Vicky Lewis Thompson, After Hours from Harlequin Blaze; Nalo Hopkinson, The Salt Roads from Warner, 2003; and Vicky Lewis Thompson, Nerd in Shining Armor from Dell.

Books I read/reread in 2003 that were not published in 2003: Joe Keenan, My Blue Heaven and Putting on the Ritz from Penguin; Patricia Gaffney, The Saving Graces from Harper Torch; Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds; The Story of the Stone; Eight Skilled Gentlemen from The Stars Our Destination (publisher); Terry Pratchett, The Truth from Harper Collins; Rudyard Kipling, Kim (any edition); Lorna Novak, How Amelia Secured the Tie that Binds with a Very Loose Knot and Does It Make into a Bed? from Doubleday; Patricia White, Got a Hold on You from Love Spell, 2003; Carl Hiaasen, Basketcase from Warner, 2003; Terry Pratchett, Wee Free Men from HarperCollins 2003; John Crowley, The Translator from Perennial, 2002; Jennifer Crusie, Welcome to Temptation and Fast Women (St. Martin's Press); and Manhunting (Mira); and James L. Wilson, Adrenal Fatigue by Smart Publications.'

The list from James Stoddard, author of the Evenmere novels, The High House and The False House, is interesting. As he says, 'it's a weird list. Since you didn't specify SF, I'll list any fiction I enjoyed. If you want only SF, feel free to cut the list back. I have listed them in the order of those I enjoyed the most: Ship of Fools by Russo; Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (sure to be a classic); Ten Years After by Alexander Dumas (this one, too); The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken; Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright; The Prisoner in the Opal by A.E.W. Mason (detective/fantasy); The Dawn of Amber by John Gregory Betancourt; The Riddlemaster of Hed series by Patricia McKillip; and Unicorn Sonata by Peter Beagle.' This books on his list are the result of his decision to '[designate] this year 'the year of reading all the stuff I'd had around the house and been meaning to get to.' A wonderful way to clear out the excess books...'

Must you be off? Well, then I wish you a good year's end and the love of fair friends. Take merry memories with you as you cross the years' border. They weigh little and will serve you well in the year to come.

Be certain to visit us January first. We'll be having a party to celebrate the official opening of our new Arthur Rackham Gallery. Our first show will feature the work of Kate Johnson. You will not want to miss it!

 

21st of December, 2003

The Winter Queen Speaks

As I walk into the winter of my days, I am often too warm. My thoughts come easily, my nouns do not. I remember old songs and forget the names of friends. I have enough money to buy a castle but not the knees to mount the stone stairs.

Aging is oppositional. The soul reaches for higher things as the rest of the body succumbs to gravity. This is not what they mean by gravitas, but I guess I am stuck with it. What I do have, though, is time. Not enough to write all the books I want to write, nor read all the books that accumulate on my shelves, on my tables, on my floors. But time enough to sit in the garden and watch the magpies fight the gulls for the moldy bread I have just tossed them. I suspect there's a meaning there, some metaphor about winter, but I cannot quite grasp it.

In Scotland, where I live half the year, an old folks' nursing home is called an 'Eventide House.' That appellation is so much more appealing, for 'evening tide' is how I am feeling these days. The waves of the past wash over me, reminding me of rougher earlier seas, when I had three children in quick succession and book writing was something I did between diaper changes. Or perhaps it is 'the even time of life' and that, too, has its points. The seesaw has stopped going up and down, the heart beats at a slower pace, the eyes have time to rest on beloved objects. I am what I am, and at peace with it.

I think of so many women before me, dead in childbirth, worn out by housework, farmwork, undernourished in both body and mind. Had I lived in all those romantic times, I would not have been a Winter Queen, but perhaps a merchant's wife, keys clanking at my side, till the first miscarriage undid me with blood loss. Or the child I carried to term turned upside down and killed me. That I did not die of either of these, or the lack of thyroid, or the burst appendix or the tubular pregnancy of my later years, is a miracle of modern medicine. That I can vote, keep my own money, run a book imprint, teach in college while married, and on and on, simply marks me as a late 20th century, early 21st century woman.

If I had another life to live, I'd run for high office. Or learn to paint. Or take acting lessons. Or learn astronomy, archeology, and anthropology. But I chose writing early, as well as poetry and music. Enough for this lifetime, enough to take me into the winter with plenty to do. So here's a wish from the Winter Queen for all of you: may you choose well those things to carry you into the even tide of your lives. Make a raft of those choices, a raft that will slip easily through the stormy seas, where the waves are wild and bright with foam. And may you come at last, as I have, to safe harbor and a welcoming shore.

Jane Yolen

Johnny Cunningham 1957 - 2003

Everyone at Green Man Review was deeply saddened by the passing of Johnny Cunningham on December 15th.

More than just a great fiddle player (and he was certainly that), he somehow seemed to embody the core values and aspirations of Green Man. Johnny was both an archetypal big, hairy, bearded, tattooed Scotsman and a brilliant, widely-read polymath, whose immense artistry made a mockery of both nationalistic and artistic boundaries. Adored by his audiences and revered by his peers, Johnny was a storyteller, both literally (as teller of tales and wry humorist), and metaphorically (through his wonderfully expressive music).

As a member of Silly Wizard, Relativity, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and in duo with his brother Phil, he was one of the leading lights of the Celtic Music revival. His group Nightnoise broadened the horizons of many, while Raindogs took roots-rock to stages shared with Bob Dylan, Don Henley and Warren Zevon. His work in theatre and TV included writing the music and lyrics for 'Peter and Wendy', and collaborations with author Thomas Moore on 'The Soul Of Christmas' and Renee McCormick on 'A Life Outside Convention.' His name can also be found, as a record producer, on the CDs of hugely influential acts like Solas and Cherish the Ladies.

Johnny Cunningham died at home in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the arms of his beloved Trisha.

Anyone wishing to pay tribute to Johnny, or to send condolences to his family, can do so via his Web site. Among the many contributions from friends, fans and fellow musicians, there's this entry from Irish fiddle genius Martin Hayes: 'To know him was to love him, I was lucky to have known him. I wish I could write more, but right now the words feel inadequate. Not many of us had the way with words that Johnny had, fewer still could play the fiddle like him.'


 

 

 

 

17th of December, 2003

'Well, I'm back.'
-- Sam, in J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King

  Grey Walker here. I'm back from the opening day showing of New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. My eyes are bleary -- I cried some -- and my heart is full. It's been a good day. I hope you enjoy my review.

And looking ahead... We won't be running any reviews on the 21st or the 28th of this month. On the 21st, we'll feature a speech from our Winter Queen, who is Jane Yolen this year. On the 28th, we'll have a look at the 'best of' books in 2003 -- in the opinions of all sorts of authors and musicians we've asked, from Paul Brandon to Larry Kirwan.

We'll be back with more reviews in the New Year.


 

14th of December, 2003

'If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.'
-- J. R. R. Tolkien

Kim Bates here. Come in! So, you want to know how we select CDs for review? Let's get a mug of this mulled wine and go up to my office.

We get sent an amazing variety of recorded music, everything from self-released recordings to some of the the new offerings of major labels here at the Green Man. Somedays my desk here groans under the weight, and most days the speakers are alive with the sound of new music.

I maintain correspondence with labels and agents, but there are always surprises in what comes in.  We review an enormous amount of material, with some of our best material coming from independent artists and smaller labels.  We do screen out material before assigning CDs to reviewers, if it does not fit our definition of the roots and branches of tradition, or if we feel that the material is not up to our standard.  You see, our reviewers love music, and appreciate the way that traditional material, or original material written within a tradition, can become fresh and exciting in the right hands, with a new voice.  So we know that they take reviewing very seriously, because of their commitment to their favorite genres, and because of their integrity as writers. 

But most CDs we receive are offered up to our reviewers. When I send out a list of new items to be reviewed, I get inundated with requests, and assign CDs to reviewers. Not everything gets reviewed, as some CDs aren't requested by any reviewer. And even CDs that a reviewer thinks they'll like are sometimes not to their liking.

Now, it's my turn to wait!  Our reviewers e-mail me when their discs arrive, and if I don't get a review from them soon after, I begin pestering.  Occasionally things go awry in the post, and then our backup discs come into play, as they do when we receive correspondence regarding reviews, or in the very rare event that we need to check factual details. 

There you have it! CDs come in and flow out. Then reviews are written and come in, get edited by our crack Music Review Production Editors, and are posted week by week. Letters are written, and conversations flow about the music.  We love being part of this world of music, and we know it shows in the pages of Green Man , with reviews that are second to none! 

Now, shall we have some more of that mulled wine?

I'm not sure exactly how Peter and the Wolf came to be associated with Christmas. Perhaps it's the fact that Prokofiev wrote it for children, and children's delight is the focus of this holiday (perhaps there's a book about this somewhere... hmmmm...). Whatever the reason, if your thoughts turn toward Peter and the Wolf this time of year, you need to take a look at our first featured review. Matej Novak is thoroughly enamored of a new version of this old favorite, published just this year by Bloomsbury. Gavin Friday and The Friday-Seezer Ensemble provide the music, Gavin Friday gives the narration, and Bono has painted a series of illustrations. Yes, Bono. It's a very different mix for a traditional work, but Matej insists in his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review, 'It doesn't just kinda work, it really works.'

We're featuring this next review because we, like many of you, are eagerly awaiting the final film in The Lord of the Rings series by Peter Jackson, The Return of the King, opening this coming Wednesday, December 17, in the United States. Liz Milner is one of our Tolkien experts on staff, and she's brought us another thorough, broadly knowledgeable review of a new piece of Tolkien scholarship, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by John Garth. 'Instead of being just an account of Tolkien's abbreviated combat service,' says Liz, 'John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War fleshes out Thomas Shippey's claim that Tolkien was part of a generation of 'traumatized authors' who attempted to express the horrors of World War I through the writing of fantasy.' Liz wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her timely review. And be sure to come back Wednesday evening this week for our special mid-week issue, featuring our review of The Return of the King!

One of our favorite places to have CDs come in from for review is Sony. David Kidney and Gary Whitehouse have a look at a mere four Bob Dylan albums re-released by Sony: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Nashville Skyline , and Blood on the Tracks. As David explains it: 'The first we heard was that Sony was sending GMR the whole set. All fifteen of the recently remastered, hybrid super-audio Dylan albums, 'for the ultimate audio experience.' They were advertising it this way... 'You could never improve the MUSIC. But wait until you hear the SOUND.' The sound? Wait a minute... these are Bob Dylan albums! Dylan is well known for his quick, almost slap-dash approach to recording. Spontaneity has long been more important to him than 'the sound.' Working in a recording studio is not a thrill for Dylan; in fact he once described it like this, 'Man, sometimes it seems I've spent half my life in a recording studio... It's like living in a coal mine.' Having done some recording myself (and having once visited a coal mine) let me assure you... the air is slightly better in a studio. Nonetheless, we were excited about the prospect of receiving 15 Dylan albums, and Gary and I set out to divvy up the work. What arrived was a sampler selection. Three discs, maybe his best work ever, but only three of them. I quickly ran out and bought Nashville Skyline simply because it was a personal favourite. And I sat back to wonder, why they hadn't included New Morning in their group of remasters. Then the discs arrived, and we hunkered down to listen to the new 'enhanced' sound... to hear what all the shouting was about.'

(Editors note: the rest are coming for review.)

Faith J. Cormier brings us two book reviews this week. In her first she catches us up on the newly released third book in the Amateur Historian's Guide series by Sarah Valente Kettler and Carole Trimble, The Amateur Historian's Guide, Volume 3: The Heart of England — Nearly 200 Medieval & Tudor Sites Two Hours or Less from London. Faith's second review deals with a fictional universe we rarely cover here at GMR, not only because it usually doesn't fall under our theme, but because it's been done to death elsewhere: Star Trek. This time, however, Faith makes a convincing case for the Invasion series, four novels written in the Star Trek universe that deal with — of all things — folklore.

Liz Milner has another review for us in addition to her Tolkieniana review above. This book is Kathleen Basford's The Green Man, originally published in 1978, then reprinted in 1996. 'I am, of course, deeply honored to be given the task of writing about our noble namesake,' says Liz, 'and I had high hopes for this book.' However, further on in her review she claims that The Green Man, 'unaccountably dumped me.' Read the rest of her review for more details about the strengths and disappointments of this promising book.

If you're looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a child in your life, look no further! Grey Walker reviews a picture book that has enchanted her this year, The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story, written by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrated by Argentina-born Fabian Negrin. 'Like many old legends, the story is similar to other stories of its kind. The main character is a poor little girl (like the Little Drummer Boy) who has no gift to bring to the Christ Child on Christmas Eve at the Midnight Mass.... Given such a common, often-heard story, we need something special to set it apart for us. Oppenheim and Negrin give us that special something here.'

Gary Whitehouse finishes our book reviews for the week — and the year 2003 — with an omnibus review of three books in a subject area we'd like to develop further here at Green Man, Native American folklore. Gary takes a look at three recently published books: The Anguish of Snails by Barre Toelken; Myths of Native America, edited by Tim McNeese; and When Brer Rabbit Meets Coyote, edited by Jonathan Brennan. If you're interested in furthering your knowledge and understanding of the folklore and folkways of American Indians, you'll want to see what Gary has to say about these three books.

Craig Clarke brings us a pair of reviews showcasing two films which could not be more dissimilar. The first is a look at the 1991 bio-pic based on the life of Jim Morrison and the career of The Doors. Jim -- er, Craig, that is -- says 'The Doors is not a perfect film. Often, it seems that a scene was shot to make a point -- or to represent a multitude of other similar scenes -- rather than simply to entertain; and the casting isn't always dead on in terms of matching an actor's personality to the role, but when it does work (e.g., Michael Madsen as Tom Baker, Crispin Glover as Andy Warhol, Kilmer as Morrison), I am riveted to that performance.'

Then he looks at a recent seasonal offering from Henson Studios starring Joan Cusack, Whoopie Goldberg, and David Arquette -- not to mention Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, and the rest of that beloved group known as The Muppets. 'While it's difficult to recapture the original nostalgic joy that came with The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie (or even the early days of Sesame Street),' Craig says, 'anything involving our felt friends is worth a watch.' Read his review of It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie for more.

Daniel Wood achieves an amazing and rare feat here at Green Man, as he takes home an Excellence in Writing Award AND a Grinch Award for this stunning review. A Grinch Award for a film which he ultimately recommends? Oh, yes, for he takes a brutally honest look at an enthralling and yet deeply flawed film: The Matrix Revolutions. Despite the films shortcomings, which Daniel explores carefully and insightfully, he says 'I am able to recommend The Matrix Revolutions because at the end of the day, it entertained me in a spectacular fashion for the duration of its running time. Of course, the original Matrix entertained me as well, on top of which it provoked thoughts and left me inspired, left me dreaming of the possibilities for more stories to be told in that world; I was excited about what was to come. Revolutions inspired those same thoughts, those same dreams, although not in the same way.'

Reynard here. I've been mucking about the Library this week as the early winter storms have wreaked havoc with our Danse Macabre gigs -- nothing moves terribly well when there's a fresh fall of three feet of snow. Don't worry -- we'll make it up later as the winter dance season around here is at its busiest for us in January and February when we'll do three or four midnight dances a week! But right now, I've been seeing what's new in the Library. Yes, I could just ask Liath, but it's more interesting to just look around. She's been playing elvish laments lately, probably because of the upcoming Lord of The Rings movie, and thinking about Frodo's leaving from the Havens.

Ahhh, I see that the Library got a copy of Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in the Lord of the Rings, Dickerson's interesting look at the mythopoeic underpinnings of The Lord of The Rings...

Now let's see what we've got for music reviews...

Amidst her shopping and her other seasonal activities such as going to as many sessions as possible, Kim Bates found time to squeeze out a review of Christine Lavin and the Mistletones' The Runaway Christmas Tree, a CD she says is 'a rather refreshing change from those horrid holiday songs that blare out at folks in every public place here in North America, and a great choice for a family holiday soundtrack. The music is lovely choral arrangements that will not grate on adult ears, and will please those with chamber music leanings. This album will particularly appeal to families where the members sing themselves, particularly if the children are able to sing rounds.'

Assembly's January EP is, according to Craig Clarke, a well crafted contradance album: 'With Sam Amidon on fiddle, his younger brother Stefan on drums, Thomas Bartlett on piano, and Keith Murphy on guitar and mandolin, Assembly (formerly Popcorn Behavior but recently changed to this 'less silly sounding' moniker) create a sparse but complex sound. The instruments appear to take only their rightful places in the five tunes on January EP, as if they had cordoned off a specific area for each one. Balance is the key.'

Blumpkin Nation's The Invisible Movie Soundtrack caught Craig's attention: ' With a title like The Invisible Movie Soundtrack -- to which there is no accompanying film -- it is difficult to listen to this album without wondering just what kind of cinematic experience this would accompany. In the end, it's probably just a creative marketing ploy -- a way to put out a collection of songs by different artists without calling it an 'anthology.' Not that I object. I'm a proponent of creativity in all its forms, and if it makes me use my mind in a way to which I'm not accustomed, then all the better.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review to what the frell this music is like!

An album of guitar music was to the liking of Eric Eller: 'Beppe Gambetta's Blu di Genova is one such really great album. From the upbeat and intricate 'On the Road with Mama' to the martial 'Marcia Americana/Under the Double Eagle' the album never disappoints. While the other instrumentals and the singing are good, the guitar work is the album's real strength. Every song's foundation is a strong guitar performance, where Gambetta shows his compelling ability to draw just the right emotion out of each song.

Tim Hoke says High On The Hog's CD has a nature that reflects it's rustic name: 'the arrangements are rough-hewn, intentionally, I think. Sometimes rough-hewn gives way to sloppy; sadly, I suspect this also deliberate. The recording could benefit from tightening up these areas. Overall, though, Last Chance is a spirited good time.'

Stephen Hunt has a trio of Celtic CDs for you to think about: Fernhill's hynt, Barzaz's An den kozh dall, and Tommy O'Sullivan's Legacy. Read his review to see which ones tickle your fancy!

Lily Holbrook's Lily-Running From The Sky CD has cover art that serves as a warning from Peter Massey to other artists who have similar design sensibilities: This is the debut album from Lily Holbrook. The front cover of this album put me off a little from wanting to listen to it properly. They say the first bite is with the eye, and this is often the deciding factor as whether or not you want to buy the album, should you happen to pick it up in amongst others in a record store. Lily is a very pretty young lady who looks about 17 or 18 in the photo on the back cover, but the front cover in some respects leaves a lot to be desired. It has Lily portrayed as a cartoon Barbie-doll fairy, and on the inset as a space girl and also a mermaid. It put me off taking her music seriously. Perhaps this may have been good idea at the time. But in 10 or 20 years she may wish she had taken a more modest arty approach. Remember the first bite is with the eye!' Go read his review to see if the music managed to be better than the art was!

The Skirlers' Cutting the Bracken is Scottish music at its best according to Peter. Or is it Scottish ? Let's ask him again: 'Take Lorraine Kelly and Marion Storey both on fiddles, add Allen Bowling on Highland and Border pipes, Bob Smith on vocals, mandolin, guitar, tin whistles and bodhran, Chic Judge on Highland pipes & vocals, and Tom Docherty on guitar & vocals, and there you have it -- Celtic folk music blended in a single malt style. But is this the real thing from Scotland? Err not exactly -- the album was recorded live at The Golden Lion public house in Prittlewell, Nr Southend, Essex. '

Jack Merry had the jones for a good recording of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite so he snagged the copy that Sony Masterworks sent us. Was it worth reviewing? He says indeed it was: 'There are more Nutcrackers out there than bears bleedin' thinkin' about! Name a label, name an orchestra, name a conductor, and they'll have one Nutcracker on disc - they sell terribly well, so that's not 'tall surprising. Most of them will do just fine, and many are indeed superb. But the Song Masterworks is the best one of dozens that I've heard thus far -- Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra with production by Thomas Frost is both lively and well-produced, a rare combination these days.'

Lars Nilsson had reviewed this artist before, Thea Gilmore, and not been terribly thrilled with her, but her new CD, Avalanche, made him change his mind: 'Sometimes an artist can gain from a reviewer taking on too many assignments. This is a an example of this. Had I reviewed this CD shortly after its arrival at my doorstep I would probably have dismissed Ms Gilmore as yet another ordinary singer-songwriter with nothing more to offer the world than an over-sized ego.'

John O'Regan is one of the most knowledgeable Irish music journalist one can hope to read. And one of the most entertaining to boot! In this Celtic music omnibus review, he comments on fifteen (!) CDs. He says 'Celtic music is a wild and strange beast at the best of times, but beauty exists alongside the power and fury. This omnibus crosses both power and beauty and also the whole gamut of performers from harpists and pipers to families -- parents and sibling outfits, various artists and a sole female vocalist who stands on the operatic side of Irish music. The artists hail from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, USA and the UK. So as you can see it's as an eclectic and diverse bunch as befits things with a Celtic source.'

Mad For Trad is not a music album 'tall but rather is a CD-ROM based tutorial in Irish traditional music. Confused? If you are confused, let's have Pat Simmonds clear it up for you: ' The age of the computer hasn't really drastically altered the world as I know it, although occasionally it does present new ways for me that I find very interesting. One has been the dissemination of Irish traditional music through the Internet both in terms of leisure and learning. In time honoured tradition the fiddle student would learn at the knee of the master player, learning a little week by week. Then the books and videos came out in the eighties. Recently this process has been exported with tutors travelling abroad for weeks at a time teaching at classes and festivals. Now, in what must be considered a revolutionary step, the CD-rom tutor has arrived and one of the companies at the forefront of this trend is Mad for Trad. Based out of Cork City in Ireland it is the brainchild of a couple of ex-Nomos members who have pooled resources with some of the best names in the business and come up with a winner as far as I can see. Why is it revolutionary ? Simply for the amount of material available on each product, it far exceeds that of a standard video tape or instructional cassette and on a cost per lesson basis it is good value for money indeed...'

The Tiger Lillies sent us two CDs, The Brothel to the Cemetery and The Sea, as Gary Whitehouse wanted to review them. Did he like 'em? O, yes: ' Murder, death, disease and criminal behavior have long been topics of song in the Western World. The Tiger Lillies, a London-based trio, push that sort of subject matter just about as far as anyone you'll ever hear... ...If you've got a strong stomach, an open mind and a dark, dark, dark sense of humor, you'll probably find the Tiger Lillies right up your alley. And a filthy, vermin-infested alley it is.'

Well, that's it for this week. And we're taking a break from reviews for the next two weeks for the holidays. Our Winter Queen will have a speech for us next week, December 21. But rest assured, there will be more reviews after the turn of the year, as we've got several hundred items -- books, CDs, gigs, DVDs, and so on -- out with reviewers just now.  Merry, Merry!

 

 

7th of December, 2003

'All real living is meeting.'
-- Martin Buber

You've heard the expression 'entertaining angels unawares'? Well, we don't expect many angels to visit the Green Man pub (although Reynard claims the Angel of Death stopped in once), but we do look up every time the door opens, because you never know when a storyteller, musician or darts virtuoso will walk through it. And they may look no different than your average hobo or -- Mab forbid -- dotcommer.

A few weeks ago, a bag lady came in. She had at least half a dozen coats on, even though it wasn't that cold for once. When she took off her fedora, then her scarf, then her stocking cap, a thundercloud of grey curls popped out. Then she reached inside one of her coats and pulled out a recorder. That's right, just a simple wooden alto recorder. Without a word, she sat down with the Neverending Session and joined in. She played the fingers off the fellows there. Stayed far into the night. When the rest of the Session decided to move up to the kitchen and catch a late night supper between tunes, they asked her to come along. She refused, put her hats back on, and left.

The same thing happens, in a way, with the things we get for review here at GMR. Some of them we ask publishers and recording companies for. Lots of them, though, just show up in the mail. We always anticipate opening every package. You never know when what looks like an average singer-songwriter might turn out to have a new, riveting way with a Child ballad.

Cat Eldridge and Kim Bates between them listen to every CD before they send them out to be reviewed. Every last one. Many's the time when Cat will casually mention in the staff lounge that he's currently listening to his twelfth piping CD that day. Nor does he hesitate to say that, for all the gold he hears, there's plenty of dross. But he keeps it up, week after week, and comes back for more. Why? He wants to catch that angel, of course.

Just like the rest of us, in the pub and in our offices. Have we caught any this week? Read our reviews, and you'll see.

Here's an angel on the rise for you. At least, it sure sounds like it, based on this quote from Maria Nutick's review. 'This is a series that began with nowhere to go but up, but it's getting there....' What's she talking about? Well, she's reviewing the Justin de Quincy medieval mystery series by Sharon Kay Penman this week. She didn't think much of the first two books in the series, The Queen's Man and Cruel as the Grave. But the newest book, Dragon's Lair, just published this year after a five year hiatus in the series, shows real promise. Read Maria's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review for an indepth look at the whole series so far. You won't find a more thorough review out there.

Donna Bird picked up Jeff Rackham's novel, The Rag & Bone Shop, off the shelf at Borders more than once, looked at the cover, then put it back. Finally, she went ahead and bought it. Is she glad she yielded to impulse at last? Read her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to find out.

Rachel Manija Brown wins the first Grinch Award this holiday season for her review of Michael Korda's Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life. If you've read Rachel's reviews in the past, you know that she's very clear — and amusing — about why she does or doesn't like something. This review's no exception.

Craig Clarke says, 'I don't call Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light 'definitive' only because McGilligan [the author] takes up eight hundred pages.' Read Craig's review to see why else he considers this book a definitive look at The Director.

Christine Doiron really likes Bad Boys, a new picture book by Margie Palatini that tells the further adventures of two fairy tale wolves. But, she says, 'when it comes to the entertainment value of a picture book, it's really a child's opinion that counts.' So she read Bad Boys to her three-year-old son to get the verdict. Christine and her son share the Excellence in Writing Award for this review!

Judith Gennett also gets an Excellence in Writing Award this week, for her detailed, informative review of frå folk te' folk, a tune book by Dag Gården, written to accompany his and Knut Kjøk's CD of the same title. Judith tells you exactly what to expect from this collection of traditional tunes, which hail from the famed Gudbrandsdalen region of Norway.

David Kidney reviews two music-related books this week. The first is According to the Rolling Stones, co-written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. This book 'may not answer all your long-held questions about the band, but it's a classy and attractive souvenir ... A welcome surprise under the Christmas tree, for the rock fan who has everything.' David also waxes very enthusiastic about Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues, the companion book to Scorsese's PBS series that has garnered so much acclaim recently. 'Often these books are little more than an illustrated shooting script,' says David. 'Sometimes they are fleshed out with anecdotes from the making of the programmes. But Amistad's The Blues exists on a different plane than the video series does, entirely.' Read his review for all the lovely details you can expect to find in this book, which, naturally, David says you must have.

Jack Merry turned in seven book reviews for this issue! I'm guessing The Dead Heroes of Culloden and Danse Macabre must not have had many gigs this week. First up for Jack is Caviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World's Must Coveted Delicacy, by Inga Saffron, which made our reviewer remember fondly his last visit to St. Petersburg with his wife Brigid. 'Saffron, an obvious fanatical lover of caviar, writes with a passion that is as strong as her love. She takes the eating of salted sturgeon eggs to what one person noted is 'an almost spiritual level'.' Another delicacy is The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites by Elizabeth Prettejohn. As Jack mentions in his review, 'Collecting art books, really expensive art books, is a perk of working here at Green Man.' But he says that The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites would be worth the cover price even for someone not fortunate enough to work for a review magazine.

Jack admits that he could never remember the basic story of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death, even though he's read the book and seen the movie. But the audio version, newly released by Caedmon and read by Ethan Hawke, will be memorable. Read his review to see why. Jack also takes a look at The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner. 'This little book is a joy — a slender offering from an author that can be read in an evening.'

In his review of The Dark: New Ghost Stories, an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, Jack says, 'Horror is not, by any means, something that I seek out for me reading pleasure.' So why did he snatch this anthology of creepy tales the minute it came through the mail room door? Read his review to find out. On the other hand, in his next review, Jack turns right around and says, 'I lied in my review of The Dark: New Ghost Stories when I said that I don't read horror. I do. I read the Dave Robicheaux series, which has horrors so believable that both Clive Barker and Stephen King would turn a white shade of pale upon reading them! Forget ghosts, forget demons, forget vampires — N'Orleans has enough real horrors to scare any sane person.' The newest book in the Dave Robicheaux series, Last Car to Elysian Fields, has Jack's full approval. The author, James Lee Burke, has written a book in which 'all the characters feel real, the dialogue is well-crafted, the story believable, and the plotting tight.' Jack wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Finally, Jack gives us a review of a book that has Christmas as its theme, but is rather more 'bleak midwinter' than 'ding-dong merrily on high'. The book, by Stanley Weintraub, is entitled Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce. 'Reading about carols jointly sung by German and British soldiers, [and] trees decorated in No Man's Land ... is depressing,' says Jack. If you already know something about this bit of history that has entered our folklore, you can probably guess why he thinks so. If you don't, you'll want to read his review. Either way, you might want to find the book itself, which provides a fascinating historical exploration of a poignant story.

New reviewer Matej Novak reviews Harlequin Valentine, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by John Bolton. In his review, Matej says, 'Gaiman is a storyteller, one who time and again transcends genre and style, and Harlequin Valentine not only demonstrates his remarkable ability to bring together diverse elements, but also highlights the range of sources he draws on to bring his tales to life.' Matej wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this, his first book review with GMR.

Lenora Rose finds Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood, by Meredith Ann Pierce, to be 'a sumptuous book, with all the good things expected from Meredith Ann Pierce — and all the flaws.' Read Lenora's review to see what both the good things and the flaws are.

Wes Unruh says that he's always found Silver Ravenwolf to be 'a very accessible writer,' and her book American Folk Magic is no exception. However, Wes does find some faults in her presentation of the Pow Wow tradition as it has developed from its roots among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Grey Walker was handed an interesting little book recently by a friend, who thought she might like it, seeing how she reads and writes about fairy tales and such. The book is Beyond the Beanstalk: Interdisciplinary Learning through Storytelling by Lynn Rubright, and Grey does like it very much. Although Rubright wrote with educators in mind, Grey thinks that many of her ideas could be used by anyone who has an interest in telling stories.

Beowulf is very important to us here at GMR, and we stand ready and willing to review any new translation or study of the poem that we can find. This week, Matthew Scott Winslow provides us with an indepth review of an excellent critical edition of the Seamus Heaney translation, edited by Daniel Donoghue and published by Norton, who — justly, in Matthew's opinion — are reknowned for their critical editions of important literary works. Matthew also praises Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold, herself reknowned in the field of science fiction. This is the sequel to Bujold's earlier award-winning fantasy novel, The Curse of Chalion, and Matthew says, 'The strength of this book comes from Bujold's ability to create characters that are real. Ista [the protagonist] is incredibly enjoyable to follow, not least because she can be grumpy, smart and lustful, all within a few sentences — much like people in everyday life.' Matthew wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

And lastly, on a book-ish note, we were delighted to discover that The Endicott Studio finally has its Autumn edition up. We're certain you'll enjoy exploring it as much as we have.

Once upon a time, movies inspired amusement park rides and video games. Now, amusement park rides and video games are inspiring movies. Is this a good thing? Well, it was for Pirates of the Caribbean...Now Denise Dutton reveals why another Disney amusement park offering, The Haunted Mansion, fails the test. '[B]y trying to play to too many markets,' Denise explains 'Disney has bitten off more than it can chew, resulting in an uneven comedy that may be inappropriate to the family viewers it tries to win over.' Read her review to find out more.

One Thing, two Thing, what is this new Thing? Well, it's a new version of Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, and if that's not enough to catch your interest, how about a Latin translation of the original classic? Rebecca Scott brings us a review of the new Mike Myers film, coupled with Cattus Petasatus, an interesting twist on the original. Of the film, Rebecca says '[S]trict purists may balk, but all of the essential elements of the original story are here, and are reasonably good. The Cat, the kids, the rain, the fish, the Things, the magic, the mess.' Of the book...well, just go read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see what she thinks of the book. G'wan, we'll wait!



Tim Hoke recently took in a small show by the trio Chulrua. The trio performed in 'in handshake distance of the listeners', producing a terrific sound that the audience really enjoyed. Bookending slower tunes with two sets of reels, Chulrua kept the audience (primarily session regulars) absorbed and moving. Tim added to the experience by taking in the group's latest CD Down the Back Lane on the drive home. Recapping many of the songs he heard during the show, the CD yielded energetic dance tunes with the slip jigs that begin the CD and the reels that end it especially standing out. Take a look at Tim's review to get all of the details on the show and the CD.

Barb Truex had the opportunity to see the legendary Battlefield Band earlier this month. The 'Batties' really connect with their audience. 'Their warmth comes through on stage with talk about the songs, their travels, and some good jokes to boot.' Mixing great music with conversation helped break down any barriers between the audience and the band, drawing the audience into the show. The medleys especially stood out in the high-quality performance. The transitions between styles and instruments were done to perfection. Barb didn't have enough good things to say about the show - give her review a thorough read to find out why.



Reynard, the publican this afternoon, at your service! Ready for an Irish Coffee? Or how about a Hot Chocolate with a splash of rum in it? How did I know that you were in need of a bracing drink? Because I see that you've been ice skating down at the stream in Oberon's Wood -- the Air Brinker 200's over your shoulder and the ruddy cheeks tell me that! This unusually cold weather has been good for skating and a bit of bundling by the stream side fire, and, for our staff, hiding out in their offices and writing reviews. Did you see Grey down there? Earlier she commented to me that 'The stream was running too quickly when it froze, so the ice is pretty bumpy. But if you go downstream to the swimming hole, that's frozen over nicely. A couple of the brownies went down there with me Monday night and cleared the new snow off so we could skate. These Dutch skates I've got work really well, too!' Now shall we look at the reviews while you enjoy your Irish Coffee?

The name of Dan Vaillancourt's new CD, Live & Funktified, got Craig Clarke all excited: 'I'd like to begin this review by saying that 'funktified' is my new favorite word. I just like saying it. 'Funktified!' See how much fun that is? Try it.' But was the album as fun? Oh, yes: 'It's a fine, fun-filled, Funktified album.'

Faith Cormier says that the new CD, This New Founde Lande, from the Sharecroppers 'has fewer of the Sharecroppers' own tunes than either of their other albums, Natural and Home, Boys!. It's a pity. They write good lyrics. Incidentally, I really appreciate liner notes that include lyrics, and 'This New Founde Lande' has them. The cover shows the three singers with the fourth member of their trio, John Cabot.'

Carol Ponder has two CDs, Pretty Bird and Little Journeys, of which Tim Hoke says 'Fans of a good solo voice or ballad singing will enjoy these discs. Anyone else will likely lose interest quickly.'

Tim says that 'Celtic-Scandinavian acoustic fusion is what Kerstin Blodig calls her music. On Valivann, I hear most of that, especially the 'fusion' part, but I'm too much of stickler to call it 'acoustic', with all of the electronics and sampling in use here. There's an assortment of songs from Scotland and Norway, ballads for the most part. When I say ballad, I'm referring to a narrative, a song that tells a story, but Blodig also shows influence of another type of ballad, the jazz ballad.' Read his review to see why, despite this being in theory not his dram of single malt, Tim liked this recording.

The Blues are a considerable passion of David Kidney. He found something rather unique that he thinks you should know about: 'In the recent PBS series The Blues, one episode dealt entirely with the musical history of Memphis. Some of the most extraordinary images appeared in this film, and not least of them was an interview with Memphis' own Jim Dickinson. Dickinson is a friendly bear of a man, whiskered and garbed in plaid topped off with a baseball cap he discusses the old days on Beale Street, when he began his career backing up some of the greatest bluesmen ever. Since those early days he has worked with Alex Chilton, Toots Hibbert, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, the Rolling Stones, Mudhoney, Freddie Fender, and the list goes on, and on. The Delta Experimental Project sprung from Dickinson's abiding interest in the music being made in the south; it's been an ongoing project, and now Birdman Records has presented us with Volume 3.'

Paula Frazer's A Place Where I Know: 4-track songs 1992-2002 also appealed to David: 'Paula Frazer has a voice like an angel. All her publicity says so. Hmmm. Is this what angels sound like? There's a bit of Judy Collins in it, maybe a smidgen of Marina Belica... well, they sound like angels too, so I guess there's something to it! But Paula Frazer, in this set of bedroom demos, sounds like an earthbound angel. She surrounds herself with simple rhythmic acoustic guitar, and overdubs of that angelic voice, and creates a haunting, haunted sound.'

Logan's Breathe did not really catch the fancy of Peter Massey but he knows who it would appeal to: 'If you are into lightweight pop, sung brilliantly, with soul-searching lyrics, as I know a lot of people are - you will really enjoy this album. But look out for their next album. It will be hot. Logan could be on the way up.' Just as long as I don't have to hear it! Shudder!

Peter's other review this outing is about rock 'n' roll: 'For me rock 'n' roll has to be original, wild, and raw. So when this album Rockin' Memphis, subtitled 1960's - 1970's Vol. 1 came up for review I jumped at it. However it did not turn out to be quite what I expected; let me tell you why. In the days of my 'miss-spent youth' I played guitar and sang in rock bands in the early 1960's, just before the Beatles put Liverpool and my part of the world on the map. In those days most of the material for the sound that was to be cloned as 'Mersey Beat' was taken from 'rock' records that merchant sailors brought back from the U.S.A. All the Merseyside groups did was to take these songs and beef them up with their own arrangements. The rest is history.'

Fortune's Road is from Back of the Moon which is, according to Patrick Simmonds , 'yet another product of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the members having met there during their respective courses; another of the ridiculously talented young supergroups that Scotland seems to churn out with ease. The members are: Gillian Frame, fiddle and vocals Findlay Napier, guitar and vocals Simon McKerrel, pipes and vocals Hamish Napier, piano and flute' which means they are a 'very Scottish sounding album from a very Scottish sounding band. I like the album and look forward to hearing more from them.'

Cló Iar-Chonnachta has, according to Kim Bates, the Music Editor here, been sending us tasty CDs from some time now. Meaití Jó Shéamuis Ó Fátharta's Bóithríní an Locháin is the latest from them. Pat Simmonds says this recording 'is easily in my top five releases for the year and a fine example of how sean-nós singing is not only being preserved but developed, as all living vibrant traditions should, into the 21st century. Visitors to Ireland should make a point of seeking out sean-nós singing along the west coast. It can be hard to find but when someone turns a song in a quiet pub on a rain swept night it can be a life altering experience.'


I'm heading back down to the pub. That recorder player with the thundery hair hasn't been back yet, but tonight might be the night. You coming?

 

 

 

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2003, The Green Man Review.
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Updated 28 December 03, 02:30 GMT (MN)