This edition, we have stories about blackberry cobbler, a mannerpunk fantasy, Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale, Jane Eyre on the Beeb, travels to Kurdistan, fantasy's answer to cyberpunk, Nancy Drew mysteries, Irish folk rock, Oriental carpets, and Norwegian fiddling. First, let's see about that blackberry cobbler...
'Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.' -- Voltaire
Whisht! Hush now, will you, shhhh! Quick, over here, let's go in the hallway under the window ... outside the kitchen!
Oh, dear me, that's better! Have a seat, Miss Denise seems to be elsewhere, this is her favorite place to read, but we'll just sit out here for a bit, all right?
Whew! Thanks, darlin',didn't mean to rush you out like that, but Cook is sitting with her feet up, and none of us ever disturb her then. Not unless you like eating burnt meat and curdled custards for the next fortnight! Never visited the kitchens in the afternoon before, have you? I've nearly had a coronary, you coming in like that! I'll go and get us some tea in half a shake, how's that?
Cook has kept the staff on our toes, it's the season for it! Mr. Gus, the head gardener, has had a constant stream of his lads into the kitchens with lovely things from the gardens. Wonderful vegetables, the summer squash has certainly arrived, and, oh, the berries and stone fruits!
Late this morning they brought baskets and baskets of blackberries and peaches, ripe fit to burst, and I thought Cook would, too! Mr. Eldridge has asked for blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream -- made with Totonac vanilla -- tonight, for the staff dinner out on the back lawn. Cook let me help her with the cobbler! She says I've a nice light hand with the pastry and if I keep that up, I'll soon be head pastry chef! Wasn't that a nice thing for her to say! Her recipe for cobbler is wonderful; lots of sour cream and eggs inside. That's what you're smelling right now, the cobblers are cooling in the pantry.
Well, I say cobbler. Cook calls hers a crumble, and my granny would have called it a buckle. A grunt is covered with American-style biscuits, though, so it's definitely not a grunt.
Oh, I'm so sorry, my name's Kate. How d'you do? I'm the scullery maid. Sounds very Cinderella, dun'it? It's more sort of job title than a job description, though, even though I do help the dishwasher sometimes, and I'm a handy woman with a knife! It's a good way to start out in the kitchens, actually. Even though we call her 'Cook', Mrs. Clarke is really more of a chef -- you should see her putting the plates together for the fancy dinners! Such presentation.
At any rate, Cook has Mr. Gus's boys out churning the ice cream in the ice house -- lucky them. It's been so hot, I'd think they're quite grateful to be in the ice house! We'll have plenty of noise when they bring the tubs back down to go in the freezers -- are you staying for dinner tonight? Save room for dessert!
Would you like some tea? If I can manage it, I'll try for a few bites of one of the cobblers for a bit of a sneak preview, as well! I do love the eating in August, don't you?
Here, Miss Denise left this fortnight's issue on the seat, you can look at that while I boil up the pot ... be right back!
A fresh batch of letters from our readers
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror -- Nineteenth Annual Collection always makes it on to summertime must-read list for Cat Eldridge. Cat says, '[t]he strength of the YBFH collections has always been their ability to find the very best in short fiction in the fields of fantasy and horror. . . . I don't know about you, but I don't see enough short fiction each year to have a feel for what's the very best which has been published. Novels I see by the hundreds, single author collections, quite a few, but much of the really interesting short fiction appears in publications, both digital and hardcopy, that one never, ever would be expected to know about unless one was assembling an anthology like this.' These collections are always eagerly anticipated here at GMR, and with each year the question is the same; will the new edition live up to the one's before? With their change in editorship, it's a valid question. Cat's review answers that question nicely.
Ellen Kushner has been well-represented in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror over the years including three stories that are part of her mannerpunk fantasy series which started with her Swordspoint novel -- 'The Swordsman Whose Name was Not Death' included in the Fifth Annual Collection, 'The Fall of the Kings' which she wrote with Delia Sherman which is in the Eleventh Annual Collection, and 'The Death of the Duke' in the Twelfth Annual Collection, So it should be no surprise to you that our other featured review is of her new novel in this series, The Privilege of the Sword. Robert M. Tilendis says in his review that Ellen has lived up to Swordspoint: 'If Swordspoint is a perfect gem, The Privilege of the Sword is the gem in its full setting: elegant, wicked, funny, intelligent, and fluent. There is, as is so often the case with truly good books, much more to this one than I can possibly discuss here. Read them both. And if you can find the short stories, read those, too.'
After getting an early peek at Robert's review, Ellen Kushner noted in a conversation with our Editor in the Pub over pints of Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale that all three stories are available in the 2003 Bantam Spectra edition of Swordspoint. In addition, she noted Small Beer Press is proud to publish a limited edition hardcover edition of The Privilege of the Sword.
Donna starts things off looking at a reprint of Honore de Balzac's The Centenairan and doesn't exactly like what she's found. 'Originally published in serial form in 1822 under the pseudonym Horace de Saint-Aubin, The Centenarian is one of Balzac's earliest novels. Although he later denied its authorship, both his personal records and those of the publisher make it quite clear that he wrote the book. Professors Danièle Chatelain and George Slusser, who translated the text into English (and wrote the introduction, as well as translators' notes, an extensive essay on French science fiction, endnotes, and an afterword), provide sufficient evidence to support this assertion, and I recognize enough of Balzac's style in it so that I couldn't disagree. To be honest, The Centenarian reminded me quite a lot of The Wrong Side of Paris. Alas, I wish that were a compliment.'
Christiane Bird's A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan and Kevin McKiernan's The Kurds: A People in Search of Their Homeland both look at the Kurds, so Donna took a look at them both in this fascinating review. 'If you pay any attention to the situation in Iraq or to Turkey's efforts to enter the European Union, you've surely heard about the Kurds, if only in passing. Regular readers of the Green Man Review may have noticed that we don't ordinarily review books that deal with current events. I think the antiquity of our office building has an effect on our consciousness, causing us to think of historical roots rather than their current manifestations. Fortunately, both of these books about the Kurds provide at least a modicum of information about those historical roots. We received a copy of McKiernan's book from the publisher at about the same time we found a copy of Bird's (no relation to me, thank you) on the remainder table at our favorite independent local bookstore. It made sense to me to include them both in this review.' But are they both worth your time? Donna's Excellence In Writing Award winning review gives all the details.
Often felt like taking a magic carpet ride? Donna's look at Murray L. Eiland, Jr. and Murray Eiland III's Oriental Carpets: A complete Guide could just give you the push you need to try that journey, though you may not want to take the book with you when you're trying to figure out what to pack for your trip: 'Although I have reviewed quite a few books in which carpets from the Middle or Far East figured prominently, this is the first I've read or reviewed that literally focuses on the carpets. And I really did read it, if not word for word, then at least page for page. That was quite an accomplishment. It's a huge volume, nine and a half inches wide by twelve and a half inches high, with 350+ pages printed on heavy, glossy stock. It's heavy enough that I had to hold it on my lap or put it on the dining room table while I turned the pages. I don't think it's the kind of book you'd want to carry around in your backpack!'
Donna Bird also looks at Jason Goodwin's The Janissary Tree. 'I knew when I saw this on the new arrivals table at our local big box bookstore that I wanted to read and review it. Another murder mystery set in nineteenth-century Istanbul! Awesome! . . . Set in 1839, The Janissary Tree builds off an incident that took place ten years before the so-called Auspicious Event, in which Sultan Mahmut II quelled a Janissary revolt (that some say he fomented) by having their Istanbul barracks fired upon, their property seized, and many of the survivors tracked down and executed.' Donna leads you through the Turkish delights in her Excellence In Writing Award winning review
.J.J.S. Boyce gets his hands on Prador Moon, Neil Asher's latest, and turns in an Excellence In Writing Award winning review. But his first glimpse of this book worried him a bit. 'When I received Asher's latest in my mailbox, my first thought was that it looked a little thin. I checked the number of pages: 222. Uh oh, I thought. This isn't going to last me very long. And it didn't. Although his books are usually over 500 pages, Asher's novels are always very fast reads for me. He has this habit of making me keep on reading until I finish or am forced to stop, possibly by a chorus of horns from behind me, alerting me that the light has turned green.' Not enough of a good thing? Sounds promising, indeed.
'Memory, identity, humanity. Classic science fiction points of inquiry, and Glasshouse has them in spades. We start out the story with our protagonist, Robin, who is in a sort of recovery clinic from major memory surgery, together with a lot of other patients who've had something removed: their pasts. He doesn't know who he is -- or rather, was -- but his enemies haven't forgotten. With nothing more than a vague, truncated warning note from his former self, and a healthy dose of paranoia, he has to try and stay alive while trying to figure out what he used to know before the knowledge was taken from him.' J.J.S. Boyce goes on to deliver an Excellence In Writing Award winning review of this mysterious novel. Is it worth your time to give this one a look? Read his review and solve that mystery yourself!
Faith Cormier takes on The Guises of the Morrígan: Irish Goddess of Sex & Battle: Her Myths, Powers & Mysteries Phew! That's a mouthful, and that's only the title! Faith had some idea of what lay between these pages, but her first idea wasn't exactly what she found. 'What did I expect before I had a chance to examine The Guises of the Morrígan? Something a tad spicier, with lush descriptions of a vanished world. The sex and the battles are in there, of course, but the descriptions are pretty matter-of-fact and not at all graphic.' What a shame. Faith's well-researched review will let you know if it's worth reading even without the naughty bits.
Denise Dutton looks at Girl Sleuth:. 'This book takes a comprehensive look at the writers who penned the Nancy Drew mysteries, and also shows readers how Nancy managed to stay on the bookshelves of young girls everywhere for all these years. Yes, I said writers, not writer. Neither the title of the book nor this paragraph carries a typo (well, not in that regard, at least). Carolyn Keene was a pen-name, an author created by Edward Stratemeyer's Stratemeyer Syndicate, a stable of writers who acted as ghostwriters for make-believe authors. The authors didn't exist in life, but they ended up being very well known, thanks to their creations, among them The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Diana Dare and Nancy Drew. That Carolyn Keene wasn't someone flesh-and-blood was a shock to my system.' See what else shocked her in her review!
She took also looks at a classic of modern science fiction, George Stewart's Earth Abides. 'Originally published in 1949, it is considered by many as a classic in the area of post-apocalyptic speculative fiction. Having been a fan of A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Stand, I was eager to read this author's take on the end of the world as we know it.' There are plenty of award-winning and highly regarded books out there that over the years lose their relevance, or seem simplistic by today's standards. Denise's review will let you know if this book still has the strength to enlighten and entertain as it did when it was first published.
A shady tree, something cool to drink, and cold blooded murder. Sound like a nice way to spend a summer's afternoon? You bet. So Cat Eldridge decided to crack Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballads series. 'Now over the years, I've been lucky enough to find some very good series, such as James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series, Sharon Penman's Justin de Quincy medieval mysteries, Ellis Peter's Cadfael novels, A. E. Maxwell's Fiddler mysteries, and Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels. I have always started and been disappointed by more debut mystery novels than I really care to remember! Most were barely worth reading for more than fifty pages; some weren't worth reading beyond the first chapter as they were truly horrid. Either the characters were uninteresting or, worse yet, the mystery itself was poorly presented. So even if a series has really good mysteries in its novels but, as I noted above, the characters were so uninteresting that they failed to engage me, I won't read it. Not so here . . .'.
Cat also looks at Caroline Graham's The Killings at Badger's Drift: 'A first edition of this novel, which inspired The Midsomer Murders series in Britain, will set you back some six hundred dollars! Fortunately Felony & Mayhem has published a new edition that costs considerably less.' Cat's a fan of English mysteries, but he wasn't exactly crazy about this book. His review solves that mystery, and gives plenty of information on other ways to satisfy a craving for murder most foul.'
Swords of Haven is a trade paper omnibus of the first three books of the Hawk & Fisher series: Hawk & Fisher, Winner Take All, and The God Killer. (The first two novels had alternate titles in the U.K. -- Hawk and Fisher was No Haven for the Guilty, and Winner Takes All was The Devil Take the Hindmost.) I'm fairly sure that I read all of the Hawk & Fisher novels when they were published a decade or so ago, but it was still a delight to get this review copy from Ace a few weeks back.' A good husband and wife detective team is hard to come by, and Simon Green's Nightside series is a big hit here at GMR so Cat's review is definitely worth checking out!
The Complete Stephen King Universe: A Guide to the Worlds of Stephen King lived up to the expectations of April Gutierrez, and then some. 'The largest typeset blurb on the back cover of The Complete Stephen King Universe sets a high standard for the book to meet, and posits a lofty literary thesis, to boot, 'The myriad worlds and universes King has created are, in reality, one world, one universe. Here is the guide to that universe.' Not a guide, mind you. The guide. Written by Christopher Golden and other notable horror fans/writers. No small claim, but considering the breadth and depth of the volume's contents, it's a fair one.' Her Excellence In Writing Award winning look at this guide gives you an idea why this should be on every King fan's bookshelf.
She says 'Lights, Camera, Amalee is singer-songwriter Dar Williams' second Young Adult novel featuring pre-teen Amalee, her single father, and their close friends, both adults and kids. . . . This time around, we spend summer vacation with Amalee as she makes a movie about the importance of endangered species.' Is Amalee's summer vacation interesting enough to keep you entertained through the last bits of your summer? April let's you know in her review!
April's reviewed earlier volumes in the Fables series, and now turns to Fables 6: Homelands, and Fables 7: Arabian Nights (And Days). 'Homelands, which contains issues 34-41, opens with 'Jack Be Nimble,' wherein Jack, ever the Trickster, lands in Hollywood with a car full of money and a Plan. He develops a movie empire centered around a trio of autobiographical movies called: 'The Jack Tales.' Of course, no one knows they're about him. . . . Arabian Nights (and Days), spanning issues 42-47, unsurprisingly, introduces new characters from The Arabian Nights, most notably Sinbad and a djinn of unknown name, but immeasurable powers.' Read her review to see why these stories keep her interest.Kino no Tabi is another YA novel that April takes a look at for this issue. 'Kino no Tabi is a delightful beginning to a series. While it is a Young Adult novel (part of Tokyopop's new Pop Fiction imprint), this adult was utterly entranced by the premise, and by Kino herself).' April's review will give you a good idea why this story was so enchanting. Here's hoping that Pop Fiction will put out more first-rate stories, and soon!
April performs a YA hat trick with her review of Scrapped Princess: Volume 1: 'Scrapped Princess is one of the first volumes in the new Pop Novel series that Tokyopop has started in the wake of their monumental success with manga, in the hopes of reaching a wider audience. It's intelligent, easy to read and equal parts wit, action and plot. It's intelligent, easy to read and equal parts wit, action and plot. Engaging enough for older readers, but not out of reach of younger ones ...Scrapped Princess is a marvelous fantasy.' In the spirit of this year's World Cup, goooooal!
Michael M. Jones reviews a second story set in James A. Hetley's Stonefort, Maine, Dragon's Teeth: 'The backwoods of Maine are a breeding ground for the strange and the unusual. Case in point: the town of Stonefort, home to two uniquely powerful clans. The Haskells are witches, dedicated to protecting women and children from the dangers of the world, healing them of old wounds and hidden hurts. The Morgans are selkies, seal-blooded shapeshifters who serve an ancient entity known only as the Dragon. Applying their talents as thieves and pirates, the Morgans are almost fanatically fond of their privacy. Together, these two families, united by uneasy ties of family, loyalty and shared interests, have worked together to keep their small hometown as safe as possible. Unfortunately, not all of their problems are easily disposed of.' Michael earns an Excellence In Writing Award for his intriguing look at this tale.
Michael also reviews Nightwatch, the first story in the Russian World of Watches series, and another look into supernatural societies. 'There is a world beyond the everyday one, a world filled with shapeshifters, sorcerers, demons, and more. Collectively, they are the Others, supernatural beings who live among us, and police their own kind with a strict series of checks and balances. The Night Watch, representing the cause of the Light, face off daily against the Day Watch, who keep the forces of the Dark in line. Should one side ever get out of hand, the other is always there to make sure balance is restored, in one fashion or another. And so things have gone for many years. And now, in modern-day Moscow, things are about to get interesting.' The movie based on this novel made a splash among genre fans, and Michael will tell you if the novel is as interesting.
Finally, Michael has an update for us: 'Meet John Taylor, a private investigator with a unique knack for locating anything - or anyone - he puts his mind to. After five years away, he's about to return to the Nightside, the black heart of a hidden London, where it's always 3 AM and everything is for sale. Taylor's return will stir up old grudges, awaken old secrets, and change the Nightside irrevocably. In three bizarre cases, fantasy will hit reality like an obscene freeway pileup, spilling its unspeakable, unforgettable contents across the landscape of the imagination. From carnivorous houses to genocidal angels, from femmes fatale to villians dire, one man stands ready to investigate the hidden secrets of the Nightside. And in A Walk On The Wildside, the omnibus collection from Ace of the first three books in Simon R. Green's hyperimaginative urban fantasy series, John Taylor will go above and beyond the call of duty. This volume reprints Something from the Nightside, Agents of Light and Darkness, and Nightingale's Lament, and is the perfect way to get caught up with the adventures of John Taylor.'
It's no secret that David Kidney is a music lover. You have to be, to wade through the vast music collection here at GMR! So it's no surprise that he got his hands on Factory Records: the Complete Graphic Album . 'Green Man Review has reviewed collections of album covers before, and other musical memorabilia, but I don't think we've ever had a book which collected the work of one studio. Factory Records came along in 1978 to 'usher in the innovative sound and style of the Post-Punk and New Wave era.' . . . Interestingly they saw each and every project that they did as the next Factory project. Therefore, instead of assigning release numbers to their records only, they numbered each project consecutively. So, if a poster came out before the record it was numbered appropriately. When they opened a club, the club received the next number in line. And so on. This book is numbered FAC 461 (the four hundred and sixty-first project undertaken by Factory!) And all the other 460 projects are collected within these pages!'
David also finds the time to review The Complete Peanuts, 1959-1960. 'The Complete Peanuts is an on-going labour of love for editor Gary Groth and designer Seth. And it's a semi-regular treat to receive the next volume. This is the fifth book so far and we're up to 1959-60. I was eight years old, and reading the comics for myself, so some of these simple strips are starting to look familiar to me. Of course, many of them have been reprinted in paperbacks or in deluxe versions over and over, but always in 'selected' collections. Never before has the collected work of Charles Schulz been made available in this way. And credit must be given to Groth and Seth for the detail and love that has gone into this presentation.'
Lisa Spangenberg turns in a review of the children's novel Changeling. 'Unknown to ordinary mortals, there are at least two New Yorks, which share geography, but not reality. Changeling is mostly set in New York Between, and Neef is a Changeling, the Changeling of the title, and lives in the Otherworld of New York Between. More specifically, she lives in Manhatten's Central Park, under the guardianship of her fairy godmother Astris the White Rat, and her fairy Godfather, the shapeshifting Pouka, and the protection of the geni loci, or Genius of Central Park, The Green Lady.' Sounds a little like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and that's a very good thing indeed. Read Lisa's review to see if this story is just as interesting!
Robert M. Tilendis closes out this issue's book reviews with a peek at Blood and Iron. 'One of the freshest and most interesting developments in fantasy literature over the past decade or two has been the emergence of what I tend to call 'contemporary fantasy.' Known also as 'urban fantasy' or sometimes 'mythic literature,' it combines the trappings and motifs of classic fantasy and sometimes horror with a modern-day, usually urban milieu. It also moves freely into other genres. Call it fantasy's answer to cyberpunk. It has that kind of fluidity and, more often than not, that kind of hard-edged, dark vision. Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron, the latest such novel to come my way, is the story of what turns out to be the latest battle in an ongoing and centuries-long war between the Courts of Faerie, whose power is of song and bindings and innate gifts, and the Magi of the Prometheus Club, whose magic is a thing of arcane knowledge and iron weapons, against which the Fae have little recourse.' Judging by the reviews in this issue alone, contemporary fantasy has certainly taken a hold here at GMR. Robert's Excellence In Writing Award winning review should whet your appetite to try this brand of fantasy for yourself!
Denise Dutton here, with a few film reviews to whet your whistle during the dog days of summer. A few scares, a classic retold, and a new movie from a favorite author. Hopefully there's something that'll keep you inside when the air conditioning is a stronger pull than the summer heat.
Starting things off is a look at a film that came out last year to some controversy. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a horror tale that had many up in arms over it's subject matter. Always one to look under the bed and check out bumps in the night, I didn't need any coaxing to give this DVD a try. Need a peek before you jump in? All right, here you go . . . 'As children, we all thought about things living in our closet, underneath the bed, or in the basement. Dark, scary things that made us jump into bed, calling for our parents when things became too much to bear. As we got older, creaks in the stairs late at night gave us the chills, and we called out to friends or told ourselves that it wasn't anything but a sure sign of shoddy home craftsmanship. But are those things signs of the devil among us? Or incidences easily explained by science and architecture? The Exorcism of Emily Rose shows us how perception, and perhaps faith, can temper circumstances, making anything possible.' Who's right and who's wrong? Can anyone know for sure? This review doesn't answer these questions, but it does shed some light on this thought-provoking tale.
Jane Eyre is one of those stories that can be told time and time again. And it has been. I've seen just about every single one of them, and so adding the 1973 BBC adaptation to my list wasn't a hardship by any means. But just because I like the tale doesn't mean every version is worth your time. In this instance though, I urge you to give the review, and the adaptation, a look.
Underworld was a pretty good horror romp when it came out in 2003. But when it's sequel came out, the sophomore slump cloud hung heavy, as is most often the case with horror sequels. And honestly, is anyone really keeping their hopes up for a high-quality Friday the 13th film anymore? But hope springs eternal, and with the promise of the same stars and the same director at the helm, Underworld: Evolution has the makings of another rip-roaring roller coaster ride. But is it? This film looks like the start of a francise, with talk of two additional films planned, thanks to the popularity of the first film. Does Evolution set the stage for a worthwhile series? Take a look at the review for some insight.
Hi, there -- Letters Editor Robert here, with a new installment, although I have to say it's taken some time to reach what I call 'critical mass.' These things tend to come in waves, you know, and I guess it's been low tide for a month or two. Of course, if you're in the eastern half of North America, there were the mental short circuits caused by record heat, and, on my part at least, a complete lack of interest in communicating with anyone about anything, but that seems to be history, at least for now. (There is a phenomenon called 'estivation,' which some animals due in summer when it gets too hot for them. I envy them the ability.) So, on to the back-and-forth that is such a necessary part of GMR.
The music never stops around here. If we're not at the Pub playing in, or listening to the Neverending Session, we're in our offices typing away at one of the old Underwoods that Cat had specially modified for us. The rhythmic clicking can be heard all down the long reviewers' hall, and even down here in the sub-basement. Different music drifts through the halls too...if you listen carefully you'll hear a bodhran, some bones, a flute lilting above the rhythm, maybe a trio singing in perfect harmony, a blast of electric guitar, the wheeze of a harmonica, an orchestra tunes up, two acoustic guitars and the rough hewn vocals of a Texas songster, it's all there. Look at the piles of CDs we haven't got to yet. Not because we don't like 'em, but just because we get so many! This issue we look at more than a dozen releases, and for the most part we look kindly at 'em!
Craig Clarke listened to The Cure, the Saw Doctors' first new album since 2001. '[It's] only their sixth in 15 years,' Craig says, 'They have been busy in the meantime, singles and b-sides collection, Play it again, Sham! in 2002 (my introduction to the band) and the concert CD and DVD of Live in Galway in 2004. In that time, there has been a good deal of band-member turnover, but founders, frontmen and songwriters Davy Carton (lead vocals) and Leo Moran (guitars) still remain, with bassist/saxophonist Anthony Thistlethwaite and drummer Fran Breen (both of whom have played with The Waterboys; Thistlethwaite was a founder) rounding out the rest. Keyboardist Derek Murray appears on a few songs...' How do they sound? Read the review!
Staff writer Christopher Conder begins his review of Chris Wood's new CD with a quote from Mr. Wood himself. '''In this world of movers and shakers and pigeon hole makers the froth they peddle blows halfway around the world before common sense has got its boots on. For my part, every album, every gig, every song is a counterblast to this froth.' So writes Chris Wood in the sleeve notes to The Lark Descending. And every word, every moment of the album resounds with a measured majesty. The songs on here won't deliver sugar-rush thrills, but they do make up a masterpiece by an artist at the peak of his powers.' I think it's safe to say he likes it, but read Christopher's whole review to find out why!
Faith J. Cormier writes about the great Odetta's recent 'Shine' CD. 'My only complaint about this recording is the uneven sound quality. The music is wonderful. The introduction, both to the whole concert and to each song, is very hard to hear. You may as well skip the whole 'Intro' track, unless your hearing is much more acute than mine. The liner notes by Bernice Johnson Reagon are informative and the photos are gorgeous, with warm, vivid colours. Odetta has been a pivotal figure in American music for half a century.' Remember that Faith said, 'the music is wonderful' as you check out her review.
You earn your stripes at GMR by writing, and Scott Gianelli has been writing like crazy! The first of his four reviews is Dar Williams' 'My Better Self' CD. 'The category of female singer-songwriters who play acoustic guitar and sing some combination of country, folk, and rock is very crowded, but Dar Williams has managed to distinguish herself over the past decade-and-a-half with a flair for melody, a sense of humor, and strong social and political conscience. Her albums can be criticized for being predictable and formulaic, though. For better or worse, her latest effort My Better Self is largely what anybody familiar with Williams' work would expect it to be.' Good thing? Or bad? Find out for yourself right here.
Next Scott directs his attention to Harv, for some Swedish music. 'Last year, the band Harv followed up its excellent album Tost! with Polka Raggioso, another collection of mostly original tunes rooted in the Swedish fiddling tradition...Harv have essentially assumed the role...of Sweden's leading proponents of aggressive, percussion-driven fiddle music. As a result, purists will probably not care for their sound so much, while those drawn to contemporary Nordic folk music for the way it exploits the edginess inherent in the tradition will like this a lot.' Interested? Read more here.
From Sweden Scott flies to France to check out Gabriel Yacoub's The Simple Things We Said: 'A couple of things have changed in Yacoub's music since his Malicorne days. For one thing, while most of the songs...are sung in French, [he] also sings in English on a couple of songs. The title song is an anglicized version of an older song of his called 'Les Choses Les Plus Simple.' He wrote a short English song 'Letter From America' for the album, and does a chilling cover of the song 'You Stay Here' from one of his favorite English-speaking songwriters, Richard Shindell... A greater focus is placed on Yacoub's guitar playing, which has improved significantly over the years.' All this and a guest appearance by the McGarrigles! Read the whole review!
Then it's off to Finland, or maybe Norway, I can't keep track of Scott's travels! 'When NorthSide released Frigg's delightful self-titled debut album in 2004, it marked the emergence of a new generation of musicians from a pair of prominent fiddling families from Finland and Norway. Now [they] have returned with a new CD Oasis. Happily, Frigg's sophomore effort exceeds its predecessor by quite a bit, with tighter playing, a more diverse sound, and some ambitious arrangements and original compositions.' Anyone interested in the fiddle should check out this review.
David Kidney stayed closer to home with his choices this month, but still managed to hear a fascinating collection of material. His first review begins this way, 'James Dickey wrote the classic novel of survival, Deliverance. You'll recall the importance folk music (and especially a guitar and banjo duet) played in the film. Dickey was an amateur guitar picker himself, and in his follow up book Sorties (a collection of journals and essays) he expressed himself clearly and controversially about many subjects. Perhaps the most memorable of these opinions, and the one which had an immediate and long-lasting impact on me, was the following comment. 'The debasement of all folk styles that have ever existed in the world comes to a culmination in Bobbie Gentry.' Whew! We here at GMR have awarded some Grinch Awards, and we've heard some bad music but I don't think we've ever blamed any artist (and her work) for the collapse of civilization!' Was Mr. Dickey too harsh? Is Mr. Kidney too soft? Judge for yourself.
David then played the Friends of Fahey Tribute disc. The name sound familiar? 'John Fahey was an acoustic guitar player, and later in life, a record company executive. With money from an inheritance he (and partner 'music obsessive' Dean Blackwood,) started Revenant Records, which has produced a couple of monumental CD collections, the Captain Beefheart set Grow Fins and the dazzling Charley Patton set Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues to name just two. But, John Fahey was a guitar player first and foremost... There have been a couple tribute albums dedicated to his memory since he passed away in 2001. Green Man might have reviewed one or two of them.' Here's another one. The tribute albums are piling up...is this one worth a listen? Find out what David thinks.
After remastered Gentry, and interpretive guitar playing, it was a bit of a relief to find a Canadian muso who had released an album of new material. David seems to be suffering from some early onset alzheimer's, 'When you've been listening to music as long as I have, you find that there's a reference point for almost everything. You put on a new CD, and within a couple of seconds you're thinking, 'Hmmm, sounds like Tim Hardin!' or 'Hey, didn't they lift that guitar solo from Jimi Hendrix?' And sometimes these reference points help in the review. It's kinda fun to be able to lead off with a potent image like, 'If Frank Sinatra was the lead singer for the Clash, they might have made an album that sounded like this...' And those leads, if done thoughtfully, will once in a while see your review quoted in the future press packets. And who doesn't enjoy being quoted in the press?...All this is just to say, I can't remember who Danny Michel sounds like! The guy is a dead ringer for someone else's voice, but every time the image of who it is comes into sight, it is obliterated by the strength of Michel's own songs and personality. I guess that's a good thing, but it's still driving me mad.' Does he ever figure it out? Read on... here.
Peter Massey reviews a CD by Roy Clinging and Neil Brookes. He starts with a personal anecdote...'I first met Roy Clinging over 35 years ago at 'Jones Ale' folk club held in the Watergate Inn, Chester. In those days Roy was a shy young man sitting in the audience taking it all in and obviously waiting to pluck up courage to have a go and get up and sing. Thankfully, someone did encourage Roy to sing and the rest is now history as Roy learnt his craft. Over the past 20 years or so, Roy Clinging has carved out a solid niche and reputation as a singer of traditional, and occasionally a contemporary song, amongst the traditional purists in the U.K. This is no easy task and is a reputation he richly deserves, for he painstakingly researches into the songs he sings. Accompanying himself on the concertina, he delivers a song in a plain fashion allowing the words and the melody to carry the songs, indeed as do most traditional singers.' Interested? Check out the whole article.
'James Galway has had a long successful career, and he probably has a larger audience than any of the groups and singers we usually write about in Green Man Review...' Lars Nilsson takes on the challenge of reviewing The Essential James Galway. He continues, '[Galway] is even mentioned in the two most important Swedish encyclopedias. In the latest it says he has gained world wide popularity through his broad repertoire and his virtuosity. The earlier one tells of a career including being first flutist in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and playing for the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the best classical orchestras in the world. It also tells of his 18-carat gold flute, a long way from the wooden flutes used in Irish folk music.' Is this album 'essential'? Find out right here!
Then our local Celtic music specialist John O'Regan writes about a trio of Irish singers. 'These three different aspects of the Irish male vocal canon, the Irish tenor, the social activist/balladeer and the astute singer/songwriter conjure up various strands of the canvas of Irish music. Ronan Tynan, Pól MacAdaim, and Peter O'Malley are Irish renaissance men--whose output covers personal politics from the religious to the subliminal in a diversely individual manner. They are three talents whose contribution to Irish music echoes three important facets of Irish life, the spiritual, political and observational.' For John's other insights go here.
Our new Assistant Live Editor Mike Wilson reviews...well...let him speak for himself... 'One Two Three Four is the fourth album from New York City's Linda Draper. If there were a singer-songwriter recipe for Linda Draper it may well contain a little of Lisa Loeb's kookiness, a dash of Beth Orton's ethereal wistfulness and lashings of Suzanne Vega's dark, sardonic lyrical tendency.' In the mood for some kooky but ethereal (not to mention sardonic) lyrics? Check out Mike's review. That's the music that's been drifting down the halls of the Green Man building over the past few weeks. Hope we have been some help to you. See you in a couple of weeks with a whole new batch of good stuff!
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Updated by a seannachie who knows a good wee dram of single malt is always in order.