Welcome. Glad you could stop by for a few minutes. I gather the directions were adequate -- this is not an easy room to find, which is perfectly OK. It's nice to have a little hidey-hole where no one can find you if you don't want to be found. Oh, no, not at all -- the directions here only work once. If you want to visit again, I'll have to give you a new set. Here, just make yourself comfortable over here by the fire. It's still a little nippy out in the evening, and I like having a nice fire to warm my toes while I'm reading, since the cats would rather be warming themselves. Yes, somehow they always seem to be able to find my little refuge, but then, they're cats. Would you like a cocktail? I've got some nice scotch here, or perhaps a good dark rum? The demeraras are wonderful on the rocks with just a squeeze of lime. No, just move a cat and have a seat. Oh, those are perfectly anonymous chrome chairs from the thirties that I found at a second-hand store and had fixed up. They're really amazingly comfortable -- good cushions -- and the lines are superb. Excellent design. Sorry for the clutter -- I've just gotten a raft of new books and CDs that I'm still sorting out. I hate trying to review things willy-nilly, so I like to put them in groups that make some sort of sense, and I haven't quite gotten this batch figured out yet. There you are -- ah, I thought you'd like that. It's the lime that makes it work. Oh, the Bechstein? No, I don't play -- I figure there's one area where I should just be free to enjoy without having any sort of investment. The Bechstein was a gift -- supposedly belonged to Bartok and was smuggled out of Hungary before the War. I have no idea how one smuggles a grand piano.
I see you've noticed the photographs. Yes, I've always loved that Weston -- it's a study of his son Neil, and it has such a wonderful look, like a Roman sculpture. The cropping only reinforces that feeling -- like an ancient marble torso dug out of the ruins somewhere. I suppose these days someone would call it child pornography and want it burned, but I don't find it erotic at all, not like the Skrebneski over there. That's always been one of my favorites of his. No, my own are in sleeves in my studio, where they belong -- I don't really want to be surrounded by my own work all the time. Well, except for this one, which is about my favorite piece of my own. That's actually a digital print -- no, really. It's from a black-and-white negative and I photoshopped the hell out of it to put in the color. The flat file over there has most of the landscapes except for these Callahans -- I love the way the grasses and reeds echo each other; they make such a great pair, light and dark like that. The Victorian pornography is with the art books, over here, next to the poetry. I picked them up at auction a few years ago. They're really funny when one considers 'dirty pictures' these days, and I have to confess, I can't let go of the idea that at least some of them are tongue-in-cheek -- if you'll pardon the expression. The science fiction and fantasy are over here, next to the folklore and mythology, and then there's the anthropology, psychology, history and biography section next to the window seat. I love being able to sit there and look out into the garden from time to time while I'm reading. Then the classic and 'mainstream' literature and the oddball things that don't quite fit any other category.
And of course, there's the music wall. Ah, you noticed -- yes, there are five walls. It seemed appropriate. Actually, there are more when I need them, but that won't happen for a while yet. I think. Anyway, the LPs are in these cabinets along with the cylinders and rolls and a few other more arcane media -- crystals and glass threads and the like. Those are all too fragile to play very often. I gave up trying to keep the music separated by type -- it's all just in there by artist or composer, because I've discovered so much cross-fertilization, especially in the more modern
things, that trying to separate Western from Eastern and symphonies from new age or electropop just doesn't work any more. Good sound system and a nice Eames chair, and I'm all set when I want to listen to something. Oh, that's actually my writing table. I like to be able to look out the window while I'm writing, too, and sometimes my office is just too convenient for visitors, so I hide out here when I've got a looming deadline. There's a laptop in the drawer.
What would you like to hear? There's a new recording of piano solos by Keith Jarrett that I haven't heard yet, or perhaps some early Scottish music? The new volumes of that wonderful survey of Javanese gamelan haven't arrived, but I could pull out one of the earlier ones. There, isn't that wonderful? Much less frenetic than Balinese. We can follow up
with this new CD of medieval Icelandic music, or perhaps some Samuel Barber -- there's a nice collection that just came in, including the Adagio It's a very intelligent interpretation by Thomas Schippers that avoids all the syrup. Not quite as clean as Kronos Quartet's version, but very good.
Well, here I've been running on like a lunatic. Let's just get comfortable and have a nice chat. Perhaps even chat a bit about the music reviews this edition...
Kim Bates has a look at a very rare event -- a live Oysterband recording! She says 'Sometimes your early loves remain become the source of hideous embarrassment (like an old haircut). Other times they help to form the part of you that seems somehow reasonable as the decades advance. And so it is that I'm happy when I listen to the Oysterband; their songs still resonate with my journey, and I look forward to new releases, to the sound of John Jones' voice, curious about what new directions the lads will take. Northern Lights is not a release of new material, but, as the Web site tells us, a souvenir from their live shows of almost a decade ago.'
The Dixie Dregs performance at Montreux in 1978 has been captured on DVD in the popular Live at Montreux series. Samantha Gillogly casts an eye over it for us, and finds quite an exhilarating performance. 'Without a doubt, the stars of this show are Morse and Sloan. Their virtuosity explodes in torrents of white-hot improvisational solos. Sloan's violin-playing ranges from sweet and lyrical to gritty and frenzied ... Fantastic flurries emanate, too, from drummer Rod Morgenstein and keyboardist Mark Parrish. Both are a joy to hear (and watch). Hair flying, grins flashing, and sweat pouring from their temples, they fly across their instruments with undiluted exhilaration.' Samantha concludes by saying 'I highly recommend this disc for a high-flying hour of spectacular entertainment. But be warned: if you're wearing socks, you can bet they'll be knocked off!' So, hold on to your socks and have a read of Samantha's glowing review!
Barbara Truex and Christopher White take us on their Monday night out at Camden Opera House last month, in the company of a truly wonderful Irish band, Solas. 'Solas exemplifies the best in contemporary Celtic music. The members obviously care a great deal about the tradition, but as a living thing, not an aural artefact to be preserved in amber. Each member is extremely talented and all bring their considerable gifts to bear to create a satisfying whole in which the sum is greater than the whole of the parts. If Solas is appearing near you, get your tickets early and go prepared for a wonderful experience.' It sounds like a good night was had by all -- read all about it 'ere!
Donna Bird in her Excellence in Writing Award winning review has a confession: 'I am old enough to remember listening to the early Byrds singles on my transistor radio when I walked to high school from my house. I liked them better than the Beatles, but not as much as the Rolling Stones or the Jefferson Airplane or the Who. Listening to the first couple of CDs in this retrospective boxed set took me back, as in 'I think I'm goin' backS' to a more innocent time in my life and in the ongoing saga of the music industry. I also remember playing later Byrds songs... ...So I was quite enthusiastic about reviewing the preview of There is a Season when it arrived in the Green Man offices several months ago (the boxed set was scheduled for release in September 2006, so we probably received this a few weeks before that). When I say preview, I mean that we received the CDs in a plain package with the accompanying liner notes printed on regular 8 1Z2 by 11-inch photocopy paper. I can't tell you a thing about the aesthetics of the final product, but I can actually read the liner notes, which would not be very likely once they were reduced to the booklet size that would be in the boxed set. They include some nice retrospective pieces by Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks) and Rolling Stone's David Fricke.'
Denise Dutton notes that Stranger Things is from an artist who as not been heard from in quite a while: 'If you were listening to popular radio back in the '80s, chances are you can sing the chorus of 'What I Am' by heart. And it¹ll probably be playing in your head for a while after you read this. But Edie Brickell & New Bohemians drifted off the map after their second album, Ghost of a Dog (though Edie herself has released a few solo efforts since then). Since I haven¹t listened to anything from this group since their first album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, the sound of Edie¹s breathy, distinctive voice took me back to when I was in school, hanging out at the local food cooperative between classes. The artwork on this new CD is the same type of lighthearted, enjoyable work that was seen on the band¹s first album, drawn by Edie herself, and that only serves to further the similarities. But with the explosion of indie singer/songwriters, this new album isn¹t new ground, though it does walk a few comfortable, well-trod paths'
Lory Hess says Murray Perahia's Schubert Impromptus, Schubert/Lizst Song Transcriptions begs a question: 'When is a sonata not a sonata? When it's a set of Schubert's Impromptus for solo piano, which are gathered into two sets of four pieces each--like a four-movement sonata, only not quite. Schubert broke away from the conventions of the sonata form, creating stand-alone pieces that would appeal to the amateur pianist seeking something short to master, while retaining the depth and complexity of longer works.' Read her review 'ere.
Ahhh, guilt. Sometimes even David Kidney suffers it: 'I feel a bit guilty. I think I under-reviewed Joe Boyd's marvelous autobiography White Bicycles. I was so taken with the book and its wonderful chatty tone, and the development of Boyd's career (and his taste in music) that I really had little to say about it except to recommend it to everyone. I will try not to make the same mistake with this companion CD. With almost two dozen tracks from Boyd's long career as a producer, this compilation serves as the soundtrack to the book, and, in part it is the soundtrack to my life.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review 'ere.
Ahhhh, he's so good at saying just the right thing when it comes to describing a recording: 'Eliza Carthy is a fiddler, singer and folk babe extraordinaire. Rough Music is her latest album. Released in 2005, it's taken a while for us to review it because... well... Iguess I would rather listen to it than write about it! From the striking cover photo, to every note that is played, this is a gorgeous record of English folk music.'
Our resident Ry Cooder expert, David, has a look at the latest from that musical genius: 'Subtitled 'another record by Ry Cooder' My Name is Buddy is the second album in a planned trilogy in which Cooder searches for the old weird America that the guitarist knows is still there, buried somewhere under our modern society. Several reviewers have commented that the first three or four tunes give the impression of the album being a children's story. Well, if it's the children of Woody Guthrie... maybe. This is a concept album like Chavez Ravine before it. Instead of taking on eminent domain, this time Cooder champions the old Leftist philosophy that influenced the old songs he dug up for his first few albums way back in the '70s. And this time he has written most of the songs himself.'
Heed these words: 'The banjo. Think about it. What comes to mind? Is it that kid from Deliverance sitting on the porch dueling with Ronny Cox's character? Maybe you're hip to Bela Fleck and his jazz-fusion? Dock Boggs' mountain music? Bluegrass? Or maybe you just know it as the thing that looks like a tambourine with a neck stuck on. It's actually an instrument of African descent, usually associated with country music, but now more than ever being used for anything that requires that special sound. The banjo is essentially a wooden (or metal) ring with a plastic or skin drumhead stretched across it, a tailpiece and a neck, some strings (4 or 5,) and a bridge. It is loud. It makes music that rings out, or it can be rhythmic. These three recent CDs show the variety of sounds and uses you can get from this traditional instrument.' David's lookat Jamie Hartford's Part of Your History: the songs of John Hartford, The John Cowan Band's new tattoo, and Jayme Stone's The Utmost is 'ere.
David finishes off his omnis with a bit of angelic music: 'Gospel music, and Christian music as a whole, comes in as many colours and shapes as do the churches that all claim to worship the same God. The one true God. They all say that, and then won't speak to their neighbours down the street. Here are four examples of recent albums, each seeking to use music to spread the good news, and each doing it in a unique voice and style.' See which of these gospel recordings (Johnny Cash's Ultimate Gospel, Curt Collins's self-titled recording, Gregory Paul Smith's I Can Live Again, and Christafari's the Foundation ) makes you sing.
Listen up now: 'Some folks seem to think that all blues sounds the same. Can you believe it? All blues sounds the same? Phooey! Here we have four albums, recorded between 1939 and, well, probably just a few months ago. And do they sound the same? Not at all. Each one takes those blues essentials, three chords, 12 bars, and a good man feelin' bad and turns it into something completely his own. It's amazing, really.' Ready for some Blues? Go read David's down and dirty look at Leadbelly's The Legend of Leadbelly, Watermelon Slim & the Workers' The Wheel Man, David Gogo's Skeleton Key, and Otis Taylor's Definition of a Circle.
More Blues get looked at by David: 'Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: Blues centre of the known universe. You have to wonder. After all, the great King Biscuit Boy hailed from here. Stevie Ray Vaughn recorded a television special here. Muddy Waters played Hamilton Place. So did BB King; Buddy Guy will be here next month. One night long ago, I heard John Lee Hooker; he was inside, I was out in the parking lot of the YMCA. Amazing! Now, there's Steve Strongman. This guy knows all about the blues. He plays 'em regularly at clubs around southern Ontario, and judging by his new CD those shows must really cook.' Read David's review 'ere.
The Town Criers' Live in San Francisco was a nostalgia trip for David: 'They stare out at you from the cover photo. They look so... clean cut! Jeepers Beav, it's Auntie Jan! Nice horn-rimmed glasses on Larry, too! The guy with the guitar looks like he might've grown up to be a surfer, but here... still pretty well L7! (It means 'square', ya dig?) And then there's the fellow with the Eugene Levy eyebrows, and the slicked-back hair. He has a familiar look, but I can't quite place him. Wait a minute. Can it be? That's Marty Balin, from Jefferson Airplane! Holy cow!'
David, like all of us 'ere at Green Man, gets a lot of mail both at the office 'ere and at his residence: 'The postal worker who delivers in my neighborhood enjoys coming to my house. She says, "You get a lot, but it all seems so interesting..." And I guess that's so. CDs, books, DVDs arrive regularly, in packages from all over the world. Ah, the life of a GMR reviewer! It's exciting. And it's particularly exciting when a CD arrives that causes you to sit up and take notice like this new album from Gina Villalobos did.' Read his review of miles away 'ere.
Matt Wertz's Everything In Between sort of got lost by David: 'This CD has been sitting under a pile of stuff near my desk for a few weeks now. We're moving offices down here in the sub-basement, and stuff is being packed away, the pile of boxes growing into a virtual wall between my desk and the door. So it's quite fortunate I saw the glint of plastic and rescued it, because having slipped it into the player late one afternoon, I remembered, "oh yes... I quite liked this album and was saving it for a review..." Well, it's time.' His review's 'ere!
Peter Massey says Unstoppable is from a very well-known Scottish band: 'Scottish Folk Rock has an unmistakable sound, and as such, Edinburgh-based Burach sits comfortably along side other similar bands such as Runrig, Wolfstone, and Capercallie, so if you are a fan of these, it is highly likely you will enjoy Burach. Formed by leader Sandy Brechin, this is the band's fourth album. Most of the band will need little introduction, as they are all instantly recognizable for working and touring with other bands, as do most of the professional musicians these days.'
Peter also looked at a Falling Mountain Music compilation album called Making Music Matter and Curt Bouterse's Down The Road I'll Go. You can read his review 'ere.
Lenora Rose looks at a re-released recording that's well-worth hearing: 'Leonard Podolak first really broke out into the Winnipeg music scene as a key member of Scrüj MacDuhk, a Celtic band with a rock tinge. After Scrüj MacDuhk broke up, he helped to form a new band, performing more varied and original folk, and they borrowed part of his old band's name, becoming the Duhks. Although he's the only member the two bands have in common, at least on their recordings, it has been assumed the two bands have more in common than they do. This may be why the Duhks' Juno-award winning album opens with a rousing gospel tune. 'Death Came a Knockin' ' has everything you'd want in gospel; a funky danceable beat, some hot fiddle parts, rousing shouts of 'hallelujah!' It's arguably the best thing on the album. Most of the other contenders, of course, are in entirely different genres, and so hard to compare. However, it does set the bar very high for the rest of the album.'
Kelly Sedinger found a winner: 'This is, apparently, the debut CD of Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe, whose holiday-themed album Tidings impressed me a few years back (after a bit of work on my part). This album demonstrates roughly the same approach to music-making that ultimately impressed me before, with Crowe using her alto vocals to hone in on the important parts of a lyric, while her own tasteful and elegant piano playing backs her up, with a minimum of other instruments. The best thing about 'indie' music is that at its best, it represents a clean and unfiltered view of music performance in which the ideal is to make you feel as though the performer in question is sitting in the room with you, with no giant bank of sophisticated electronica between you and them, filtering the sound into something that, while often impressive, is still part-industrial. Of course, one has to look through a lot of indie music to find a gem like this, but Allison Crowe's Secrets is indeed just that: a gem.'
Gary Whithouse says 'The Bughouse Five, based in Vancouver, Canada, plays a muscular brand of roadhouse rock. They play mostly in the Vancouver area, but have been known to tour up and down the West Coast. They're part of a stable of roots-rocking acts on Vancouver's Northern Electric label. 24 Hour Charlie is an album in the '60s and '70s tradition of classic rockers like the Rolling Stones, Creedence, Faces, even Them, with an occasional foray into Springsteen-like heartland rock. Its 10 songs touch all the best bar-bands' stylistic bases.'
Read Gary's Excellence in Writing Award winning review for an explanation of this statement: 'Danny Cohen's Shades of Dorian Gray is one of the more challenging CD releases of the year. It is outside art, sometimes at its most appealing, sometimes at its most inscrutable. An artist, writer, musician and eccentric who grew up in 1950s Los Angeles, Cohen brings a painterly aesthetic to his songwriting and performance. 'Painterly' of the psychedelic folk art kind, replete with all manner of found objects, odd gizmos and pop culture references.'
Gary says that the 'Last Train Home has taken several major steps forward with its eighth release, Last Good Kiss. Not least among the positive changes are a relocation from Washington, D.C., to Nashville, and some lineup adjustments. And for the first time, all the tracks on this release were written by band members.'
Gary also enjoyed this recording: 'The Louvin Brothers were among the most influential of country singing acts in the 1950s and '60s -- not so much on the public outside the South as on their peers and succeeding generations of musicians. Charlie and Ira's pioneering work in the close harmony style of country and gospel, influenced by Bill Monroe and other earlier greats, was a template for the Everly Brothers' rock 'n' roll, among others. And the brothers' songs and those of Charlie from his later solo career were favorites among the pioneers of country rock, including The Byrds and Emmylou Harris. Now nearing his 80th birthday (in July 2007,) Charlie is still performing occasionally, and has put out this disc as a career overview, with assistance from a stable of Nashville regulars in the band and a gaggle of singing partners from among his peers and later generations of admirers.'
Next up for is this superb recording: 'The National Lights treads much the same territory as Dolorean, Iron and Wine and Be Good Tanyas on their debut album, The Dead Will Walk, Dear. Singer-songwriter Jacob Thomas Berns has assembled a double handful of deceptively gentle gothic tales of sorrow, love, regret and loss. He's abetted by multi-instrumentalist Ernest Christian Kiehne and harmony singer Sonya Cotton. The songs, as I said, are deceptively gentle, but as you listen or follow along with the lyrics in the booklet, you slowly realize that there's some very dark stuff going on. Add Handsome Family to the list of similarities.'
Listen up as Gary has a story to tell: ''Why burn your bridges when you can blow your bridges up?' sang M. Ward in 'Hi Fi' on his 2005 album Transistor Radio. It's a sentiment that Jay Farrar apparently took to heart for his latest foray with Son Volt, The Search. Farrar, of course, was one of the founders of Uncle Tupelo, whose fans would help form a musical movement that came to be known as 'alternative country,' whatever that is. And Son Volt's debut album Trace was featured on the very first cover of *No Depression magazine, which became the bi-monthly bible of alt-country. But Farrar has been inexorably moving away from that particular musical ghetto with every band and solo release, taking a major step away from it with 2005's Okemah and the Melody of Riot which featured an all-new backing lineup. Having crossed that bridge, he leaves it in a smoking heap with The Search.'
This recording barely got logged in by Kim Bates, our Music Editor, before Mike Wilson grabbed it: 'Standard Songs for Average People finds two legends of American music combining to pay homage to a collection of old country songs. This is a project that, in the wrong hands, could have mined the depths of kitsch and over-sentimentality, but with John Prine and Mac Wiseman at the helm you are presented with an honest and heartfelt recording. With a combined age of just over 140 years, Prine and Wiseman seem to pour every ounce of their lives' experiences and emotions into their vocals and there is an overwhelming feeling of mutual respect that permeates each and every note they sing.'