On Hallowe'en the old ghosts come about us, and they speak to some; to others they are dumb.” -- from Hallowe'en by Eleanor Farjeon

Sometimes, you find cool things in unexpected places -- an untapped keg of ale from a storeroom in the home of Bilbo Baggins, a chapbook on Chimney Sweepers from a small book stall down a mew that you didn't see before, or a variant on the Old Hag jig from a fiddler playing at dawn. But not surprisingly 'tall, outstanding creative folk of all sorts can be found in the Green Man Pub and that is where we found the Oak King for this year, Nicholas Burbridge. He's a red-headed fox of a man -- an Irish writer who's also a playwright and a musician and an activist who lives in Brighton, England.

When our Editor interviewed him a few years ago, Nick insisted on fresh-baked tatie bread, so Brigid, wife of Jack, baked some in our kitchen for the occasion. Reynard, Senior Barkeep, provided a nice strong rum, Nick's favorite libation, to drink along with smoked salmon and other lovely nibbles, and it was indeed a great conversation. Ever since, we find him here from time to time, either having a drink and a bit of lunch while doing some Writing, or sitting in with the Neverending Session.

Nick is our first Irish Oak King, and a fine choice he is. Our Oak King signifies the change of year in the old Celtic Calendar which held the first of November (which obviously follows All Hallows Eve when the veil between the living and the dead are very, very thin) to be the beginning of a new year. (Mind, some claim that it's the Winter Solstice on which the Oak King (the Green Man) defeats the Holly King and makes the spring come again; others claims it's the Summer Solstice on which this happens. And some claim it's the never ending battle between the Summer Queen and the Winter King which we should be observing. Being good pagans, we'll tap a keg to honour all of these observances!) That he's Irish to the core, I've no doubt as you can see here. And like all true Irish, he's a bred in the bone storyteller as you can now read in his Oak King Speech...

Thank you kindly for taking me as your Oak King this time round. I believe I should make some kind of speech. But I am a storyteller and a man of song, not an orator, so let me offer you some verses as my gift.

I am indeed a citizen of Ireland but for many, many years now I have lived in the south of England, and it is by one of the most sacred places in these parts that this song came to me, and where I feel it would be good to take you at this time.

Chanctonbury Ring is the site of an Iron Age hill fort, and was for many hundred years, a temple. The circle of trees crowning the hill is made of planted beech, and has spawned many tales of magic in itself; but the long path winding towards them and the valley below are blessed with stout ancient oaks, and for acres round the air is thick with natural mythology. It is impossible to be there without feeling old dark gods stir in the blood, and sensing the spirits of elemental communion; never more so than at the times of Solstice, when the Holly King gives way to his brother, or when the Oak King himself must yield to his shadow, so the seasons turn as they must turn.

Yet hidden in the valley far below is the tiny Saxon church of Sullington, which stands in a working farmyard. It was there, fourteen years ago, I was married, and on the same day conceived the only child from that marriage, though others stood at the altar with us. In that small ark, the farmyard and the acres round it, stretching up to the Ring itself, I have felt, as in no other place, how local pagan forces and a Christian vision of redemption can meet without conflict. It is why I chose to marry there, and why that marriage stands for me as a marriage of all beliefs, yearnings and memories, a grail to carry through darkness, a faith that when my time has come and I must yield, in its shroud I will be safely wrapped.

So I offer this song to you, at this time of year, in celebration. And if the thorn wounds, and the blood forms like bitter berries in the wintered furrows of your brow, share this faith with me: all is at it must be, life grows irresistibly within us, and we are redeemed

Song of The Ring

How far does the path wind

Under this mound and the circle of trees
As we climb from the church in the farmyard
Where sun through the stained glass bleeds?
I watch how your thighs brace and ease
As slowly we rise to the crest,
How the breath parts your lips where the vow still rests
To have me live in you, yet you live in me.

How deep are these prints made
In the clay laced with the bones of the dead
Hard by the field where you had me laid
And the spring pools thick with seed?
Is our child steeped in its memory,
To this land will she always belong?
Where the souls of its people drift freely
In dances of dust and whispers of song?

How hard will the night fall
After our season has glimmered and burned
And the hill frosts ring with our calls,
Like these ghosts will we fade and return?
Though I see you rise now in the clear air
Will you fall between water and stone,
If your flame rests in the hour of prayer
Will it seem that I rise here alone?

If you count the number of trees on this hill
At every turn it seems more appear,
And when we turn on our footfall
We meet ourselves travelling here.
And what we are drifts into other
Yet somehow we seem still defined.
It is why we vow, one to another,
Here, now and always, to stand.

Neil Gaiman's new YA novel about a young boy raised by the dead in a graveyard, the aptly named The Graveyard Book, gets a double dose of attention this week in our featured book reviews. First up is Book Editor, April Gutierrez's look at the print version. April says that '[w]ith The Graveyard Book, Gaiman has written a novel full of wit and memorable characters that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.' Kestrell Rath gave the audiobook, narrated by Gaiman himself, a listen, and feels that '[i]t's like the audio equivalent of one of those old black-and-white horror movies, where the subtle play of light and shadow conveys as much of the atmosphere as the story itself.' Kestrell earns herself an Excellence in Writing Award for her review.

From the ink stained hands of Gary Whitehouse comes our featured music review -- 'This CD of traditional English dance music comes with quite a story. As the story goes, in 2003 accordionist Becky Price was looking for new tunes in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in Cecil Sharpe House, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London. She came across a cabinet full of leather-bound volumes of manuscripts, many hand-written, of dance pieces from the mid-18th Century. This music, most of it unheard for some 250 years, inspired her to form a band to play it. That band is Boldwood. It's a great tale, but it's only that if the music is played as some sort of museum piece. Fortunately, that's not the case. Boldwood is 100 percent a dance band, and they play this music as what it is, great dance music.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review of Feet, Don't Fail Me Now thisaway!

Every book review this edition was marketed with the YA audience in mind even if adult readers will find much to like in these books, be it Christopher Golden's zombie thriller, Soulless, or both versions, audio reading and printed, of Neil Gaiman's new novel, The Graveyard Book. (The review links are in our featured Reviews section just above 'ere. Neil says it's 'a lovely review' of the audio book!) Befitting that All Hallows Eve just passed, a number of these books are rather spooky in nature. Even the third Firebirds anthology, Firebirds Soaring, has enough thrills to keep you warm on a cold fall evening!

Richard Dansky finds a lot to like about Christopher Golden's YA zombie novel Soulless. He says it possesses 'sneaky-nasty originality' and characters that are 'written with respect and style.' Richard concludes that it's 'unafraid to show the zombie rising in all its physical and emotional violence, unafraid to make hard choices for the characters, unafraid to inflict real loss, and to open the door for real growth.' He's not entirely smitten with the ending, but you'll need to read the review to see why!

Cat Eldridge thoroughly enjoyed the latest installment in the Firebirds anthology series, edited by Sharyn November, Firebirds Soaring. Cat exclaims, 'My, oh my! What we have is nineteen remarkable pieces of short fiction that really showcase just how great YA fiction can be. Or indeed any genre of fiction for that matter.' He concludes that 'November's once again put together a superbly chosen set of tales that will keep you read well into the night.'

Our Head Librarian, Iain Mackenzie, emerges from the stacks to take a closer look at a seminal urban fantasy collection that GMR had previously touched on in an omnibus, Life on the Border (edited by Terri Windling). Safe to say, Iain was mightily impressed, going so far as to say '[t]he framing material alone is well worth your reading.' He's now determined to 'read everything set in the B-Town universe.'

Jack Merry was most pleased with Phillip Pullman's new chapbook, Once Upon a Time in the North, something of a prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy. Jack says '[t]his charming tale is one which you can read without ever having read a word of the longer and much darker' trilogy. He also avows that '[i]t is indeed a well-crafted stocking stuffer that anyone would be happy to read on a winter's night in their favourite overstuffed chair!' What better recommendation do you need?

Kestrell was a very busy bee this edition, with several more reviews joining her featured review. First is Joan Aiken's The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories, the first ever collection of all of Aiken's Armitage Family stories. Kestrell professes her love of Aiken's short stories -- because 'one can never be certain what will happen' -- and praises 'Aiken's ability to paint a picture of a world where the everyday concerns are balanced with the magical' (not to mention her 'unnerving villainesses'!).

Next Kestrell enjoyed a pair of early 1900's fantasy novels by John Masefield, The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights: or When the Wolves Were Running. Both feature orphan Kay Harker and his magical adventures. Kestrell feels that it's the dark side of The Midnight Folk that adds to its appeal, 'for readers realize that Kay is in real danger, and alone in the world, and must be both brave and clever in order to survive.' She finds the sequel to be 'even more charming . . . as it seems to make more use of British history and folklore.'

Lastly, Kestrell dives into James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, which she says 'is a unique fantasy filled with wonderful words and phrases, some poetic, some silly, some which send a shiver down the spine.' Paired with that prose are illustrations from Thurber's friend Marc Simont, which she describes as 'darkly fanciful drawings of barren trees and deathbirds, spiders and dungeons, lightning-lit windows and spiral staircases -- not to mention the number of characters who appear in silly hats.' (!)

Wrapping up this YA-oriented edition, Robert Tilendis takes a look at some manga aimed at older teens. First is Hyouta Fujiyama's Ordinary Crush (volumes 1 & 2). This collection of high school love stories appeals to Robert because of 'Fujiyama's clean, strong graphic style, .... a strong measure of psychological realism' and the character driven nature of his favorite side story. He also recommends Isaku Natsume's Dash, another high school-set collection of love stories. Robert feels that Natsume's 'characterizations are amazingly expressive' and her 'pages seem to be designed, rather than merely laid out.'

Gary Whitehouse caught up with Jolie Holland, at a seemingly disorganised gig in Portland's The Doug Fir. 'Jolie Holland and several of her friends played to a packed house at the Doug Fir in Portland to kick off her fall 2008 U.S. tour, in support of her superb new album The Living And The Dead. Her solid band was cobbled together from various Portland combos, and they were joined by other Portland musicians in a nearly two-hour show that was disjointed but entertaining.' Catch the rest of Gary's review right here!

Our CD reviews this edition are, to sort of quote some half-forgotten spaghetti western, the good, the bad, and the just plain boring, i.e. if one is a fan of Page and Plant's masterpiece No Quarter, one's not likely to like some piece of New Age merde. On the other hand, 'deep, dirty, raw blues' will get a reviewer's mojo rising rather nicely!

Phil Hardy's neo-traditional Celtic slash plain old new age Revisited recording didn't fare well for reasons Donna Bird notes in her review -- 'I must confess that in my younger days, I listened and danced to quite a lot of new age music. I was a regular fan of 'Music from the Hearts of Space,' if that tells you anything. However, as I've gotten older, my taste in music has shifted away from the soft stuff toward styles that many would call faster, louder, harder. So, for example, I entertained myself earlier this week listening to Page and Plant's masterpiece No Quarter, which is chock full of neo-traditional music rendered fast, loud and hard.' Read her review 'ere.

Shot the Devil made the mojo rise up for David Kidney -- 'Okay, now who can resist a CD that comes out on a label with as cool a name as Uncle Larry's Records? I mean... seriously! It's blues, man -- deep, dirty, raw blues. The kind of blues you might hear from Howling Wolf, with a dash of Captain Beefheart thrown in for good measure. Shot the Devil is the kind of CD that doesn't really benefit from being compared to someone else. That's one of the shortcuts that reviewers use. They take a cursory listen and say, 'Oh yeah, Barry Manilow fronting Oasis!' or some such ridiculous thing. And sure enough there are readers out there who read that and say, 'Oh, man, that sounds cool!' Of course there are far more readers who look and say, 'What the #$%^ is he talkin' about?' Well... Gravelroad is one of those bands that simply defies you to make those simplistic comparisons.'

Want more mojo? David says you can find it here -- 'B.B.King LIVE. Again. The King of the blues has recorded a few albums by this title, or close to it. Live at the Regal is a classic from 1964. Live at Cook County Jail is a good one from 1970. Last year's B.B. King Live was not quite as good. It was a reasonable representation of a recent show all right, but the show I attended in 2007 was quite different from the shows I've attended in the past. After all B.B. is over 80 now, and he's slowed down a bit. Cut the man some slack! This new release comes from an archival recording made in Cannes way back in 1983. He was only 52 then, and you can hear the extra zip in his step.'

The Future of the Blues collection tickled the fancy of David as well -- 'We get a lot of blues CDs here at Green Man Review. We get singer-songwriters, and British folk, and singer-songwriters, a bunch of Americana, and some singer-songwriters, roots music, but we also get a lot of blues. Blues is a tough one to review. It's not about the lyrics usually, or the gentle touch of fingertips on harp strings. You can't wax poetic about the po' man feelin' low, because... essentially, that's what the blues does for you. It waxes on in repetitive blank verse about feelin' low, and what y'all can do about it. And the answer for it all is to...dig some blues. Now, to be fair, the blues has expanded in recent years and new young blues men and women are moving beyond the 12-bar structure, adding minor chords and diminisheds to the standard three chord framework, and producing stuff that Muddy and Wolf never thought about. But it's still all about how it makes you feel. Does it touch you? Does it reach inside and grab you? Does it move your feet? Northern Blues is one of GMR's favourite labels, and samplers like this one will show you why!'

David had a very good week reviewing and that luck continues 'ere -- ' Charlie Louvin released a self-titled comeback album in 2007. It was his first one in 10 years. Alongside Charlie were guests Elvis Costello, George Jones, Jeff Tweedy, Tom T. Hall, Tift Merritt, Marty Stuart and others. He was in his 80th year. Then he recorded a live album at Shake It Records. He played a hundred dates or so. And now, here he is with his third album in two years. What energy! And he has another one in the can, ready for release before Christmas!' Read his review of this forthcoming recording, Steps To Heaven, over 'ere.

David says 'I've been steering clear of the singer-songwriter genre for a while. Not that I don't like singer-songwriters, because I do; but because it gets hard to hear stuff that sounds so much like what I do when I sit down with my guitar and a notepad and try to work out a new one. But every once in a while a CD or two get dropped on my desk that sound different. Still songs, still singin', still guitars (usually) but there's just that something extra that lifts them out of the routine. Here are two new releases [Paul Reddick's Sugar Bird and Rob Szabo's Life & Limb] whose albums do something just that little bit differently and grabbed my attention.' Read his review 'ere.

A singer-songwriter catches David's ear -- 'Verlon Thompson is perhaps best known as the guy who stands next to Guy. Clark, that is. They're partners. They write songs together, tour together, and when they play guitars together, it's extraordinary. But Verlon -- and I think it's OK for me to call him Verlon, I'm sure he'd prefer that to Mr. Thompson; he'd prolly say, 'Mr. Thompson? Is my Dad here?' -- but Verlon is one of the finest guitar pickers you're ever going to hear. His first solo album was released in 1977, and has become something of a collectible. His next album was on Capitol Records in 1990. Starting bids on eBay are $30! But all along the way he and Guy were working together like a finely tuned machine. The Okie and the Texan have worked together on all of Clark's albums since Old Friends in '52. In 2003 he released an album that we loved here at GMR, Everywhere... Yet. Now it's time for a live album.' Read his review of Live at the Iveys over 'ere.

Peter Massey says 'The Funky String Band members are more widely known as members of the Celtic fusion band Shooglenifty. They are Peter Daffy, vocals, guitar, mandolin and ukulele; Luke Plumb, vocals, mandolin, banjo, accordion and bouzouki; Angus R Grant, fiddles and vocals; Jamie Jauncey, keyboards, guitar and vocals. However, you can file this album under indie music. Recorded in Scotland during a 2006 tour, the band plays some country and bluegrass standards and some original songs written by Luke and Peter. Being a fan of Shooglenifty, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this album at first, but every artist or musician is entitled to have another string to his bow, so to speak. The Funky String Band is just that. With musicians of this calibre, it had to be something good.' Read his review of And You May Find Yourself 'ere.

Parlormuse's It's Not The Coat Makes The Gentleman is, according to Peter, attractively packaged -- 'The CD comes nicely packaged in a Victorian looking cardboard cover. Parlormuse is the work of Gavin Goszka. Probably best known for his work in the Halloween horror soundtrack outfit Midnight Syndicate. For this album Gavin has researched and found a collection of old Victorian parlour / music hall songs that have not been heard for over 100 years, hence the Victorian cover.' So why was Peter disappointed? Find out 'ere.

Kestrell Rath says that 'Red Molly has always been known for their rich harmonies. With the release of their third recording, Love and Other Tragedies, Red Molly presents a richly textured tapestry of American roots music and their most mature work yet.' Read her review for all the details on this lovely recording!

Robert M. Tilendis notes of a classical music CD from Sony that 'Given Leon Fleisher's absolute command of the works I've discussed previously in traversing the re-issue of his early recording by Sony BMG, it was with some interest that I turned to his 1959 recordings of Mozart piano works... ...And about Fleisher's playing? Pure, crystalline, fluid, intelligent, although I sometimes detected a little softness in his attack. But then, these works can lend themselves to that, and I think Fleisher takes advantage of their inherent resilience: he provides a sense of warmth here that reinforces the intimacy of their scale, turning out shimmering veils of sound.' Read the rest of his review thisaway.

Another Fleisher recording also tickled Robert's fancy -- 'Franz Liszt's Sonata in B Minor is one of those towering edifices of the romantic piano literature that is perhaps more honored in the citation than in the actual listening. I use the term 'towering' advisedly: it's huge, in concept and in realization. Interestingly enough, Brahms, my other shining example of huge (who, as it happened, fell asleep at a performance of the Sonata by Liszt), hated it, while not surprisingly, Wagner loved it, all of which perhaps says more about musical politics in nineteenth-century Vienna than about the Sonata itself.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning commentary thisaway!

Robert finishes off with his third Fleisher recording, a Schubert affair this time -- 'The Sonata in B-Flat Major was completed scarcely two months before Schubert's death. It is, like his other mature works, marked by harmonic subtlety, a free expressiveness, sometimes surprising modalities, and that lyricism I mentioned -- one could sing it, I think, although the pace of the Scherzo might tax the abilities of the most practiced bel canto diva.'

This recording from Polk Miller & His Old South Quartette is, as Gary Whitheouse says, 'a classy package all around. All fans of early recorded music, and particularly the roots of gospel and R&B, should be immensely grateful for the hard work and dedication represented by this album. It's a real treasure trove.' Read about this tasty treat thisaway!

Heritage gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from Gary -- 'I was attracted to The Youngers by the presence of frontman Todd Bartolo, who plays guitar in one of my favorite bands, the Pennsylvania-based alt-country outfit Frog Holler. Though also based in rural Pennsylvania, The Youngers is quite a different band; they play solid Americana, with a sound that sometimes leans toward classic country and sometimes toward classic rock.' Read his review 'ere.

Mike Wilson says 'Jez Lowe returned to the Northeast of England earlier this year with a series of concerts that presented songs from his repertoire that were influenced and inspired by the region's people and places. This recording is of one particular night on that tour, at the Caedmon Hall, Gateshead on Tyne... ...There really is much to enjoy about this album. You can fall in love with the characters about whom Lowe sings, marvel at Lowe's lyrical ease, relish his lucid and heart-warming vocals or listen to the sublimely sympathetic musicianship of Lowe's compadres. This is a recording that exudes a warmth and honesty that make for an engaging and reflective listening experience.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award review of Northern Echoes - Live On The Tyne over 'ere.

Spooktakular Trick or Treat Trivia Contest

Hopefully you haven't put away this year's Hallowe'en costume, 'cause GMR invites you to partake in a bit of belated trick or treating this November. The treat? Five sets of 10 spooky, seasonal books courtesy of Hachette Press! The trick? All you you need to do is put on your thinking caps (and, if you want to, your costumes!) and hunt down the answers to GMR's triva contest. Details and rules can be found here. Happy trick or treating!

We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere; a great edition on Charles de Lint who's now beginning to set his tales in the desert Southwest with his next novel, The Mystery of Grace; one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; and one on a fantastic new storyteller, Catherynne M. Valente who is always worth reading as is Patricia McKillip.

Oh, we should mention that every year that we do both best books and best music in which many of the wonderful folks we review 'ere pick their choices of what they liked for that year. And our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.

For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring a properly poured pint of Guinness while listening to Peter Beagle tell a tale, he'll try to answer your question!

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

Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2008, Green Man Review and Midwinter Publishing except where specifically noted such as all of the GMR logos which are usually by Lahri Bond except this one which has the cover art for the Charles de Lint collection called Tapping the Dreamtree which was done by Charles Vess and is copyrighted by him and used with his permission. All Rights Reserved.

A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in the Green Man metanarrative have agreed to be there. Really. Truly. Confused? Just set back and enjoy our stories within stories. And do keep in mind that opinions expressed in the metanarritve do not necessarily reflect the views of Green Man Review or that of Midwinter Publishing. They might, they might not.

Any resemblance in Continuity to persons, places, or times of anyone or anywhere living or dead, is purely coincidental unless otherwise noted. Those who know differently are unlikely to admit their involvement.

Last revised by a Several Annie who's
watching the rooks in The Hanging Oaks!

Posted by LLS cet Samain 2008

Archived by LLS on 15th November, 2008