'I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be.'
-- Iris DeMent, 'Let The Mystery Be'

 


22nd of February, 2004


Life in the Green Man building is decidedly odd this month. Regular readers will probably respond to that statement with no more than a Gallic shrug as, let's face it, the extraordinary is commonplace here! But there's definitely a mystery afoot in the old place, and mysteries can be perplexing little buggers. This particular mystery is one of the large, deep and ancient examples of the species, something even more impenetrable than the mysteries of The Neverending Session's sleeping arrangements, Reynard's ale cellar, or Spike's sock drawer. The name of this mystery is 'Romance'.

February is, of course, the time of St. Valentine's Day, which we usually mark with no more than a few fond reminiscences of Jack and Brigid's wedding feast (and a sprinkling of light-hearted greeting cards from our editors saying things like: 'Roses are red and violets are blue, you've got forty-five minutes to write that review.') This year, however, some of our staff seem to be a little 'edgier' than usual. What's got them (and by 'them' I really mean the single guys) in a dither, is the date of next week's issue -- February 29th, or 'Leap Day'. This day, according to ancient custom, is the day that women can make marriage proposals.

It is believed this tradition was started in 5th century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. St. Patrick said the yearning females could propose on this one day in February during the Leap Year. The first documentation of this practice dates back to 1288, when Scotland passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to the man of their choice in that year.

Now, while our staff are all intelligent, independent people (not in any way bound by mere superstition), this 'Leap Day' business is part of something 'tradition' which, like 'romance' is a mystery. They're both mysteries that lie dormant in the individual subconscious until something causes them to rise like water, burst their banks and flow, unhindered, into the collective consciousness. Once free, they find tributaries of expression in music, story and song. Perhaps feeling 'odd' is not so bad. Perhaps you'll discover something among this week's music, book or film reviews that gets you 'in a dither'. So, here's to romance and tradition, fond reminiscences and light-hearted greetings -- here's to mystery!

Well, we really have to feature this one...Peter Buchman is on board to write the film adaptation for Fox 2000, there's a second novel coming, and everyone is agog at the age of the author...a real prodigy, he is! Or, as Denise Dutton says, 'I feel like I've been hit over the head with the information that he is young and talented, young and gifted, young, young, young. And I'll admit, the fact that a teenager wrote this book (part one of a trilogy, no less) did stir my interest.' Of course, she also says '[t]his book has enough going on to warrant repeat readings, and most importantly, I want to read this book again.'

She is speaking, of course, of Christopher Paolini and his fantasy novel Eragon.

Donna Bird is first up this week, with a look at a work of historical fiction. Donna explains 'I have become completely hooked on Anthony Trollope's novels. Like his French contemporaries Honoré de Balzac and Émile Zola, Trollope was a prolific writer, so I can entertain myself with his complex tales of the British ruling class for a long, long time.When I get this attached to a writer, I spend time learning about his/her life and milieu.' This brought Donna to Edmund White's novel, based on the life of Trollope's mother Frances, entitled Fanny: A Fiction. It also brings Donna an Excellence in Writing Award for this engaging review.

Nathan Brazil says '[W]hen I reviewed Talon Of The Silver Hawk, the first novel in this [Raymond Feist] series, I was surprised to find myself disappointed. But, having enjoyed the author's work in the past, it was with renewed enthusiasm that I asked to try this second volume.' So, what did he think of Raymond Feist's upcoming offering, King of Foxes? You'll have to read his review to find out if Nathan's faith in Feist pays off.

'Note the title,' begins Rachel Brown, 'a wizard, a knight, book one of two. The assemblage of clichés suggests that the book will be a piece of generic high fantasy: noble knights, elves, dragons, brawny heroes, damsels in distress, and other archetypal elements of myth whose power has been all but leached away by page after page of insipid and thoughtless recitations.' Ah, but she goes on: 'Note the author: a man whose books are known for intellectual rigor, startling and powerful imagery, and puzzle-box structures in which the reader must pay close attention to the smallest details to make sense of the plot.' Yes, reading Rachel's review, it seems there's something else beneath the surface of Gene Wolfe's The Knight: Book One of the Wizard Knight.

'Left to myself, I would have been hard-pressed to come up with my three hundred requisite words for a review of the two novels, Aquamarine and Indigo, contained in Water Tales.' It appears that Kate Danemark found Alice Hoffman's short novels sadly lacking. How, then, does Kate end up recommending Water Tales? Why, she goes the extra mile, calls in reinforcements, and discovers that Hoffman's target audience is more than satisfied. In doing so, Kate earns herself an Excellence in Writing Award.

Editor-in-Chief Cat Eldridge explains in this review '...we don't review science fiction. Well, most of the time we don't. Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines is just the sort of SF that we do review as it has the mythic feel and fantastical elements to it that make it much more than a merely excellent SF novel.' Indeed, it sounds fascinating; according to Cat, '[W]hat Philip Reeve has written is a very strange and wonderfully imaginative post-apocalyptic future where — after the terrible Sixty Minute War, with its atomic and chemical weapons, stripped Earth bare of most of its resources, life, and human technology — most cities were, according to the tales told to the citizens of this Earth, mobilised in order to survive. (Those who didn't mobilise are part of what's called the Anti-Traction League!) London, like the other great Traction Cities, was rebuilt on tiered platforms and now, some two thousand years in the future, moves across the surface of a barren planet on huge caterpillar tracks, hunting its prey: other cities!' Go read this review...you'll find yourself wanting to head for the bookstore for a copy of Mortal Engines!

Diana Wynne Jones is one of our favorite authors here at Green Man, so we've decided to ask some of our reviewers to take a new look at some of her older works. New reviewer Lory Hess is the first to step up, with a review of Dogsbody. Lory begins, 'Diana Wynne Jones' books often play with 'What if?' What if important moments in history, with different possible outcomes, caused alternate universes to split off from our own? (The Chrestomanci Quartet.) What if the Fairy Queen existed in modern England (Fire and Hemlock) and still had the power to bring young men under her spell? Now, what if Sirius, the Dog Star, actually had to lead a dog's life on Earth? That's the premise of Dogsbody, Jones' fifth fantasy novel.' Thanks Lory, and welcome!

'In the beginning there was just a shadowy expanse of night sky and unknown. There in disquieting oblivion whirled the unanswered secrets of history, animated by forces as ancient as civilization itself — everything smoking, silvery, religious, and dark. These strong currents often lay forgotten and docile, until the opportunities of war, crisis, and anguish called forth their awful powers. They had no sound or definition of their own until trapped and subjugated by the epiphany of Black Sabbath — the wise innocents, the originators of heavy metal.' Maria Nutick includes that quote from Ian Christe in her review of his 2003 release, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. You'll have to read the review itself to find out what she thinks is right, and wrong, about the book she calls 'possibly the most comprehensive study of the [heavy metal] genre ever written.' (And since Maria is the Book Review Editor, she wouldn't give herself an Excellence in Writing Award for this review. So I've been detailed by the other editors to slip in here and give her one on their behalf. Remember: You never saw me. I was never here.)

Maria is a fan of cryptozoology. She explains that '[t]hey're an interesting breed, cryptozoologists, able to meld rational scientific analysis with an open-minded willingness to believe in and investigate circumstances which, to the layman, sound like the product of a few too many imbibed down at the local. It should be no surprise, then, that there are hundreds of books on the subject of cryptozoology. Some are nonfiction, scholarly studies of case histories and inexplicable events. Some are entertaining fiction. Lee Murphy's books, Where Legends Roam and Naitaka, fall into the latter category. Well, at least one of them does.' Uh oh. Better read the review to find out which book she calls 'more interesting and certainly better written than much of the action/mystery genre, and certainly more educational.'

'The problem with genres,' Patrick O'Donnell explains, 'is that they are so ... well, genre driven, that the work tends to become stereotypically stale...It's because of this that I look forward to any story — be it on the silver screen or the pale pages of a paperback — that dares to break the mold.' And fortunately for Patrick, 'Brian Hopkins' Salt Water Tears is chock full of 'em.'

Rebecca Scott takes home an Excellence in Writing Award for this loving review of Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels, an omnibus of five Block novels centering on her character Weetzie Bat: Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, Missing Angel Juan, and Baby Be-Bop. Rebecca says 'I wish that I had found these books ten years ago. Reading them now, I love them. If I had read them then, when I lived in the strange passion-pain fairy-tale that was my teenage years, they would have woven themselves into me, become some of those books that helped to shape me. They would not, I think, have much changed who I have become, but they would have enriched who I was while I was becoming that person.' Read more about Dangerous Angels to find out why she says so.

Finally, the story of a sixteen-year-old Viking girl finds favor with Elizabeth Vail. Of the author, Elizabeth says 'Henrietta Branford's style is simple, straightforward, and to the point. She doesn't waste a single word, and the overall sentence structures in the book bear an eerie resemblance to Matthew Ward's English translation of Albert Camus' existentialist classic, The Stranger.' Read her perceptive review to find out more about The Fated Sky, a novel Elizabeth calls a 'fascinating, eye-opening read in a slick, compact package.'

David Kidney and Spike Winch discuss and dissect Cold Mountain. It seems that both were disappointed, to say the least. David says, 'I came away with an empty feeling. As though I'd had a large bowl of consomme, which was tasty, warm and satisfying, but left me wanting something more substantial when it was all over.' Spike, on the other hand, was more concise: 'It was a @#$%in' steamin' pile of ^&*%, wuzn't it!' The two get to split an Excellence In Writing Award for their commentary.

Will Shetterly is a Buffy fan, and this week he takes a look at Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Fourth Season. Will baldly states the show's metaphor, theme, and premise, and explains why they are never stated baldly (ordinarily). Episode by episode,Will points out the flaws, but later admits 'I really don't mind them.' For this extensive analysis, Will picks up an Excellence In Writing Award.

Gary Whitehouse viewed a pair of documentaries about dancer and cult figure Jesco White. Gary calls Dancing Outlaw and Dancing Outlaw 2, Jesco Goes to Hollywood 'a startling snapshot of modern hillbilly culture and of the fickle machine that is the entertainment industry.' Read Gary's review to see why he thinks 'these two films are an impressive bit of filmmaking.'

David Kidney delivers an emotion-packed review of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' peformance at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover, Ontario. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings delivered a fantastic show, throwing everything they had into the performance. Just read the review and let David describe it for you in his own words. You'll be planning to attend their next show before you're halfway through.

Jack Merry here. We get some pretty strange but tasteful music here. such as that from a band (the Endless) who named themselves after the characters in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Of course, less fringe-ish music also gets reviewed this outing, including one the reviewer claims was the soundtrack for her one true love affair. Now settle into a comfortable chair by the fireplace, open a bottle of Young's Double Chocolate Stout, help yourself to the smoked salmon and biscuits, and we'll get started!

Fiona Apple's When the Pawn... has a review that Kate Danemark creates the near perfect opening line for: 'I have had one truly great love affair in my life, and this was its soundtrack.' The rest of her review is as exquisite as this line, so go savour every word of it!

And now for a band that the reviewer, Scott Gianelli, likes very much: 'Fiamma Fumana hail from the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. The band was founded in the late nineties by singer Fiamma (Orlandi) and multi-instrumentalist Alberto Cottica, who sought to combine the folk music of their region with contemporary electronic dance music. Since the release of their first album, 1.0 in 1999, Lady Jessica Lombardi (Emilian bagpipes, flute, bass) and ethnic Eritrean Mehdin Paolos (samples and programming) have joined the band as full-time members. The title of their new album, home, signifies a few things. First, the album was created largely in a homemade fashion, recorded in the band members' homes in the hills of Emilia Romagna and engineered on a Macintosh laptop. Second, conversations and out-takes sampled during the sessions are inserted into and between the various songs, to give the audience a sense of what home is like for Fiamma Fumana. Most significantly, despite the technological underpinnings, home is a celebration of the history, folklore, and people of both Italy in general and Fiamma Fumana's home region in particular.' An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Scott for this exceptionally well-written review!

Taxi Chain's Smarten Up! is treated to an Excellence in Writing Award winning review from Master Reviewer David Kidney. Just listen to what he says about the opening cut: 'So goes the leadoff track to Taxi Chain's new CD, Smarten Up! It's a sort of funky mellow bluesy tune, with thoughtful lyrics, and the band sounds, well, almost like the Band. Drums, bass, guitars, organ, saxes and harmony vocals. Very nice. But then track two comes in all Celtic, tin whistles, highland bagpipes, mandolin, piccolo, and a fiddler named Pat Simmonds (!)...it makes one step back and take another look at the insert picture. Well, geez, sure enough in the silhouette band shot...there's a guy holding bagpipes! The third track kicks in. It's called 'James Brown ate my bagpipe,' and son of a gun, if that isn't what it sounds like. A funk riff on the bass, and echoes of JB's band on the pipes!' Now go see what Spike has to say about this $%#@! CD...

( Pat Simmonds is a reviewer here. One of many musicians on staff.)

On the fringe (as reviewer Peter Massey so aptly puts it) is where three CDs (The Endless' I'm the Queen of the Moon, Paul Rader's Century Home, and Luke Smith's It's Not Wrong, It's Just Different) come from: 'It's not folk, nor blues, not pop, nor jazz... but music from performers who don't fit into any one genre. In my part of the world, it has come to be known as 'Fringe'. True, the lyrics can be very heavy at times, as if induced by herbal tobacco or the bottom of a bottle, or even some substance taken. To some, these artists are the modern-day Picassos of music, and as such can be seen in very much the same vein as modern art. In almost every large city, there is usually at least one bar or club that is dedicated to putting on performers of this genre. They will probably never be internationally famous, but they do have a cult following. It's not a large following, but it's there and can't be denied. In this review, I look at some performers who might fit into this category.'

A teaser before I take leave of you... Compass Records has told us that they have a new Lúnasa disk coming out in the US on March 2nd, The Kinnitty Sessions. The publicist there says of this disc (which we will have reviewed the first week in March) that ' It's unbelievable: the most rhythmically vital, intense disk they've ever done. Live in the studio, no overdubs, take no prisoners. No frilly, new-agey stuff. All muscle. It's like a Motorhead record or something... it's my favorite album of the year in any genre.'

A little more about 'Leap Day'...

The Romans observed a 355-day calendar. To keep up with the seasons, the calendar was reformed so that a leap day would occur in any year that is divisible by four but not divisible by one hundred (except when the year is divisible by four hundred). Thus 1600 and 2000, although century marks, have a Leap Day.

Got that? Make perfect sense? Congratulations! While most of us at Green Man can't make head or tail of 'the math', we're old hands at 'the myth' (and recognise an 'odd' day when we see one). Consequently, we've decided that next week's issue is the perfect opportunity to introduce our appointed 'Lord of Misrule'. After all, what better day to appoint the honour of 'King for a Day', than on a day which only exists every four years? The identity of this Leap Year's Lord of Misrule must, for now, remain another mystery. I can only say that he's one of our favourite authors, and his inaugural speech is not to be missed!

P.S. Your letters of comment are always welcome! If anyone can sensibly answer the question: 'Should Spike receive an extra day's pay in his monthly salary cheque for February?' it would be greatly appreciated!


 

15th of February, 2004

'Sara Kendell once read somewhere that the tale of the world
is like a tree. The tale, she understood, did not so much
mean the niggling occurrences of daily life. Rather it
encompassed the grand stories that caused some change in
the world and were remembered in ensuing years as, if not
histories, at least folk tales and myths. By such reasoning,
Winston Churchill could take his place in British folklore
alongside the legendary Robin Hood; Merlin Ambrosius had as
much validity as Martin Luther. The scope of their influence
might differ, but they were all a part of the same tale.'
-- Charles de Lint's Moonheart

Jack Merry here. We often get interesting visitors here at Green Man, and the fellow dressed all in green and calling himself Myrddin who dropped by the Pub a few weeks ago was no exception. After shaking a few still green oak leaves off his duster, he sat down at the bar and said not a word until after he'd had a few pints of Cwrw Tudno, a Welsh ale we keep on tap. And then he began to tell tales of Welsh poets he had known down the centuries. Though some had been dead longer than the British Empire existed, he remembered them as if he had conversed with them just yesterday.

If he was who he claimed to be, this might just be true. Or he might be as insane as the visitor we have who calls himself Mad Merlin. Whoever this fellow was, his tales were complex, dark, and lasted well into the night. Be it Ellis Evan (And there, the weeping willow trees / Bear the old harps that sang amain, The lads' wild anguish fills the breeze / their blood is mingled with the rain), who perished in The Great War; or the first Welsh poets, such as Aneirin and Taliesin, whose work it is said by many to be descended from the tradition of the druids, he knew them all.

But his saddest memories were of Dylan Marlais Thomas, a poet who died a scant half century ago at the age of not yet forty. Of all the poets he'd known, Thomas' death hit him hard. Why this was so he'd no wish to say. But he did say that 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night' was one of the finest poems he had ever heard a poet speak. The stanza 'Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light' was one that he had taken to heart. After chanting it softly, he went quietly into the winter night as if he were but a memory fading away.

Our visitor may lament the passing of Dylan Thomas and his sheer poetic genius, but you, dear reader, can hear him read his works and the works of others, as Caedmon captured him on tape oh so many years ago. Harper Audio, which now is the proud owner of Caedmon, sent Green Man for review Dylan Thomas Unabridged: The Caedmon Collection.

Christopher White and Huw Collingbourne were the lucky stiffs who got the honour of writing this Excellence in Writing Award-winning review. Let's let Chris explain what this collection is: 'The boxed set includes inner sleeves that reproduce all of the original albums' cover art. Oh, for the larger scale of LP's! The disks are themselves witty reproductions of the vinyl they replicate. Harper Audio's introduction states that each disk begins with Billy Collins, the current American Poet Laureate, reading the old liner notes. The eleven disks which make up the set fully document the recordings made by Dylan Thomas for Caedmon Records beginning in 1952...Ms. Roney and her partner at Caedmon, Barbara Cohen, managed to induce Dylan Thomas to read his poems and other material for posterity. Later, recordings done for BBC broadcast and others were released as well.' Now go read their review for a detailed look at this collection!

Nathan Brazil takes a thoughtful look at Pharos: A Ghost Story by Alice Thompson. 'The author of Pharos has an unusual style that will drive some readers doolally, while others will no doubt find it a refreshing change to the norm. Most of the time, the book feels more like an extended parable than a standard novel. All the characters are known only by their Christian names, and while we are told what they look like and, superficially, what part they play, information as to who they are and what shapes them is frugal. Those who relish intricate detail and devilishly complex plotting may find this grates. On the other hand, there's something quite appealing about such a stripped down story.'

Kate Danemark finds herself deeply drawn to the protagonist of Anita Diamant's novel The Red Tent. 'Dinah must forge a role for herself in a world which does not take easily to a strong-minded woman, especially a foreigner with powerful skills. The grace with which she does this, despite overwhelming obstacles, makes her one of the most appealing characters in recent literature.'

David Kidney enthuses about two biographies of famous musicians this week. The first is Jimi Hendrix: Musician by Keith Shadwick. 'Hendrix, who died in 1970, has become an icon, but this new biography looks at him in his essential form,' says David. 'Keith Shadwick looks at Jimi Hendrix the musician. It's about time.' The second biography is, according to David, 'a mini-museum of memorabilia designed to appeal to the most obsessive fan' more than it is a book. By James Henke, it's entitled Lennon Legend: An Illustrated Life of John Lennon, it comes in a box, and it's 'filled with compartments, envelopes, and fold outs. Posters from A Hard Day's Night, copies of handwritten lyrics, a report card, and childhood drawings are inserted, waiting to be removed, handled, observed.' David wins an Excellence in Writing Award for giving us such a vivid, detailed tour of this unusual biography.

As we've said before, if you're looking for a reviewer to tackle the big, dense books, Wes Unruh's your man. This week he's got a review of Thomas Pynchon's novel Mason & Dixon, which tells the story of the two famous surveyors who divided Pennsylvania from Maryland in the 1760's. But this isn't really an historical novel, Wes says. Rather, it 'evokes the insanity of the early American colonies and the madness of kings, peers through the dense smoke of the coffeehouses and taverns to the cabals and oddities of modern science, from Ben Franklin's party tricks with electricity and unconventional musical solos, to the amorous, invisible robotic duck that haunts a neurotic French chef.'

Grey Walker takes a look at an e-book for 'young adults', Nine Lives and Three Wishes by Jennifer St. Clair. 'Faerie as imagined by St. Clair is quirky and interesting,' says Grey. 'Side characters show up briefly, and their appearances and dwellings are intriguing enough that we wish we could go back and take another look. But not right now. Right now, the plot pulls us along. We turn pages quickly, wanting to find out what's going to happen next to Misty and Tib. Things keep surprising us. But not in an 'Oh, no! She killed my favorite character!' kind of way. Instead, we find ourselves thinking, 'Wow, I did not see that coming!''

Daniel James Wood reviews Lords of Rainbow by Vera Nazarian, which is a novel with an interesting premise: What if your world were monochrome? If colors appeared in such a world, would they seem like gods or magic? Daniel says Nazarian does an excellent job using her premise to explore the complexities of the religions human beings develop for themselves. 'Lords Of Rainbow is a distinctly fantastical book set in a faraway world, but the concerns of the citizens of that world mirror the concerns we hold today, and have held for centuries.'

Are you interested in Gypsy culture? Do you love to hear flamenco? If so, Gary Whitehouse recommends director Tony Gatlif's Vengo. He says that while the story may be simple, 'the music is astounding. It's a polyrhythmic, guitar-centric wail of joy and pain.' Read Gary's review to hear more about the colorful characters in Vengo, and about the bonus film included on the DVD.

Liz Milner receives an Excellence in Writing Award for her review of Sharon Katz and the Peace Train's peformance at the CenterStage in Reston, Virginia. Sharon Katz is a South African who has 'distinguished herself as an anti-apartheid activist who formed South Africa's first multicultural and multilingual musical group in 1993.' The Peace Train's peformance was a showcase of 'high energy, upbeat Afro-pop fusion music' in a variety of the languages of South Africa. They held the audience's attention with musical virtuosity and great songs. Liz finishes off the review with a short interview with Sharon Katz. Read the review to learn how Katz came to form The Peace Train and just how exciting their performances can be.

Reynard at your service. Come in! Let me get you a cup of Irish coffee -- it's bloody cold out there with the sleet and rain we're getting. Put your wet boots and jacket over by the fire. Yes, that's Jack Merry playing his fiddle in the Neverending Session... Something he heard by the Oysterband got him very excited and he wanted to share the tune, so I'm writing up the music commentary this week.

One of the joys of working at Green Man is being exposed to far more music than one would reasonably expect to know about. Now some of it is very good, say the fresh off the presses CD from the Oysterband, Oyster Origins 2: Twenty Golden Tie-Slackeners Plus, that Kim Bates, our Music Review Editor, reviews this week, and some of it's so bloody awful that it never gets reviewed, but all of it makes for a really interesting education in music for all of us -- and for you too!

Kim Bates picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for her look at the Oysterband's Oyster Origins 2: Twenty Golden Tie-Slackeners Plus. That she got an EIWA should surprise no one, as she notes of the Oysters, 'It would be difficult to overestimate the impact of the Oysterband on my music listening habits, or on my love of folk and world music. Indeed, without the Waterboys and the Oysterband in the 1980s, my love of traditional music might never have come into being, and where would I be today? I've been listening to this instrumental disc for the past few days since it arrived in my mail box...Yet I couldn't begin writing until after last night, when it hit me, there at ceili dancing class, where I take Auntie's little darlings every week for a three quarters of an hour of step dancing, and then one dance shared between adults and exuberant young people aged three to ten. In the middle of 'The Haymaker's Jig', my partner, an older gentleman named Pat, looked at the little wild women marching around in a zig zag row to form their arch, gave an exasperated wink and said, 'They're cute aren't they?' Yes they are. And that's sort of the way I feel about Slackeners. There's great music here, without the usual production veneer, sometimes swaying almost off course, but great fun. Yes, Kim, it's the music, the people, and the conversations that led to the discs you know by heart.'

The Hear & Gone in 60 Seconds! collection, Douglas John's Tickadeeboo, Sol Y Canto's El doble de amigos/Twice as Many Friends, Trout Fishing in America's It's a Puzzle, The Big Kidz Band's Indian Elephant Tea, and Paul Taylor & Don Spenser's Cooee are all albums meant for children. By the thinking of parent Vonnie Carts-Powell, 'In the same way that comedy looks easy but is hard to perform well, recordings aimed at kids seem simple but success is tricky. Kids don't demand musical or lyrical sophistication, but they're easily bored and easily turned off by any hint of condescension. The kids that frequent my house crave funny songs that they can sing, intriguing rhythms and instruments, a lively beat, and surprises. If the music teaches them something they can pass on to their friends on the playground, then so much the better. Also, because one well-turned phrase or a catchy melody can capture their attention for weeks, the songs need to be tolerable to the adults in the household after many many repetitions.'

Kate Danemark came into the Pub one recent afternoon all excited about Dead Can Dance's Toward the Within CD from a decade ago, so she asked Kim if she could review it. Kim, who was in a mellow mood from sipping a Young's Double Chocolate Stout, agreed. And here's the review. What Dead Can Dance is is an interesting question, says Kate. 'From the very first eerie opening bells, percussion and crystalline notes of the yang ch'in of 'Rakim', it becomes clear that this is music unlike any you've ever heard. Amend that: it's certainly unlike any I had previously heard. It's as if from some other time: unplaceable; familiar, but also utterly foreign.'

King Chiaullee's Reel:Ode, the Mammyk Ker collection and the Rambling House's Demo EP all get reviewed by Stephen Hunt in an Excellence in Writing Award-winning review! As usual, he's found some of the tastiest music there is to be had of a Celtic nature. 'It's time, once again, to take a listen to some of the small label and self-released discs coming our way from Celtic music's farthest frontiers. This week there's two from the smaller Celtic heartlands -- the Isle of Man and Cornwall -- and one from the other 'side' of the world -- Brisbane, Australia.' And no, we don't normally do demos, but Stephen explains why we've made an exception: 'Well, 'Paul,' [of Rambling House] it transpires, is none other than Paul Brandon, author of Swim the Moon, a novel that's very highly regarded at Green Man!'

Eric Bibb, Rory Block and Maria Muldaur's Sisters & Brothers is, according to David Kidney, a blues album well-worth hearing. 'The trio sound as if they were born to sing together. They capture the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the spiritual and the physical aspects of a life of blues. The sound is up to Telarc's high standards. Producer Randy Labbe manages to capture pristine sound that never loses the essential humanity of the performers. Warm and real. There are thirteen songs on this album. Each one adds to the magic.'

Jaco Pastorius is an artist who caused David's brother to have an epiphany (I'm not kidding). In his review of Portrait of Jaco: The Early Years 1968-1978, David explains: 'My brother is a bass player. He took it up because he liked Paul McCartney. The first bass he bought was a copy of Paul's Hofner violin bass. He played that for a few years, and then he became obsessed with a different sound. He talked about this sound in adoring language, as if the heavens had opened and he'd experienced some sort of epiphany. I'm sorry, but this is the only way I can explain the depth of impact that this new sound had on him. He went out and bought a Fender Precision bass. There were no fretless basses in any of the music stores in our city. The Precision would have to do. His practising became louder, and more obscure. When I asked him what was going on, he just looked at me, his eyes glazed over, his fingertips sore, and said, 'Jaco man, Jaco!'

Michael Buffalo Smith's Southern Lights finishes off the hat trick that David does this week, as he says this CD is 'Blues-based southern rock, with slide guitars and that chooglin' beat. Not a classic, but well worth a listen.'

Mommy & Me's Playgroup Favorites has Peter Massey meditating on a subject very dear to him: 'The best gift you can give your child is your time! I understand this is the philosophy behind this album. These are modern times we are living in, and the attitude a lot of modern mums have toward their children is a lot different than in my day. These days the mothers of three-month-old babies are too keen to place their child in a nursery from eight in the morning till six in the evening five days a week so they can get on with their life or chosen career. I am not entirely convinced it is a good idea to have your child brought up by a nanny.' Now read his review to see how that thought connects to this CD!

New York Town is the latest CD from Black 47, a band that Jack Merry adores. Indeed he says, 'Black 47 is most likely the best Celtic rock and roll band ever. It certainly is also one of the most prolific, too. Really. Truly. As I said in the omnibus review I wrote a few years back, 'Time magazine said of Black 47: 'Finally. Rock 'n' roll that means something again!' Bollocks, I say. If Black 47 was just a rock 'n' roll band, I wouldn't be doing a comprehensive review of their albums. Black 47 is an Irish-American band that combines trad material, themes both personal and political, and throws in a rock 'n' roll style energy -- the result being totally unique.'

American acoustic guitar player Ben Woolman's CD Wisdom/Delusion gets a welcome review from long-time Green Man reviewer Lars Nilsson, but the CD itself was a mixed affair for Lars: 'I admit Woolman is a first class guitarist. He also has the knack for finding good sounds and tunes. And if you like acoustic guitar, please sample the works. I must also confess that on a few tunes I subconsciously wait for the singer to begin. But maybe that is just because I like some lyrics as well.'

The Woods Band's Music from the Four Corners of Hell, Todd Menton's Where Will You Land, Steve Finn, Andrew Dinan and John Joe Kelly's Before the Flood, Colin Reid's Swim, Tanya Brody's Sirens & Lovers and Empty Hats' Greatest Hats are all reviewed together by John O'Regan, an Irish music journalist who clearly knows his material. According to him, all these groups have something in common: 'Maverick talents are part of the game in all aspects of music. Those who tend to look at the glass in a different way than others, or who see things from a slightly different angle and add a new perspective to an age-old tradition. Celtic music is blessed with more than a few mavericks, including those who brazenly hit the road less travelled.' Read his review to see if you agree!

Four CDs (Martin Hutchinson's Water from a Stone, Mary Asquith's Closing Time, Danny Guinan & Red's Live and John Eccleston's Farm) found a sympathetic reviewer in John. 'Singer/songwriters come from everywhere. This is no generalization, rather a fact. And here is a bunch from Ireland, England, and the good old USA. Worthy scribes and scribettes one and all. This selection does throw up a curveball or two, including a forgotten blast from the past, some exiled Irish minstrels and an intriguing new American wordsmith.'

Now you'll have to excuse me -- the gentlemen in the green leather duster is indicating that he's ready for another pint of Cwrw Tudno...

Storytellers as good as Dylan Thomas are rare creatures indeed, but there are many other fine tellers of tales that show up here at Green Man. One of them is Larry Kirwan, leader of Black 47, which is perhaps the finest Irish-American band in recent memory. He is both a talented musician and a playwright of some note. Green Man has had the privilege of reviewing all of Black 47's CDs, and Craig Clarke is working on a review of Kirwan's novel, Liverpool Fantasy, which Craig says is 'wonderfully detailed and entirely believable'. Another really interesting thing is that we've reached an agreement with Larry to post here in MP3 format the only Black 47 cut that has never been released on CD! 'Liverpool Fantasy/Get Up Stand Up' wasn't included on later CDs that were released by the band, but the rest of the cuts on the 1989 release Home of the Brave/Live in London were. Look for this rather cool musical treat in March, along with an interview with Larry Kirwan.

 

8th of February, 2004

'Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as none but the temperate can carry.' -- Plato

Lupercalia is fast approaching, the festival we've been celebrating from time out of mind in honor of Juno, the goddess of women and marriage, and of Pan, the god of nature.

So there's Jack Merry, up in his office, surrounded by gifts of exotic chocolate sent to him by Danse Macabre fans from all over the world. And there's Brigid in the kitchen, thinking to lure her Jack down with a luscious boeuf bourguignon, the sort of meal that takes days to plan and prepare. Liath's tower is sending out wafts of delicate scent every time someone opens the door: a secret admirer found a way to have honeysuckle from the Vale of Evermind delivered to her. And there's Maria Nutick, heading out the door to shop for a gorgeous dress to surprise her sweetie, something in satin, perhaps...

Wait, you're saying, don't you mean Valentine's Day? Well, folklore is like that. We call it Valentine's Day now. But we still celebrate it in the old, old ways.

Of course, folklore is always shifting and embellishing, too. They say that once a wicked emperor decreed that men of fighting age could not marry, the better to fit them for life in his armies. A gentle priest named Valentine defied the emperor and continued to marry young lovers in secret. Discovered, cast into prison and condemned to die, Valentine was comforted daily by messages of hope and thanks pushed through the bars of his cell window by those whom he'd helped.

So the tales get told, and the songs get sung, and everyone who has known love and hope, or the flush of an aphrodisiac meal served by a savvy femme, adds their memories to the tradition. And speaking of tales and songs...

Our featured book review this week comes from Kelly Sedinger, who declares 'I suppose that I should come clean right now: I am a huge fan of Guy Gavriel Kay. We're talking huge fan here: the man could write a Dick and Jane book, and I'd probably love it. I've read and loved all of Kay's books, except for the poetry collection In This Dark House. So if it might seem that I lack some level of 'objectivity' here, I might also point out that I'm able to view this new novel in the continuing light of Kay's other novels.' And indeed he is, as this Excellence in Writing Award winning review of the newest Kay novel, Last Light of the Sun, will show you...

Cat Eldridge was quite taken with the adventures of detective and fellow gastronome Maigret. Indeed, he watched twelve consecutive episodes! Cat says, 'Would a quintessentially French series filmed entirely on location in Budapest feel French? Could an Irishman, Michael Gambon, pull off playing a French senior police inspector? Would the mixture of Hungarian and English actors be too jarring? Hell, could material taken from arguably the most successful detective series in any language (save possibly Sherlock Holmes) be rendered faithfully into the form of film? All these questions and possibly a few more were on my mind as I set down to watch this series.' Read his featured film review for the answers to these questions, but don’t worry, he won’t spoil the endings for you.

Maria Nutick, Book Editor, here. As you'll see from this week's Book section, we do get a lot of spectacular material to review. We take pride in frequently having the first online review of many new works of fantasy and folklore, fiction and nonfiction. How do we do this? Well, we have a bunch of great reviewers, of course! So, do you think you could be one of us? Would you like to write for the best review magazine going? We'd love to have you. If you're interested, in writing for GMR, go here. Now, on to our reviews...

Letters Editor Craig Clarke is, like many of our reviewers, a musician. To be specific, he's a drummer. And of drummers, Craig says '[A]sk any aspiring drummer for his influences, and odds are the name John Bonham will appear on his/her top five list. Voted the second most influential drummer ever by Rhythm readers (only Buddy Rich was higher), John 'Bonzo' Bonham's effect on modern drumming (especially hard rock and heavy metal) cannot be overestimated.' So, what did Craig think of John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums, by Chris Welch and Geoff Nichols? Find out in his short, sharp review.

One of our newest staffers, Kate Danemark, haplessly mentioned in our breakroom that she's a fan of quirky author Christopher Moore. Thus was she introduced to one of our Green Man rules...mention a work in the breakroom and you'll be asked to review it! She comes through like a trooper with reviews of two Moore works: Fluke, or I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings and Island of the Sequined Love Nun. Go see why Kate says that 'this is Christopher Moore, after all, who can make me like just about anything, or at least keep me entertained with any of the myriad subjects he chooses to write about.'

Cat Eldridge gives us his thoughts on the new Laurell K. Hamilton Merry Gentry novel. Of his own review of the third installment of Hamilton's dark and sexy series about the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, Cat says '[T]his review would be rated by the Motion Picture Association of America as NC-17. If you're not at least that old, go away! Or at least take a cold shower afterwards.' Whew! Doesn't that make you want to read his critique of Seduced by Moonlight?

'The blues was not invented, it developed. Robert Johnson represents one step in that development; for some of us, maybe the key step. He got us listening in the first place.' So says Master Reviewer and one of our Green Man blues experts David Kidney in our next review. Partly due to his brilliance and partly due to his mythos, authors have used Robert Johnson in works of both fact and fiction. Here David earns an Excellence in Writing Award for his look at a new Johnson biography by Elijah Wald called Escaping the Delta.

Rebecca Scott takes an Excellence in Writing Award, too, for her lyrical and beautifully worded discussion of an Alan Moore novel about...well, let her tell you: 'If Voice of the Fire has a protagonist, it must be Northampton itself, because this is the story of the formation of the mythology of that place. It is a geological study of the strata of the collective unconscious of the area. Each of its twelve chapters is the first-person story of an individual who crystallized into the forming stones in the hill of tales, whose bodies fed its grass and trees. Their histories wind through that of the land, bringing us closer and closer to the present day.' From her review, it sounds like a must-read!

If Rebecca makes Moore's book sound enticing, listen to what she has to say about her next offering, a reissued novel by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: 'Sometimes, when I reach the end of a book, my immediate response is, 'Oh, damn! I ran out of book!' I'm always delighted when this happens (once I get over my irritation at there not being any more to read), because it means I've found a new favorite. I'm quite pleased to report that Sorcery & Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot is a new favorite.'

In addition to his Featured look at Guy Gavriel Kay, Kelly Sedinger reviews a book that is exactly the opposite of a complex plot-rich epic fantasy. Instead, this book by author Ralph Fletcher and illustrator Kate Kiesler is a children's book. As Kelly notes, he had a bit of help with this one: 'I am not typically in the target audience for picture books aimed at children. Luckily for me, though, there is someone in my home who is: my four-year-old daughter. So I gave it to her. We read it at bedtime six nights in a row, and when I took it from her room so I could use it for reference while I wrote the review, she insisted that I bring it right back when I was done.' See what else Kelly has to say about Hello, Harvest Moon!

Jessica Paige also has a review of a book intended for young readers, as she looks at a new work by prolific fantasist Jane Yolen, this one written with Robert Harris. 'Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast' says Jessica, 'is a look at what Atalanta, a legendary figure from Greek mythology, might have gone through as an eleven year old. It is an adventure story, a coming of age story, and a very finely told story. I wish it had been around to read when I was an eleven year old girl. I could have used a strong heroine like Atalanta who was around my age and just my size.'

Grey Walker has a book about an artist. She explains 'Meinrad Craighead has spent her long life creating images and words in her search for the deepest sources of the divine. As the girl christened Charlene Marie Craighead, she spent her summers in North Little Rock, Arkansas, running with packs of dogs, digging holes and listening to the stories of her beloved grandmother, 'Memaw.' When she took holy orders as a Benedictine nun in England, she was given the name Meinrad, in honor of St. Meinrad, one of her own ancestors. Leaving the convent fourteen years later, she came to her heart's home in New Mexico, where she has lived with dog companions and human friends ever since. In all that time, she has never stopped drawing, painting and writing about the images she has discovered.' Grey earns an Excellence in Writing Award for her eloquent and passionate review of Meinrad Craighead: Crow Mother and the Dog God, a Retrospective.

Grey also has a book by Green Man staff favorite author and editor Terri Windling. In The Changeling, Windling writes of an earlier time in America, the days when diseases like consumption ran rampant, and the days 'before automobiles and recorded music were common'. She also incorporates the Fey. Grey says '[Windling] makes the reader believe that consumption and faerie neighbors could be just as mysterious and frightening, and that someone who could remember and make music carried with him a power to bring events to life, to bring change.' Go read Grey's thoughtful review to find out more.

'Whether your tastes run to today's big-hat acts like Toby Keith or Keith Urban, traditional country and honky-tonk like George Jones or Hank Williams, traditional Appalachian like Roscoe Holcomb or Doc Watson, traditional bluegrass like Bill Monroe or Earl Scruggs, progressive bluegrass like Tony Trischka or Bela Fleck, countrypolitan or country-rock or alt-country or any combination, you'll find lots of it here.' What the heck is Gary Whitehouse talking about? How about the Second Edition of the All Music Guide to Country, a book which Gary says is 'indeed an improvement and an expansion over the six-year-old First Edition'.

Newcomer Elizabeth Vail is out walking, trying to restore circulation in her legs after several hours of film watching. She started with Bruce Almighty. Of this tale of an ordinary (well, semi-ordinary) man's brush with omnipotence, Elizabeth comments, 'If director Tom Shadyac had portrayed this movie a little differently, this could have easily been a horror movie...in some ways, the movie retains some of its frightening potential.'

Elizabeth thought that Jamie Lee Curtis stole the show in Freaky Friday. While calling it 'a hefty slice of shameless fun', she laments that the movie never touches on the serious consequences that would happen if two people switched bodies. Elizabeth picks up an Excellence In Writing Award for her review.

Oooh, but Elizabeth didn't like the Jackie Chan vehicle The Medallion, not a bit! 'Creating a successful martial arts movie is like baking a cake. You need to add a certain amount of ingredients to the film to keep it from becoming a disaster. However, if you add too much of one ingredient, the whole thing collapses into a hideous, sticky mess.' She gets the coveted Grinch award for this review.

After last week's Featured Letter, it's nice to have an issue full of laudatory missives. For instance, there's the one from Lynn Rubright offering her appreciation of Grey Walker's review of Rubright's book, Beyond the Beanstalk. Appropriately enough, she then goes on at some length about our favorite (and eponymous) mythological figure.

David Kidney received three letters from admirers. Al Parrish of the band Tanglefoot was glad to see that David 'gets what we do' in his review of their CD, Captured Alive, but wonders why they reminded David of that famous fictional band, the Folksmen.

Meanwhile, Canadian ukulelist James Hill gets back in touch after David's review of his first album, playing it like it isn't, was so appreciated; and Nathan Caswell offers his new CD for perusal based on David's previous reviews.

Finally, the most recent letter for this issue comes from short story writer Roger Range, whose Tooth and Claw, Volume One entry, 'Scavengers,' was singled out by (yes, your intrepid Letters Editor) Craig Clarke as particularly worthy of praise.

Jack Merry here. We have but three music reviews for you this outing, but all three are worthy of your attention.

David Kidney notes 'James Hill is a ukulele player. 'Plunk, a-plunk-a-plunk...' that's what you're thinking isn't it? James Hill is twenty-three years old. He graduated from the University of British Columbia's School of Music, where he studied violin and viola. He has performed as a violist with a half- dozen different orchestras or groups. He studied jazz theory, improvisation, and electroacoustic music. But, let me tell you... James Hill is a ukulele player.' Read David's review of his CD, On the other hand, to see if that's something worth hearing!

Tubular Dogs is, according to Peter Massey, from The Mrs Ackroyd Band, which 'was contrived one way or another back in 1998. 'Contrived' being the operative word, as it was possibly the brainchild of Les Barker, who was at that time, and still is, for my money, one of the finest scribes of 'Lunatic' poetry. I can't remember when it was that I first saw Les perform, but even to this day his poems, which rely heavily on the North of England sense of humour, and are laced with just a touch of satire, leave audiences rolling with laughter. One of the great British traits is the ability to laugh at ourselves. So The Mrs Ackroyd Band was formed as a vehicle to bring another dimension to the pen of Les Barker. By his own admission, he is totally unmusical and completely insane, in a quiet sort of way, but most of his comic songs rule supreme!'

Lenora Rose says of Wheatfield with Crows 'Tim Harrison is a classic guitar-and-voice singer-songwriter, with several obvious merits; he's a tuneful singer with a pleasant voice, and a decidedly skilled guitar stylist. There's Spanish and classical guitar technique here if I'm not mistaken, and considerably more going on than the strumming of chords. He also chooses superlative backing musicians: a harpist who gets her instrument so involved with counterpointing the guitar line that I usually don't catch her arrival until a measure in or more; a harmonica player who sometimes runs overboard but definitely injects a bit of his own mood into things; some understated and elegant backing vocalists. The production is crisp and professional, even slick.' Slick, eh? Read her review to see if that's a good thing in her opinion!

Now be off with you, and enjoy the traditions of Valentine's Lupercalia. Is it chocolate you're after? Rich wine? Flowers? Satin? Or are you perhaps a follower of another tradition, sending sweet messages of love and hope to those you cherish? Perhaps there's a prisoner in the next cell... err, cubicle?... who would be comforted by an old verse.

 

1st of February, 2004

'Come along in, and have some tea!' he managed to say after taking a deep breath.

'A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,' said Balin with the white beard. 'But I don't mind some cake -- seed-cake, if you have any.'

'Lots!' Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.

-- Bilbo and Balin in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit

Jack Merry here. If you've got a bit of time to spare, I could use your help! Remember me mentioning a couple of weeks ago that the fellow violinists in the Huddled Masses Violin Ensemble (at their reunion somewhere in central Europe) insisted on giving Bela, our resident Balkan violinist, lots of 'creature comforts'? And that he shipped them back here via the Orient Express? Well, they arrived en masse this week... It took the porters at the station hours to load them onto the delivery van and bring them to our offices. Large crates with scribbling in languages long forgotten, casks of ale from breweries once thought mythical, and other goodies that made the kitchen staff literally weep with joy. But now it's time to inventory all of it, so grab the clipboard and pen over there and I'll start telling you what we got...

Besides Barack pálinka, a Hungarian apricot brandy, here's two crates of Velkopopovicky kozel, a wonderful award-winning Czech beer that goes well with the Czech traditional eventide meal of roasted pork, cabbage and dumplings. Bela raved about it. Ahhh, nice -- note that several bottles of a Lithuanian vodka (Baalta) are here too. And I see some very good Retsiona over here.

Moving on from libations... Looks like this box was carefully packed to avoid jarring the contents in transit. What's here? Cooking chocolate. And not just any cooking chocolate, but French Le Noir Gastronomie Dark Chocolate, a bittersweet chocolate that our baker will use in making cheesecake! Speaking of cheese, I see several whole rounds of Gorau Glas, a rare and costly Welsh cheese, as well as several large jars of a traditional Hungarian liptauer cheese spread. Yummm! Hmmm... Smell the garlic? That's from the Hungarian kolbasz in this basket -- heavy on garlic and paprika. Look, even better: kovbasa, spicy Ukranian sausage patties! Those should be good... perhaps in a hearty soup.

Newspapers?!? So that's what's in those packets! Let's see if I can figure out what we have here... Hmmm... Three Hungarian papers are here -- Békés Megyei Nap, Budapest Sun, and the Heves Magyei Hírlap. Set those aside for the Library. What else came in? Feral Tribune (Croatia), Folkebladet Glostrup and Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten from Denmark, even recent copies of On the Border are here! The members of the Winter Court will be quite happy to see the latter.

We'd better sample the Velkopopovicky kozel... And I thought there was more lekvar, but I don't see it...

Your friendly Letters Editor Craig Clarke here. Can you believe that we've gone and upset another author? I can, it's quickly becoming one of our inadvertent specialties. This time, it's YA author James D'Arienzo, Jr., who didn't like Matthew Scott Winslow's decidedly negative review of his book Woodbyrne: The Fallen Forest.

One letter turned into another and there's a record of this epistolary conversation displayed on our Letters page. I'd love to tell you all about it -- what was said, who said it, and who got in the final word -- but you'll enjoy it more if you read it for yourself.

Maria Nutick here. We've got an interesting mix of book reviews for you this week; scholarly texts, and fantasy, science fiction/fantasy cross-overs, a little bit of blood and guts...shall we begin?

First up is Craig Clarke and the promised blood and guts. 'Slasher films are like Rodney Dangerfield,' Craig says, 'they get no respect. Even many of those who purport to appreciate the horror genre (I'm talking to you, Kim Newman) find no place in their hearts for this 'slice and dice' subgenre, alternatively known as the 'stalk and slash' or 'splatter' film.' Here Craig takes a look at two authors who take the opposite view, as he gives a big (severed) thumbs-up to Adam Rockoff's Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986 and Kent Byron Armstrong's Slasher Films: An International Filmography, 1960 through 2001.

Faith Cormier asked if we'd like a review of a book about how the most likely candidate for the location of Vinland was discovered at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Ummmmm...YEAH. So here it is. Faith explains 'Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, after a thorough study of The Graenlendinga Saga and Eirik's Saga, found an ancient Viking settlement in America, near the present community of L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland.This book is the story of how the Ingstads did it -- part literary commentary, part detective story, part adventure.' Faith's fascinating review of the Ingstad's The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of a Norse Settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland has caused yet another addition to this Book Editor's must-read list.

Editor in Chief Cat Eldridge loves Roger Zelazny's writing like a four-legged cat loves batting about little furry rodents. He's not afraid to name Zelazny as 'one of the best fantasy writers of all time,' so it's not a surprise that he brings us another review of the man's work. '[T]hough I like his novels very much,' Cat enthuses, 'he was often at his best when writing short works of fiction. Unicorn Variations contains enough of these gems that any Zelazny fan should own it!'

Like Roger Zelazny, C.J. Cherryh is equally at home writing science fiction or fantasy. Writers who work in both fields often bring elements of one into the other, with wonderful results. Cherryh blends elements of the fantastic into her Chanur books; for example, her main character aliens, the Hani, like Anne McCaffrey's Catteni or Hrrubans, are basically big (not so much cuddly) kitty cats! Go find out more, as Robert Tilendis reviews two important Cherryh works, The Chanur Saga and The Pride of Chanur.

Here's yet another example of our staff writing reviews that are as good as the review material itself: 'Once upon a time, there was a king who fell in love with a woman of the sea. In time, however, he married one of his own people and made her his queen. In anger, the sea woman exacted a terrible price... Meanwhile, the daughter of a fisherman lost her father in the way fishermen's families everywhere lose fathers. In anger, she cursed the sea. And so a story of sorrow and loss begins. For when the sea calls in debts, everyone pays. The king, his family, the fisherman's daughter, her entire village. And when you curse the sea, your curse touches every shore the sea washes.' Absolute poetry, isn't it? And this is only the beginning of Grey Walker's review of Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea. I think it's obvious why our Grey has such a collection of Excellence in Writing Awards, and she adds another one for this lovely look at a lovely book.

As Grey explains in her second review, 'Charles de Lint has a tradition of writing a short story every year, publishing it privately in chapbook form, and giving it to friends as gifts. Those of us devoted de Lint readers who have heard about, but never seen, these chapbooks tend to elevate them to near-mythical status.' This chapbook was written several years ago and has now been published in a limited edition by Subterranean Press. Grey was delighted with Refinerytown.

We began with non-fiction and we end with non-fiction, as Gary Whitehouse reviews what is, in his words, 'a treasure trove of history, sociology and musical insight.' He goes on to explain 'Making Music Modern examines the lives, times and music of nearly all of the influential American-born or immigrant modernist composers of the early 20th Century: Leo Ornstein, Edgard Varese, Dane Rudhyar, Carl Ruggles, Renry Cowell and Ruth Crawford. [Author Carol Oja] also includes some of those less-well-known today, such as Marion Bauer, Frederick Jacobi, Emerson Whithorne and Louis Gruenberg. She gives much ink to neoclassicism -- its origins and the controversies surrounding the movement, as well as in-depth examinations of the major neoclassical composers: Copland, Virgil Thomson and others.' Whew! No wonder Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s has won awards...just as Gary wins one for Excellence in Writing!

Michael Hunter brings us an in-dept interview with Eliza Carthy this week. Eliza was in Adelaide, Australia for WOMADelaide and took some time to talk to Michael about touring, the background behind some of her songs, and the difference between performing solo and as part of WatersonCarthy. Take a look at the interview for some insight into her music; not to mention the answer to the question, does Eliza Carthy like to ride horses?

Liz Milner has a thorough report on the Washington Science Fiction Association's Capclave Conference. Capclave is a short story writer's conference - mostly business, little of the usual 'con' trappings. Check out Liz'sr report to get a snapshot of the thoughts of a range of Sci Fi / Fantasy authors are on some current issues in the genres. This was a 'Pro/Am' event for Liz - she was both a spectator and a panelist. You'll particularly enjoy her candid take on her own first impressions of Tolkien.

Jack Merry here. One of the things that always impresses me about this endeavour is quite how bloody varied the CDs are that we get for review year in and year out. Some are, according to the log book that we keep, just plain weird -- such as Croatian electronic dance music. (Definitely not reviewable!) But many are quite good and well-worth reviewing, as can be seen by what got turned in this week by our reviewers...

The Medieval Experience, a two CD collection, and the Venere Lute Quartet's Sweet Division found favour in the ears of Scott Gianelli: 'All told, while I cannot really say how favourably the performances on The Medieval Experience and Sweet Division compare to similar works by other groups, I can say that they serve as acceptable introductions to the genre of Medieval music for the inquisitive listener. Most people will know what to expect from the Gregorian chants, but otherwise these discs will open a lot of doors for further exploration. In addition, people looking for period music for a theatrical presentation or something along those lines will find a broad spectrum of Medieval musical styles to choose from. I can't help thinking, though, that these discs only hint at the full breadth of the Medieval experience of music.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for all the melodious details.

Down Home: The Compact Collection is based on a legendary television programme, according to Stephen Hunt: 'Almost twenty years ago, Channel Four television (U.K.) aired a musical documentary series that was, for me, nothing short of revelatory. I had, at that time, already begun my musical journey beyond the narrow confines of mainstream pop and encountered a little British and Irish folk music; I'd also spent several months working alongside a country music obsessive who used to give me Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash tapes with the patient yet insistent kindness of an evangelical Baptist handing tracts to a potential convert. All that I lacked was someone, or something, to show me the bigger picture.' Now read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for why this CD left him quite horrified! Hint -- that rough beast was definitely slouching toward Bethlehem the day this CD was produced...

Jimmy Thackery and Tab Benoit's Whisky Store LIVE! gets a pithy but highly appreciative review from Blues maven David Kidney: 'It's a blues album, but contemporary blues. There's no acoustic guitar, no bottleneck, no moanin' down low. Whiskey Store LIVE is a rocking band, with four potent soloists, a storehouse of good songs, and the time to play 'em. Obviously it's not for everybody, but I'm putting it in my car for the weekend, yessiree!'

Graham Bellinger's Built to Last gets nothing but accolades from Peter Massey: 'This is the latest release from Graham Bellinger, lead singer in the band Root Chords. I had the pleasure of reviewing Graham's last CD, Old Blue Suit, here at the Green Man Review last year, and thought it was pretty good. On that particular album, Graham turned his hand to 'The Blues'. This time it's a change of direction, and Graham has come up with a theme album. He calls Built to Last his 'spirit of place' collection. The songs draw on the landscape of the quiet and beautiful stretch of country known as the Welsh Marches, which lies south of the River Dee toward the River Seven along the English/Welsh border. Being a Shropshire lad and born in this area, it's a place he knows well. Most of the songs on the album have been written or arranged by Graham, who has a wide taste in music, so this too is reflected in the musical style of this CD. I liked what I heard, and I think you will too.'

Lenahan's Brand New Bag is a 'nother CD that Peter very much liked: 'It is easy to put music into categories or genres, but every now and again something comes along that has that little bit extra and pushes the boundaries out a little further. This is the case with the band Lenahan. They're based in New York, and although they have appeared at the 1998 Gosport Festival and the Guinness Fleadh in Ireland, the band is still virtually unknown in the U.K., which I have to say is a great shame. For here is a band that is a pleasant change from the run-of-the-mill Celtic rock band -- that is, if indeed you want to class them as Celtic folk rock at all! Formerly known as The Clan, the band takes its name from piper extraordinaire Tom Lenahan. I found their approach to Celtic rock refreshingly different.'

Celtic music expert John O'Regan looks at four CDs ( Two Time Polka's About Time Two; Turkey Hollow's Live Turkey; Jim Hurst and Missy Raines's Synergy, and the Spain in My Heart collection). Celtic music given his background, eh? No, not 'tall: 'The above titles could be filed under Americana of varying degrees, as the music featured on each album is essentially American in inspiration and influence. However, there is also a difference between them, as two are bluegrass albums of particular sorts, one is a compilation of songs dedicated to the Spanish Civil War and the other is probably the best shot of Cajun/American roots music not made by Americans. So this omnibus review deals with American Roots with a twist -- if that whets your appetite or tickles your fancy, then read on.'

Have you meant our surf music maven, Gary Whitehouse? If not, this review of Southern Culture on the Skids' Mojo Box and Laika & The Cosmonauts' Local Warming will introduce you to his considerable writing skills. (He's a mean darts player too, in the Green Man Pub. Don't bet on darts with him ever!) As he notes here, 'Surf music. Whether that phrase makes you think of the smooth, polished, multi-guitar sound of The Ventures, the slashing rumble of Link Wray, the power-picking of Dick Dale or the danceable pop of '60s beach blanket movies, you still probably have some idea of what to expect. These two January 2004 Yep Roc releases, one from a long-standing U.S. band, the other from Finland, of all places, showcase some of the different directions surf music has taken.'

At least one staffer claims to have seen an Oxford Dean smoking his pipe and quaffing an ale in the Pub as he avidly discussed Welsh music with several of the Neverending Session musicians. Now I'm not sayin' it was 'him', but this person certainly knew a lot 'bout hobbits and proper pipe smoking too! Given our liking of all things Tolkien, it shouldn't surprise you that we've reviewed more books on Tolkien and his work than anyone else short of the Mythopoeic Society! And it's worth noting some of the Tolkien-themed books that we've received recently for review: Matthew Dickerson's Following Gandalf, Wayne Hammond and Christina Schull's J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illlustrator, Brian Sibley and John Howe's The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth, and Paul Simpson's The Rough Guide to The Lord of the Rings are but a taste of what's come into the mailroom as of late.

Cat Eldridge here. We decided quite some time ago not to review most science-fiction, as it doesn't fit our feeling of what Green Man is. Sometimes I wish we did review sf, as there's very few good review zines around -- Scifi Weekly is one of the better ones. But I still need a resource for finding out what's out there for sf, horror, and fantasy. The very best I've found is Locus Online, which is the online version of the leading news & reviews magazine of the SF field. Locus Online posts breaking news, daily links to SF/F/H reviews and articles elsewhere online, weekly best-seller lists and listings of notable new books and magazines, convention and author event listings, online-exclusive book and film reviews, samples from each issue of Locus Magazine, and a comprehensive index of SF/F/H awards. Check it out -- I'm sure that you, too, will find it worth reading!

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2004, The Green Man Review.
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Updated 22 February 04, 03:30 GMT (MN)