'You were made for enjoyment, and the world was filled with things which you will enjoy, unless you are too proud to be pleased with them, or too grasping to care for what you can not turn to other account than mere delight.'
-- John Ruskin


25th of April, 2004

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Grey Walker here. A few weeks ago, Donna Bird told you about The School of Imagination, which is just down the way from Green Man Review's office building. So this week, I thought I'd tell you a bit about another wonderful place that's right on our block, just three doors south of us: Wood's Book Stall.

Wood's is a combination indoor-outdoor affair -- at least on fine days it is. We do, of course, have lots of rainy and snowy days in our fair city, and on those days Anna Wood doesn't roll her book carts outdoors. But if there's no book-threatening weather, you can see her pulling the carts out at eight in the morning. There are three of them, old creaky wooden things, dark with years, but topped with bright, multi-striped awnings that Anna replaces every spring (at which time she also holds the annual New Awning Sale). Anna has named the carts, and their names are painted on them. Pi Sheng, Caxton and Kelmscott. So if you're looking for a particular book, and Anna says, 'I think that one's on Pi Sheng,' you'll know what she's talking about. Anna's corgi, Offset, keeps an eye on the carts, lying curled up in the shade under Caxton. And don't think Offset won't notice and go barking to Anna if you try to snaffle a book without paying!

Wood's is also one of that rare breed, a combination new-and-used book store. Anna sells books that she likes, whether she finds them just off the presses or previously read. And you'd be amazed at the wide variety of books you'll find in her store, considering that she reads every one before she puts it out on the shelf. At least we think she does. For thirty years, we've pulled books at random and asked her about them, and she always knows what they're about -- in detail. No one we know has stumped her once.

But if you're curious about any folk roots or imaginative book you find at Wood's, Anna might also point you up the street in our direction. After all, it's likely we've got a review of it! And for that matter, here are this week's new reviews.

No'am Newman wrote our featured review this week, and quite a review it is. No'am explains: 'A move to London in late 1974 certainly helped expand my small science fiction collection, as I began to frequent a somewhat bizarre shop in Camden Town which specialised in importing American books not available in Britain. Amongst the Zelazny titles which I purchased were The Doors Of His Face, The Lamps Of His Mouth (fabulous -- in both meanings of the word -- short stories including the aforementioned 'Rose'), the first two books in the then being written Amber series, and a slim novel entitled Lord Of Light which, I was assured, had won the Hugo prize for best novel in 1967. Nearly 30 years later, it seems that many a Hugo winning novel is no longer available, and so the good folks at Avon have taken it upon themselves to republish some of the excellent titles, including Lord Of Light. So this is a good occasion to look back on a piece of classic science fiction by a well regarded author: Zelazny died in 1995 as a result of cancer, but won six Hugos during his writing career.' No'am wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this stellar piece.

Maria Nutick here, with this week's book offerings...I do believe Anna might have some of these.

Faith Cormier takes a look at a novel which blends science fiction and fantasy better than most. 'Diane Duane is a prolific author in several media and genres', Faith says, 'but I am mainly familiar with her science fiction in the Star Trek universe. For her other science fiction fans, Stealing the Elf-King's Roses certainly has scientific aspects, so long as you accept that science could work differently in alternate universes. However, if you prefer fantasy, there's plenty of that. You just need to look at everything as magic.'

'What better setting than the Dark Ages for a mystery novel?', asks Eric Eller. 'The upheaval and uncertain politics of the era provide many opportunities for plots, conspiracies, and high crimes. Build in enough detail to immerse the reader in an unfamiliar setting and the result is a captivating novel that will tempt you to read it in as few sittings as possible.' So, does author Peter Tremayne use this setting successfully? Sounds like it. Eric says: 'Peter Tremayne's Smoke in the Wind is exactly this sort of book.'

Film Editor Tim Hoke has been struggling with his mixed feelings about our next book for several weeks. The best he can say about editor Kimberley Holloway's collection of essays exploring novelist Sharyn McCrumb's work is that 'From A Race Of Storytellers has some good places, but when you leave one, you've got a ways to go before you reach the next.'

Beloved childhood characters do actually exist outside the realm of Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Seuss. Yes, they do indeed. So I was delighted when Leona Wisoker first proposed reviewing her collection of Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books...these were some of my 'best beloveds' as a child, though most of my friends had never heard of them!

If you're not familiar with the Moomins, let Leona explain: 'Tove Jansson, born in 1914, was the beloved creator of a series of books about a small family of trolls living in the wilds of her native Finland. Her Moomin books have been translated into over two dozen languages, including Lithuanian, Ukranian, and Esperanto. They have been converted to theater, opera, TV, and a Japanese animation series, and Finland even boasts a Moomin theme park. I had the good fortune to be introduced to the Moomin books at a young age. I also had the exceptional good luck, as an adult, to find copies of almost every one.' An an Excellence in Writing Award goes to Leona for this look at a series which every child should be fortunate enough to have on their shelves.

'Stands Scotland where it did?' We'll let Craig Clarke answer that. Craig's just finished watching Scotland, Pa. for the fourth time. This dark comedy is based on that Scottish Play of Shakespeare's, and Craig says, 'Those familiar with the play will appreciate how faithful it is to its source, while bringing the story forward to a more cinematic (and colorful) era with all the fun elements intact.'

Michael Hunter was thoroughly impressed with a recent performance by Richard Thompson. Thompson was at the top of his form, mixing high-quality guitar work with a distinctive voice and a self-deprecating wit. The show included new songs and ones from the far reaches of his catalog. Thompson made this work through a talent for pulling together the most disparate-seeming songs into a seamless whole. Was this a great performance? Michael can't imagine a gig to beat it. Make sure to read his review to see why Thompson inspires such enthusiasm.

David Kidney here, to point out the highlights of this week's batch of CD reviews. You'd think it would have been quiet around here, what with SPike off in New York City. (Believe it or not...he's helping to chaperone a group of twelfth graders. Makes one shudder just thinking about it.) But it wasn't quiet. There were lots of interesting and fascinating bits of music echoing down the halls, and now you can read just what our peerless team of reviewers thought of them.

Scott Gianelli starts us off with a look at this week's celtic choice. The Baltimore Consort have a new album out and Scott thinks 'they have unequivocally hit a home run with Adew Dundee. Their playing is superb and the pieces meticulously arranged.' He has lots more to say about this album...even giving credit where it is due...to the composers!

I used the extra time I had, in SPike's absence, to listen to a batch of albums, from a multi-disc bootleg of Harry Nilsson songs (which I can't mention) to an autographed gift from Van Dyke Parks, it was a full week. The soundtrack to the Bob Dylan film Masked and Anonymous features 'surrealistc swirls of images...and forces you to rethink [what you know about Bob Dylan].' It's really curious, and worth investigating. John Martyn, who has been experiencing some health problems of late, has released another potent live album. Live in Concert at the Cambridge Folk Festival 1985 'shows us where John Martyn's head was...' one day 20 years ago. Listen to this and your head will join him!

American Angels by Anonymous 4 proved to be '...an almost perfect' introduction to the art of shape note singing. And it's a beautifully relaxing way to spend an hour! Finally, I listened to Canadian folkie Ken Whiteley's new gospel CD. Gospel Music Makes Me Feel Alright is a 'vital and exciting collection of tunes.' I found it 'well worth a listen.'

Peter Massey reviewed an anthology of live performers from the Chester Folk Festival and he seemed to enjoy it. 'A lot of singers [included herein] are not widely known on the club singer's circuit,' but Peter recommends the album and the performers.

Finally, Lars Nilsson looks at a new album by olde folkies Steeleye Span. Favourites of the editors group at the pub, Steeleye Span have captured Lars's attention. Is They Called Her Babylon 'a classic Steeleye Span album? Well, it's too early to tell. Classic albums earn their status as time passes...I will certainly keep on playing it through the summer.' Well...a summer classic then!

That's about it for the jukebox this week. Now I better get some sleep, I need to pick up SPike at 5 am at the airport!

Before we forget, for those who read and enjoyed Maria Nutick's review of Pun-Smoke, it is indeed that time again. Gary Hallock writes to let us know that the 27th Annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships will be held May 15th in Austin Texas! Check out their Web site for more details on this delightful event.

So you're off, are you? If you've just read a review of any book that looks interesting, you might see if Wood's has got it. But you'd better have a drink in the Pub, first. I just saw Anna coming into the Pub herself about half an hour ago, and Offset doesn't know the stock so well.

18th of April, 2004

'Continuity was writing a book. Robin Lanier had told her about it. She'd asked what it was about. It wasn't like that, he'd said. It looped back into itself and constantly mutated; Continuity was always writing it. She asked why. But Robin had already lost interest: because Continuity was an AI, and AIs did things like that.' -- from William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive.

I'm a Jack, so how do you know the tale I'm telling you now is true? You don't. But does it really matter? I tell tales, you tell tales. We all weave fictions every day of our lives. Some sound true, some may be true, and a few are obviously anything but true, so either you believe the tale that you are being told now or you don't -- matters not to me 'tall!

I've been reading in the Library as of late -- lots of fiction, some history, a bit of dipping into tune books. Very late one evening, I left the Library to go down to the Pub, where I thought the Neverending Session was playing. I had forgotten that this old building has a way of getting one lost without trying, which is how I ended up standing in what one of the staff jokingly (I think) calls the Fourth Tower of Inverness after a radio play she once heard a fragment of. It's on a corner of the building that faces the City we are part of. (What's the name of the city, you ask? Damn if I know. It depends on when you ask that question. And who you ask. Zina Lee thinks it's called Samhain.) This Tower looks over the whole of this ancient city. On this night, I could see from the harbour to the moors and far beyond. What I can't figure out is how clear the night sky is from this Tower, as we are in the middle of a fairly large, often polluted city. All I know is that the night sky goes on forever.

Going back down the steps did not help me reach the Pub. I ended up in the Green Room in the Great Hall, where the posters from bands who've played here tell an interesting tale themselves. Eddi and The Fey. . . Nazgul. . . Boiled in Lead. . . Steeleye Span. . . Jump at the Sun. . . X-Bella. . . Why there's even an old broadside for some now-forgotten fiddler who played here not long after John Gay penned The Beggars Opera.

The next stairway was definitely not the right one, either. I ended up looking out an open door into late 19th century London -- complete with hansom cabs, bobbies, and even a Whitechapel lady or two. I thought it best not to step outside!

I thought perhaps this hallway would be the right one. . . No, but I did find the players! They were in the kitchen, which, like the Neverending Session, never really stops. And that's why the musicians were there: both food (a fine venison stew with late winter root veggies) and drink (mulled spiced wine) were on offer in exchange for some tunes, such as 'Da Day Dawn', which they were playing when I came in. It was nearly dawn, and the bakers were engaged in what they called their 'Celtic baking frenzy'. I was told that there were oat farls, currant and caraway scones, boxty bread, bannocks, brunnies, ballymaloe bread and even a fine Welsh small cake called teisennua ffair llanddarog, which I remember me nain making for our family.

'Curse whatever gods you believe in for taking George Alec Effinger from us far too soon. And curse them if you will for making him suffer for most of his life in pain far more severe than you want to even imagine. He deserved better, much better, as he was without doubt one of the most brilliant writers that ever graced our presence.' So says Editor in Chief Cat Eldridge in his introduction to his review of this Golden Gryphon Press collection of Effinger stories. A group of tales taking place in the same universe as Effinger's 'trilogy of MarÓd Audran novels set in a richly imagined 21st century Middle East, with cybernetic implants and modules allowing individuals to change their personalities or bodies,' Budayeen Nights definitely meets with Cat's approval. 'A second volume of tales by George Alec Effinger is, I hear, planned by Golden Gryphon.,' says Cat in this Excellence in Writing Award winning review. 'If it's anywhere near as good as this volume is, you and I will have a hell of a good reading experience on our hands when it comes out.'

Our featured CD review is one that the editors thought was virtually perfect. A model for others to read and emulate if they want to understand what Green Man Review is looking for in a review. Zina Lee has been listening to Eliot Grasso's Standing Room Only, and she has been loving it! She places the music squarely in the context of Grasso's career, and raves, 'if God is good to me, perhaps I'll live long enough to hear Eliot Grasso hit his musical stride in his maturity. Until then Standing Room Only. . . will suffice.' I guess that means Zina liked it, and the editors liked what she said well enough to give her an Excellence in Writing Award!

Deborah Brannon says '[T]here's nothing I enjoy so much as a good story replete with fantastical and mythological elements. Therefore, when I heard about Stefan Rudnicki's latest venture, an anthology entitled Imaginings: An Anthology of Visionary Literature, I was beside myself with anticipation. As the name suggested, I expected a collection of bizarre and forward-thinking stories. This is the first volume of three, with this particular volume entitled After The Myths Went Home. This conjured in me anticipation for stories of myth and nihilism, meaning and void.' So, did Imaginings meet her expectations? Er, sadly not, as you'll see in her very fair and balanced review.

Cemetery Dance Publications sends us some wonderful stuff for review. Denise Dutton reviews a new offering by Jay Bonansinga — a scary story about a haunted house and a haunted man: '. . . I can say that this story engaged me almost immediately. Mr. Bonansinga tells a captivating tale. He's an excellent storyteller who knows how to pace his narrative, and seems to understand when to hint at, and when to reveal, his bogeys.' Sounds promising! Read her review of Oblivion to see if the story kept Denise interested.

April Gutierrez is one of Green Man's most knowledgeable comic readers, but: 'I have a confession to make up front, one that's not likely to endear me to this book's intended audience: I'm not a huge Alan Moore fan . . . which is to say that when I was offered this tribute in honour of Moore's 50th birthday, I wasn't sure at all I was precisely the reader the authors had in mind.' So what did she think of Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, from editors smoky man and Gary Spencer Millidge? 'Portrait is immediately accessible to anyone with even just a passing familiarity with Moore's work. And more importantly, it's an absolutely fascinating read. Portrait is not so much a retrospective (though Millidge's 12 page biographical comic at the front does that neatly) of Moore's illustrious career as it is equal parts birthday present, professional tribute and celebrity roast.'

'Is the folk tale dying? Will mass media wipe out the oral tradition, replacing that living and evolving heritage with ephemeral entertainment? Jilali El Koudia is afraid so. Born into a rural family in the ancient cultural crossroads of Morocco, he experienced his mother's telling of folktales as a vital relief from daily hardships. Now a prominent writer and translator, he feels it urgently necessary to preserve the tradition that nurtured him, before it disappears.' Lory Hess receives an Excellence in Writing Award for her wonderful review of El Koudia's Moroccan Folktales.

Assistant Music Editor David Kidney is a consistently wonderful writer, as he proves yet again with our next review: 'You all recall Mister Lee Hays: the bass singer from The Weavers. He was last seen in the Weavers reunion film Wasn't That a Time. He passed away shortly thereafter. Robert S. Koppelman, assistant professor of English at Broward Community College and a banjo player and singer, has gathered together a rich collection of Hays's writings. With these writings, and a Weavers' album, Lee Hays will live on. His spirit is tangible on these pages. As rough and tumble, as gentle, as opinionated and as caring as he appeared in life . . . so too is he in written form.' Read more from David on the subject of 'Sing Out, Warning! Sing Out, Love!' The Writings of Lee Hays.

Lars Nilsson has another biographical offering for us: 'Flora MacDonald was born in 1722 on South Uist, an island in the Hebrides. Her moment of glory came in the aftermath to the 1745-46 Jacobite uprising in Scotland. In the battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746 the Jacobite cause was crushed by the Duke of Cumberland and his army, and with it the dream of the free Scottish nation . . . In his Wee Guide to Flora MacDonald David MacDonald tells the tale with every detail there is to find. He adds pieces of information on the situation in Scotland (and in America) in those rebellious times, mentioning almost anyone who had a connection to Flora.'

Our final book review this week is a life or death matter. Elizabeth Vail explains 'Ben Sherwood, the author of The Man Who Ate the 747, presents us with his own interpretation of life and death, in the aptly titled The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.' What did Elizabeth think of Sherwood's novel? 'Think of The Sixth Sense — as written by Walt Disney,' says Elizabeth? Hmmm . . . better read the review.

Letters editor Craig Clarke here. It's been a banner month for our own SPike Winch. Not only have the past few weeks seen his first solo review (previously he'd been collaborating with pal David Kidney), and his first copy for What's New, but also his first letter in the GMR mail can.

Singer-songwriter Gene Serene wrote in to ask about SPike's knowledge of the Trio track, 'Da Da Da,' and we've got the exchange for you on our Letters page. (Now, I'm not one to gossip, but I think SPike may be a little taken with Ms. Serene, because he's been humming 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' whenever he comes around the mail room for the past week or so. We'll see what transpires.)

Tom Garrett appears to be taken with GMR in general, at least as far as our British Trad music reviews go. According to him, 'we have almost identical taste in books and music', and he lists such staff favorites as Fairport Convention, early Steeleye Span, Charles de Lint, and Emma Bull's War for the Oaks among his own preferences. So, it seems that we have not only another satisfied customer, but a veritable soul mate in Mr. Garrett. He calls us 'an essential resource for the Brit Trad folkie'.

Also, Simon & Schuster Children's publicist Alexis Burling wrote in to offer a gracious 'thank you' for Maria Nutick's continuing work on reviewing Holly Black's Spiderwick series, specifically the most recent installment, The Ironwood Tree. And while singer/songwriter Dana Robinson found Rick Hayes' review of his CD Avenue of the Saints to be 'well-written...and insightful', he felt it might be more appropriately indexed under a different genre from where it was placed.

Faith J. Cormier had an incredible time at a recent concert by Danu. The group had quite an impact on Faith; she's 'never seen a group who work out their melodies quite like Danu. The performance was all-around outstanding; the great instrumental performances wer matched by tremendous singing. The group's focus on the music was total, Faith 'could almost smell the concentration.' Check out Faith's review to see why Danu inspired such enthusiasm.

David Kidney had the chance to check out a small, intimate show by Tom Russel and Andrew Hardin. Russell performed some of his best songs, with Hardin 'quiet, offering the odd unheard comment (for Russell's ears only) and making himself known by the blistering leads he would regularly squeeze from his Takamine.' The songs covered a wide range of subjects -- from cowboys to train rides to cockfighting (yes, cockfighting). Read David's review to get the full feeling of this great show.

David Kidney and SPike Winch here. There's a bumper crop of CD reviews this issue. Yeah, but still no @#$%in' review of Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' new one! Not yet, SPike, but there are some good ones.

Our fearless leader, Cat Eldridge, listened to the Red Stick Ramblers' Bring It On Down. Yeah, and every time I delivered his @#$%in' mail, or brought him his @#$%in' pizza, or popped open a Boddington's for him, he was up dancin' to the Red Stick Ramblers. He must've liked 'em because he says, 'this CD is so good we're going to buy -- yes BUY -- two tickets to their performance here this spring.' High @#$%in' praise indeed!!!

SPIKE!!! Behave!

Then there's the batch of things that you did! Dave (that's Dav-ID Kidney for those 'a you who don't know 'im like I do) listened to a bunch of bluegrass albums, and found a common element in the guitar playing of Bryan Sutton. I'm not sure he liked all three of these albums, but, as always, he has somethin' to say about all of 'em: Bryan Sutton's Bluegrass Guitar, Jim Lauderdale's Headed for the Hills and Norman and Nancy Blake's Morning Glory Ramblers. As fer myself. . . whenever I hear the sounds of bluegrass guitar. . . I'm headed for the hills with all the other @#$%in' ramblers! But Dave also played a lot of Kevin Breit's new album John and the Sisters. He played this one loud and I dug it! I agree with 'im, it's 'powerful, fun blues. . . for putting the top down and cruising!'

The next album under the microscope is Iona's Branching Out. Peter Massey wasn't sure about this one at first. He thought he'd 'have to be in the right mood to enjoy [it] properly. . . but. . . it soon settled down and got [his] juices flowing.' Now there's a @#$%in' great image!

Me buddy Jack Merry had fiddle sounds comin' out of his office all week! And he looks at a couple of different albums, from a Scottish fiddler. Dawn Dance is an older solo album from Alasdair Fraser which Jack raves about, sayin' 'There are albums that are simply fey. . . blessed with something magical. . . beyond merely good. This is one of them.' Jack gets an Excellence in Writing Award for his comments here. He also liked Fraser's new album with Natalie Haas called Fire and Grace. He says, 'There is both fire and grace in [this] music. . . each listening has been more rewarding than the [last].'

Lenora Rose was fairly impressed by the Guarneri Underground's Wander this World CD. She describes their sound as '. . . hard rock mixes with bits of Irish fiddle, Middle Eastern-influenced singing, African and even Latin rhythms.' Mmmm, that sounds kind of int'restin'. And Lenora earned an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Lisa Spangenberg spent a quizzical week with Andrea Zonn's Love Goes On. She confesses that this 'album is difficult to pigeonhole musically and so is Andrea Zonn,' but Lisa was enough of a sport to give it a go and try and make some sense of Andrea's work.

There you have it folks. Another week, another fine batch of music reviews by all the usual suspects.

See ya' all nex' @#$%in' week!!!


With the sound of good music in me ears, and a full belly too, I left the kitchen to return to the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room, where I had left the book I was reading. . . but as I left, I wondered if this building would let me find me way back there.


11th of April, 2004

'I know that no one is going to believe any of this. That's ok. If I thought you would, then I couldn't tell you. Promise me that you won't believe one word.' -- Grandmother Zofia from 'The Faery Handbag' by Kelly Link

The Neverending Session is the perfect session, here in the outskirts of that sprawling city-state of the ethers, Samhain, which makes it fantasy indeed, as 'perfect' is one of those things that you know when you see it, but could never describe to anyone without much waving of limb and rolling of eye taking the place of mere words. 'Perfect' changes with the times and the people and the mood, as it must in order to maintain perfectness.

Zina Lee here, GMR reviewer and ofttimes player with The Neverending Session. It's never morning, noon or night, when we're playing here at The Inn at the Edge (also known as The Green Man Pub); rather, no matter the time of day, it's always a darkling Pub Time, edges full of deepening shadows, a dark gray-brown dusk that surrounds you in a gathering fug of the ghosts of spilt alcohol, ashes drifting from the fire, smoke laminated upon the walls and ceiling, permanently sticky tables, and wooden floors that creak, the further you walk into the pub. Time slows to a crawl or speeds up in manic gaiety once inside the door, seemingly at its own choice, and the crack is ninety as soon as you join the other musos at the table in the corner.

On cold days, you call for a hot whiskey from Reynard there at the bar, on cool days (and the weather in Samhain is often cool, I feel, though some argue that it's often a lazy and warm summer afternoon -- Samhain certainly seems to morph according to the viewpoint of its inhabitants) it's a pint of your own, on rare hot days, a shandy if you can get away with it without the lads noticing, or it's a slagging for sure.

If there're two or three already playing, you stand for your shout and carefully deliver the glistening pints onto the table between Steve Hunt's waiting guitar and Bela's resting fiddle, turned onto its side with the bow in its precarious resting place on the ribs. Reynard's been talking of getting in help, which'd be kind of nice, not having to trip to the bar for a new round, but then we'll have to argue out about the tipping, since so many of us call in from different sides of the globe. The lads keep hoping for someone who looks good in a short skirt, or at least the males do, and the female musos slag 'em to death for it, the pigs.

As all sessions do, the tunes of the time change and morph with the fancy of the specific musos serenely frowning at bows and embouchures and over their shoulders and knees in their blank way, there in the corner next to the fireplace. Some of us are Irish or Scottish players, others will throw in a bit of Morris or Old Time or of that country just off Prince Edward Island. Still others of us have different obsessions that color the tunes we play. Every now and again, we'll tangent off into a fit of Simon and Garfunkel, or the Beatles, and once we had a short spate of Cajun around Mardi Gras, the punters clanking on glasses and ashtrays and silverware to join in. Sometimes it's weapons down and everyone flitting about, half-spilling drinks, roaring each other down, and slagging as good as we get (especially at the bodhran and banjo players, with their skin necessarily rivaling the rhinos' for thickness, but everyone eventually comes in for their fair share of abuse). The music is only the excuse, but an excuse we willingly often employ.

'D'you know this one?' says Jack Merry, one of our other resident fiddlers, to a visiting piper, essaying a few notes of 'Hunter's House' with a querying eyebrow, and we're soon off into another set of tunes, reels again, but I expect sooner or later someone will start in on a never-ending set of those fecking polkas until someone starts throwing drink coasters at their heads.

Not so fond of polkas yourself, eh? Well, before you let that coaster fly, have a look at the reviews we've got for you this week!

Cat Eldridge here. I had an exchange with an Editor at a well known press who said that he hadn't sent us review copies because he had given up on web zines; he said that every one he read sounded like they had read Amazon and just copied the comments. Fortunately he decided to read us! Now it does help if you actually care about books and like reading them before you write reviews, so sometimes it takes us a little longer to get a review up. However, the delay this time was not because of a reviewer savoring a book, but rather a package going awry in the mail. When I asked the good folks at Simon and Schuster on Friday last why the latest volume of Holly Black's The Spiderwick Chronicles had not showed up, they said it had been sent out well over a month ago. They promptly shipped two copies -- of course, I wanted to read it too! -- and so Maria Nutick started reading it this week. So what did she think of it? Let's let her tell us: 'Is The Ironwood Tree my very favorite book of the series so far? No. Did I love it anyway? Without a doubt. The Spiderwick Chronicles are sitting on my shelf next to Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising and Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet, and that should be all I need to say.'

Faith Cormier brings us our first book offering this week: 'Hugh Rawson is the author of such interesting volumes as: Rawson's Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk, Wicked Words, and Unwritten Laws: The Unofficial Rules of Life as Handed Down by Murphy and Other Sages. This book, Devious Derivations, is an amateur etymologist's treasure, debunking as it does popular etymologies for such words and phrases as posh, S.O.S, and the f-word.'

Our Chief, Cat Eldridge, is a fan of Simon Green's Nightside novels -- he declares that 'Simon writes some of the coolest narrative I've ever read.' In his glowing review of the newest Green novel, he says 'Detective John Taylor would be home anywhere in the metaverse where there's a drink on the bar, dames in trouble, bad guys to overcome, and a pay-off (preferably in cash) at the end of the case. And it doesn't matter if you're dead as you still must pay him! Will he save The Nightingale? Who is her father really? And does either question really matter? No, because the plot isn't about The Nightingale, but about describing a really weird place and its, errr, unusual inhabitants. Nightingale's Lament has everything I like in an urban fantasy novel -- an interesting and very cool protagonist, snappy dialogue, loads of violence, a smidgen of sex, weird characters, a bit of a mystery, and a pacing that never lets up.' Cat picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

'This novel [I Was a Teenage Fairy] begins with eleven-year-old Barbie Markowitz being thrust into the modelling spotlight by her former beauty-queen mother. With her father practically ignoring her, and her controlling mother paying all too much attention to her, Barbie can only find solace with her best friend, Mab. Mab, by the way, is the Teenage Fairy of the title. With fiery purple-red hair and delicate green skin, Mab is a cranky, foul-mouthed, and incredibly unpredictable pixie who longs to be photographed and craves 'biscuits' (her code word for handsome specimens of the male persuasion). Now that sounds like an interesting premise, doesn't it? Find out what Elizabeth Vail thought of Francesca Lia Block's book in this arresting review.

Leona Wisoker is expecting squishy missiles for her review of E. Rose Sabin's A Perilous Power, but instead she gets an Excellence in Writing Award: 'Book reviewing can be a real test of courage sometimes. E. Rose Sabin's work has received rave reviews, her novel A School for Sorcery won the Andre Norton Gryphon award, her work is being compared to the Harry Potter books regularly, but -- gulp -- even with all that to speak for her, I just don't care for this book. While you're getting ready to throw that rotten fruit, let me explain why...'

Maria Nutick, hater of comic book adaptation films, viewed Hellboy under duress and now pronounces it...fabulous? Remember, you heard it here first! Maria loves the writing, and the acting, especially Ron Perlman's. She claims, 'Hellboy has a wonderful duality about it; an action film with real emotions.'

Gary Whitehouse has been watching a biographical film of jazz violin giant, Stephane Grappelli. Stephane Grappelli: A Life in the Jazz Century uses film and photography to document a long, influential musical career. Read Gary's review, where he calls it 'a masterpiece of the art of film biography'.

Oh, do come in. I've been listening yet once more to a brilliant new CD from Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas called Fire and Grace. Good stuff, eh? Green Man oft times gets the most amazing music, from the ever so traditional to the quirkiest of ethnofolk. This week you'll find reviews that cover the classical (Franz Schubert), Bluegrass (Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer), punk country and western (Mary Prankster), and a bit more. Next week, I'll have a review of Fire and Grace as it's every bit as good as a dram of the finest single malt!

English traditional artist Bill Jones has a new album out, Two Year Winter, and one might expect that Vonnie Carts-Powell who liked her (yes, her) previous release would like this one. Alas you'd be wrong: 'I don't like this album as well as Panchpuran, largely because I dislike music that wallows in angst -- even if the misery is as lovely and atmospheric as it is here.' Read her review to see why she found it so!

What makes a review worthy of an Excellence in Writing Award is a mystery to me. I tried asking the Editors what the criteria was but they muttered something 'about even higher quality than usual around here and being easy to work with' before ordering another round of Dragons Breath XXXX Stout, so I gave up. Be that as it may this Excellence in Writing Award winning review by Richard Condon of the Schubert Piano Sonatas D. 958, D. 959 and D. 960 CD released by Sony is a cracking good look at this disc. Just savour the opening paragraph: 'I don't know whether I am the only reviewer regularly to encounter charming coincidences when writing reviews. In my case, something often seems to happen that links up directly with whatever I happen to be reviewing. In this case, while reading the CD booklet I discovered that Franz Schubert composed these pieces, his final three sonatas, in the year of life that remained to him after completing his second and final song-cycle, the Winterreise. By chance, tomorrow evening I shall be sitting in the Théâre de la Monnaie, the Brussels opera house, listening to a live performance of the Winterreise -- the winter's journey. If the liner notes mention the collection of interrelated lieder that make up this masterpiece, it is because the mournful tale of lost and irretrievable love told by Wilhelm Müller's heart-wrenching poems, set to music by Schubert, represents a uniformly bleak contrast to the often more joyful music of Schubert's earlier years. This more sorrowful mood also pervades a large part of the three last sonatas, even if there are moments of relief and exultation.'

The Shetland band Shoormal suffers, as Scott Gianelli notes, a malady that I meself have found to be all too common among Celtic bands: 'While Migrant does not suffer from any obvious weakness, the album does not really distinguish itself as something special, either. The music is quite pleasant, but one could argue that it is too pleasant, and not really challenging. Having said that, any fan of straightforward female harmonies will find this worth a listen, and Trevor Smith is a first-rate guitarist as well. People looking for something light and melodic, in a mainstream, non-traditional sort of way, could do much worse than Shoormal.'

Live at the Oak Center General Store / folk forum, Volume One is a collection of music made at the Oak Center General Store / folk forum on Highway 63, ten miles south of Lake City, Minnesota. After hearing this CD, Peter Massey wants to go there now! His final words are 'Honestly, you really do need this album. After all, home grown 'organic' live music -- is better for you.'

Lars Nilsson likes piping albums quite a bit thank you but Roddy MacDonald's Good Drying 'is mainly an album for those who like the pipes in different contexts. I will keep it as a showcase to take out whenever my friends air preconceptions about highland pipes only being fit for marching bands.' Check back for his review of Steeleye Span's new album, They Called Her Babylon!

Sony, bless 'em, sent us not one but two releases by Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer: Music for Two, a CD, Obstinato, a DVD. It took Gary Whitehouse not more than a few minutes to snatch them off the mail room sorting pile and head off to his office. How good were these two releases from a banjo virtuoso and an acknowledged master of the double-bass? Gary says simply that 'Music For Two and Obstinato are a sterling example of how to combine two kinds of media into a package in which each part complements the other.'

Lemonade: Live is from Mary Prankster, who given her name, would at home in a Charles de Lint novel alongside Donal's sister Miki, (a punk accordion player in Forests of The Heart). Mary, Gary informs us, 'has left behind, at least for now, most of her punk trappings and recorded an album of acoustic country music. And that's not even the biggest change in her life or career in the past year.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for why this is so!


Of course, the Neverending Session's not always noisy. Sometimes we'll call on someone for an air, or a singer'll drop in and get called on for a song. Then the place grows quiet, everyone staying still and gazing off into a huge and deepening chasm about a foot from their chair as the singer or player sings from their heart and gut; sometimes the old singers reach out to grasp the hand of a bystander in the old way, as if the hand is an anchor to keep them from sliding deeper into the land and time of which they sing. An occasional quiet murmur of 'a good girl, good girl' or 'that's it, now, ye boy' punctuates the performance, then a sighing silence before the applause and approving calls. After a bit, we'll strike up another set and we're off again, the punters' conversation rising and falling over the music, an occasional shout punctuating the music.

It's not unheard of to look up and see a totally different set of heads down over entirely different instruments at the end of a set than when we first started. We get called in and out at different times and spaces, and take our leave quietly and with little fuss when we must go, knowing that we'll be back again soon, or forever to pine for the Neverending Session in Samhain.


4th of April, 2004

'I remember years ago hearing a record of pygmy music from the public library. It had all these amazing chants and rhythms like I'd never heard before and it opened my ears to music outside the western tradition. Tunnel vision is the enemy of good music. Whether it's jazz or punk or anything else, you have to fight against the purists who want to narrow the definition. That's what kills music because it stifles it to death.'
-- Joe Strummer

The Green Man offices 'ave become a second 'ome fer me.

It's SPike writin' from the deepest basement that the building's got. Dave (everybody calls 'im Dav-ID around 'ere, but he's just Dave to me) has this little office, underground, wif no windows, but lots of posters on the wall, an' a stack of books wif pictures to look at, and CDs to play, an' even old vinyl records, wif a Crosley record player, jus' like the one I 'ad when I was a kid back at the home.

We've got autographed posters of some ol' jazz guy called Mose Allison, and of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. There's a print of the Beatles' Anthology covers, signed by Klaus Voormann. He's a German bloke who played bass on some Beatles' records, but I remember 'im as the producer of Trio, 'DaDaDa!'

#$%^ me! I must be gettin' old!

Then this big ol' leather chesterfield which, if I put my feet on one arm, and my head on the uvver I can sleep on quite comfortably! I do this quite often, when I'm not runnin' copy up the stairs, or zippin' off to the pizza place across the road, or poppin' cans of Guinness or Boddington's for visitors. We never drink alone! (Do we Dave?!?!)

Cat comes in once in a while wif assignments. 'SPike, could you an' Dave listen to this?' Or Mia drops by wif a few new books. Once John Lydon sent us a postcard. It wuz pinned up on the wall, but some @#$%er walked off wiv it! I met Sid once. Vicious, you know. He did it 'is way! He seemed all right to me. But we wuz both a bit out of it!

The room next door is where they make the @#$%in' EIWAs. If you've never seen one o' them. . . they're like these little football trophies wif a picture of a leafy bloke grinnin' out at'ya an' GMR EIWA scratched into a tiny foil bit. Nice! People around 'ere fight for 'em.

Anyway. . . this week a bunch more CDs an' books an' DVDs an' stuff came into the buildin'. I helped unpack 'em. An' the people that work upstairs like Grey an' Stephen an' Gary an' all the rest worked really hard to review some of 'em. If you can call that 'work'! They don't have 'tunnel vision'. They see the BIG #$%^in' picture!

Like Uncle Joe Strummer said.

If you remember, awhile back all the editors were talking about the books and music they've discovered by working for GMR, things they'd never have encountered otherwise. This week, Craig Clarke, our Letters Editor, earns an Excellence in Writing Award for revisiting that topic. '[M]y favorite of all the bands to which I have been introduced through reviewing is the Saw Doctors,' says Craig. 'Ever since I heard Play it again, Sham!, it has never left the couple dozen or so discs that are in my constant rotation. This band from Tuam, Ireland, have managed to take their influences from their home country and from American rock and make their songs universal, while writing solely of their own experiences.' Last week, Craig reviewed the new CD and DVD from the Saw Doctors, Live in Galway. This week, come along with him as he sees them live in Boston, and then as he interviews Leo Moran, one of the Saw Doctors' front men.

Now busy Craig starts off the book section for us. He says 'I've become quite fond of the recent flood of books about books, specifically books about book collecting and the characters who engage in this rare and costly pasttime. Beginning with Arturo Perez-Reverte's novel The Club Dumas (which was adapted into the film The Ninth Gate), I researched more information about the necessities involved in such a pursuit and the type of person best suited for it...Now celebrity biographer John Baxter has added his own insight to this subgenre with A Pound of Paper.'

'As a reader,' says reviewer Matej Novak, 'you may not be able to relate to the specific details of Kate DiCamillo's The Tiger Rising. You may not know what it is like to lose a parent at a young age. You may not be familiar with life in the American south -- or, more specifically, life in a small Florida motel. And you probably haven't had the experience of discovering a live caged tiger behind this unlikeliest of places. Yet there is a resounding familiarity to this gem of a short novel, a story unmistakably about the experience and magic of childhood.' DiCamillo is rapidly becoming a favorite of Green Man reviewers because of her magical touch: 'although the story is set in the real world, there is a lingering sense of the fantastical lurking just beyond the edges of the page', notes Matej in his careful review.

Lenora Rose is a fan of Nalo Hopkinson. Lenora explains, 'Nalo's strongest point is undeniably her skill with language, bending it and stretching it until the creoles creep into your mind and feel more natural than plain English, and until the plain English beats and sparkles. There is a sharp sense of rhythm to her prose. She is also skilled at coming up with characters who are deeply organic, not built as a series of definable traits, but grown into their current shape, and growing still. Her plots are rarely so much about action than about tranformation: coming of age, coming into one's own, becoming something new, overcoming the things which had trapped the characters in broken shells. The plots meander sometimes, but tangents in the story are invariably deeply important to the central theme, connecting intuitively to the core of things. And yes, there are clear links to folklore, myth, and faith, from a dizzying array of sources.' But our very professional Lenora doesn't let starry eyed fandom get in the way of her objectivity, as you'll see in her thorough critique of Hopkinson's The Salt Roads -- a critique which earns Lenora an Excellence in Writing Award.

'Originally published in 1999, The Arthur of the English is the second volume in a series of scholarly anthologies centered on the Arthurian literature of the Middle Ages. The series as a whole is a cooperative effort of the University of Wales Press and the Vinaver Trust and marks a substantial revision of the Trust's earlier history, the one-volume Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages edited by R. S. Loomis.' Reviewer Robert Tilendis was suitably impressed by this ponderous tome, yet manages to encapsulate his thoughts on the book in a review which is both detailed and interesting. Robert picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this review of The Arthur of the English: The Arthurian Legend and Medieval English Life and Literature (W.R.J. Barron, editor).

Bloomsday 2004 is approaching, and so our thoughts turn once again to James Joyce. Christopher White brings us a look at an unabridged audio edition of Joyce's Dubliners, a series of vignettes read by such notables as Colm Meaney, Frank McCourt, and Fionnula Flanagan. Christopher says '[I]t is difficult today to appreciate the paintings of Monet as being radical, as they were seen at the time of their creation; so, too, it is difficult to keep in mind that Joyce was among the originators of the modern voice in literature. The structure and content of the Dubliner stories, with their 'slice of life' approach and often lack of overt dramatic conflict and resolution, are today thoroughly familiar forms and devices, but were part of the explorations engaged in by Joyce and his contemporaries that transformed our literary tradition.'

In our past two issues, Huw Collingbourne has shared information on the history of tarot, and suggested the appropriate books readers might obtain to begin building a really first rate tarot library. In the last of his three tarot pieces, Huw summarizes '[T]here are decks based on gemstones, cats, witches, The Lord Of The Rings and several Celtic and Arthurian themes. In fact, the tarot has been adapted for just about all tastes. Some of these decks are, it has to be said, merely frivolous. Some are fairly damn awful. Far too many are little more than slavish copies of older designs. To review all the decks currently available would be a gargantuan and ultimately pointless task. What I can do, however, is to guide you to a selection of my personal top ten historically significant and aesthetically pleasing decks.' And so he does, with an essay entitled My Top Ten Tarot Decks.

Jack Merry here. Bela's new band, Shades of Grey, was well-received when they played in the Great Hall last week. See the man over there sipping a Young's Double Chocolate Stout? That's Paul Brandon, author of The Wild Reel, a forthcoming novel from Tor which is about the Fey in Ireland and in his home city of Brisbane. While here, he handed a copy of this new novel to Cat Eldridge, who reviewed his first novel, Swim the Moon. Right after the concert our Editor was off to his office where he's been ever since! Paul stayed around to take part in the Neverending Session's post-concert playing. He plays guitars and bodhrán with Rambling House, a Celtic band.

The cute lassie over near the Bar sipping a red wine, a Shiraz I believe, is Kissy Black, publicist for Dualtone, and a fan of the Rogues -- a Celtic band in her city of Nashville - she tells me they played at her wedding! Kissy's married to singer songwriter Jeff Black and she says they both adore Celtic music, which is how they came to be here tonight.

Now let's see what we have for reviews this week...

I've no doubt 'tall that Kim Bates loves Celtic music in all of its varied forms as she notes in her intro to a review of three CDs (Jason Whelan's Blur, The Tim Molloys' Wrecked, and The Shite 'n' Onions, Volume 1 collection): 'Here at GMR we like the raucous music that builds on the Anglo-Celtic traditions; from the Oysterband to the Pogues, we're there. And this omnibus review finds me with a nice collection of raucous artists, from St. John's Newfoundland to St. Paul, Minnesota, and beyond. We're drawing on multiple traditions here, with music for wild, discontented souls.' So were they shite? Or were they considerably better than much of the shite passing as Celtic music these days? Read her review to find out!

Kim also loves reggae and ska which is why this album found her approval: 'The Slackers have produced a seamless album with Close My Eyes. The instrumentals are tight and well produced, and both Lyn's vocals and the backing vocals go down with the ease of rum punch. Before you know it, you've been playing the disc over and over, and it seems like a good idea to have maybe one more listen before actually writing the review. But here it is at last, an unambiguous endorsement.'

Dualtone is one of our favourite labels around here. Kissy Black sends the most amazing items for review! Memory Girls is yet another fine release from them as Craig Clarke notes: That's Doctor Zanes to you. After an unsatisfying run in Boston's indie rock band The Del Fuegos (with his brother Dan, who has since gone on to a career making children's CDs), Warren Zanes went back to school and got four degrees, including a Ph.D. in Cultural Theory. Upon settling down with a girlfriend he had previously dated fifteen years before (singer April March), Zanes was 'not sure what to do with the [intervening] ex-girlfriends.' Never having lost his interest in music, a solution became obvious:...' Now go read the review to see what the solution was and why it took years for this CD to be released!

Readers of Green Man might remember that guitarist Chuck Mead of BR549 was on every track of Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash, a CD that Gary Whitehouse reviewed for us. So what did David Kidney think of Tangled in the Pines, their new CD? Quite a bit: 'Yeehaw! This here is some good shit-kicking music, played by a bunch of rockin' country boys. Yessir!'

Pay attention now! Peter Massey has a history lesson for you geezers reading this: 'If you are long enough in the tooth to remember the 60's folk group The Critics Group (aka The Singers Club), you will know that Enoch Kent was a founding member. Previous to that, back in the 50's, Enoch was also a member of the Scottish group the Reivers, who were at the forefront of the folk revival in Scotland. Enoch was born and raised in Glasgow, but after moving to London, in the 60's he immigrated to Canada. Here he has performed in many folk clubs and festivals across the country, to wide acclaim. So it seems that, after nearly forty years, Enoch returns to the recording studio with this, his second outing since his 2002 release I'm a Working Chap.' Now read the rest of his review to if Kent's new release, Songs of Love, Lust and Loathing, is worth your time!

You can always trust No'am Newman to be honest about a CD, as he is here in his assessment of Katie Barbato's The Tapestry Room: 'Well, I've had this disc for nigh on two months, and I still can't think of anything in particular to describe it. It's not as if the disc hasn't been played; on the contrary, I've listened to it many times on repeat play and I can even sing or hum bits of it when I'm in the shower. No, it's more due to the fact that the disc is undistinguished, blending in with many other discs which I've heard over the years.'

Horowitz Live and Unedited: The Historic 1965 Carnegie Hall Return Concert got this praise from Kelly Sedinger: 'I have never heard the original recording, so I cannot make a direct side-by-side comparison of the two; but listening to the current recording (issued in part to observe the centenary of Horowitz's 1903 birth), I'm not sure I'd want to. The musicality of the performance comes shining through, and in any event, we now know that the current recording is authentic. On the basis of this recording, I have to wonder what other gems of live performance sit in the vaults of the record companies, awaiting reissue.'

Big Earl Sellar never ceases to surprise me with what he likes for music! This time out it's classical guitar as he looks at two discs from John Williams, The Guitarist and El Diablo Suelto: 'In the world of classical guitar, one name stands out: Segovia. Every player before or since is measured against that Master musician. Of all those players whose names are mentioned as the New Segovia (much like a new Dylan), John Williams is one of the most prominent. An exceptionally gifted player, Williams inserts emotion into his playing that most guitarists, regardless of genre, would be hard pressed to achieve. The man is a performing genius, in every sense of the word. On these two discs, he attempts to move away from the standard Germanic Classical school to explore other works in his tradition, sounds largely influenced by the Mediterranean and the influence of Spanish culture.'

Gary Whitehouse quietly notes that alternative-country Dolorean's Not Exotic CD has music that is 'beautifully orchestrated without overwhelming the poetic lyrics, played and sung in a straightforward manner.' Quite a contrast from BR549!

From our beloved Endicott Studio: 'The Winter 2004 edition of the Journal of Mythic Arts contains mid-winter poetry from Kim Antieau, Ari Berk, Charles de Lint, Theodora Goss, Mario Malosevic and Jane Yolen -- all published for the first time here, along with one reprint poem from Jane. We also have terrific articles on Finnish myth from Ari Berk, Russian fairy tales from Helen Pilinovsky, and Spanish Carnaval from Alan Weisman. Our featured story this edition is by Emma Bull, and our featured artist is the Anglo-Norwegian felt maker Yuli Somme. Book reviews, upcoming mythic events, and more can be found on the new Endicott Studio Bulletin Board.'

I've heard all sorts of $%^& around 'ere. Good an' bad! An' sometimes when I'm all by meself, I take my ol' Telecaster from behind the chesterfield, an' play some pygmy songs like I usedta wif me bruvver Fred.

Like I said. . . it's become my second 'ome. . .

Paul Brandon and Kissy Black appear in this issue courtesy of their own darling selves!

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Entire Contents Copyright 2004, The Green Man Review. All Rights Reserved.

Updated 25 April 2004 0:400 GMT (MN)