From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish Prayer



 
24th of October, 2004

 

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Maria last week talked about hibernating when weather grows colder and nastier here in the place along the border where the Green Man offices are. I, Jack, want to talk about a conversation I was havin' in the Kitchen with other staffers about what their favourite food, beverage, or book was -- whatever was a winter talisman of sorts on their part to keep the Dark from coming too close. Oh, don't tell me you don't have one! Mine is an old leather overcoat from some war best long forgotten -- faded green in colour with fur lining, shearling lamb I think. Ugly as can be after years of very hard use, but oh so warm. It's kept me warm buskin' in St. Petersburg, served as a pillow under me head on the Trans-Siberian express as Bela sat nearby smokin' his pipe, and has enough pockets to hold everything I need on the road save me fiddle. Hell, there's just 'nough room to tuck the fiddle case inside if need be.

Elizabeth Vail piped up, 'Lessee -- for winter, my favourite treats are the three goodies that my mother bakes every winter for Christmas -- fudge (just that, super good, though), snowballs (orbs of brown sugar and pecans rolled in icing sugar, although for the last two years I've developed allergies to them she says smiling, and cheese crackers - the sharpest cheddar imaginable, mixed with Rice Krispies and other ingredients... Every year she makes these for us and the relatives.' Her 'favourite winter movie is, and has always been since I first saw it -- Bernard and the Genie, a sweet little BBC film starring a young Allen Cummings, Lenny Henry, and Rowan Atkinson. Cummings plays a nice bloke who is fired from his job by his evil boss (Atkinson, whose character inserts 'ye' into every sentence -- 'Sit ye, sit ye. Bugger ye off!') right before Christmas,who rubs a lamp summoning a genie (Lenny Henry) who grants him an unlimited amount of wishes. Hilarious stuff.'

Gary, over a pint of his favourite libation, said 'OK, here's mine. A flagon of Snow Cap Ale with something sweet -- homemade gingerbread with lemon icing will do, or a morsel of dark chocolate. There should be a fire going, and some good music: Maria Kalaniemi's wintry accordion music perhaps, or Beethoven's 7th, Bela Fleck & Edgar Meyer, or some Edith Piaf.' Cat noted that he likes homemade cocoa made with dark chocolate and warm gingerbread which caused Maria to look up from her book, a Braunbeck short story collection, and say with a wicked grin, 'Warm gingerbread with hot lemon brandy hard sauce. Drool. Or hot snickerdoodles. Mulled wine full of damiana, which has aphrodisiac qualities.' Ahhh, I do like a lusty lass who's into bundling! Now Huw is into 'nother sort of bundling: 'A log fire with a dog snoozing by it, a glass of port in one hand, a P. G. Wodehouse novel in the other -- or maybe some M. R. James ghost stories -- that's just about my perfect winter's evening.'

Now it's time to be off to the signing for Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's War for the Oaks screenplay. It's being held in the Great Hall as we expect members of both The Summer and The Winter Courts to be there. Now you should know before you come down with me to the party that Emma arranged both the bands and the food. Really. Truly. Let's see... Reynard, have you got those notes from Emma on what she wanted? Ahhh, good. Here's what she wanted:

Boiled in Lead, of course, and Leslie Ball, and Prudence Johnson. The Tim Malloys, Lojo Russo, and Folk Underground. Sugar reunited, if Bob Mould isn't doing anything this week. Molehill Orkestrah. The Dolly Ranchers. Faun Fables. How many days does this signing go on, and is it 'round the clock? Can I have Afro-Celt Sound System, too? And Mary McCaslin? And the throat-singing guys from Tuva, and Te Vaka, and of course Richard Thompson (don't leave home without him). Is it going to be, like, a music festival with six stages, 'cause otherwise this could be hard to schedule... Oh, and Riders in the Sky! (Unless you want to save them for the signing for the book I'm working on now.)

Refreshments: Coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee, roasted dark. Order it from Seth at Old Bisbee Roasters, because it is the very, very best coffee. Guinness, especially if we get the folks from The Field in San Diego to tend bar -- they know how to pour it. Blackstone or Ravenswood merlot, 2000. Any single malt old enough to vote, especially Highland Park.

For food, there must be cheese. Devastatingly good dark chocolate. Caramel apples from the Candy Jar on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis. Cheese and pepper boureks from the Armenian bakery on Lankershim just north of Burbank in Los Angeles. Hummus and babaganoush from the Carnival restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Crispy Juicy String Beans from the chef who used to work at all the really good Hunan restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Bread -- we must have bread! Mexican bolillos from Marissa's on Nicollet in Minneapolis, whole-wheat bolillos from La Mejor in North Hollywood, and that French bread that used to be baked by a Twin Cities outfit called Four and Twenty (though my friend Rae makes sourdough French that nearly eclipses it), and scones and artisan bread from Il Fornaio in Los Angeles. Oh, and Will wants really good cake doughnuts.

And we need one of Bill Colsher's cheesecakes, because a) It's the best, and b) He made one to celebrate the very first War for the Oaks book release party at First Avenue, way way back when.

Given the number of bands, that may not be enough food...

Given the fey nature of Green Man, there will be enough food and drink. So come along -- bring your soft soled dancing shoes, your appetite, and a mighty thirst as it's going to be a truly amazing party!

Our feature this week is more of an interview than a review. Faithful readers will know that Green Man's association with and admiration for Emma Bull, and her fantasy War for the Oaks, go back a long, long way. We've reviewed the book, the associated CDs by her band Cats Laughing, and even the trailer for the film that should have been, but never was, made from the novel. Now, as we've discussed above, Black Coat Press makes the full screenplay for that movie available. Cat Eldridge looks at the script and discusses it in more detail with Emma and her husband, collaborator, and sometime GMR reviewer Will Shetterly. Read the review before the signing party gets underway!

Cat Eldridge has a look at a Robert Heinlein novel originally released almost 40 years ago, and just re-released in hardcover by TOR. Cat says: 'If this were a play, I'd tell the theater company to drop the last act and keep the first two acts -- or else risk the groundlings throwing things, including rotten eggs, at them. Why this is so is a tale I'll tell in a while, but first let's talk about The Glory Road as a novel that reflects Heinlein's transition (of sorts) from writing juvenile fiction to writing what would later be called his World as Myth novels.'

Halloween is coming up, and Nellie Levine has two reviews of materials appropriate to the season. She found the first somewhat wanting: 'The south has an air of mystery when thoughts turn to hoodoo, voodoo, root doctors, and zombies. Those of us from the north can only compete with tales of hauntings in centuries-old clapboard houses, or perhaps, with an odd recalling of the Salem witch trials -- which really aren't the same thing. In Play Dead, author Anne Frasier uses hoodoo as a main ingredient in her story-telling formula. Or at least, she pretends to.' The second book, The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween, gets Nellie's stamp of approval: 'Jean Markale's telling of many traditional stories illustrates this history vividly and causes us to reflect on the essential nature of the holiday. Identifying, through Markale's exploration, with our pagan ancestors, gives Halloween the serious reflection it deserves. We can look now at this black and orange night and see beneath the mischievous spectacle, a holiday of changes, of reverence, of comprehension and wisdom.'

Dragons are dear to us here at Green Man -- they'd better be, or Ermintrude (our very own) would be one unhappy reptilian! So a book about dragons is always welcome. Of Anne Petty's Dragons of Fantasy, Elizabeth Vail says 'The best thing to do with this book is assign it to a University course. Meticulously researched, highly analytical, and expertly organized, it is the ideal handbook for anyone who has to write a midterm or a thesis on the origins of dragons.'

'It opens with a faded map of north Ontario, Kapuskasing dead centre. Then the camera pulls back and from the middle of the screen comes a train -- an old Canadian National engine, and tracks, lots of tracks. This is a movie about that train and the people who rode on it, and the places it stopped, and what happened one week in 1970 when this train went from Toronto to Calgary...with a cargo of rock'n'rollers and all their paraphenalia. What a summer.' David Kidney reviews one heck of a film: Festival Express. And since it's one heck of a review, he gets an Excellence in Writing Award!

Excess is the theme for this week's live reviews. Vonnie Carts-Powell reports on David Ingle's lecture/performance, 'The Bacchanalian Tradition in British Isles Songs, 1600-1900.' Though the title may seem formidable and decidedly sober, Vonnie reports, 'It's hard to go wrong when you're talking about (and singing) drinking songs to a group of amiable and lubricated folkies in a warm room on a cold, rainy night.' Also, there was beer! To learn more about three glorious centuries of British intoxication, click here.

Barb Truex, meanwhile, can't get enough of the Swedish band, Väsen. 'Each recording,' she says, 'reveals music that just gets deeper and more meaningful.' Throwing moderation to the winds, Barb has opted to review Väsen's latest recording, Keyed Up, and a live performance by the band at Portland, Maine's State Street Church.

Bloody 'ell, it's been cold this week. Sittin' in the office in the basement, electric fire goin' an' a bottle of Guinness at hand. Thassright, it comes in a bottle now, wif a widget for carbonation. Ain't modern science amazin'? Quite a variety of CDs to look at today. Ain't modern music amazin'?

The boss (that's Cat Eldridge to any newcomers) spent a long time listenin' to the new CD by McDermott's 2 Hours an' had more than a jot an’ tittle to say about it. '…the bottom line is, I like this CD every bit as much as the other three McDermott's endeavors. The…difference with this CD…is a more pronounced Irishness…not the Ireland of wee drams, the fairy folk, and old men in flat caps, but rather the angry Irish who still feel the oppression of the British to this day. Good stuff it is…if you like your Irish music with a political edge…' Oy, Cat, an' wotsamatter wif a wee dram an'a flat cap anyway? 'Ave ya looked at Dave lately?

Peter Massey wasn't as thrilled wif Ani DiFranco's Educated Guess album as he thought he might be. 'Whilst her candid outspokenness is to be admired, to be fair, you have to be in the right mood to listen to this type of music. So for this reason only, I recommend you listen to a few tracks on Ani's Web site first before buying.' Well, I reckon that's pretty good advice 'bout most things.

Lars Nilsson steps up wif a review of some kids music, a couple examples of kids music in fact. One is by Steve Schuch and one is a collection from Alan Lomax. He liked bof'of em an' 'ad this to say, 'Both these CDs could be labeled children's songs, but how different they are. One contains songs written for children, the other songs sung by children. One is clearly a pedagogical effort, the other one of historic value.'

Resident classicist ('owzat fer language, mate?) Robert Tilendis also 'as a bit of thing fer Scandinavian music. Today he listens to Fylgia's Strå CD. He 'as this to say, 'Although uneven and not offering any real challenges, Strå does reward attention and offers justification for Fylgja's popularity.' Any music wot rewards ya fer listenin' is allright by me! He's also, our Bob, into world music (very eclectic he is!) and reviews a fascinatin' album of African drummin' by Mahmoud Fadl. 'Drummers of the Nile in Town is, to put it quite simply, a collection of contemporary Egyptian dance music...traditional dance music...you will hear at weddings and other celebrations in Cairo and other cities along the Nile. Listening gives a very good sense of what is meant by 'celebration' in that part of the world: lively, tuneful, more than a little engaging...Intricate, direct, very sophisticated [rhythms that]...become part of the melody. There are tones here, highs and lows, crisp, sometimes fluttering, sometimes throbbing - the word that comes to mind is 'ecstasy.'' Hmmm...let's give it a spin, wot! An' let's give Robert an Excellence in Writing Award fer this one too!

Robert also wuz diggin' some music by an 18th Century composer named Silvius Weiss. Wot a cool moniker! Any road, this one is an interpretation of some concertos (concerti?) by the Tempesta di Mare an' Robert seemed quite keen on it. 'The works presented on this disc are reconstructions by Stone of six of Weiss's concerted works for lute, based on the surviving sections, mostly the lute parts, and the modes illustrated in the music of Weiss' contemporaries. Taken together, they offer an intriguing survey of works by a largely forgotten composer that reflect the scope of an instrument that more often calls up images of medieval troubadours than the glittering courts of the eighteenth century.' Sounds like a string driven thing, might be okay! See fer y'self!

Master Reviewer Gary 'Don't fergit ta vote cuz we need somebody in the' Whitehouse is on board wif alt-country band Amelias new CD. Sounds like he wuz @#$%in’ captivated. 'After All isn't all lazy, torchy, noir-ish ballads…'St. James' has a Calexico-style vibe with creaking guitar strings, tinkling piano, Spanish-style guitar and syncopated brushed snare, and it builds to a rocking chorus. 'Last Pariah' evokes the Cowboy Junkies, with a wall-of-sound arrangement that includes electric piano and organ and backing vocals…and 'Blackbird Pie' is clattering Waitsian rocker with banjo scrape, organ wail, steel drum stabs and distorted electric guitar…' An' there's more where that came from. Gary also writes about one of ole SPike's fave topics, three chicks! No, it’s the name of annuver group (get yer minds outa the gutter!) He’s talkin about Tres Chicas an their new CD Sweetwater. ' “These three chicas (that's Spanish for girls) have all made varying marks on the alt-country scene, and have been getting together for a while to sing and play. Finally this year they were able to spend some time in the studio to record their act for posterity, and it's a sweet document indeed.' You should all check it out, I know I will.

Then Gary switches up an' looks at…well…let 'im describe it to ya 'imself! 'Pink Martini, the eclectic jazz-classical-Latin-pop combo based in Portland, Oregon, had a surprise worldwide hit with its debut disc, Sympathique, in the late 1990s. Since then, they've had some major lineup changes (one of the lead vocalists, Pepe Raphael, left to front Pepe and the Bottle Blondes), played clubs, festivals and high-class concert halls around the world, and tried to find time in the studio for a sophomore disc. Hang On Little Tomato is a worthy successor to the standards set by Sympathique.' Un@#$%in'-believeable!! 'jazz-classical-Latin-pop?' Yoiks!

Finally Gary listened to annuver 'Pink' CD, this time Pink Nasty (sister to Black Nasty, if ya must know!) an'her new album Mule School. About it Gary says, 'Attitude she has in plenty…The opening track, 'Sssnake,' is jangly cowpunk about a woman living up to a bad reputation. The hard-driving 'Mordecai' is a portrait of an abused 7-year-old, told entirely in snippets of his foul-mouthed mother's self-pitying monologue…' an' thass-only 2 songs!

An' as fer yers truly, I spent the last li'l while diggin' the Twinemen! 'The Twinemen (an' I don't believe they 'ave a 'the' in front of their name but it looks good on paper) are not yer average blues band. Sideshow is a cacophonic delight! It's a sideshow man. You pays yer money an' you takes yer chances. Sometimes you get the pants scared offa ya, but it's bloody invigoratin' when it's all done! An' then...you wanna go again!' An' that's the truth, innit!?! Time fer ole Spike to go, an' check the icebox fer annuver cold one. Bye now!

Maria Nutick here. Before I head off to the party, we've heard about another film that may not be made, but hopefully will be! Go over and look at Chelsea Spear's Web site; she's currently making Lift My Sorrowed Heart, a film based on the ever popular Tam Lin!

17th of October, 2004

'Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.'
-- Mary Oliver, 'Wild Geese'

Maria Nutick here. The fat brown bear that lives down in Oberon's Wood has been stuffing himself twice as much these past few weeks; he's even been snuffling around the back door to the kitchens, hoping for leftovers from some of the harvest feasting we've been doing here at Green Man. It shouldn't be too many more days before he disappears into the cave on the other side of the lake to spend the winter curled up, dreaming of spring berries and honey and whatever else bears dream about. Hamish the hedgehog has been looking rather sleepy himself. Did you know that hedgehogs hibernate? Well, they do. Of course Hamish doesn't have to burrow into the damp ground like common hedgehogs. He has a nice little blue velvet bed in a quiet corner of the Library, where Eithne, our new Archivist, can keep an eye on him over the winter.

Can you keep a secret? I'm a hibernator too, and I've found the best spot. Even in my office with the door closed and the 'Do Not Disturb' sign up, there are interruptions -- someone wants me to approve a book for review, Cat bounces in from the mailroom to show me the latest publisher catalogs, even the brownies trying their best to be unobtrusive while cleaning. Sometimes I just want to get away from it all with a book and a mug of Earl Grey (two lumps and cream, please.)

Now, nobody's looking...step back here. Everyone thinks this is a broom closet. Well, it is a broom closet, but look, there's another door in here, and on the other side: privacy. Blessed privacy. I'm not sure what this room was originally, but I suspect some long ago handyman used it. No, you can't come in, I've got it just the way I like it. There isn't any room for an extra person, anyway. Just one overstuffed comfy chair, a small table, and an old fashioned reading lamp. Sometimes I can hear the kitchen staff bickering through the air vents, but for the most part my little nook is quiet and peaceful. If you don't mind, I'm going to curl up with my review copy of Gary Braunbeck's Graveyard People: The Collected Cedar Hill Stories, Volume 1. Why don't you head back and read the new crop of reviews? I'll join you a bit later.

SPike 'ere! The featured review this week is a new box set from the company wot does box sets better than any uvver company wotever done a box set, an' that is Free Reed. An' the group in question is prob'ly the one favourite group of all the @#$%in' groups wot we EVER review in Green Man Review! That is Fairport Convention. Already endowed wif a Dave Swarbrick box, an' a Fairport box, an' a couple a uvver boxes wif heavy Fairport content...this one celebrates the big booze up in the field...see me over by the 6X tent! That's it, the Cropredy Festival now 'as its very own box set. An' it's a beaut! It's called Cropredy Capers an' it includes all sorts of special guests, an' a cutout model of the Festival so's ya can set it up on yer dinin' room table an' pretend you wuz there! Our new reviewer Paul Brandon sums it up like this...'One thing's for sure, if you're any sort of admirer of Fairport Convention, then you really ought to have this. It submerges you in something truly special, and makes you look at your savings, wondering if you can somehow afford to spend an August weekend in Oxfordshire.' Order it early an' it comes autographed by the band! But read the review first!

'For reasons I can't begin to explain,' says Donna Bird, 'of late several publishers have been releasing translations of relatively obscure nineteenth century French fiction. In the last few months, I've reviewed a couple of these for Green Man: Balzac's The Wrong Side of Paris and Robida's The Twentieth Century. I've got George Sand's The Black City in my review queue and have seen Emile Zola's The Kill in a fresh new edition on the shelves at Borders. So I wasn't at all surprised to discover The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter in the University of Pennsylvania Press catalog last summer. . .Murger isn't nearly as well-known as his contemporaries Balzac, Sand, Stendhal and Zola. There's a very good reason for that -- he didn't write as much as any of them did. The short stories that became The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter initially appeared in an obscure Paris journal during the late 1840s.' Donna receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this fine review.

Craig Clarke also adds an Excellence in Writing Award to his shelf, for an omnibus review of Sherlock Holmes related materials: 'Sherlock Holmes is a mythic figure, so ingrained in the public consciousness that people have never stopped wanting to revisit him in new adventures. Pastiches abound, and some writers, like Nicholas Meyer and Laurie R. King, have been able to base a considerable portion of their careers on Holmes novels. Even modern masters, whose paths you would think would never cross Holmes', like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, have attempted it in the short form. These offerings are generally divided into two areas: the tribute and the discovery. A tribute, ideally, puts a new spin on the characters and this includes parody and crossover (Holmes meets Jack the Ripper, Cthulhu, etc.). The discovery merely purports to be a newly-found addition to the canon, whether written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or by John H. Watson, M.D., himself.' Craig reviews items in both areas and across several mediums: Ted Riccardi's The Oriental Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and Michael Moorcock's The Mystery of the Texas Twister, Firesign Theatre's album The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, and the George C. Scott film They Might Be Giants.

Cat Eldridge has been industrious this week. He says of his first book '. . . the good folks at Time Warner Books sent along Murder by Magic, a trade paper anthology of twenty tales that blend -- some very well, some horribly -- the twin genres of murder/detective tales with the other popular genre loosely defined as the supernatural.' And this Rosemary Edghill edited anthology does sound like a fun bit of reading for an autumn evening! Cat also looks at 'one of the finest SF novels ever written' in it's 20th anniversary edition -- William Gibson's Neuromancer. And Cat receives an Excellence in Writing Award for his astute look at Ron Goulart's reference work: 'Any regular reader of this zine will know that I covet reference material with a passion approaching that of Gollum lusting after his preciousssss. So when I saw a certain blog writer mention his dislike for the Comic Book Encyclopaedia, I asked the good folk in publicity at HarperCollins to send along a copy for review. (Thanks Julia!)'

'The Clash were never one of my favourite groups. During the whole 'punk' thing I sat by the wayside and continued to listen to the American guitar rock and blues that were my genres of choice. Melody and lyrical content were important to me. I could give up one, but not both.' So what did David Kidney think of David Quantick's biographical look at the group? Read his review of The Clash to find out.

Maria Tatar is a respected translator and commentator on fairy tales and folklore. Jack Merry looks at her newest collection: 'Fireplace roaring? Yes. A hard, cold rain ratting on the windows? Indeed it is. Overstuffed chair big enough for both of us to curl up in? Of course! Wool blanket to put over laps so we can snuggle properly? Indeed. And are there feline companions to curl up in with us? Of course. So what shall we read, me love? Ahhh, how 'bout the just printed Annotated Brothers Grimm? What could be more perfect than these tales?'

Lenora Rose has three audiobooks for us, and though they are from the same series they don't meet the same standards of excellence: 'Though there is a version of these audiobooks that covers all seven Narnia texts, I was given a shorter sample to review: three cassettes, covering respectively Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. These recordings, originally produced over two decades ago, are roughly an hour long each. Which means, alas, that even for novels as short as the Narnia books, they are severely abridged. While I will never advocate an abridged version if the complete text is available, two of the three I listened to were well accomplished, both in the vocal performance and in the choice of material to include (and cut).'

Elizabeth Vail discusses a novel which attempts to explain current issues in a fantasy friendly way: 'In the original version of E.T: The Extraterrestrial, when a character remarks that a child's Halloween costume makes him look like a terrorist, it was taken as a mild joke. When it was re-mastered for the modern audience, that simple gag caused enough concern to make the director have that line cut from the film. Let's face it folks: North Americans are now officially and painfully aware of what terrorism is. With this burden of knowledge comes the task of explaining the concept to our youth, and author Hilari Bell makes a game attempt to do so in her simple, quick novel, The Goblin Wood.'

Sara Winn is excited: 'Yay sequels! Loved faces and familiar places! Well, okay, maybe not in the Abarat. This gorgeous and meaty second book in Clive Barker's four book series about the adventures of Candy Quackenbush through the Abarat's many things rich and strange is certainly every bit as entertaining and mysterious as the last, but in the Abarat, nothing is familiar, or comfortable, or certain. At least not for Candy, who resumes her tale (ominously subtitled Days of Magic, Nights of War.... that can't bode well...) as a happy sightseer through the islands of Day and Night with her happy, orange, geshrat pal Malingo, but is steadily sucked into a vortex of mystery, calamity and violence despite her best intentions. Clearly, Something is Going On.' We're excited to give her an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

At Q & A sessions, Neil Gaiman has often said that no question is too stupid. Our Live Events Editor, Liz Milner, decided to rise to the challenge. Read her interview with Neil and her account of his appearance at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. and find out why Neil Gaiman believes that, 'If I weren't a writer, I'd be like Cliff Clavin on Cheers, a guy who hangs out at bars spouting endless useless information that no one wants to listen to.'

'Those who are only passingly familiar with the music of Gillian Welch tend to classify her music as bluegrass, or old-time, or Appalachian. . . Those in the know also know that 'Gillian Welch' is a duo consisting of Welch and her collaborator David Rawlings. The two are an uncanny pair, their voices twining around each others in such close harmonies that they sometimes sound like one person somehow singing two parts.' Sounds like Gary Whitehouse enjoyed the concert!

Oy! 'Owzit goin' ev'ryone? Went ta see a blues band this week called the Pork Belly Futures. Fan-#$%&in-tastic. An' the thing of it wuz they were so literate! Dave woulda liked 'em. They 'ad a song called 'Michael Ondaatje' that went, 'Michael Ondaatje stole my girl...' but the record company made 'em change the title in case Michael got a bit of a snit on! Too bad...keep up the good work though PBF. Anyroad...as you likely guessed it's SPike wif today's CD reviews! Missed ya all last week but today we're back.

O'course there's the Fairport Convention box, that wuz our Feature Review...but there's a ton of uvver stuff as well. Craig Clarke starts in wif a look at a deluxe reissue of Blind Faith. He says, 'For collectors and rabid fans of the artists, this deluxe edition is probably worth the extra cash, given the expanded and informative liner notes and the extra 90 minutes of music. It includes the cover art from both releases of the album, though the barely-pubescent girl with an airplane is featured and, unlike the previous issue, unable to be hidden from sight...But, in the end, the music that is most important to the legacy of Blind Faith was released in 1969 on that original album. Those six songs, despite their flaws, will long outlast the curiosities tacked on to this edition in order to double the price tag.'

Not exackly sure why Craig complains about the cover...I wuz barely pubescent when the record came out an' I remember that airplane fondly! Craig gets an Excellence in Writin' Award for this review.

Jack Merry an' I 'ave tippled a few jars of 6X an' the like, so it's not too s'prisin' that he dug Neck's here's mud in your eye. In fact that's sumthin' Jack 'as said to me several times at the Pub. About Neck, Jack says, 'They may not technically be the best Irish band from London I've ever heard, but they are certainly one of the loudest. Decibel for decibel, they'd give both the Pogues and the Popes a run for their Guinness!' That's a race I'm entered in!

A bit of a change wif the review by Kelly Sedinger of Music for Two Pianos (Mozart & Schubert) by Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu. Music by Mozart and Schubert. Not sure about Schubert but wasn't Mozart that bloke wif the annoyin' @#$%in' giggle? Anyway...for piano lovers this sound all right! 'Sometimes I find it hard to struggle with GMR's required word-count for reviews, because in a case like this CD, I could very easily sum up my reaction with a simple 'Get this, or you're a good music-hating wanker!' and leave the rest of this space for doodles. Simply put, this is one fine, fine recording.' I gotta like it, cuz I'm no 'wanker' of any kind!

Chris White's got a look at Jeanette Lindström's Walk. Chris says, 'Jeanette Lindström's lovely Walk is an intriguing example of the influence American culture has around the world. Produced with financial assistance from the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs with principally Swedish players, nevertheless all of the material is sung in English. And, while I'm a dedicated conscientious objector when it comes to affixing genre labels, Walk would be best filed under 'Jazz' not 'World.''

Finally a coupla discs reviewed by bruvver Gary Whitehouse. Then Gary listened to Rumba Internationale by Las Rubias del Norte, 'The harmonies are indeed lovely throughout, although the singing could be a little less restrained. On the one hand, the performance is charmingly intimate, rather than hidden behind a patina of professionalism; on the other, the music doesn't always have the kind of forward motion that's needed to compel the listener's participation. Still, this disc is great fun, and it's hard to beat such sweet harmony.' An' last but definitely not least Gary reviews The Living Road by Lhasa. Gary was quite happy wif this one. He sums it up by sayin', 'Although the tone is sometimes somber and often dark, The Living Road is a richly compelling album by a major talent.'

Donna Bird says I have been using Tarot cards for divination and personal insight for more years than I care to admit. I have tried many variants on the standard Tarot deck and have a few favorites that I use regularly. I'd like to take some personal credit, if you don't mind, for that lovely display of Tarot cards over in the corner of our Green Man store, under the little twinkling lights. The Bruegel Tarot arrived in a shipment we received last summer. I'd been thinking for a while about a Tarot deck based on the paintings of the sixteenth-century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. In fact, an image looking suspiciously like one of the cards in this deck appeared in the opening credits of Carnivale, a VERY strange HBO series we watched last fall and early winter.' Go on, read her fascinating review of Guido Zibordi Marchesi's Bruegel Tarot.

And here I am again, as promised. Well, honestly I only came out for another cup of tea and a marionberry scone. I need to get some quiet time in now, while I can. The next couple of weeks will be hectic! Next weekend I'm going to see the touring production of the Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors -- I'll be singing 'Suddenly Seymour' for weeks, I imagine. And on the 29th I'll be attending the Goblin's Ball here in Portland, the official book release party for Brian Froud/Ari Berk's new book Goblins. Of course I'll have a full report on the festivities!

 

10th of October, 2004

' Restless in life and seeking no end in death
For breath of the ages in the face of the air
Still ghosts to the vitality
Of our most early and unwritten forebears
Whose wizardry still makes a like of history
Who somehow reared and loosed an impossible beauty
Enduring yet
Among the green islands of the grey North Sea
And I will not forget.'

Robin Williamson -- Five Denials on Merlin's Grave
Cat Eldridge speaking. I've watching with great amusement the Danse Macabre musicians -- over great big pints of Pendle Witch's Brew , an ale with a thick, malty, and rather earthy taste, which is from a brewery that Jack Merry visited on a tour last year -- debate what dance tunes they are going to play on All Hallows Eve in the Courtyard where the bonfire is being lit for that most sacred of nights in the Celtic Year. A great deal of thought goes into the set list as both the musicians and the caller this year, Reynard, want everyone to have a truly great evening of dancing. Their list of possible dances so far thought of has included All Saint's Day right after All Hallow's Eve, The Black Hag, The Booship, The Discorporation, Draper's Graveyard, Gathering Pumpkins, Ghoul in the Wall, and Jack O'Lantern's Health. One of the members of Serrated Edge suggested it'd be appropriate to include as a coda The November Reel composed by Keona Mundy of Cleia, a brilliant band whose CD he recently heard.

Paul Brandon chimed in about his Brisbane Celtic band, Rambling House: 'Well we've just got a new saucy fiddler that loves the slightly darker stuff like King of the Faeries, a hornpipe, Tam Linn, a reel, The Dancing Master, a jig, Morrisons and Julia Delaneys, a reel -- dark the way we start it. But I guess you might want a few rousing footstompers, just to keep the shadows at bay!'

Each All Hallows Eve Dance is dedicated to someone who has passed beyond the Border. The person this year, at the suggestion of many staffers here, is Roger Zelazny. Is there anyone who hasn't read a novel or short story by him? Yes? My, are you in for a treat this year as we'll reading in a round robin fashion A Night in the Lonesome October before the dance ! Why Roger, you ask? Simple -- Roger's one of the major inspirations here at Green Man as his myths are very much part of our motif. He was just the sort of teller of tales that any master storyteller would have been proud to listen to on a cold winter's night, huddled by the fireplace to keep warm. Roger told wildly imaginative tales involving characters who often seemed like they came out of some dark European myth. Who better to commemorate at this time of year?

So remember to come back and join our merry dance this All Hallows Eve, have some mulled cider, feast on the pig roasting in the fire place, listen -- and dance lively to -- the tunes being played by Danse Macabre. And remember that we too like the turning year are now a year older. . .

Please note that there's no CD reviews this outing as the whole $#@! musical staff decided that they should be involved in planning the upcoming All Hallows Eve celebration. Though the laughter and clinking of tankards from the Snug off the main Pub room suggests that they already started partying! Certainly the two kegs of Ryhope Wood Hard Cider they've drained is strongly suggestive of that being what's going on. . .

Our feature this week comes from Chief Cat Eldridge, who sat down in the Pub with one of his favorites, author James Hetley, for a fun and enlightening interview. Cat says: 'James Hetley has just seen his second novel, the brilliant Winter Oak, sequel to The Summer Country, published by Ace. I sat down with him in the Green Man Pub on a cold early Fall day over a couple of pints of Guinness to discuss that book, his use of Celtic folklore, and other matters with him. What follows is my written transcription of the notes from that discussion. Given that we consumed several pints and a rather delicious meal of a Gaelic steak pie cooked with Jameson, and light soda bread, any inaccuracies are solely my fault!'

Maria Nutick here. The music staff has gone off to work on party planning so I'm here in my dual capacity as Book Editor and Treasure Trove Editor, and then I'm going in to join the crew and make sure that they aren't serious about some of the decorations they've suggested. . .

Right then, let's do this. Our first review comes from April Gutierrez. Cat mentioned our fondness for Zelazny here at Green Man, so it's appropriate that April discusses Theodore Krulik's The Complete Amber Sourcebook. In her Excellence in Writing Award winning review, April says '[T]he guide's subtitle states that it is the 'indispensable guide' to Zelazny's universe. A lofty claim, indeed, but a true one. At 494 pages, the Sourcebook is a weighty tome, even in paperback. It opens with a brief preface from a scribe of the One True City (Amber), an amusing touch, and an even briefer introduction that lays out Krulik's desire to be both scholarly and informal in the pages that follow, a goal at which he largely succeeds.'

Lory Hess explains 'I know Peter Dickinson mainly as a writer of brilliant, thought-provoking stories of alternate worlds, imagined futures, and philosophical questions -- such as the Changes Trilogy, Eva, and The Blue Hawk. His new novel for young readers, Inside Grandad, was therefore something of a surprise to me. Set in Stonehaven, a quiet seaside village in Scotland, it concerns no outer drama or conflict; the 'Grandad' of the title has a stroke in the first few pages and most of the story takes place by his hospital bed.' Sounds interesting. . .read her review of Inside Grandad to find out what she thought of this novel.

Jessica Paige has two reviews this week. Of the first she says 'In The Blues Ain't Nothin': Tales of the Lonesome Blues Pub setting is an all important element since the novel is, essentially, a love letter to the blues.' Did she like Tina Jens' book? Well, she does say that '[A]lthough flawed, overall there's something to recommend about The Blues Ain't Nothin''. Jessica also receives an Excellence in Writing Award for her astute look at Tracy Lynn's Snow: 'In the past few decades a visible trend, of which Angela Carter's opulent retellings and Gregory Maguire's perspective-shifting retellings are prime examples, has been at work. Fairytales are being reclaimed for older readers. Often, this means excavating a fairy tale's original edge, and in Tracy Lynn's young adult novel Snow, the edge certainly shows.'

'Aunt Maria (published as Black Maria in Britain and Canada) is about the smothering effect of some relationships, about the battle of the sexes taken too far, about happy endings colliding headlong with reality, and no doubt about several other things that would only come clear in subsequent readings. As ever, all that dry-sounding stuff is wrapped up in a quick moving and unpredictable plot, with vivid off-kilter characters.' Find out more about this Diana Wynne Jones' novel in Lenora Rose's very enjoyable review.

'Wraeththu is the omnibus collection of Storm Constantine's first trilogy, The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, and The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire. It is the story of the beautiful peasant boy, Pellaz, lured away from his stable if uninspiring existence on a rural farm; Calanthe, the magnetic stranger who asks hospitality for a night; and the mysterious Thiede, a being who inspires awe and more than a little fear, the mastermind behind a new civilization.' Robert Tilendis reviews this omnibus brilliantly, and made me want to read it! He also looks at the first issue of a new scholarly journal devoted to fantasy: 'Studies in Fantasy Literature is a new journal devoted simply to what its title describes: critical and scholarly studies in the area of fantasy, with an all-inclusive purview. As editor Benjamin Szumskyj puts it in his first editorial, the journal 'is dedicated to and honoring the works of any author who has ever written a story in the genre of fantasy.''

Finally, in a burst of that odd synchronicity we so often enjoy here at GMR, Sara Sutterfield Winn has a second review this week of a series of novels and short stories taking place in a bar. Patrick Thomas sets his Murphy's Lore fantasies in Bulfinche's Pub. Tales From Bulfinche's Pub, Fool's Day, Through the Drinking Glass, and Shadow of the Wolf comprise the Murphy's Lore series, and Sara says: 'Yep, there are indeed some good times to be had at Bulfinche's. There's beer! There's vampyres (with a 'y'!)! There's sock humor! There are a lot of wretched puns! But be warned, there simply isn't a whole lot more. If a truly satisfying draught of fine writing is what you're thirsty for, I'm afraid Bulfinche's tap is dry.' Still, she does have some nice things to say about Murphy's Lore.

Cat Eldridge says: 'You know already that we collect very cool things here at Green Man and the Fiddler puppet from Folkmanis that's looking down upon me from the a bookshelf is no exception.' Indeed, the Fiddler is so very cool that Cat gets an Excellence in Writing Award for writing him up!

As Cat says 'Folkmanis produces some of the finest puppets I've ever seen.' I love them; as I say in my review 'I never liked puppets or dolls as a child; there were no Folkmanis when I was a child. I think there's a direct connection there. When I first saw the Folkmanis line in the stores, I fell in love with the realistic animal puppets. When we began our Treasure Trove section, we were happy to receive Folkmanis puppets for review. Their fantasy puppets are some of the loveliest toys a child -- or an adult -- could ask for.' See my review of Mouse in Shoe and Genie in Lamp for more.

Cat speaking. For me, the Winter season starts sometime in November when the weather here in Portland, Maine turns cold and windy, and that in turn means thinking of what seasonal delights I shall see this year! Will it be the Nutcracker at Merrill Auditorium this year? Or perhaps Dickens The Christmas Carol at Portland Stage Company which is definitely a must see? Hmmmm -- there's always the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas show at the Civic Center. Ahhh, but the best show in Portland this Winter season will the third annual Childsplay concert.

On another note, I continue my evening reading of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel. Though I'm not sure I agree with Neil Gaiman's widely quoted blurb of it being 'the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years', it has the great potential to be a truly great novel with even the footnotes adding to its charm. Where both Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling bored me to no end when I attempted to read their works, Clarke is a skilled writer with an appropriately dry sense of humor. It is not the next Harry Potter, as it is far better than any book in that series -- an intelligently written novel with magical realism in it that adults will find quite worth reading! I'll see you next week; I'm off to read another chapter.

3rd of October, 2004

 

'When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for the storyteller.' -- Jim Henson's The Storyteller

Come in -- the staff's doin' its annual cleaning of the Fireplace in the Pub. And a bugger of a job 'tis given the massive size of it! Of course, it could only be done after the workers from the Honourable and Ancient Chimney Sweepers Guild has cleaned all of our myriad chimneys. Yes, that does explain the bloody mess in the courtyard. . . . The late fall cleaning of 'em is very much needed as we heat this old monster mostly with coal, except for the fireplaces. Yes, I agree, 'tis rather nasty stuff, but it works rather well with our century and a half old hot water radiators. As the Sweepers sing, 'From the bottom to the top / Swepe chimney swepe / Then shall no soote / Fall in your poridge pot. / A good sausage, a good, / And it be roasted. . . .'

The best winter's entertainment here in the Green Man building has for centuries been found in the Pub. Now, most of you will think first of the music provided by the Neverending Session musicians, but there's 'nother equally ear-catching group of entertainers -- the storytellers who you can find here just about anytime of the day or night, particularly when it's colder and nastier than a mountain troll's breath outside. As we've told many a fine storyteller down the centuries, settle into the comfortable chair by the fireplace, pour yourself a mug of mulled wine, help yourself to the smoked salmon and biscuits, and we'll listen avidly to what tale you're telling this evening. . . .

But I'm here to tell you 'nother story tonight -- the story of that fireplace and that chair which has an honoured place beside it. Yes, you heard right. I'll bet you never thought of the history of that fireplace as I've noticed that when you are here you pay rather close attention to the comely lasses in their low-cut blouses and tight skirts talking over by the Bar. Forget them, lad -- You can't afford what they want in exchange for their company. Even the Jacks here found that out! So get your mind out of the gutter for a while. . . .

Back when this building was built, the resident theatre troupe slept here -- the rest of the building was unheated and winters in this city get bloody cold and damp to boot. It wouldn't be for a few more centuries that the heating system and the present kitchen were added, so both keeping warm and cooking were done here where the Fireplace is. See the spit that spans most of it? There's a sketch in our Library of a forty stone boar being roasted, with a plump goose inside the boar, slowly on the spit, and I've heard tales told of a deer or two from the Queen's Wood being poached and roasted there. Now look carefully in the upper left hand corner -- see where a lead musket ball took out a decent bit o' brick? That was the shot fired by an under-sheriff in anger at one of the thespians who he said owed him money. We paid him off, as we do every time that the law gets heavy-handed -- what choice do we have?

We usually have but a small fire burnin' in it as it's far too costly to keep a large blaze goin', but 'morrow eventide we'll be hosting the annual party for the Sweepers Guild -- part of our payment for their work -- so they will be providing huge well-seasoned logs of oak, ash, and, for an aromatic smell, cedar. We will be providing the boar that will be roasted for a full day startin' this eventide. And there'll be a very large cauldron of mulled cider warming off to the right hand side of the fireplace! So join us 'morrow eventide for a memorable feast! Now why don't you go read some reviews, and then pop back before you go and I'll tell you the rest o' the tale. . . .

'Come in -- sit by the Fireplace here in the Green Man Pub and we'll discuss one of the best series ever made. We'll speak of storytellers, shaggy dogs who speak, trolls, comely maidens, ugly hags, and a whole lot more. So grab a mug of Ryhope Wood Hard Cider and we'll get started. . . .' That's Cat Eldridge in our featured review, talking about one of our favorites here at Green Man. Jim Henson could do no wrong, could he? At least he certainly didn't with The Storyteller and The Storyteller: Greek Myths, which Cat review for us in this Excellence in Writing Award winning piece.

Maria Nutick here. Just a few books to write up, and then I'll get back to my glass of Fraoch Heather Ale and an episode of Sliders, which just arrived in the mail from Netflix. Sure I'm a book junkie, but I have to have my DVD fix too!

Cat Eldridge has a couple of reviews for us this week, one a look at a new volume, and the second a new look at an older work. First up is a look at a reference book from science fiction author Brian Stableford: 'It won't surprise many of you that I have a degree of avarice quite unparalleled when it comes to reference material of most any kind. My office here at Green Man is filled with thousands of volumes that I use when I need to know something quirky, e.g., what's the tartan for the Fraser clan? That would require using Collins Scottish Clans & Family Encyclopedia. . . . How about the works of Larry Niven? Well, for material up to the early 90s, I could consult John Clute and Peter Nicholls' The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (published 1993) as that is the best printed reference work on the subject to date, but until the publication of Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Literature, there was only the Internet for more recent citations on science fiction literature.'

Once in a while we replace an old review with a new look at a worthy book. Perhaps we've re-read a volume and found new insight, or maybe it has just been rereleased. Cat discusses Jane Yolen from the former perspective -- 'There are certain works of literature that I re-read every year, usually even at the same time of the year as that is when they should be read. Some of them are James Goldman's The Lion in Winter, a tale set at Christmas time in a Royal Court that never was quite that way, and Jennifer's Steven's Solstice chapbook, a story of a dance party quite unlike anything a mortal has seen, both of which I read around the Winter Solstice. Another work that I bring down from the Library when the days grow short and winter is hard at hand is Jane Yolen's The Wild Hunt, a slender volume that tells the tale of Jerold and Gerund, two boys living in similar houses that appear to be in intertwined Universes. . . . This is truly great reading -- truly mythopoeic in nature, and quite entertaining to boot!'

John O'Regan got his hands on a pretty nifty set of books and CDs: 'Since 1998 Maurice O'Keefe of Tralee has traveled the highways and byways of the south and west of Ireland, gathering and preserving the unique oral tradition of the counties of Kerry, Cork, Clare, Limerick, and Galway. 330 individual recordings of hour long duration, in CD format, have now been produced featuring the folklorists, storytellers, musicians, local historians, and archaeologists of the counties. There are stories of matchmaking and dancing, of storytelling around firesides, of musicians and their wondrous music, of spirituality and old faith, of wakes and funerals, of schooldays and farming traditions, of laughter and gaiety, of sorrow and great grieving. The recordings, made in the undirected format of people sitting and recalling bygone days in their own home places, bring one back to an Ireland which we will not see again, an Ireland rich in a unique oral tradition, now preserved here for generations.' Go read John's review of The Irish Life and Lore Collection, Volume 1 and 2, The Ancient Barony of Duhallow -- Living Voices, and CDs featuring Julia Mary Murphy, and The Quinn Sisters and Chris Droney.

John is honest in the opening of his review of a work edited by Allison Thompson. He says 'This book is at once fascinating and difficult to review. The fascination lies in the idea of combining the music of Turlough O'Carolan with modern English country dances. The difficulty lies in my own lack of experience in the world of choreography, which renders me unable to offer objective criticism or judgment to this project. Having said that, the work is an interesting collection in its own right.' It does seem that he liked the book, as you can see in his review of The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances set to airs by Turlough O'Carolan.

An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Elizabeth Vail, who unfortunately didn't find too much to praise in a book by Catherine Fisher. Elizabeth explains that 'A few months before I wrote this review, I typed up a negative opinion of Mercedes Lackey's Egypt-themed Joust. The reason for my displeasure had been that I believed that the author had spent too much time constructing a detailed, realistic, and original setting, and not enough time fleshing out the storyline. Well, my friends, if Joust is at one end of the spectrum, than The Oracle Betrayed is an example of how a novel can fail if it strays too far to the other side of the spectrum. If Mercedes Lackey offered us too much information, then Catherine Fisher doesn't offer us enough.'

What's that? Oh, it seems that Cat has a confession to make. No, it's not that he's admitting he has a serious jones for all things literary. No, it's about a work of fiction he thought would be a struggle. . . . In his review of Jane Yolen's The Wild Hunt this edition, he said '. . . .go pick Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel which at eight hundred pages will keep you reading for quite some time. Yes, I have a review copy of it here. It looks, errr, really long. Is it good? That is another question altogether. Ask me in a few months, say at Candlemas . . .' He thought that it would take him a while to work up his enthusiasm for tackling such a long work of fiction. He was wrong. In the Robert Graves Reading Room just now, I saw him reading it while having a cup of mulled cider, so I ask him what changed his mind. 'Simple,' he said, 'I made the mistake of reading the first page several hours later I'd read over a hundred pages. It's that good.' He promised me that the review would be on my desk by the first of November!

Master Reviewer David Kidney seems to have enjoyed viewing Boz Scaggs: Greatest Hits Live. In David's own words, 'The video is beautiful. Shot in high definition, it looks great on my regular TV screen. The colours are bright and crisp, the focus precise. The sound is stunning, and the performance is, well, the performance is really good. I kept watching; it just sounded and looked so — good.'

Letters editor Craig Clarke here, filtering through what's been a rather slim cache of correspondence over the last month to deliver you the latest in epistolary communiqués.

In my position as the editor of the Letters page here at the Green Man Review, I look for mail that I think would be interesting to read. Most of what we get runs along the 'thanks for the positive review' lines (like Naim Amor's letter to thank Gary Whitehouse for his review of Soundtracks Vol 2). And there's nothing wrong with those; in fact, they are terrific, but just like anything else, read a few dozen of them and you yearn for something with a little more substance -- bite, even. Sometimes I think I'd even prefer to get a nasty letter from someone telling me just how much they hated what I wrote.

Well, I guess I should be careful what I wish for because I got one; aimed smack dab at me. Rick Savage -- I don't think he's the guitarist from Def Leppard, but you never can tell -- wrote in to really let me have it. And, faithful reader, does he have a mouth on him! Surprisingly, hate mail isn't all that common around the offices -- given our reviewers' tendencies to let their opinions fly free -- so I couldn't wait to post it up here.

Another of my favorite kinds of letters is the nostalgia piece (I'm a real softie at heart, despite what you may have heard), and I was delighted that my review of the I, Claudius documentary The Epic That Never Was reminded Derek Banks of the time he spent working on its crew and hanging out with its stars.

We can always be assured that David Kidney will get a few interesting letters. This time around, he heard from Taylor Mathis, a musician who wanted to know if the Muleskinner song 'Rain and Snow' was in the public domain, and Bill Stephens, who shared his love of the soundtrack to A Mighty Wind.

Plus, in a continuation of a previous letter by Dierdre Spencer, Peter Florence would also like to know where to find a copy of the film version of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. We've got it all -- love, acrimony, mystery, nostalgia -- right here on the GMR letters page.

Every September, lovers of Scandanavian roots music make a beeline for Minneapolis, Minnesota to hear performers such as Swåp, Väsen and singers such as Mari Boine, who blends traditional Sami tribal music with electronic arrangements. Scott Gianelli reports on why the Nordic Roots Festival is well worth a visit: 'The Nordic Roots Festival has managed to survive a series of logistical and financial difficulties, and the reason is clear to anybody who has ever attended it. All the effort and hardship required to assemble the musicians from across Scandinavia for a weekend in Minneapolis are easily vindicated by one great performance after another in front of an eagerly receptive audience, many of whom have traveled a great distance and will happily do it again.'

Top o' the @#$%in' mornin' to each an' ev'ry one a ya! SPike 'ere, diggin' this crazy new blues CD that came in from Northern Blues this week. It's called Villanelle by Paul Reddick . . . an' it @#$%in' ROCKS! But more about that next time . . . now to the job at hand. Hey! By the way! When's that special Clash issue comin'? Must be soon . . . an' I hope you're all as excited as I am about it! But no Clash this week, even though the new edition of London Calling wif a DVD an' bonus tracks an' pictures an' ev'rythin' came out. . . . No, this week we 'ave anuvver very E-clectic collection of music reviewed by some of our very best reviewers (not that we 'ave any BAD ones!)

Staff writer John D. Benninghouse gets it rollin' wif his look at the Cowboy Junkies, In the Time Before Llamas. Now, personally, I find that Margo Timmins to be pretty @#$%in' hot! And John says '. . . the band are in fine form technically. The starts and stops of Bob Dylan's 'If You Gotta Go, Go Now' are pulled off flawlessly. The slow, sad shuffle of 'To Love Is To Bury' suits Timmins' hushed voice well -- but too much of the album is made with that formula , and with too little deviation. And five plus minutes of the dull 'Blue Moon Revisited (A Song For Elvis)' is positively somniferous. When they did move away from the formulaic, I was left scratching my head. Robert Johnson's 'Me and the Devil' is transmogrified into sterile bit of minimalism a la Brian Eno. It's not until the penultimate track, 'Murder, Tonight in the Trailer Park,' that anything really interesting happens. Michael Timmins and Ken Myhr do some psychedelic . . . ' If you aren't intrigued about what John concludes in his review . . . well, you're not very inquisitive, are ya! Check it out!

Mr. Benninghouse, also reviews a couple of CDs by the Magnolia Sisters. He states that 'Prends Courage and Chers Amis compliment one another quite well. Each album is a bit of a history lesson into Cajun music. They put traditional Cajun music on display and demonstrate how diverse the genre is by showing the various influences the music and musicians have had over the years. But the Magnolia Sisters also do what folk musicians have always done: they make the songs of others their own by mixing up instruments and altering lyrics to suit their needs and the demands of the present.' Fascinatin'!

Peter Massey is a Senior Writer 'ere at GMR, an' he takes a somewhat different approach today by reviewin' a handful of albums that jus' . . . well . . . listen to Peter's explanation: 'Green Man Review receives literally hundreds of CDs and books every month to be reviewed. It's inevitable that as the reviewers on the staff pick their way through them, some may or may not for various reasons get chosen to be reviewed. With CDs, this may be because the artist or band is not known to any of the writers and they don't feel they are qualified to make a judgement or comment on what they hear. In the mailroom, they are known as orphans. With this in mind, and the fool that I am, for this review I decided to pick, purely at random, just four CDs from the orphans pile and see what they have to offer, or maybe why they have been rejected by the staff. None of these artists are known to me, so with a virgin ear and a blank canvas, I set out.' The discs in question are Lucie Idlout's E5-770, My Mother's Name, Liza Garelik's Liza Garelik and The Wonderwheels, Benjammin's Shining From Inside an' By the Way from Dave Rowe.

Next, my dear mate Jack Merry (anuvver Senior Writer) wif a pair of reviews. 'How does one earn the designation 'Senior Writer?' you ask. It's got somethin' to do wif the amount of Guinness they can consume an' still compose understandable sentences! Any road . . . Jack listened to Crwth by Cass Meurig an' 'is review is littered wif Welsh words . . . let me say, they sound lovely read aloud! What did Jack think about it? He had this to say: 'So how does it sound? Rather lovely in a medieval-ish sort of way. Not a stuffy, 'this is Church music' sort of way, but something quite a bit more paganish. . . . this is not Classical music as it's normally thought of.' That's a relief innit? Means I might give it a spin!

Jack also reviews two CDs by McDermott's 2 Hours vs Levellers, World Turned Upside Down and Disorder an' I think he wuz well-pleased! 'Let me put this as simply as possible -- every McDermott's 2 Hours vs Levellers should be purchased by you. Now. I've heard these two plus Claws and Wings. It took me repeated listening over a week's period before I finally had enough of 'em. They are that good.'

Finally, brother Gary Whitehouse (Master Reviewer) weighs in with a selection of music from all over! Nels Andrews' Sunday Shoes is described like this, 'Sunday Shoes isn't easy country music, with rhyming lyrics and soaring choruses and blazing electric guitars. But it goes places and illuminates emotions that that other type of song can never touch. Andrews' characters evoke Cormac McCarthy's emotionally gutshot men and women, and his spare, poetic lyrics just might stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt . . . time will tell.' Crikey, literary references, an' mention of Tom Waits . . . that's gotta be worth a look! Next Gary assesses Mignonette (izzat a tiny steak?) by The Avett Brothers: '[Some] of the songs lean toward pretty girls left behind, and the type of philosophizing common in late-night coffee houses and dorm rooms among twenty-somethings who are discovering the world, love and life for the very first time. Sometimes, as in the final track, 'Salvation Song,' words are awkwardly shoehorned into the verse structure, but all is forgiven when that lovely three-part harmony kicks in,' Gary opines. Read the whole review, it gets better.

Penultimately Gary visits with Robyn Hitchcock whose new CD features Gillian Welch and 'er guitar-playin' cohort David Rawlings. Spooked was a surprise around the GMR offices. David Kidney, (whose absence today is explained by a HUGE backlog of books he's tryin' to read while listenin' to Raven's new Tommy Sands Anthology! I can't figger that man out!) hasn't heard this one yet . . . but I saw 'im salivate at the @#$%in' thought of it! Gary explains, 'Here's one that nobody saw coming. English psychedelic folkie Robyn Hitchcock's latest album is a collaboration with American alt-oldtime darlings Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Hitchcock, who has been making his own idiosyncratic brand of music since 1977, when he founded the Soft Boys, met the much younger American duo in 2004 while he was in the US for the filming of the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, in which he has a role. The three, discovering a respect for each other's work, got together for a jam session, followed by an intense two weeks in Welch and Rawlings' Nashville studio making this record.' I don't think Gary was disappointed!

Last, but not least Gary reviews Zabe i Babe's Drumovi: 'Fans of Tim Eriksen -- and he has many more since his vocals and shape-note songs played a prominent part in the soundtrack of the Cold Mountain film in 2003 -- will probably enjoy this project, which shows one more side of his multi-faceted talent. Cordelia's Dad fans likewise, and fans of Balkan music should also check out this American-Balkan collaboration.'

An' there you 'ave it. Annuver week's worth of listenin', thinkin', writin', editin', postin', drinkin', listenin' some more, an' 'angin' 'round the pub. Annuver week of e-mails, and missives about who got what CD, an' where the @#$%in' inserts went, an' who ate my pizza, an' on an' on. It's one bloody thing after annuver here in the high pressure world of music journalism. See ya next week!

Ahhh, the chair made of oak, leather, and a foliate print fabric. We think it started life as the chair that Sir John Falstaff, the portly rascal of Windsor, sat in at the Garter Inn. What? You thought he only existed in Shakespeare's Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor? Possibly he did, possibly he didn't. All I know is that the chair is more than massive 'nough to hold his reputed bulk. Now for all I know it could have been the Throne of Bonnie Prince Charlie himself as the story never stays the same twice. Some even claim that Roger Zelazny once sat there conversing with Merlin himself. Certainly Paul Brandon has told tales sitting in it as has Josepha Sherman and Will Shetterly. Perhaps even you have sat there, or will sit there!

See the long gouge in the left arm? That was from a sword swung a bit too wildly during an impromptu staging of a scene from a Robin Hood play, Robin Hood and the Maid Who Never Said No, that the theatre company here was rehearsing. The fabric on the chair is not original to it -- it appears to have designed by William Morris himself! Notice that chair is more than big 'nough that one could hide behind it as indeed one lover did when the not very pleased husband of a Summer Queen showed up -- when the lights are turned down in here the shadows hide anyone back there. (Reynard here -- it was Tom, the lad who skipped out on a fey wedding later on, who was the cowardly lover. . . . He never could behave like a man. Couldn't stomach a sword fight, the bastard!) The chair's sat at that angle to the Fireplace so that person sitting in it is mostly in shadows -- the storytellers prefer it that way as they say the best stories are told when the light is dim and the imagination unfettered by mundane concerns.

 

 

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

Some images courtesy of Clipart.com

Updated 24 October 2004, 17:15 04:15 (MN)