'The world has already built me a legend...
This more than anything else is what makes
me a poet in the folking field.' -- Woody Guthrie



14th of November, 2004


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David Kidney here. Last weekend, I was pretty much out of touch. The weather was beautiful, autumn fresh, sunshiney, with that crisp cool air that makes for perfect football playing weather. The local University team was in a playoff game at the Stadium. You could hear the cheering as they defeated their long-time rivals from further on down the road. The neighbourhood church was celebrating the arts, with a gallery of contributions that I co-curated. It was lovely, paintings and carvings, poetry, hand-crafts from members of the fellowship of all ages. And the quality, of an unbelievably high level. Who knew there was such talent in the pews?

During the day they provided music in the main sanctuary. Sing what you like, people were told, and the folksinger sang 'Pancho & Lefty' and 'FDR in Trinidad,' while the ex-missionary played choruses on the keyboard while and daughter sang, and the songleader joined his daughter in a trio of violin duets... Pachelbel, I think, was one. Visitors wandered in and out, it was a perfect day. Then the sun dropped down beyond the horizon, and the evening concert began. The Toronto Mass Choir. Thirty-five voices united as one. They rocked the chapel. They soared. They invited the audience to participate. I sang with them. One song. We learned the choreography, and the vocal parts, and then we lifted our voices together. After five minutes I was exhausted...and the choir had been singing for ninety! Whew! Sunday night was a band concert.

Anyway, they were looking for me here at the Green Man offices. SPike had been involved in some misadventure at the skating pond. Not sure that it wasn't deserved; but you know he is not much of a swimmer after the van accident in which he lost his brother Fred... but the musos all ended up drinking together so it must have been all in good fun. SPike is nursing himself back to health with large helpings of Paddy 'n' Red...not sure he wants to get well.

We have a bumper crop of things to review this week. From the sublime to the...well...to the other sublime. Nothing that comes in is quite as ridiculous as daily life in the Green Man Building. Ask anyone. Ask SPike!

This week we feature two book reviews. First up is Chief Cat Eldridge, with an Excellence in Writing Award winning look at the new release of Charles Vess' The Book of Ballads. Cat says in his part review/part interview: 'The Book of Ballads is, as you might guess, illustrated tales based on ballads. If you're at all familiar with The Child Ballads, you'll recognize much of what's here.'

Last week Managing Editor Maria Nutick mentioned the book release party for the new Ari Berk / Brian Froud collaboration Goblins. In her Excellence in Writing Award winning review of the book, she says 'I haven't loved a book of this nature so much since Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet gave my first scholarly glimpse into the fey world with their 1977 book Gnomes.'

And Cat says of our featured music review, which completes the cycle of Excellence in Writing Awards for this trio, 'Tempest's 15th Anniversary Collection is reviewed by Film Editor Tim Hoke. I must confess that I made a copy of this for the Green Man Infinite Jukebox MP3 server before Tim snatched it up, since I consider Tempest, along with Boiled In Lead, one of the best Celtic rock bands ever to have graced the stage. Read Tim's review to see what goodies have been assembled here for your listening pleasure!'

Anton Strout is back with another game review this week. Of Fable, Anton says 'Fable is one of those much anticipated games; full of promise, but not necessarily full of what was promised. To judge the game as what it is and not what its potential was would be to do a great disservice to both possible directions a review might take. In fairness to the game as its own entity and as the game the world was waiting for, I am thrilled to attempt a dual review here. I give and I give and then I give some more.' And we give Anton his first, but likely not his last, Excellence in Writing Award for this one.

Letters editor Craig Clarke here, with some very strange news on the epistolary front: no one badmouthed us all month! Are we doing something wrong? In any case, here's a quick rundown of all the happy mail we've received since the last batch.

It's a rare artist (as least when the sample used is those who write us) who knows how to take constructive criticism. Mary Triola proves to be one of the elite, as she shows in her letter to Lenora Rose regarding her review of Moch Pryderi's Dancing in the Pigsty. Also, Roddy Clenaghan thought Gary Whitehouse's live review of Joan Baez was 'excellent'.

Bob Hay of the Jolly Beggars appreciated Peter Massey's review of their album Toils Obscure and John Langstaff was 'intrigued' by Pete's historically astute look at John Langstaff Sings the Lark in the Morn.

Mark Bell explains to Jack Merry the reasoning behind the difference in running order on Little Feat's LP and CD versions of Waiting for Columbus, Jane Hyde discusses Mortal Engines and other books with Cat Eldridge, and Vic Lauterbach thanks Grey Walker for resparking his interest in the Dark is Rising series.

On the marketing front, Kate Hamilton engages in a little cross-merchandising in her letter about David Kidney's look at Norm Hacking and Kirk Elliott's Orange Cats (make the very best friends), Chelsea Spear hawks her new Tam Lin movie in response to Lahri Bond's review of another film version, and Shane Solow introduces us to his fascinating Herodotus Project.

And lastly, Jane Yolen once again reminds us why she's so awesome, Kelly J. has a question regarding the legend behind The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings have a new fan in Jeff Potts.

David Kidney, Assistant Music Review Editor, Music Review Production Editor, CD Acquisitions and Master Reviewer -- the titles will soon be longer than the reviews -- also found solace from all things political at a concert, this one by Eliza Gilkyson. 'About a hundred lucky patrons,' he writes, 'sat spellbound while Ms. Gilkyson and her two accompanists held us in thrall. Eliza Gilkyson and her 'band' brought us from the depths of depression, to the heights of love, with stops in between.' To discover how this 'country angel' worked her magic, check out David's review.

Gary Whitehouse, Master Reviewer, Music Review Production Editor and CD Aquisitions Czar, chased away his election night jitters with a massive application of the 'healing power of noise.' To be specific, a concert by Giant Sand featuring Howe Gelb with The Handsome Family as the warm-up act. Gary says that 'It was a cold, rainy night in the bluest of cities in one of the bluest of states on an election night that was all red.' Gelb used the classic Beatles song 'Hey Jude,' to provide a healing counterpoint to the night's madness: 'The show started with Gelb alone on stage with his Telecaster, saying 'Hey,' followed by 'Jude,' and he launched into his own interpretation of the Beatles classic (filled with some mean guitar blasts), during which he was joined by the rest of the band. As is his wont, he segued without pause into Giant Sand is All Over the Map's 'NYC of Time,' which paraphrases a line from 'Jude' as 'take a bad thing and make it better.' . . . Alternative music fans had found a momentary balm for their souls in a night of truly alternative music.' Click here to read more.

Jack Merry at your service again this outing. I did, as I noted last week, go off to the skating pond in search of SPike as the two somewhat ill-tempered musicians that were muttering something about dunking him if he dunked them actually did so. Now all concerned are indeed suffering very bad colds requiring that they drink lots of warm beverages, while they sit by the fire in the Pub with a blanket over each of them to keep the chilblains at bay. But the three of 'em are now the fastest of friends, sharing tales of bands long gone and other tales that I'll not share here for fear of embarrassing all of us.

Alistair Brown, a reviewer who has been gone far too long from these pages, has these words -- which are good 'nough for an Excellence in Writing Award -- for you lovers of good fiddle music: 'With Complements, the debut album by the young Scottish fiddler Patsy Reid, is all about juxtapositions, of instruments and musical styles. Patsy takes the lead on all tracks, playing all fiddle and viola parts, and one air on piano, using a number of different accompanists to complement the different tunes.' Tasty, very tasty!

Cowboy Jack Clement's Guess Things Happen That Way is reviewed by David Kidney with this lead-off note in his an Excellence in Writing Award review: 'We've been getting a lot of this genre in lately. Cowboy Song. Essentially it's a softer, quieter country music. More like folk music in a lot of ways, but still featuring enough twang to rate high on the Western scale.' Now is that a good thing? Well, read his review and David will indeed answer the question I just posed!

Stan Webb's Chicken Shack's Still live after all these years album was very much favoured by David: 'Not sure how many American readers will recall the great British band Chicken Shack. I suppose their biggest, or at least best-known, contribution to the world is Christine McVie (nee Perfect) to Fleetwood Mac. But since 1967 they've been purveyors of some of the grittiest British blues anywhere, and Stan Webb is the great unsung guitar hero. On a par with Eric Clapton or Peter Green, but working under the radar on this side of the pond, Stan Webb is still playing some of the most melodic guitar you'll ever hear. And he can sizzle when he wants.'

Peter Massey, who got a very nice letter from John Langstaff concerning his review of an album by that musician, has a succinct review of bluegrassers Jesse McReynolds and The Virginia Boys' New Horizons album. Every word in the review is well-choosen, so go read his review yourself!

Robert Crenshaw's Dog Dreams and Red Clay Rambler band member Bland Simpson's Follow You All Over the World were disappointing to reviewer Mike Stiles: 'Here are two CDs to file under 'Small Town Americana,' subcategory 'What Happens When Good Musicians Suck Up to Commercial Formats.' They're examples of playing a little too close to one's musical influences without developing much of anything unique.' Read his review to see why this was so! Mike won't be disappointed in getting an an Excellence in Writing Award for this review!

I suspect Robert M. Tilendis might indeed have a liking for a spicy curry now and again give his liking for ragas. This outing he looks at two (K. Sridhar, N. V. Murthy, and Suzy Altman's Raga Madhukauns / Raga Piloo and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Anindo Chatterjee, and Ratan Mukherjee's Raga Piloo). He notes that 'Both CDs are issued by Amigo Musik, a Swedish company that has released a number of recordings of live performances by notable Indian performers (thus the applause at the end of each work). For 'live' discs, these are quite well done -- if I didn't know differently, I would have believed them to be studio recordings. For those with an interest in Indian music, these are definitely worth investigating.'

Bobo Stenson and Lennart Aberg is an album by the two Nordic artists the album's named for. (Bloody surprise that is.) Christopher White says they are 'among the best known Swedish jazz musicians, playing piano and saxophones respectively. I hear skeptics out there making cracks about 'best known Icelandic blues musicians' and so on, but remember, Swedes, like many Europeans, are far more knowledgeable about this great American art form than 93.7% of all Americans. This pair of gifted musicians have both been playing internationally for more than three decades. Their eponymously titled CD contains an extremely abbreviated listing of some of the musicians these guys have performed and recorded with that includes Don Cherry, Carla Bley, Charles Lloyd and Paul Motian. Among those familiar with modern jazz, they need little introduction.'

Christopher also found much to like in a Blues album: 'Otis Taylor offers up a satisfying twelve pack of the blues on Double V, with many of the songs having strong political themes. Taylor has a deep, rich, wonderfully evocative voice and is a skilled multi-instrumentalist on guitar, banjo, harmonica, electric banjo and electric mandolin.'

And there you have it. Music, letters, and things extraordinaire. All courtesy of the denizens of this corner of the world called Green Man. The weather is cooling off. Snow has been sighted. Time to curl up by the fire and finish reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles. Fascinating stuff. See you next week!


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Updated 15 November 2004, 04:55 Green Man Time (RN)