She took a sip, bracing herself, but the liquid went down smooth as silk, with the full-body of a fine brandy. Not until it had settled in her stomach did she realize the kick it had. She gasped and her eyes began to tear. But a fluttering warmth spread through her and the sour taste was finally gone. The liqueur held a faint bouquet of honey and herbs, of a field of wildflowers. It was like drinking a piece of summer and for a moment she almost thought she could hear the buzz of bees, feel the heat of a hot summer's day. 'Wow,' she said and peered into the mouth of the flask. She caught a glimpse of a light, yellowish-amber liquid. 'What is this stuff?' 'Metheglin,' the man told her. 'A kind of Welsh whiskey made from hops and honey. Have some more,' he added when she started to hand the flask back.

-- Charles de Lint's Forests of the Heart

 

The next biweekly issue will be published on the 12th of December, 2004

Jack Merry at your service. If you tried to access our zine over the weekend and couldn't do so, I apologize. Remember those digital pixies who get into the Infinite Jukebox, our MP3 server, every so often? Well, they decided to relocate our server to a new host computer over the weekend. Unfortunately, they didn't tell our Webmaster where the computer was. As damn near everyone here took the weekend off, it too a few days for us to notice they'd done this. (I was here, but mostly playing music, drinking metheglin, and telling lies, errr, tales in the Pub.) Everything back to normal now. Well, as normal as anything on this Border ever can be! Indeed there may well be times for afew weeks that you'll find oddities with our files as we and the pixies are still negotiating terms of relatively peaceful coexistence!

Now onto the business at hand. Care for a cup of Glengettie tea? Nancy Carlin left a box of it here when she visited us this week, and she says it's one of the better Welsh teas. Do have one of the spiced Welsh tea cakes as well! It's gotten quite cold in this City . . . Odd how fast the conditions go from merely cold to outright nasty. I was busking very cozily in the Old Quarter 'til a mere fortnight ago. Now I admit me ancient bones find being out buskin' in cold weather less appealing every year, but it did get cold, drizzly, and bleedin' windy much earlier than normal. Even theheathers now have a fine coating of ice on them already, a good month ahead of last year!

So I am doing a lot of re-reading this season as the offerings from the publishers this season are less than appealing. Yes, I tried reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke which is described by her Web site as 'a literary novel telling the story of the revival of English magic.' After three hundred pages and far too many cups of Turkish coffee to keep from nodding off while reading it, I gave up. It's dry, it's boring, it's unreadable.

So why re-read a novel? Some times it's because I already know it's going to be good and not a waste of me time, I see new depths each time I read it, sometimes I'm planning to write up something that's related to that work, or a newbook in a series such as James Hetley's Seasons of the Enchanted Forest series has come out and I want to review what happened before which means I re-read the entire series. But more often than not it's simply because I just want to spend some time with something familiar instead of making the effort to plow through what may or may not be a rewarding read as was the case with Clarke's novel. So I'll re-read, say, one of Charles de Lint's Newford novels, which are always pleasant reads, or perhaps a winter-long reading, as I did last year this time, savouring The Lord of the Rings in the edition illustrated by Alan Lee.

'Bob Dylan. His name resonates throughout the hall. Is there a more important singer-songwriter? Has there ever been?' So asks David Kidney, in his review of the first volume of Bob Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles. David goes on to say 'What a book! I could hardly believe the voice he chose to tell his stories. Warm, countrified, a sort of a 'gosh-agollee-gee' tone which continues from page one to the end. It's almost as though Bobby was sitting there, across from you, with a fire going, telling you his tales.'

Steeleye Span have long been favourites around the Green Man offices. Lars Nilsson (Senior Writer) reviews theirnew CD. Called Winter, it is a perfect selection on this day when the frost has covered the rooftops.' He writes, 'Folk rock and Christmas always seem to go well together. There is a long line of successful seasonal albums incorporating singers and musicians from that field . . . So it should not come as a surprise to anyone to find Steeleye Span joining the Christmas-album force. After all they had their first hit with a song in Latin telling about the birth of Christ, Maddy Prior has already explored the territory with the Carnival Band, though with medieval instruments, and the newly recruited Ken Nicol played a crucial part on the Albion Christmas album of 1999.' Not sure about you, but I like to pick up one Christmas album every year to add to my collection, and this sounds like an essential buy!'

Donna Bird says 'I was working in the mailroom at the Green Man office the day The American Quilt arrived. I took it with me on my lunch break. It was still high summer then, and I sat in the dappled shade of the great copper beech behind the building, listening to the cicadas buzz as I turned the pages.' Did she enjoy her bounty? Read her review of Roderick Kiracofe's The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort, 1750-1950.

Managing Editor Maria Nutick reviewed Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, and now J.J.S. Boyce takes a look at the audiobook version of these works: 'His Dark Materials. At last we meet. I've been aware of this trilogy for some time, and though I didn't know precisely what it was about (and maintained my ignorance up until the moment the special GMR cherub delivered it to my door and I embarked on my journey), I did know this: That's a great name. Seriously. Isn't that a neat title theme for a series? It's dark and portentous, and the individual titles of each installment hint to us of the unique magical devices within: those which each have their own influences on the path of the continuing story.'

Robert Tilendis has Colin McPhee on his mind this week, with reviews of both a book about the composer and, in the music section, some of the composer's works. Of the book by Carolyn Oja, Colin McPhee: Composer in Two Worlds, Robert says 'This is not a sparkling narrative. It is, in its essentials, a scholarly work, the second edition of a biography that seems to have grown out of a doctor al dissertation. As such, it is concerned mainly with McPhee's reaction to Balinese music. Carol Oja is an historical musicologist, and the book is replete with technical discussions of McPhee's compositions and transcriptions . . .'

'How do you like your aliens? Hostile, bent on world domination with a side of ugly? Small, kind, childlike gray people who communicate through simple musical phrases? How about a race uncannily like our own -- full of hope and fear, flaws and mistakes, but holding to a higher spiritual understanding that allows them a peace that we humans seem to lack? Okay, that may sound a bit too sentimental for you, or contrived. But I promise, you have not encountered anything quite like the People. Zenna Henderson's People Stories, collected together in Ingathering: The Complete People Stories, resonate with a powerful moral strength, a clear and striking style, and a truly memorable cast of characters.' Sara Sutterfield Winn receives an Excellence in Writing Award for her look at this amazing author and her incredible work.

Is it possible to dislike someone's work, while simultaneously admiring them as one of the greats in their field? David Kidney thinks so. David watched a documentary, Sonny Terry, Whoopin' The Blues: 1958-1974, about harmonica wizard Sonny Terry. He comments, 'Sonny Terry was perhaps the greatest blues harmonica player to ever live . . . A king among kings. A master among masters. So why can I not stand to listen to him?' Read David's review for the answer to that question

Anton Strout is proving that we can count on him for an interesting and thorough game review every time. This week he turns his attention to a game he feels is superior: 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away & long before some whiney young scrub named Anakin decided to go all fashionably black and asthmatic . . .there was another story -- one that didn't suck nearly as hard as Episodes One and Two. Thankfully, Star Wars fans have many other outlets to get good storytelling from, such as the works of Timothy Zahn, various other writers in the SW universe, and some of the video games. BioWare's offering of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is the cream of the crop in this regard, garnering over 40 different game of the year awards in 2003. Strong was the Force in this one, it seems.'

Cat Eldridge interviews two important figures in the Green Man, and our readers, world. The first, Nancy Carlin, is a promoter of Welsh music and musicians. She talks about her interest in Welsh music: 'It's slightly exotic, but quite accessible and the musicologist part of me loves learning about unusual instruments like the pibgorn and crwth as well as the nuances of Welsh Gypsy tunes and plygain singing. It's a living tradition that's been passed from one musician to another and like the Welsh language the music has been preserved, especially in the rural areas in North Wales. I guess part of it is the lure of the chase.'

And then there's Cat's interview with Charles Vess, illustrator of choice for so many Green Man reviewers and editors, who tantalizes us with a glimpse of what he's working on for the future: 'On my drawing board right now are a huge pile of drawing for a signed and numbered, limited edition of George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords. A bit further down the road is a children's picture book with Neil Gaiman, The Blueberry Girl, and the framing sequences (set in an Arabian Nights world of romance, adventure and eroticism) to Bill Willingham's original graphic novel set in his world of Fables. And a few other surprises as well.'

David Kidney here to guide you through the music today.

It's getting that wintery look outside. I had to turn my collar up to the wind, and wear my Irish cap (that I bought at Blarney Woolen Mills) as I walked my little dog Chloe this morning. She always seems to take her time deciding where to go on cold mornings. Only three weeks 'til Saint Nicholas arrives with gifts, and already the Great Hall here at the Green Man offices is ringing with seasonal songs! But the wind chimes were making beautiful music as we strolled along the road. And there's a nice selection of beautiful recorded music for consideration this fine day, as well.

Jack Merry piping up. I note he didn't mention the time he spends in our Pub drinking Grinning Gargoyle Ale and listening to the Neverending Session!

Staff Reviewer Jayme Lynn Blaschke looks at Smithfield Fair's Winds of Time and calls it 'pretentious and earnest . . . all worthy efforts . . . offer[ing] a pleasant evening's listening. Are any of the [songs]destined to go down as classics? That's debatable -- there's little here that jumps out with the strength and power that marks the greatest songs handed down from generation to generation -- but on the other hand, many of the compositions here already sound like they've been performed at gatherings for decades, if not centuries. More than simple pastiche, this music captures the spirit of those older folk and Scottish songs, and if the end result isn't modern, then at least it's timeless. In the long run, that's probably a nobler achievement.' So a timeless and noble achievement? One for the Christmas list!

Next, Peter Massey (Senior Writer) listens to Sometimes Mother Really Does Know Best, a live album by Christine Lavin. Peter says, 'it is obvious from the recording that Christine is a very nice lady, who is not only capable of giving a very professional live performance, but more importantly, she enjoys doing it. The album boasts 21 tracks, of which nine are songs, and of these she has written seven. The other tracks are her banter and stories as she introduces each song. You will get an idea of Christine's sense of humour, when I tell you, at the top of the silvery disc, in a very small font, it reads 'Christine says in an emergency this disc can be used as a makeup mirror.' Hmmm, gives new meaning to the words 'compact' disc!

Pat Simmonds is a Senior Writer, and a fine fiddler in his own right, so it's no surprise that the CDs he reviews include the instrument he loves. First the Neff Brothers' Ar Scath a Cheile (Each Other's Shadow) which Pat says, 'This Irish uilleann pipes and fiddle duet have been burning up the traditional scene for a couple of years now and are firmly established as the hot young guns on the block. With this album they seem to have fully entered the experimental stage, employing a variety of sounds. Everything from thumb piano to cello, tablas, synthesisers and electric bass make an appearance to support the musical vision these two lads quite clearly have.' Sounds positively exotic! And then Pat takes a look at The Poozies new disc, Changed Days, Same Roots. Mr. Simmonds notes that, 'Eilidh Shaw has long been one of my favourite fiddlers and it's a pleasure to hear her very personal approach come through in the last track. All the musicians are allowed room to move, no one instrument dominates the overall sound -- but when the band cranks up the heat the whole does become greater than the sum of the parts with some very interesting sound explorations, including keyboard noises and harmonic overtones adding to the overall polished soundscape. Finally Pat listens to Teada's Give Us A Penny and Let Us Be Gone album. He tells us that 'Teada is fiddler Oisan Mac Diarmada's vehicle that has fashioned itself out of earlier nascent recordings. The band were winners of the 'Best Traditional Newcomers' in Irish Music Magazine's Readers Poll in 2003. The name means strings in Irish Gaelic . . .' and with a lineup that includes '. . . John Blake on flute and guitar . . . Tristan Rosenstock on bodhrC!n, Sean McElwain on banjo and bouzouki with new guy Paul Finn on accordion and concertina...' they earn their name! And the sounds they make? Well, read the whole review, but Pat says, 'While the bulk of the material is of a straight ahead nature there are some interesting production ploys including sound effects and overdubs that add a crafted sense to the whole thing.'

Robert M. Tilendis is another fine reviewer. This outing, Robert looks at three CDs -- Colin McPhee's Symphony No. 2, Concerto for Piano with Wind Octette, Nocturne for Chamber Orchestra,Balinese Ceremonial Music and Tabuh-Tabuhan , Lou Harrison's Suite for Symphonic Strings and Chinary Ung's Inner Voices. Just consider Robert's lead-off to this review: 'Colin McPhee, the Canadian-American composer and writer who is too little known to contemporary audiences, arguably had a tremendous influence on later generations of American musicians through his study and dissemination of the music of Bali. Fortunately for us, his music is now more widely recorded than it had been in the past, and offers some fascinating glimpses into what true 'fusion' is all about.' Now go read his review to get all the details!

Barbara Truex, Senior Reviewer and a damn fine dulcimer player, reviewed two CDs by Nordic performer Mari Boine, Eight Seasons and Remixed. I'm not surprised she liked these recordings as she's also a DJ who does an annual programme of reindeer music! As she notes, 'Do yourself a favor and get aquatinted with Mari Boine.'

There you have it. A handful of suggestions for seasonal gifts, but more than that. All this fine music makes a perfect way to warm up after that long walk in the brisk Northern wind. Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, curl up by the fire, and relax with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head as you listen to some of this fine music. Aah . . . this is the life...

>

Being time for hearty winter fare, The Kitchen staff here at the Green Man building got the jones (pun fully intended) for Welsh cooking this week. I think it was the case of metheglin, a Welsh spiced honey liquor, that gave them the idea. So tonight's eventide repast will lead off nicely off with cig oen cymreig gyda thatws a chabetsh a garlleg rhost (loin of welsh lamb with bubble and squeak and roasted garlic) with cacen datws, brocoli a chennin wedi'i bobi dan grwst cnau castan (a baked leek and broccoli potato cake topped with a chestnut crust) and cawl cnnin a deleri gyda hufen perlysiau (a leek and celery soup with a herb cream). Dessert will be, and I've been attempting to 'sample' it all afternoon without success, teisen lap (moist raisin cake). All washed down with either Dragon's Breath XXX Stout or some of the metheglin. Iechyd da!

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Updated 22 July 2005, 01:00 GMT (LLS)