The Kinrowan Estate Card Catalogue

A library catalogue is an index of all bibliographic items found in a library such as the one here at Kinrowan Estate. Our catalogue covers all thirty thousand or so books, chapbooks, maps and even art. The Catalogue includes data about the physical location of items, for instance, the extensive collection of culinary related material that the Kitchen staff has in their library space (which is also their break room), the Estate Gardener’s collection is kept in his library (which includes centuries of Estate Gardener journals and gardening and animal husbandry material going back a very long time). Here’s how we catalog our books at the Estate.

What’s New This Fortnight

Green Man Review Fiddling Fox logoAlthough it may seem that we only do upbeat reviews because we’re excited about this book or that music, we have done reviews that point out the problems with a work. Because of that, we’ve been threatened with lawsuits over assumed slights. I could tell you the story about the husband of a Nashville singer-songwriter whose debut recording wasn’t to the liking of our reviewer. The husband threatened to punch me in the nose in response to our review. We’ve even had a really well-known British violinist blacklist us for copies of his future recordings after a reviewer questioned his playing style.

Which brings me to the audiobook review of Robert Heinlein’s The Number of The Beast. This is a book I was excited about as, unlike many reviewers, I really do like his later novels, as you can in my review of his Friday. Now I could prattle on for a while but really, just go read my review here to see why this was so.

On the other hand, Richard found much to appreciate in The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold, a book in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle series. Richard says The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold will be a welcome treat ‘in the same way fans of a particular band will swarm all over a collection of b-sides and rarities.’ Now read his review to see if it’s worth chasing down earlier works in this series.

Reynard really liked Neil Hegarty’s Waking Up in Dublin, a guide to the musical side of Dublin, Ireland, covering every sort of music you be interested in hearing while visiting.

The self-titled album from The Alt had Lars noting that ‘Irish music comes in many forms, from the loud and boisterous to the soft and soothing, from the long slow ballads to the fast furious instrumentals.’ This trio of songsters definitely pleased Lars and you can find out why by reading his review.

We’ve covered a lot of superb Central European music, so I wasn’t surprised Taraf de Haïdouks’ Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts was praised by Donna in her review.

Reynard explains our process for the twice-yearly whisky tastings here at the Estate, a seasonal exercise we plan a year in advance.

Gary loved the debut release from the Banditos: ‘Banditos are definitely all rock and all country — country of what they used to call the “outlaw” variety, which is maybe where they came up with their name; and rock of the Southern variety.’ Not convinced they’re worth hearing? Read his review of the Banditos self-titled album and you will be!

We’ve told you about the Estate foxes, let’s go out this time with Nick Burbridge’s band, McDermott’s 2 Hours which tells the story of ‘Fox on the Run’. Hmmm . . . I should tell you sometime the tale of how Nick came to be Oak King one fine Fall.

Banditos, self-titled release

cover artWith a name like Banditos, you might expect this band to be from, say, Texas. But all six members are from Birmingham, Alabama, though now firmly ensconsed in Nashville. The alternative Nashville, that is, where you can still twang and rock and not be too country for rock or too rock for country. Banditos are definitely all rock and all country — country of what they used to call the “outlaw” variety, which is maybe where they came up with their name; and rock of the Southern variety.

Not to pigeonhole the music, but “it is what it is,” as the kids say. Take for instance the song “Long Gone, Anyway,” which starts the second half of this 12-song collection. It’s clearly an homage to guitar hero Merle Travis, being built around the signature melody and lick of one of his best known tunes “Cannonball Rag.” Now, Mr. Travis might have looked askance at the Banditoes’ liberal use of kazoo on this song built around his own, but drawing askance glances obviously is one of the Banditos’ raisons d’etre. That and celebrating the sheer joy of making rock ‘n roll. Witness the gleeful transgressiveness of the previous track, “Still Sober (After All These Beers)” a scorching rockabilly nod to a lifestyle built on excess. It begins, of course, by skewering the title of one the best-known songs by one of the best-known icons of Boomer folk, Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy (After All These Years).” These young pups (all six are reputedly still in their 20s) are probably not “crapped out and yawning” at 4 in the morning.

What they’re probably doing is hanging in some club or bar playing something like this one, the swampy, bluesy slow-burner called “Ain’t It Hard,” complete with surfy guitar.

I realize I skipped the introductions. That’s Corey Parsons on lead guitar and vocals, Stephen Pierce on banjo and vocals (who also plays pedal steel and other things) Mary Beth Richardson on vocals, Jeffrey Salter on the third set of guitar strings, Danny Vines on bass and Randy Wade on drums. This self-titled release is their first after three years of touring and woodshedding, and I’d say they have their sound and attitude down pat. The album opens with “The Breeze,” an homage to and reimagining of J. J. Cale’s best-known number “Call Me The Breeze,” a choogling Southern-fried boogie featuring a two-guitars-and-banjo attack while Corey and Mary Beth wail out the bluesy lyrics. On “Waitin’ ” and “No Good,” Mary Beth shows her strong churchified influences, with lots of vibrato in her soulful wail as she somehow channels both Dolly Parton and Janis Joplin. “Cry Baby Cry” is a flat-out rockabilly boogie that includes some killer piano licks. And when they want to soften it up just a bit there’s “Blue Mosey #2,” a lightly swinging country shuffle that tips the hat to Jimmie Rodgers, and anybody else who has sung the lonesome blues in an alley behind a bar in a small southern town.

Not ready to call it a night? Drop the needle back on this one, pour another round, and let Banditos get you moving. It’s one of the feel-good records of this summer for sure.

(Bloodshot, 2015)

[Editor’s note: The Banditos have a website and are active on Twitter. You can hear more of their music at Bloodshot Records.]

Taraf de Haidouks, Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts

Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts is the sixth CD released by Taraf de Haïdouks, a Romanian Gypsy band. Since the band formed in 1990, this CD also celebrates their 25th anniversary. Taraf de Haïdouks began as a group of individual musicians who came together to play for various village events, such as weddings and funerals. They all hail from Clejani, about 40 km south of Bucharest and not far from the border with Bulgaria. The area has long been recognized as a hotbed of traditional music; in fact, a number of the musicians in the band appeared on recordings from the area taken by ethnomusicologists who visited in the late 1980s.

taraf_de_haidouks_lovers_gamblers_parachcute_skirtsThe band has evolved over time into a strong and very popular performing ensemble, touring worldwide and appearing in films. These include Latcho Drom (Safe Journey), which documents the travels of the Romani people from India to the far western edges of Europe and The Man Who Cried, starring Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett. Four of the original band members have passed away, but, like many traditional bands, new members have joined to replace them. Featured on this CD are nine band members, playing violin, flute, accordion, clarinet, and cimbalom (a large hammered dulcimer), along with five guest artists, including three vocalists.

At 72 minutes long, the CD contains 14 separate tracks, featuring a very listenable and entertaining mix of slow ballads and fast dance tunes. Selections reflect the band’s intention of revisiting some of the traditional melodies and styles that inspired them in the first place. Track 1, “Balalau from Bucharest,” is a song about a musician well-known for gambling and starting fights in bars. The vocalist is guest artist Viorica Rudareasa, one of the few Rom women working as a professional singer (all the regular members of Taraf de Haïdouks are men). Her voice and vocal style remind me of Marta Sebestyen, who often performs with the Hungarian traditional band Muzsikas. In fact, the pulsing rhythm on this track reminds me a lot of the music of this band! Rudareasa reappears on Track 13, “I’ve Got a Parachute Skirt,” a rather raunchy song about a woman whose husband leaves her alone a lot and her interest in finding other men.

Track 3, “Cold Snowball” is a ballad about someone whose lover left him. The song starts with a plaintive flute that slides into accordions and a very sad-sounding male vocal, in this case the band member Constantin Lautaru, who learned the song from another musician.

I always find myself preferring the instrumental tracks on CDs like this. One of my favorites was Manele Pomak, a fast one featuring Filip Simeonov, the band’s Bulgarian clarinet player. This one has a Middle Eastern feel, not surprising given the influence of the Ottoman Turks on this region. Another was Track 11, “Dance Suite a la Clejani,” a medley of dance tunes. But then I also enjoyed Track 9, “No Snow, Nor Rain,” an old ballad performed by Gheorghe Manole, a guest artist who usually performs as a street singer. He plays his violin with a horse hair in lieu of a bow, giving it an interesting raspy sound. The track, which also features the cimbalom playing of Ion Tanase, sounds like Gypsy blues.

Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts comes in a trifold paperboard package with two pockets. The CD is in one pocket. The other pocket contains a very nice little 28-page booklet in lieu of liner notes. Written in French and English, the notes include a brief description of the origins of each track and translated lyrics for the ones with vocals. Several pages in the booklet feature photographs of the band taken at various times over the last 25 years. They look like they are having fun!

(Crammed Discs, 2015)

[Editor’s note: Taraf de Haïdouks have a website. Crammed’s page for Taraf de Haïdouks’ Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts has a few tracks available for streaming.

Peter V. Brett, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold

For hardcore fans of Peter Brett’s Demon Cycle series, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold will be a welcome treat in the same way fans of a particular band will swarm all over a collection of b-sides and rarities. It’s a deep dive into the world of The Warded Man, including reference material, scenes cut from various official chapters in the series, and a couple of additional stories that flesh out the personal history of Brett’s protagonist, the Messenger Arlen Bales.

Cover of Peter V. Brett's The Great Bazaar & Brayan's GoldThe first piece, “Brayan’s Gold,” is a deep dive into Arlen’s personal history. It details his first solo run as a Messenger, hauling a load of dynamite up the side of a mountain for the benefit of a tightfisted noble. Along the way he’s ambushed by bandits and demons and abandoned by his traveling companion, but he brings the load home thanks to some Sgt. Riggs-level theatrics. As an adventure it’s rollicking enough, with Arlen coming face to face with a new breed of demon and making an ingenious escape. Where the story’s on less sure footing is in Arlen’s interactions with others. His uncompromising sense of duty and black-and-white morality may feel right on a classic fantasy protagonist, but here they play out largely through interaction with characters who feel a bit straw-mannish. Arlen’s morality is absolute, but it’s also never really challenged, and so the moral victories he scores feel less earned than the physical and magical ones.

The second piece, “The Great Bazaar,” drops in later in Arlen’s history (according to the author, it’s set between chapters 16 and 17 of The Warded Man, when he’s working with the Krasnian merchant Abban. Following Abban’s instructions, Arlen uncovers a treasure trove of salable pottery left behind on sacred ground after its makers were slaughtered by demons. This is just a prologue, however, as Arlen leverages the incomplete intel Abban provided him with into getting a map showing the whereabouts of the lost city of Anoch Sun. Abban is certainly the more amusing character here, playing off both Arlen and the strict cultural mores of Krasnia with equal aplomb. Clever, witty and charming, the merchant gets exactly what he wants, even with the killer dama bearing down on them. Arlen, on the other hand, comes off second best, making a series of bad and impetuous decisions. They may fail to come back to haunt him, but one gets the feeling that he might have gotten a helping auctorial hand along the way. Still, the action moves at a brisk pace, and Brett’s world building is shown to great effect here.

Next are two short sections cut from The Warded Man, “Arlen” and “Brienne Beaten.” The former is largely a curiosity; it’s easy to see why, tone-wise, it didn’t fit with the rest of the book. “Brienne Beaten” is a more complex, interesting piece, dealing with events in Arlen’s home village with a deft hand and a sly sense of humor.

Rounding out the book is a fair bit of reference material on the world, including guides to wards and various demon types. This sort of thing is catnip to completists, and to his credit Brett provides them with plenty to chew on. This is another place where his world building is shown to best effect, with the detailed information offering an interesting look into the systems and thoughts behind key aspects of the setting.

For hardcore fans of the Demon Cycle series — especially those trying to track down earlier versions of the two titular novellas — this one’s a no-brainer. More casual fans will probably get a kick out of the two longer pieces, while newcomers can probably pick a better place to start. Still, Tachyon is doing readers of Brett’s work a service by putting this short collection together, and its intended audience will no doubt receive it warmly.

(Tachyon, 2015)

[Editor’s note: Peter V. Brett has a website.

Whisky Tasting

Have I mentioned that several times a year we have a high-end whisky tasting here? Each is hosted by, quite naturally, the Estate Librarian, Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, a Scot born and bred. It’s limited to a mere dozen participants, each of whom pay five thousand pounds for the privilege of tasting the whiskies, being fed rather nicely, and generally having a good time.

The Alt, The Alt

the_altIrish music comes in many forms, from the loud and boisterous to the soft and soothing, from the long slow ballads to the fast furious instrumentals. The Alt is a trio focusing on songs, only three of the eleven tracks are instrumental sets, and traditional material. No pipes, no fiddle, but plenty of guitar, bouzouki, that special wooden Irish flute and vocal harmonies. Their sound is much closer to the style set by groups like Sweeney’s Men, Planxty and Patrick Street, than the Dubliner-side of Irish folk.

The self-titled The Alt is the first album from The Alt, but they are no newcomers to the scene. They have all recorded with other people and one of them, guitar/bouzouki/madola player John Doyle, has been musical director for Joan Baez on one of her tours. The other members are Nuala Kennede on flute and whistles and Eamon O’Leary on guitar and bouzouki.

They all sing and I think the vocals are one of their strong points. They take turns delivering the songs, with the others joining in to supply harmonies. They even give us some a capella, like the intro on the opening track “Lovely Nancy” and the closing “The Letter Song”, one of my favourite tracks on the album.

The instrumental work is much what you have come to expect from Irish groups. The guitars and the bouzoukis are kept as backing instruments, plucking along, never banging out the chords, with Kennedy’s flute and whistle takes the solos and leads on the instrumentals.

I especially like their choice of material. I have listened to and played a lot of Irish songs, but they have managed to find eight tunes I have not come across before, but a few that I probably will try to learn. Apart from the two already mentioned I am very found of ”The Eighteenth of June”, an English song about the Battle of Waterloo. Not a song to celebrate the victory, but to lament the loss of thousands of lives.

I think The Alt has produced a fine debut album. It will not go down in history as one of the greats nor shake the folk music world, but if you want something nice, well-played and sung to listen to or for finding new songs, it will do nicely. You can listen to two tracks performed live on YouTube, the song ”What Put the Blood” and one instrumental set. There are also samples on The Alt’s website.

(Under the Arch 2014)

Robert Heinlein, The Number of The Beast

“He’s a Mad Scientist and I’m his Beautiful Daughter.”

That’s what she said: the oldest cliché in pulp fiction. She wasn’t old enough to remember the pulps.

The thing to do with a silly remark is to fail to hear it. I went on waltzing while taking another look down her evening formal. Nice view. Not foam rubber.

She waltzed well. Today most girls who even attempt ballroom dancing drape themselves around your neck and expect you to shove them around the floor. She kept her weight on her own feet, danced close without snuggling, and knew what I was going to do a split second before I led it. A perfect partner—as long as she didn’t talk.”

Towards the end of his writing career, Heinlein wrote four novels that were attempts, however flawed, to tie together his fiction into what he called The World as Myth. The premise was that all worlds were merely fictions created by Storytellers. Some Storytellers, say Frank Baum, were the best at creating their universes; others were more mundane in the act of creation.

The Number of The Beast is the first novel in which this idea really was brought to the forefront by Heinlein, though some critics think Stranger in a Strange Land is where the World as Myth first was used by Heinlein (which might be true but I’m not re-reading timagehat novel just to see if that’s true as it’s definitely not one of my favorite Heinlein novels).

The Number of the Beast has four first person narrators — two women, two men; two young, two older. They are Zebadiah John Carter, an engineer; computer programmer Dejah Thoris ‘Deety’ Burroughs Carter; her father mathematician Jacob Burroughs; and Hilda Vorners, off campus socialite and sometimes lover of Jacob’s. (Did you notice the references to John Carter of Mars?)

The premise is that someone is out to erase these four from their timeline and would’ve succeeded if if hadn’t been that Mad Scientist (Jacob) has invented a device that allows the user to access the multiverse including what you might have thought was mere fiction such as Oz. The flying ship they escape in a character herself — Gay Deceiver.

The story is a romp through both literature and the Future History of Heinlein’s meta verse with damn many a character from his extensive writings showing up here. The Coda itself is worth the time to read this large and sprawling book.

Now the really bad news. The full cast ensemble sucks on this production. Every voice characterisation of a major character, save that of Jacob, is cringingly wrong. Zeb Carter has a high twangy voice despite being described in the novel as having a deep commanding voice. And DeeDee manages to sounds like a complete airhead here, curious given that she’s an intelligent woman.

It reminds me of those book covers where the artist wasn’t required to read the book before rendering the artwork. Here I’ll blame the voice production person as they must have either not given instructions on how the characters should sound, or didn’t give a fuck how they sounded. It’s quite probably the worst depiction of characters in a nutshell over I’ve encountered to date.

Give this one a pass, just read the book.

(Blackstone, 2012)

Neil Hegarty’s Waking Up in Dublin

imageSo what’s to like in Neil Hegarty’s compact guide to music in Dublin, Ireland Waking up in Dublin? Pretty much everything as far as I’m concerned. Its subtitle of ‘A Musical Tour of the Celtic Capital’ states exactly what it is.

The first thing the publisher did right was put the maps of where venues are in the front of the guide followed by a list of seventy six of the venues and on what page you can find a look at a specific venue. Keep in mind that some of the descriptions are brief, just giving you a quick taste of what the bar (as most of them are) is like, but usually that’ll suffice.

Hegarty wisely didn’t limit his venues to rock or traditional music as some writers do (again that’s the main focus but other places are included as need be) too. He covers traditional, rock, folk, jazz, classical and more. He looks at bands ranging from the Afro-Celt Sound System to (naturally) U2. And it’s just not bands still active, you’ll find bands such as Moving Hearts and Thin Lizzy here too.

There’s a lot of contextual material as well, discussing the Dublin music scene from an insider’s viewpoint, such as pointing out which performers are popular in that city but also known in London. Though Neil Hegarty was born in Northern Ireland, he had been resident in Dublin for quite some time when he wrote Waking Up in Dublin.

The language here is breezy, informal and quite readable. And Hegarty helpfully adds such useful features as a guide to traditional music terminology, the top five venues for rock music, and foodie Dublin. (I did say it’s written in informal language.) My only caution is make sure that you get the 2011 edition from Bobcat Books.

(Sanctuary Publications, 2004)

Our Greensward

I don’t think I’ve talked about our greensward which is to say an immense lawn that starts from the back of the Estate Building all the way down to Oberon’s Wood.

At the very top of it are the formal gardens, interspersed with a series of paved stone areas ranging from intimate (just big enough for a table and two chairs) to an area big enough that we hold contradances in good weather there. We’ve even added solar cell power lighting so this area can be used in the evenings. There’s several fire pits in this area which is very nice year round.

For the rest of this story, go thisaway.