27 July 1999

Our next edition will be on Lammas which is appropriate as the review I'm giving you advance notice of is the insightful examination by April Gutierrez of The Living Goddesses, the last volume by Marija Gimbutas of her series that looked at the matriarchal societies of Eurasia. If you read our review of Judith Tarrs' White Mare's Daughter, then you'll want to check this out.

25 July 1999

We've got a very good selection of reviews for you this week, with a record number of CDs, books, and live performances for your perusal. Over a dozen of our writers turned in material this week, including two new staffers!

We'll start out with the linked reviews that not only won Michael Jones two Excellence in Writing Awards but also got him elevated to Senior Writer: his review of War for The Oaks novel and the related review of War for The Oaks trailer. Emma Bull's novel stands as one of the best urban fantasies ever written. (It may be the best urban fantasy ever written.) In hopes of getting financial backing for a full-length movie version, her husband Will Shetterly directed an eleven minute trailer. Read Michael's reviews to see why you should seek out both the book and the trailer.

Cat Eldridge wins an first Excellence in Writing Award for his insightful examination of the twelfth volume of The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror. As he says, this volume "will be a prized addition to all readers' libraries." If you purchase one fantasy and horror anthology this year, this should be it!

Gary White wins our fourth Excellence in Writing Award this week for his exhaustive look at the work of Sandy Bull, an eclectic artist that any fan of folk music should take the trouble to search out. While we're talking about CDs, I recommend a look at the review Rowan Inish did of the Oysterbands' Deserters album. The Oysterband is certainly one of the most consistently high quality creators of exciting roots rock music, and Rowan believes that Deserters is among their very best. Runrig are equally noisy roots rockers, and Chuck Lipsig recommends The Gaelic Collection, a collection of all their Gaelic language material.

Not as loud, but definitely worth looking at, are the two Doc Watson albums: Reflections (with Chet Atkins) and Third Generation Blues (with grandson Richard Watson). Brendan Foreman very convincingly makes the case that these are two must-hear hear albums for lovers of the Bluegrass genre. Dan Herman looks at another fine Bluegrass album you should know about: mightyfine.net by the Cache Valley Drifters.

Not to say that there aren't stinkers out there... Rowan Inish reviews Celtic Passion: The Songs of Roy Orbison. His review says "There's better Celtic music out there and there are better covers of Orbison. This isn't a case of putting chocolate in peanut butter; it's chocolate in 40-weight motor oil and about as tasty."

Before I return to the matter of books -- and we have a number of excellent reviews this week -- let me recommend that you check out Ian Walden's' review of a recent Peter Knight and Trevor Watts concert that the musicians called "Improvised duets for violin and saxophone." Ian notes that "I have often noted that there are many passing moments of beauty that can never be repeated - a chance formation of clouds, the play of light on water, a spectacular sunset. This performance was such a passing moment in music." Read his review to see why.

You want book reviews? Well, how about a book that looks at how a ballad is created, evolves, and kept alive? Then you should read Grey Walker's review of The Bonny Earl of Murray, a detailed look at a very old ballad that's very much alive and part of Scottish culture to this day. Skipping accross the Irish Sea, we have Marian McHugh's look at a slim (but rewarding) tome entitled A Field Guide to Irish Fairies -- a book whose title says it all.

On the fiction side, we have Marian's look at The Shadow of Albion, an undertaking that's part alternate history (an England where the American Revolution never happened) and part mannerpunk. Rebecca Swain looks at another novel based on alternate history: Judith Tarrs' White Mare's Daughter, a world of ancient matriarchial societies where the woman are all strong and the men are... well, see for yourself.

Jeannine Gehrmann joins us this week with her Excellence in Writing Award-winning look at a horror novel not to be read on a dark and stormy night: James Stoddard's The High House. Don't say you weren't warned! Finally, Jayme Lynn Blaschke looks at more traditional fantasy titled The Death of the Necromancer.

23 July 1999

A short teaser for you from the Sunday edition... Michael Jones wins two Excellence in Writing Awards and gets promoted to Senior Writer for his reviews of War for The Oaks novel and the related review of War for The Oaks trailer. Emma Bull's novel stands as one of the best, if not the best, urban fantasies ever written. In hopes of getting financial backing for a full-length movie version, her husband Will Shetterly directed an eleven minute trailer. Read Michael's reviews to see why you should seek out both the book and the trailer.

18 July 1999

Once again I thank the many, many music and book companies that have sent us their product over the past fifteen years. Without their ongoing support Folk Tales could not be anywhere near as good as it is.

For example, Pig's Whisker Music sent us two CDs that Ian Walden, a long-time fan of Robin Williamson, reviews this time: a job of journey work [sic] is a collection of Robin's favorite trad songs and tunes, whereas Gems of Celtic Story: Volume Two - Tales for the Rising Year is just what it says it is, i.e., a collection of Celtic tales told only as Robin can. Ian was lucky enough to see Robin do a Celtic storytelling workshop, so check this review to see how he compares the live and recorded versions of Robin's storytelling.

Visible Ink Press sents us MusicHound Swing! (We reviewed their MusicHound Folk book a while back.) Brendan Foreman says that it is "not only darned fun to read but provides a necessary and sufficient resource for this most eclectic, vibrant, and influential American pop musical form." Brendan wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review -- and he turned the review in only one week after receiving the book!

Borealis Recording Company has sent us some fine recordings in the past but Michael Jones opines that Mixed Cargo by Tom Lewis is not one of their better releases. Michael wins our second Excellence in Writing Award for this brutally honest review.

Speakeasy Records sent us NoahJohns Tadpoles, a CD that April Gutierrez thinks is "definitely worth a listen." Trough Records, another fine small label, sent Songs at the Moon by Mark Humphreys, a CD Michael Jones "had a blast listening to." For the Irish music lovers among you, Clo Iar-Chonnachta Teo sent us some excellent CDs, one of which gets reviewed this week by Judith Gennett: The Natural Bridge by Ben Lennon & Friends. Judith thinks that this will be "a delight for session musicians and traditionalists."

And Spin Arts -- which sadly doesn't exist anymore -- provided us a few years back with a copy of Another Way to Travel by Cats Laughing, the legendary Minneapolis-based folk rock group that included Emma Bull of Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles fame, Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple of Boiled in Lead (see our reviews of Alloy1 and Alloy2), and Lojo Russo. Chuck Lipsig thinks that "this a very good recording from a very skilled band."

Tor Books sent us Joel Rosenberg's Not Exactly the Three Musketeers, a novel that Laurie Thayer notes "is an entertaining novel...." but "to get the most out of it, the reader will want to have read the preceding books of the series, so a trip to the library will be in order."

Relaxx Records didn't provide us with a review copy of Heron's River of Fortune CD but No'am Newman, our first reviewer from Israel, did. If you're into very obscure British bands, check this review out.

Finally, these two books came from the private library of Chuck Lipsig: David Brody's The Fiddler's Fakebook and Francis O'Neill and James O'Neill's O'Neill's Music of Ireland. Chuck notes these books are two of the best books for anyone playing trad music. I also recommend you look at Jo Morrison's earlier review of Tunes of the Munster Pipers: Irish Traditional Music from the James Goodman Manuscripts and her review of Billy Pigg: The Border Minstrel. Billy Pigg was a piper who appears briefly in the Charles de Lint novel The Little Country. (Look for a review of this novel in a future edition of Folk Tales.)

We finish out this edition with a live performance review by Meredith Tarr that wins another Excellence in Writing Award: Susan McKeown and the Chanting House and Kíla at the Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, NY. (We have reviews of two McKeown CDs here, see Mother: Songs Celebrating Mothers & Motherhood and Mighty Rain. Michael Jones will be reviewing the Kila CD Tóg é go bog é within the fortnight.)

A final note -- in the to-be-reviewed pile are CDs that arrived recently from the following companies: Northside, Omnium (the new Oysterband CD!), Clo Iar-Chonnachta Teo (Ireland), Stolen Records, Trough Records, Pig's Whisker Music (U.K.), Speakeasy Records, Borealis Recording Company, Amigo (Sweden), Osmosys (U.K.), Warner Finlandia (Finland), Shanachie, Green Linnet, Rounder, Amber Music, Rollercoaster, Crystal Cover Records, Hemisphere, Percheron (U.K.), Alula, Rykodisc, Foxglove, Vanguard, Sugar Hill, Philo, KRL (Scotland), CNI (Italy), Prime CD, Greentrax (Scotland), Sound as A Trout Recordings, Tara Records (Ireland), Goldenrod Records, Ragged Pup Records, Midsummer Records, Wild Goose (U.K.), Helikon (Denmark), Razor and Tie, and Park Records (U.K.).

Publishers who have sent us books recently include: Dreamhaven Books, August House, Mercier Press (Ireland), University Press of Kentucky, Tor Books, Fulcrum Publishing, New York University Press, Cornell University Press, Irish Traditional Music Archive (Ireland), Smithsonian Press, Turner Publishing, Routledge, Perfect Beat Publications (Australia), Clydewater Publishers, Borealis Fantasy/White Wolf Publishing, Avon, Torc (Ireland), Louisiana State University Press, Arcade, Reference Press, Helter Skelter (U.K.), University of Chicago Press, Northumbrian Piper's Society (Ireland), Cadence Jazz, University of Illinois Press, Forge, Agenda Books, Theosophical Society, University of Toronto Press, McGill University (Montreal), Gale Publishing, Miller Freeman Books, Inner Traditions, and Harper Collins.

Once again, I thank the many, many music and book companies that have sent us their product over the past fifteen years. We couldn't do it without you!

13 July 1999

Gary Whitehouse has only been with us a short time but his reviews have been so good that he has rightfully earned being elevated to Senior Writer. Great job Gary!

Ian Walden has turned in two reviews of Robin Williamson CDs that we'll share with you on Sunday. But even more interesting is that he will attending -- and reviewing for us -- the Peter Knight and Trevor Watts reunion gig in London on the 16th July -- a series of what Peter calls improvised duets for Violin and Saxophone. (Look for Debbie Skolnik's review of his CD The Gemini Cadenza in the near future.)

And to tease you a bit more with forthcoming material -- Debbie Skolnik will be reviewing Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer novel. (Thanks, Ellen for sending us this copy.) And two more volumes in the Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling Fairy Tale series will be reviewed here shortly. Oh, and Emma Bull's War for the Oaks novel and the trailer for the never-made War for the Oaks movie will be reviewed here shortly by Michael Jones.

Some forty CDs have arrived here over the past few weeks, so look forward to many, many reviews for your reading pleasure in the coming months.

12 July 1999

Year's Best Fantasy & Horror #12 (edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) arrived from amazon.com this afternoon. Indeed we are cited as a website "devoted to fantasy..." and as a good source for "reviews, news, and recommendations...." The other two web sites in this very select listing are Legends and the ezine Phantastes. We are pleased to have been selected by Terri Windling for this great honor.

Our newest honoree as a Folk Tales Site of Excellence is the website for the Public Radio International program Sound & Spirit. A co-production of WGBH and PRI, this hour-long program is a near perfect merging of spoken word and music. The program explores in depth the myths, traditions, beliefs, and music that are at the heart of our many cultures. "Sound & Spirit is a rich, sensual and spirited hour of music and words from around the world and through the ages," Sound & Spirit host Ellen Kushner said. "The purpose of the show is to take common human experiences and figure out how cultures of the world handle them."

An impressive list of subjects has been covered on Sound & Spirit: Chanting, Fairy Tales, Heroes, Dreaming, Ageing, Healing, and Motherhood are some of the subjects that have been covered on the program. And if you've been listening to the program, you've heard Medieval chantings from monks, Tuvan thoart singers, Klezmer music, Celtic harpers, a touch of classical music with J.S. Bach, and master drummer Mickey Hart. Not to mention interviews with such noted folks as Neil Gaiman and Mickey Hart! All these are woven togather into a colorful tapestry by the storytelling of Ellen Kushner.

And Folk Tales is pleased to note that we will be reviewing Welcoming Children Into the World: A Sound & Spirit program on CD. As Ellen notes in her liner notes: "The birth of a baby calls forth artistic, social and musical festivity in cultures around the world. It's the most important year of your life -- even if it's the one that you forget and your parents remember: the first year a human being spends on this planet. There are many ways people deal with the joys and stresses of that first year -- sweating, celebrating, philosophizing, singing, rocking -- always coping with the needs and demands of an infant. The songs on this album [in this collection] take us through many of those moments as they occur in cultures all around the world."

11 July 1999

This is music week as our reviewers turned in a number of first-class articles. Colleen Campbell,who just joined the staff, wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her review ofthe Eddie From Ohio gig at the Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Eddie From Ohio is actually neither - neither a solo act nor from Ohio -- but read her review for a glimpse at a great folk-oriented act!

Our second Excellence in Writing Award goes to Gary Whitehouse for his detailed review of Exposed Roots: the best of alt.country, a K-Tel (!) release that sort of covers the gamut of alternative country.

Next up is a trio of Celtic reviews -- two from record companies who just added us to their distribution lists: (MoC Music and Clo Iar-Chonnachta) and one from a long-time supporter of Folk Tales (Fflach.) April Gutierrez looks at No Disguise, the debut album by Art O'Dufaigh -- an artist she hopes develops musically as he matures. Judith Gennett thinks that the Bridge Ceili Band's Sparks On Flags will best appeal to "to those who like the traditional styles, to those who like playing in or listening to the pub sessions, and to those who like ceili dancing." And Jo Morrison turns in yet another fine review with her look at Welsh triple harpist Llio Rhydderch's Telyn CD.

Michael Hunter turns in a superb review of Nordic folk rockers Hedningarna's Karelia Visa release -- an interesting album that plays off the Finnish-Russian music of the Karelia region. Brendan Foreman turns in a review of Mexican-American singer Lydia Mendoza's Vida Mia album -- a unique look at a slice of American musical history. Meanwhile Chuck Lipsig ventures into new territory for him: a look at the self-titled release from -- I kid you not --- Markus Bishko and The Alaska Klezmer Band.

And, rounding out this great week, new staffer Richard Barnes treats us to a review of the fiddle collection (volume one), a delightfully eclectic look at how interesting fiddle playing can be!

04 July 1999

Folk Tales is a place where the best writers can show you the reader what a good review is, and this week we have some of the best writing you'll read anywhere. See what over a hundred thousand readers have enjoyed during the past year!

Debbie Skolnik, our Managing Editor, earns two Excellence in Writing Awards for her reviews this week. Her first review is of London Live, a book subtitled From the Yardbirds to Pink Floyd to the Sex Pistols: The Inside Story of Live Bands in the Capital's Trail-Blazing Music Clubs. Well, it's not quite what the book is about, so you'll want to read her review to see why the design of a book is as important as its contents.

Her second Award winning review is of Nouvelle France, a CD by Hart Rouge, a French-Canadian group who Debbie thinks are very good but need to develop a consistent style.

Next up is Brendan Foreman's fine review of Los Super Seven's self-titled debut album. Los Super Seven consists of the cream of Mexican-American musicians, and this CD shows them off very nicely.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke's review of Godshome by Robert Sheckley is a wickedly biting review of a book that desperately wants to be in the tradition of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, but just isn't that funny.

Unlike some other arts review magazines, we don't depend on just one or two writers to provide us with reviews. After all you wouldn't read a newspaper if there was only one reporter, would you? We are constantly seeking out and adding new staff to our magazine so you get the very best reviews possible.

Diane McDonough joins our staff this week and offers up her concise review of Alison Lurie's detailed study of children's folklore, Don't Tell the Grown-Ups. And let us recommend that if you are interested in children's folklore that you take a look at a review that Pam Winters did for us some months back: Josepha Sherman and T.K.F. Weisskopf's delightfully wicked Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood.

Chuck Lipsig has been busy too. He offers us a fine review of Like Ducks!, an album by Newfounderlanders Christina Smith & Jean Hewson that will have your toes tapping and you dancing in no time flat.

Gary Whitehouse continues his examination of American Country music, a genre with deep and surprisingly dark roots. He notes that "The roots of country music twist their way deep into some pretty dark territory. The cimmerian side of human nature has long been a major theme in American music, running like a vein of black coal deep under the roots of the mountains." Merle Travis sang a half-century or more ago that "It's dark as a dungeon, way down in the mine."

The Handsome Family's Through the Trees will take you on a journey that may leave you feeling a little depressed, but still thinking the trip was worth it. On the other hand, The Farm Couple (Monica Taylor and Patrick Williams) on their self-titled CD will not leave you feeling depressed --a little bored, maybe, but definitely not depressed.

Wrapping up this edition is yet another fine review by Jo Morrison who tackles the matter of Italian folk rock as she reviews A Zero Ore by Nedd Ludd, an Italian band with an English name and a Northumbrian piper. It may sound weird but it's quite good. Look for Nedd Ludd in the summer of '00 as they will be touring North America at that time. They should be a truly great live band!