25 September 1999

If you haven't noticed yet, Lahri Bond of Heartswork Graphics, has designed truly stunning -- and somewhat spooky -- greenman faces for the magazine. You'll find them staring at each other on many of our pages including this page. Brendan Foreman, our Music Editor, says that "If there were any picture that fully represented a Robert Holdstock story, that's it!"

First up this edition is Jack B. Merry's review of Robert Holdstock's Merlin's Wood, or The Vision of Magic. Merlin's Wood is not precisely part of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood cycle, as it is set in France, not England. But is is intensely Celtic in nature as it concerns the mystery of Broceliande, forest of both legends and dreams, where Merlin lies dreaming, trapped in the heart of a great oak by the sorceress Vivian. Our other two Celtic reviews this week are of CDs: Jo Morrison wins yet another Excellence in Writing Award for her detailed examination of Brown and Nicol's Masters of Piobaireachd, Vols. 1 and 2, and Chuck turns in his first Celtic music review since becoming our Celtic Editor: Campbell and Stitt's Field of Bells, an album that Chuck notes would make "stimulating background music for other activities, such as driving or writing."

Blues afficianado Jeff Skolnik examines TW Henderson & the Blues of Cain's album, The Wilderness Years, a recording that Jeff thinks is so good that he envisions "TW walking along a dusty Texas highway, Strat over his shoulder, leaning into the ever-present wind."

Meredith Tarr wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her review of Sound + Spirit: Welcoming Children Into The World. I'll let Ellen Kushner, host of Sound + Spirit, tell you about this CD: "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."

Our final music review is by Brendan Foreman: Inti-Illimani's Amar de Nuevo. Brendan notes, "celebrating (if not cursing as well) the ways of love, this recording is an excellent representation of some gorgeous Latin music and lyric" by one of the most widely known Chilean bands.

Our third Excellence in Writing Award goes to Debbie Skolnik for her editing of her group interview of Ellen Rawson, Ian Walden, Chris Woods, Koen Hottenhot, and Richard Hamilton about their experiences this year at Cropredy, Fairport Convention's Annual Folk Festival.

Our other gig review is from Gary Whitehouse who attended a Portland, Oregon concert by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

We finish out this edition with reviews of two very different books: Will Shetterly's Dogland, a book April Gutierrez feels deftly combines recent history with a light touch of fantasy to create both a realistic child narrator and an engaging story. Chuck Lipsig reviews The Red Fairy Book, one of the deservedly famous fairy tale collections (all titled with different colors) edited by Andrew Lang.

19 September 1999

Endicott Studio cited us as a good source for Celtic Music reviews, so let's start off with the Celtic material for this edition. Chuck Lipsig, our new Celtic Editor, reviews P.J. Curtis' Notes From the Heart: A Celebration of Irish Music, a guide to Celtic music that he rightfully tears apart. Read the review to see which guide to Celtic music Chuck thinks you should pick up. Jayme Lynn Blaschke continues his examination of the music of the Texas group, Clandestine, with a review of their new CD To Anybody At All, an album Jayme thinks "will keep Clandestine's growing legions of fans satisfied." (See his previous reviews of Clandestine's The Ale Is Dear and The Haunting.)

Jo Morrison chalks up another Excellence in Writing Award for her review of Bannal's Waulking Songs. Jo says that this recording is "crisp and clear" and will give even the non-Gaelic speaker a wonderful introduction to these Scottish weaving songs. Our final Celtic review is from Brendan Foreman, who has updated his Essential Wolfstone review by adding reviews of two new albums, Seven and This Strange Place, to it.

We continue the music reviews with a jointly-written look by Dan Herman and Gary Whitehouse at the legendary Richard Thompson's new folk-rock CD Mock Tudor. Gary and Dan hope that this album is not just (as usual) acclaimed by critics and fellow musicians, but that it will gain Richard a wider following amongst the general musical public, as it's a great album. An artist who was not ignored by the public was the late violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Danny Cohen has a review of his Live At The Cambridge Folk Festival CD Danny says that "if you've never heard a violin swing, then this is where you should begin: you will not be disappointed." However Gary Whitehouse does believe that you'll find the Boogaloo Swamis' Have Some Fun Tonight will disappoint you if you're looking for authentic Cajun music.

Michael Jones suggests that if you like guitar, harmonica, and country/bluegrass/ traditional music, you might want to check out Bill Bourne's CD Sally's Dream. Two CDs by singer-songwriters finish out our music reviews this time: Chuck Lipsig reviews Neal & Leandra's Stranger To My Kin, a CD that Chuck notes has "some lovely, very personal songs" on it it; and Rebecca Swain, our new Book Editor, reviews Laura Siersema's When I Left Loss, a CD that Rebecca notes has "a more casual, intimate feel than most CDs have."

Three book reviews round out this edition: Gary Whitehouse looks at Marjorie Sandor's autobiographical Night Gardener: A Search for Home; Cat Eldridge examines in detail John Berger's Into Their Labours. In this work, John Berger lovingly documented the lives of the peasants of the small peasant French Alps village into which he moved  some thirty years ago. This trilogy is neither fiction or non-fiiction, but rather is a brillant merging of both; and Grey Walker reviews The Little Country, a Charles de Lint novel that the author dedicated to ""...all those traditional musicians who, wittingly or unwittingly, but with great good skill, still seek to recapture that first music." This lovely novel is set in Cornwall and features as one of its characters Billy Pigg, an actual Northumbrian piper!  

19 September 1999

I announced on September 8 that Chuck Lipsig was going to step in and help us out with the Celtic music reviews as Celtic Music Editor. The editorial staff has since decided that a better title for Chuck would be Celtic Editor as our coverage of all things Celtic is second to none. (See the previous entry for a good confirmation of that fact.) Chuck will be assisting in the expansion of the number of reviews of music CDs, books, live gig reviews, and other aspects of Celtic culture that we cover.

12 September 1999

Jo Morrison garners a richly deserved Excellence in Writing Award for her review of John G. Gibson's Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping 1745 - 1945, an exhaustive study of the effects of the Disarming Act imposed by the British upon the Scottish people following the Battle of Culloden. Jo also reviews Charles Malcolm's The Piper in Peace and War, a splendid look at piping as used in military campaigns.

Jo, a superb Celtic harpist, has also reviewed for Folk Tales A.D. Schofield and J. Say's Billy Pigg: The Border Minstrel (a bio of a Northumbrian piper) and Hugh Shields' edited collection Tunes of the Munster Pipers: Irish Traditional Music from the James Goodman Manuscripts In addition, do check out her review of The Rough Guide to English Roots Music which has several cuts of tunes played by piper Billy Pigg. Jo has also reviewed Tommy Couper's The Piper's Muse, a CD that will be of interest to those who love the pipes.

Michael Jones looks at Tog E Go Bog E, the new CD from Kila, an Irish group that may or not be more feral than Moving Hearts, but which Michael thinks is "is a fascinatingly mixed bag of talented music that seems to encompass a wide range of what the Celtic world has to offer."

No'am Newman had mixed feelings about two efforts by Nova Scotian Pamela Morgan: Collection and The Colour Of Amber as he thinks one is well-done and the other isn't. Check out his review to see why this is so.

Fiddler or violinist? Some critics -- including a few fiddlers -- who simply don't know better will insist that the distinction between them now is the style of play: a fiddler being one who plays folk music while a violinist plays classical music. This simply is not true as there are too many shades of gray to assume this. For example, many folk musicians in Scandinavia more often than not play violins and therefore are most often called violinists. Even English folk musicians are often violinists, i.e. Dave Shepherd of Blowzabella -- a band who plays Anglo-French trad music - plays a violin. Peter Knight's The Gemini Cadenza (reviewed by Debbie Skolnik) demonstrates that paradox, as Peter is best-known as a fiddler for Steeleye Span, but here -- playing the same instrument -- he's a violinist. This is a splendid album worth checking out -- and Debbie receives a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for her insightful review. And be sure you check out our reviews of the Steeleye Span recordings Time and Horkstow Grange.

Now we move from Celtic culture matters to roots American-style. Sean Stewart's Mockingbird (reviewed by Rebecca Swain) is a magic realism novel that draws much of its texture from being set in Houston, Texas. (His next novel is titled Galveston-- it's an urban fantasy set in Galveston, Texas. You can read the first chapter here.) Next, Rebecca turns her attention to a book that is not a fantasy: Jim Longhi's Woody, Cisco & Me, an "entertaining account of three men's adventures as mess-men in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II." Woody is, of course, the Woody Guthrie of folk music fame.

Warren Zevon? REM? Playing the blues? Is this some sort of weird, not terribly well-done lark undertaken after drinking too much whiskey late one night in some sleazy bar? Jack B. Merry says that the Hindu Love Gods self-titled debut album (hell, only album to date) is a true blues album.

If you think Warren Zevon and REM are an odd thing to find in an arts review magazine called Folk Tales, how about John Doe of X, the best punk /rockabilly/folk band to come out of Los Angleles? Gary Whitehouse reviewed a John Doe solo gig and came away very impressed. And Brendan Foreman has found a nifty bluegrass album: Tara Nevins's Mule to Ride. Brendan says this is "a long jam session of superb musicianship."

Ed Dale, our newest staff member -- and an Oysterband fanatic (er, we have a bunch of them on our staff!) -- reports on a much mellower experience: the Summer Acoustic Music Weeks held each year in Northern New England.

We look at a number of other traditions for our final batch of CD reviews. Brendan Foreman reviews Pinareno: From the Tobacco Road of Cuba, a "wonderful cross-section of hot Cuban dance music." Equally exuberant is In the Fiddler's House, a look at modern Jewish Klezmer music that has the added spice of having Itzhak Perlman involved! Jo Morrison thinks this is a great way to get fully acquainted with Klezmer music. Chuck Lipsig looks at Wild Blue Yonder, an early Oysterband effort that Chuck thinks is "a worthwhile recording for all who enjoy folk rock." Michael Jones casts an incisive look at Clara Ponty's The Embrace , an album he thinks is "a treasure worth having."

11 September 1999

As I already announced on September 8, Chuck Lipsig is going to step in and help us out with the Celtic music reviews as Celtic Editor. We are second to none in the quality of our reviews but Chuck will helping us add greatly to the number of reviews in that section by seeking out releases on smaller labels and self-released CDs that we may have overlooked in the past. In addition, our coverage of books of a musical nature including Celtic-related ones will be expanded over the coming months as is demonstrated in the next edition.

We have another editorial change to announce: Rebecca Swain has taken over from Marian McHugh as Book Editor. (Rebecca has been doing great work for us behind the scenes as our proofreader.) Marian will stay with us as Special Projects Editor, and you'll be hearing more shortly about exactly what those special projects are as they will enhance the quality of the magazine you are now reading. Marian gets a hearty round of thanks for all her hard work both as Book Editor and reviewer during the period when she was doing both -- and of course, she will continue to do what she enjoys so much, review books!

As always, thanks to all of you, without whom this publication simply cannot exist. The varied viewpoints and opinions we get -- and the diversity of our staff -- makes us unique and really different than anyone else out there.

I also want to thank Digilogic who hosts this site at no charge to Folk Tales. Digilogic provides the best Web site host services that one can possibly want. Jessica Fogg and Dale Darling are superb techies and great folks in general. If you need a host for your Web Site, please check them out. Email Dale Darling to discuss how they can give you what you need.