30 April 2000

We're off this week, but will return next Sunday.

25 April 2000

I've just accessed WebTrends and generated a report covering the past thirty days. Give or take a few hundred, we had thirty-five thousand readers for that period! And that indeed is individual readers, not page hits. Our most visited areas were our Award winning Celtic reviews and our ever popular fiction reviews. And it was nice to note that our search engine was one of the ten most visited pages!

23 April 2000

I'm back ... My thanks to Jack for writing last week's commentary. And please note that we will be taking next week off, so the next edition will be the 8th of May. I'm going with my wife to our local animal shelter to look for a new feline to adopt, Brendan Foreman's preparing to cover MerleFest for GMR, Naomi de Bruyn's avidly reading Charles de Lint's new novel, Forests of the Heart, and the rest of the staff is getting a well-deserved break from producing the finest arts review zine bar none on the net!

Blues leads off this edition. First up is David Kidney's look at R. L. Burnside's My Black Name A-Ringing. If you're a fan of acoustic blues, don't miss this mesmerizing recording. Big Earl Sellar, just promoted to Senior Writer, found two interesting CDs to listen to: Little Brother Montgomery's No Special Rider, and Skip James' She Lyin'. He says both discs are worth checking out -- read his reviews to see why.

Skipping over to the Celtic genre, we find Lars Nilsson looking at two albums from the '70s group New Celeste: It´s a New Day and The Celtic Connection. Lars says they got a "... [f[]inal score: 8 out of 10 for trying, 7 out of 10 for the instrumental work but a poor 4 out of 10 for the songs." David returns with a review of Paddy Moloney & Sean Potts' Tin Whistles, and gives this advice: "... rush to the CD player and push replay, and you'll wish you had never stomped on your son's tin whistle."

Jack B. Merry -- who has disappeared to his reading chair with the advance review copy of Charles de Lint's new novel, Forests of the Heart -- found a number of tastefully eclectic CDs to mull over. Just think lots of Anglo-Celtic instruments used in slightly offbeat ways.... Jack also turned in an Excellence in Writing Award winning review of aquamarine by the English bagpipe band Eel Grinders. No star-gazy pie here, but it's still a tasty morsel! Richard Condon garners an Excellence in Writing Award for his look at a very traditional undertaking: Dave Swarbrick's Live at Jacksons Lane album. He says "...[t]his reviewer would not lightly claim that anyone is 'a legend in his own lifetime.' In Dave Swarbrick's case, however, it is justified ..." More truly outstanding fiddle music is found on Dwight Lamb's Joseph Won a Coated Fiddle. Reviewer Kim Bates, who also was just promoted to Senior Writer, opines this CD "... deserves a spot in the collections of serious North American Traditional enthusiasts."

Just as traditional in a different way are the two albums by the Nordic-Russian Karelian Folk Music Ensemble that April Gutierrez reviews: Ingrian Folk Songs and The Karelian Folk Music Ensemble. She says "... [b]ased at Petrozavodsk State University in Karelia, Russia, the Karelian Folk Music Ensemble performs under the artistic direction of Henrich Turovsky. Also known as the 'Ensemble Toive,' or Hope Ensemble, the group breathes new life into folk standards of the Ingrian and Karelian natives of the area around St. Petersburg (native well before that city's founding). The two cultures are closely related to Finnish, sharing similar languages and ethnicity." Chris Woods finishes off the music reviews this week with a detailed examination of Nigel Stonier's English Ghosts CD. Chris says this is "....the best 'singer-songwriter' album I have heard for quite some time." Chris gets a very deserved Excellence in Writing Award for this review!

Kim was a very busy writer this edition as she picks up two Excellence in Writing Awards for her interview with David Carroll, member of the Canadian Celtic group Sons of Maxwell, and for her live performance review of the same group. Brendan Foreman also gives us a live performance review as he was lucky enough to hear SixMileBridge live! Brendan picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this well-written review!

Chuck Lipsig's latest ...And Reels? column tackles the trad song "Johnny Cock/Johnny O'Braidslea" in all its permutations. This column wins an Excellence in Writing Award! Meanwhile, Naomi de Bruyn looks at -- sigh -- the very last of the Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling fairy tale anthologies, Black Heart, Ivory Bones. Larry Niven once said that fairy tales weren't written for children, and these anthologies certainly prove that contention. Kim takes a look at Donna R. White's A Century of Welsh Myth in Children's Literature, a book she notes "... will interest adult fans of the Mabinogi in its various modern interpretations."

Michael Jones gets the last word with the latest installment of his column, Peregrine's Prerogative, which discusses Perchance to Dream, a dream-themed anthology edited by Denise Little.

16 April 2000

Now where was I? As Ian Anderson once said, "Oh, and never mind the words, just hum along and keep on going...." This is Jack B. Merry -- I'm filling in as the What's New commentator for our Editor this week as he's busy doing booking business for several groups hoping to play in North America over the next few years. One of the groups is Shave the Monkey, who has a new album next month!

Tim Hoke, who joins us as a writer this week, reviews Tierra De Nadie by Hevia, a Galician artist. Tim's opinion is that Hevia "...is an excellent musician and the tunes are terrific...." Patrick O'Donnell looks at Mists of Montara, a release by Peninsula Scottish Fiddlers. He notes "...a nice selection of medleys fails to save Mists of Montara from being anything more than a mediocre batch, at best." And Kim Bates reviews an album she thinks belongs in North American Traditional, but which the group itself markets as Celtic: The Neighbourhood by the Sons of Maxwell, a Halifax, Nova Scotia-based group. Kim has also done a gig review and an interview with the members that will run in the next edition.

Chuck Lipsig rounds out our Celtic reviews with a look at two Martyn Bennett CDs: Bothy Culture and Martyn Bennett. Chuck notes that Bennett creates "....a style that combines traditional music, modern rhythms and electronics, and a classical attitude towards composition."

Long before I joined Folk Tales, Chris Woods was writing great reviews. Indeed, me Editor tells me that he wrote for Mostly Folk, the printed newsletter that preceded this august publication! (This zine existed in a print-based form for some fifteen years before it was moved exclusively to the web. That makes it far older than almost all other review zines of a similar nature. We're experienced and proud of it!) He gives us an insightful look at Little Johnny England, the self-titled album from -- well, you know who. Chris says "If you like lively English folk rock ... You'll be kicking yourself, if you miss out on this album in your collection." Staying in the British Isles, we find our fancy tickled by Richard Condon's detailed review of English folk rocker Richard Thompson's 3-CD release, Watching the Dark. Richard comments "...a marvelous introduction to Thompson's career for anyone unfamiliar with his work." The latter review garners a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award.

Over in the States, Brendan Foreman found a true treasure: Red Clay Ramblers' Twisted Laurel/Merchant's Lunch. Our reviewer says "...this CD, a compilation of two albums from way, way back in 1976 and 1977, spans practically the whole Americana gamut from the New England sound and old-time country to cathouse jazz and vaudeville, and even a little bluegrass here and there. Rather than coming across as a chaotic patchwork, though, this collection of music feels like a unified masterpiece, not the least through the sheer enthusiasm and top-notch musicianship of the Ramblers themselves." This review garners an Excellence in Writing Award.

Celtic, English, and Nordic Traditions are me cup of tea, so No'am Newman looks at an area I'm not familiar with: that of singer-songwriters. First up is his look at Don Dixon's The Invisible Man, about which he says: "...[i]f you heard any of the songs over the radio, you would probably tap your foot in time to the beat and think that the song is more intelligent and palatable than most of what is broadcast over the radio." His other review is of James Grant's Sawdust in my veins, a CD that is so "...laid-back, if this were laid-back anymore, it would fall over." But Big Earl Sellar found Moroccan group Nass Marrakech's Sabil 'a 'Salaam to be so bloody good that he couldn't bear to stop playing it! This review is so good that it wins an Excellence in Writing Award!

Two very different books are reviewed this week. Kim Bates looks at Daniel Hoffman's Paul Bunyan: Last of the Frontier Demigods, a book re-released after fifty years! She notes "...[t]he spirit of Paul Bunyan lives on in these stories that always happen to a friend of a friend, just as the lumberjack used to work in Paul's camp." Gross, foul, disgusting -- all accurate ways of describing Greta Garbage's That's Disgusting! Michael Jones says this book is "...quite simply the end-all be-all of every subject you've ever covered in gross-out contests with friends, covered in scatological jokes, all the things your parents refused to mention, the subjects hygiene class skipped over with a quick mumble and a prayer." Kim's review picks up an Excellence in Writing Award.

Michael is back with latest installent of his critically aclaimed Peregrine's Prerogative column: Gilligan's Island Meets The Bronze Age. It's worth reading just to see what he's ranting about!

That's enough for this edition. I'm off to the Marketplace for some busking and a pint or two of fine stout. May you find good reading and fine listening among the items reviewed this week. Silante!

09 April 2000

Week in week out, Folk Tales does more detailed Celtic music coverage than anyone else. This week is no exception.  

Jo Morrison leads off with a detailed look at Scottish piper Chris Armstrong's two releases: Notes in Ma Heid and Quantum Leap. Jo says it "is always good to hear up-and-coming young talent, and Chris Armstrong is one example of this in the piping world." David Kidney looks at a much older set of performers in his review of the Clancy Brothers releases Best of the Vanguard Years and Irish Pub Songs. He notes "...[w]ithout the Clancy Brothers, it's impossible to think that the Pogues would ever have existed. Without the Clancy Brothers, much of the '60s Folk Revival might have never happened." I look at Horses for Courses , yet another superb Brian McNeill album. I note that "[t]he busker in Brian simply cannot let the listener not have a good time!" Jo and David win Excellence in Writing Awards for their excellent reviews.

Jo returns for a contemplation of Anna Murray's Trí Nithean album. She says "...this recording is a wide mix of traditional and modern tunes, with both traditional and modern interpretations applied to the arrangements. There's a little bit of something for everybody." Kim Bates likes Reeltime's Live It Up. She comments that this album "will appeal to people with a taste for updated Celtic material, both rock and reel types up for something light, and those with a taste for smooth jazz." Chuck Lipsig looks at Shantalla, the self-titled debut album from a Belgian-based group. Belgian Irish music? See if it's as good as Belgian chocolate!

Jack B. Merry finishes out our Celtic music reviews with a look at Lunasa, a very cool Irish group. Read his review of Lunasa and otherworld to see what he likes in them. (Jack got fan mail from a founding member of Blowzabella this week! He said "Nice reviews of Blowzabella. When we started we had absolutely no plan except to return 'wild' to the term folk music! Both Jon and I were greatly influenced by the mad people of the Mountebank Zanies. It was the wonderful irreverence of the real folk - so why not put together bagpipes and hurdy gurdies - it was a tradition and who cares what the folks of the late 70's thought. I might add; all power to the Empress of Russia Folk Club, the Albion fairs and the various reenactment groups -they provided us with the work so that we could survive. The London College of Furniture on the other hand preferred to ignore us - we often practiced near the lifts with the Irish students!")

A medley of music reviews is up next. Gary Whitehouse gets his first look at the Oysterband in reviewing their Pearls from the Oysters compilation. He follows that review with his second review of a Handsome Family album, their recently released In the Air effort. He says of the latter that they make "...morbid 'Americana' music for the depressed, crazy and suicidal. It is at times wickedly funny, and if you're in the right frame of mind, very entertaining." April Gutierrez looks at Virvla , a release from Nordic group Boot. If you "delight in beautiful dance music," this album is one you should check out! Brendan Foreman checks out the Mimi and Richard Farina compilation CD, Pack Up Your Sorrows: Best of the Vanguard Years. Containing some mint mid-'60s folk music, this collection makes it "clear that this was a musical team, with both people contributing equal parts and working off each other, rather than a solo act for either players." Patrick O'Donnell finishes out our music reviews this edition with a look at Supralingua, a Mickey Hart and Planet Drum effort that takes drumming to another level. Brendan wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his knowledgable look at the Mimi and Richard Farina CD, and Gary picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for his wickedly good look at In the Air.

We add to our extensive music lore section this edition with a Michael Jones review of Deborah A. Symonds' Weep Not For Me. This is a book detailing the intricate, often morbid relationships between the social situations of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century Scotland, the way women were affected, how that led -- all too often -- to infanticide, and how such things were ultimately immortalized in ballads. Michael says it "is a good book, well-written and accessible even to casual readers, that stands as a good example of how to write scholarly works for the public." This review, like many of our musiclore reviews have done, garners an Excellence in Writing Award.

Michael Jones finishes off this edition with Musings from the Birdhouse, his latest installment of Peregrine's Prerogative.  

02 April 2000

Our juiciest item this edition is Michael Jones's interview with Terri Windling. Read it for a fascinating and wide-ranging look at one of the most illustrious writer/artist/editors in the fantasy field! And Michael has interesting things to say in his latest Peregrine's Prerogative. Michael's interview with Terri won him an Excellence in Writing Award!

Folk Tales has repeatedly been praised by musicians, promoters, and other folks in the music biz for its coverage of the Celtic genre. The reviews this week show why this is so! Jo Morrison not only did a superb omnibus of the past releases of Colcannon, but her review of Ceolbeg's Cairn Water is a succinct, well-written look at this harp-based Scottish group. (My thanks to Colcannon for providing these review CDs.) And although there are no reviews of Brian McNeill CDs this week, I do review Drones & Bellows' Bothwell, a CD produced by him on which he plays. It's a very tasty affair! Kim Bates has a detailed look at Minneapolis-based Macha Trí's The Bear Dance -- an album that features Scottish smallpipes, medieval greatpipes, and the border half-long bagpipe. Grey Walker wraps up our Celtic coverage with a look at two CDs by The Tinker's Own: Bending the Banshee's Ear and Old Enough to Know Better. Not surprisingly, three of these reviews won Excellence in Writing Awards: Grey's Tinker's Own review, Jo's Ceolbeg review, and Kimberley's Celtic review.

Folk Tales is proud to be reviewing many of the Rounder-released Lomax recordings. Following up on his review last edition of Songs of Seduction, Chuck Lipsig reviews Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland -- a mining of Lomax's collection for examples of the ballads collected by F. J. Child in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. (See our earlier review of these Ballads.) Kim returns with a review of Chris Bartram and Keith Holloway's Four Red Feet, an artful collection of Morris dance tunes!

Blues over easy -- Gary Whitehouse thinks Pony Run, the new release from veteran musician Catfish Keith is very cool. April Gutierrez comments that Nordic group Vasen "is a musically superlative band, and that Gront is a fine introduction to their style of music." Rebecca Swain believes that All Over the Place shows that Patrick McGinley is a hard-working artist with tales to tell. Brendan wraps up our music reviews with De Madera's Latin Flamenco album Aire y Candela, an album which "is both high-spirited and complex."

One live performance review this week: Meredith Tarr attended a concert by Nerissa and Katryna Nields, and she comments that "[t]he sound of two women singing harmony is lovely; to hear two sisters harmonize is pure heaven."

Naomi De Bruyn joins us this week. Her first review, of Charles de Lint's Riddle of the Wren, looks at one of his early novels -- a novel hard to find, but in her opinion worth seeking out! Rebecca wraps up this edition with a detailed look at Diana L. Paxson's Hallowed Isle series of Arthurian novels.

Next edition -- reviews of more CDs by Brian McNeill!

30 April 2000

Vermont sharp Cheddar cheese, the novels of Charles de Lint, Belgian chocolate, freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee, and the music of Brian McNeill -- the pleasures of life are to be found in all of these. Debbie Skolnik continues her look at the work of the latter with a review of The Busker And The Devil's Only Daughter. She says this Celtic CD holds "... much to delight the listener." And Gary Whitehouse found much to delight in with Theresa Morrison's fine album Laments and Merry Melodies from Cape Breton Island. Ed Dale, a fine Celtic musician with Rambling Pitchfork, found Liz Carroll's Lost in the Loop to be "... a splendid album from a great contemporary Celtic player/composer...."

Big Earl Sellar looks at two bluegrass albums -- and I should note that bluegrass is a direct descendant of Celtic music -- in reviewing Bryan Sutton's Ready To Go and Nickel Creek, the self-titled debut from a very hot group. Read his reviews to see what he thought of these two releases from Sugar Hill, a damn fine label.

Grateful Dead Inc. has been re-issuing many Dead-related CDs and books that were out of print. An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Patrick O'Donnell for his look at one of them: Mickey Hart's Planet Drum CD. He says he would "recommend it for anyone who has a collection of music that's 'off the beaten path.'" Much more traditional is Englishman Tim Laycock's Fine Colours , an album Lars Nilsson thought was "a soft, sweet CD to really listen to, in contrast to those you only hear while doing other things." Michael Jones had mixed feelings about another English Trad album, Kate Rusby's Sleepless, but he says "Sleepless is worth a look and a listen."

Chuck Lipsig had his blood pressure raised by the appropriately named English Trad album Songs of Seduction. Listen to it with someone whom you ... Oh, never mind. Brendan Foreman really liked Appalachian fiddler Owen "Snake" Chapman's Walnut Gap album. Walnut Gap will certainly please anyone interested in American folk music or old-time country! Rounding out our coverage of music this week is Rebecca Swain's review of a gogo Live On Tour, a Patty Larkin CD which is a good representation of this artist.

Rebecca returns with one of the best live gig reviews I've ever read in her look at Jack Hardy at the Ten Pound Fiddle in East Lansing, Michigan. It certainly was a great show -- and an equally great report! Not surprisingly, this review won an Excellence in Writing Award!

Only two musiclore reviews this week, both by Kim Bates. First she critiques Doris Willens' Lonesome Traveler, The Life of Lee Hay, who along with fellow Leftists Woody Guthirie and Pete Seeger was central to the American folk revival of the mid 20th century by writing, collecting and popularizing American folk music. She also reviews Woody Guthrie's Seeds of Man, An Experience Lived and Dreamed, a Guthrie father and son road trip from hell during the Great Depression. Kim garners a well-earned Excellence in Writing Award for this incisive review.

A single work of fiction was reviewed this edition: Jane Yolen's The Books of Great Alta. Marian McHugh, who finds herself in sunny but hot Cairns, Australia, notes she "thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of the elements of the main story with historical information, songs, ballads and folklore."

That's all for this week, but we'll certainly have more next edition as dozens of CDs and books came in this week. Check back here next Sunday afternoon as that is when the next edition will be available for your reading pleasure! Now I'm off in search of Yucatan chocolate and something interesting to listen to ... Hmmm ... Guess I'll listen to the Lunasa live album I picked up at their gig here.