30 July 2000  

Only one book review this time out: Jack B. Merry continues his look at the pubs of the city of Yeats and Joyce in his review of Kevin Kearns' Dublin Pub Life and Lore. He notes that "...like Dublin's Literary Pubs, it's a lot easier to read than Ulysses!" This review is one of many winners of an Excellence in Writing Award.

Ah, but lots of music reviews we do have! David Kidney leads off with a look at a trio of bluegrass CDs: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver's Just Over In Heaven; Lonesome River Band's Talkin' To Myself; and Ronnie McCoury's Heartbreak Town. David rightfully comments "We reviewers here at Folk Tales sometimes tend to review bunches of albums, when we can't think of enough to say about any one of them. We look for links between artists, or stylistic similarities, and "bluegrass music" is one of those automatic unifiers."

From being a porno actress to a blues singer? Yes, really! Gary Whitehouse looks at the toughest girl alive from Candye Kane -- and yes, she really was a stripper/porno actress. Big Earl Sellar looks at a more traditional blues album in the latest Lomax collection to come our way: Deep River of Song: Big Brazos - Texas Prison Recordings, 1933 & 1934.

Jack tells me he and the Dead Heroes of Culloden are doing a warmup for the Lughnasa ceilidh that they are doing at the Tir na Nog -- Check it out if you are in his fair city this August 1st. Next edition, Jack will have a review that's quite a departure for him: he'll be looking at books that cover the history of food! Also next week, Michael Jones will be turning in a Readercon retrospective.

Lars Nilsson leads off our Celtic music reviews with his struggle with Roddy Campbell's Tarruinn Anmoch. Lars comments "I have wrestled with this for many weeks. But I must confess that Gaelic traditional singing is somewhat of an acquired taste; and, although I have done my best to acquire that taste, I cannot say I have succeeded to a very large extent." He was much more excited by John Wright's A Few Short Lines, a CD he thought was "...a fine record by a very accomplished singer." No'am Newman did his damndest to get a liking for Cuillin, the self-titled release from the band formed in part from the wreckage of MacKeel. His conclusion: "Cuillin may be the next big name in folk rock music; they also may supernova and explode in several directions." Tim Hoke thought Hoolie's Getting Underway suffered from not being live sounding enough, but Michael Jones could do nothing but rave about Seven Nations' The Factory!

Big Earl returns with his look at Arto Lindsay, a founder and mainstay of New York's "noise" scene, and his new CD, Prize. He comments "Prize sees Lindsay continuing to experiment with fusing the Brazilian pop of his youth with his more underground musical sensibilities." Rebecca Swain, our very own Snowqueen, is on vacation this week. (Don't worry -- all is well as she left things in the hands of two Queenlets.) However, she gave us two singer-songwriter reviews before she left. Four Bitchin' Babes' Beyond Bitchin' is "is enjoyable. The Babes have pleasant voices and their songs are accessible and universal." And David Wilcox's What You Whispered is notable as he "is often compared to James Taylor, mostly because of his warm, molasses-cookie voice, which does sound very much like Taylor's." Brendan Foreman finishes out our music reviews with the latest release from Alula, one of our favorite CD companies, as he looks at Miguel Angel Cortes' Patriarca. Brendans says "Hailing from an already famous family of flamenco musicians, Miguel Angel Cortes has been making waves in the flamenco field both for his technical yet beautiful guitar playing and for his inventive arranging and songwriting skills. Both of these qualities show up profoundly on Patriarca, his first Alula release." Excellence in Writing Awards went to Brendan, Big Earl, Michael. and Rebecca for their reviews.

Three interviews with musical artists are in GMR this edition! Kim Bates interviewed Eric Bogle at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and Naomi de Bruyn interviewed Tammy Fassaert and Dave Klassen at Rootsfest. Eric Bogle, Scottish émigré and naturalized Australian, has written some of the most powerful songs in late 20th century folk music. "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," about the fate of soldiers injured in the first World War, is now Australia's most recorded song. Dave Klassen plays the upright bass (as well as the acoustic bass guitar, and performing background vocals), for a wonderfully refreshing new group, Mandolirium. As the name depicts, this group is formed around the mandolin. Tammy Fassaert is is recognized worldwide as one of the finest performers in acoustic music, playing everything from folk (both contemporary and traditional), to bluegrass. Kim picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for her Eric Bogle interview!

 22 July 2000

Do you know that GMR has reviewed in some form over nineteen hundred books, CDs, videos, and live gigs thus far? Over sixteen hundred of those items are still here, but in order to bring you the very best that we can, we've weeded out many of the older reviews as our standards were raised. We strive for quality and quantity, and are constantly going back and proofing and making sure everything's acceptable. And speaking of reviews, Lars Nilsson gives his thoughts on being a reviewer -- an essay you definitely should read! Our Editors thought it was good enough that they awarded it an Excellence in Writing Award! (If you listen very carefully, you'll hear the sound of bagpipes in the distance. That's the Dead Heroes of Culloden band ushering in Lars to the Great Hall for his initiation ceremony. Yes, Lars is promoted to Senior Writer status based on both the outstanding quality of his reviews and his rather amazing output.)

If you read nothing else this time, do read Lars' A Consumer´s Guide to Fairport Convention, in which he looks at over thirty recordings by this long-lived English folk rock band. The Empire may have ceased to be, but Fairport marches on! (Lars picks up his second Excellence in Writing Award for this review.) Freight Train Blues, part of a series from Rounder, is, according to Big Earl Sellar, "...a clearinghouse for some of the great artists signed to Rounder Records over the years." Gary Whitehouse reviews the oddly-named album The Pink Lambert, which is a collection of American recordings from the early years of this century, but be aware that "some of this is patently offensive by today's standards. The early years of the 20th century were marked by high levels of intolerance toward many groups, especially African-Americans and immigrants, especially the Irish and Italians."

Lars is back with a look at Hiring Fair's Breakfast Anyone?, a folk rock album about which he notes "[t]he sound is okay for a concert, but substandard for a record; sometimes the pace changes during the songs; there is the odd instrument out of tune and the odd harmony that sounds out of place, all things that are accepted during an energetic live performance, but should not be there on the record." And Gary is also back with a commentary on Haugaard & Hoirup's Nordic album, Duo for Violin and Guitar, an enchanting album, he notes. Gary's final review for us this week is of Tarheel Boogie, a CD by the Jimmy Nations Combo. He informs us, "Jimmy Nations plays an energetic blend of rockabilly, swing, boogie and hardcore honky-tonk. His debut album on Rubric Records shows a lot of promise."

No'am is not very happy with Rock Salt & Nails' Boxed. How bad was it? He says "...having stuck the dagger in a few times and twisted it around..." And Tim Hoke thinks Fling's The Wild Swans At Coole is an album that was a bit too restrained for its own good. Patrick O'Donnell says of Lama Gyurme and Jean-Philippe Rykiel's Rain of Blessings: Vajra Chants, "...if it's meditation or inner peace you seek, Rain of Blessings may be the perfect musical accompaniment."

Big Earl Sellar reviews two world music discs. Rokia Traore is a guitarist/songwriter from Mali. Big Earl says about her CD Wanita, "All in all, I'm mesmerized by this disc." He wasn't so happy with Seed, an album from Tananas, a Spanish-Caribbean-sounding group. He wails, "The last track, 'Moja (Good),' reminded me of a horrible mushroom-induced jam I participated in years ago, only worse. That was the best thing I could find about this disc. This is one seed I hope doesn't germinate."

We get far more books for review here than we can possibly keep track of, but we will always endeavor to review as many as possible. Leading off this edition is Patrick's insightful review of Mick Farren's Darklost, a "dubious piece of pop horror, because the plot -- or, more accurately, plots -- get lost as soon as you start turning the pages." Naomi de Bruyn, who's off this weekend to cover Rootsfest for GMR, thought Tom Gilling's The Sooterkin was a novel not about the Fey as she thought it was from the ARC cover copy, but still "...provides unanticipated events and vivid imagery and will amuse reader." She also liked Fred Saberhagen's The Face of Apollo. She says, "I've enjoyed reading Fred Saberhagen's novels for almost twenty years now. He is very talented, having the ability to breathe life into the worlds which he creates, worlds which become, for all intents and purposes, real, and which many of us would love to live in, no matter the dangers to be found there. His new series, 'Book of the Gods,' is highly imaginative and thought-provoking."

A classic, Chretien de Troyes' Arthurian Romances, gets a fresh look-see from Grey Walker. She comments, "...these stories and their embellishments come from the fervid imagination of Chretien de Troyes, one of the fathers of Arthurian legend."

Jack B. Merry, fresh off a tour of the Pacific Northwest with his band The Dead Heroes of Culloden, wants to head off now to Dublin after reading Peter Costello's Dublin's Literary Pubs. He notes, "OK, I really like good drink and lively Celtic music, but I also like fine literature. And Ireland has produced some of the greatest literature the world has ever seen. Could it be that the pubs of Dublin, where such great writers as Yeats and Behan drank deep, were their source of inspiration?" Jack is the recipient of an an Excellence in Writing Award for this well-crafted review.

Michael Jones' The Prerogative this edition covers the wickedly funny novels of Christopher Moore. Michael "is driving to Boston for the weekend to attend the famed Redadercon. Woo-hoo! A sf/fantasy convention dedicated entirely to books and literary pursuits. Right up my alley. No comics, no movies, no television shows, no Ewoks, Sith Lords, Narns, Klingons, silicon queens or has-been actors. Just authors, editors, readers, books and magazines!"

Don't forget to read Kim Bates' review of the Winnipeg Folk Festival -- Kim will be giving us at least a half dozen performer interviews based on her work there over the coming weeks!

The coda piece for this edition is Chuck Lipsig's ...And Reels. This time out it is entitled Farewell. He explains what the column's about: "My mother-in-law, Virginia "Jinnie" Singley died at age 76 this past July 8. I was asked by her daughters to choose some Celtic music from my CD collection to play before the service."

 16 July 2000

Marian McHugh turned in all three of the book reviews we have this week -- proof that winter in Australia is a good time for reading! She reports that Dark Cities Underground and Walking the Labyrinth, both by Lisa Goldstein, are superbly crafted fantasies. And Neil Philip's Myths and Fairy Tales Collection is "...a wonderful book for introducing young people to the joys of myths and fairy tales."

Five CDs worth of Captain Beefheart? Is that too much for anyone to listen to without running away screaming? Not according to Big Earl, who in his review of Grow Fins says it is "... a triumph, a long overdue volume that absolutely needs to be part of every serious music fan's collection."

The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper/fiddler, that her live show features "... tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving." Ed Dale certainly agrees, as his review of her new CD, Debateable Lands, is quite glowing. (We got two copies of this CD -- something that we often have happen -- and I liked it enough to keep the other copy.) Tim Hoke thought Celtic Nots' Not Music was a dandy album of Celtic music, and No'am Newman considers Sarah Bauhan's Broad Waters a disc "... much more soothing to the ears than some of the violin-based music to which I've been listening recently." Naomi de Bruyn gets the last word in this section with her Excellence in Writing Award winning review, The Complete Great Big Sea, which looks at this amazing Newfoundland group.

Lars Nilsson looks at two English releases: Chris Foster's Traces, and Mick Ryan & Pete Harris' The Widow's Promise. Both are interesting albums worth seeking out. (You can purchase both from Musikfolk, our preferred online music vendor. We get no kickback from any sales they get via our reviews -- This is just a public service to you, our readers.)

Big Earl returns with a look at Orlando Poleo's Sangre Negra, a jazz CD that "...offers neither positive nor negative attributes: it's simply a disc of shimmery, run-of-the-mill Latino dance music." But Hula Blues, a collection of lap steel guitar playing, was good enough that he says "[y]ou can't help but grin while listening to it; this is happy, carefree music..." Jayme Lynn Blaschke found much to like in Native American Currents, a collection of cuts by R. Carlos Nakai and Peter Kater, Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice, Robert Mirabal and Joanne Shenandoah. Big Earl garners an Excellence in Writing Award for his Hula Blues review.

David Kidney considers three albums by singer-songwriters: Julie Gold's Try Love, Patty Larkin's Regrooving the Dream, and Tom Paxton's The Best of the Vanguard Years. He says of the first two releases that "Patty Larkin and Julie Gold are both talented musicians. Each of these recordings caused me to stop what I was doing and listen to what was going on, to what was being played, and what was being said." And about the Tom Paxton release: "...Tom Paxton is a talented wordsmith, an adequate guitar-picker, and a warm, confident singer. This is a valuable addition to one's understanding of the protest movement, and American folk singing."

Yet another famous singer-songwriter™ release is reviewed by No'am Newman: Phil Ochs' The Early Years. No'am comments, "Phil Ochs was one of the top folk/protest singers in the US during the 1960s who never really became famous outside of his own field; in the 70s he seemed to run out of steam (and subjects), and in April 1976 he committed suicide." He goes on to note "... this disc is more of an item for collectors, rather than an ear-opener for newbies."

Be sure to read the Excellence in Writing Award winning Peregrine's Prerogative. Michael Jones says, "...this week, we'll be taking an in-depth look at an insidious menace threatening our society, our very way of living. They live among us, look like us, could be our neighbors, even our children. Yet they possess powers above and beyond the ken of mere mortals. Hated and feared by some, envied and relied on by others, they protect the universe from evil and those who'd use their powers for personal gain...."

09 July 2000

I'm back from seeing Kalman Balogh's Hungarian Gypsy Cimbalom Band at the Center for Cultural Exchange's intimate concert space. It was a wonderful concert with a great band and a truly appreciative audience. And Jack was right: the Hungarian violinists were truly wild! My thanks to Rounder Records for providing the comp tickets for this concert. A full writeup will be posted later.

First up this edition is the promotion of Big Earl Sellar to Master Reviewer. Congratulations Big Earl! Big Earl has proven to be a superb reviewer with his consistently well-crafted, interesting reviews that pull no punches.

Cran's Lover's Ghost is another one of those lovely self-released Celtic discs that GMR gets in vast numbers. Kim Bates, who is at the Winnipeg Folk Festival interviewing performers for us, notes, "Who was it that said, 'Many of the best Celtic CDs are self published?' (Hint: Russian Stout), and who last remarked that one of the best things about reviewing for GMR is being surprised and delighted by something truly wonderful? Well, brothers and sisters, I'm here to testify that both are true! Cran's third album, Lover's Ghost, is Irish traditional music at its best, mixing amazing songs and stunning instrumentals." Kim garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Chuck Lipsig found Salsa Celtica's The Great Scottish Latin Adventure to be more salsa than Celtic in nature, but he notes "...there is a fair amount of bagpipes and tin whistles, as well as Scottish references in the titles and lyrics, there are really only two tracks with any strong Celtic influence."

Our last Celtic offering is a book and CD combo from Michigan State University Press called Beaver Island House Party. Brendan Foreman in his Excellence in Writing Award commentary notes "The CD itself does an amazing job of illustrating the heavy Irish flavor of the Beaver Island music as well as its transformation from simply a continuation of Irish traditions to something that is uniquely 'Beaver Island-ish.'"

Brendan also looks at Shakespeare's Music. He notes, "Shakespeare's Music provides a highly listenable and accessible range of consort and solo music originally from the late 1500s and early 1600s. ...the compilers gave themselves a challenge and specifically sought out music that was in some way associated with the plays of Shakespeare and his colleagues."

Gary Whitehouse found much to like in the American Tradition sound of Cordelia's Dad's Spine CD. He rightfully notes that "Spine is a mesmerizing collection of songs and tunes dredged from old songbooks, recordings and musicians in the U.S. and Canada, performed with an intensity that illuminates what is often a twisted heart of darkness underneath the shining American Dream." Not surprisingly, he picks up an heart of darkness underneath the shining American Dream." Not surprisingly, he picks up an heart of darkness underneath the shining American Dream." Not surprisingly, he picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this review. And see the book reviews for his other Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Peter Finger's Open Strings is, according to reviewer David Kidney, "...a soundtrack album for the movie of your life. Not quite jazz, not exactly folk, Finger provides a startling collection of music which requires some interaction from the listener to lift it out of the recorded world into real life." And Rebecca Swain gets the last word in our music reviews this edition with her look at Ellis Paul's 2-CD release, Live. Does she like it? Of course, but you'll have to read her review to see why!

Rebecca also gets the first word in book reviews this edition with her insightful look at Stephen R. Donaldson's A Man Rides Through and The Mirror of Her Dreams. Our Snowqueen regally notes:

Stephen R. Donaldson is probably most famous for the six books in his Covenant series. The two books I am reviewing here, collectively called Mordant's Need, have nothing to do with that series, but they exhibit many of the characteristics that made those books so popular -- an adventure-packed story, interesting characters, and vivid writing. They are also too long, too bleak, and sometimes too confusing. They nearly brought me to tears -- not because Donaldson is such a moving writer, or because I empathized so deeply with the characters, but because I never thought they would end. Donaldson would not stop writing!

Read her review for, as Donaldson himself would say, the rest of the story!

Naomi de Bruyn found Christopher Fowler's Roofworld to be a very interesting urban fantasy, one well worth reading. Graeme Fife's Arthur the King was a book that opened the eyes of reviewer Grey Walker, and Gary Whitehouse was finally able to review Allison Thompson's Dancing Through Time as his wife finished reading it. He says, "It's must reading for serious students of dance history, and a valuable companion to lovers of literature who may need help decoding the nuances of the often lengthy and significant passages featuring social dancing in many of the major works of Western literature." I previously mentioned The Beaver Island House Party CD, but it's also a nifty musiclore book called The Beaver Island House Party that documents the Irish-American traditions of Beaver Island, Michigan. (Grey's Arthur the King commentary wins an Excellence in Writing Award!)

There's penguins on the tube! Errrr, not really. But Michael "Penguin" Jones has a nifty Peregrine's Prerogative on media tie-ins.

02 July 2000

Hi, this is Jack -- I'm filling in for our usual narrator as he's off to see Kalman Balogh's Hungarian Gypsy Cimbalom Band. He'd better give us a detailed report of this gig as Hungarian violinists are a wild bunch!

But first, a public service announcement: Tor Books has gotten the rights to Emma Bull's War for The Oaks novel. It would be wonderful if War for The Oaks came out in hardcover as it most certainly deserves. Email Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor Books and tell him that you'd love to buy a War for the Oaks hardcover edition next year. Hell, urge your friends to do so! You can also post a message in r.a.s.f.w. saying you hope that this means there'll finally be a hardcover. You can even mention that The War for Oaks movie trailer sold nearly a hundred copies as an authorized bootleg!

The preceding message was not authorized by Emma Bull or Will Shetterly, but is sanctioned by The Committee for the publication of War for The Oaks hardcover.

Sweet Brigid, there's a lot of great Celtic music being produced right now. Kim Bates, who I hear is off to the Winnipeg Folk Festival with her GMR press credentials in hand, leads off our Celtic coverage with a look at Natalie MacMaster's My Roots are Showing. Kim says "This album will appeal to fans of Scottish and Cape Breton music, step dancers, fiddlers everywhere, and anyone in search of a lively Celtic instrumental album. If you haven't seen one of MacMaster's shows, this disc will give you a sense of what you're missing -- although it lacks the stories, historical anecdotes and humor that add spice to her live performances." Lars Nilsson found Alasdair Fraser & Tony McManus' Return to Kintail to be equally thrilling as did Tim Hoke when he listened repeatedly to the Popes' Holloway Boulevard.

Kim was as enthusiastic about Isla St. Clair's singing on When the Pipers Play as she was about the playing of Natalie MacMaster. Ed Dale gets the last word about Celtic music in his review of Whirligig's Spin. Ed, no mean Celtic musician himself as he played with the legendary band Morrigu, comments "It is really a delight to listen to the first 10 seconds of a new CD and know that it's a keeper. Whirligig's second CD, hopefully to be followed by many more, is a 50-minute gas; one that will frequently spin in my CD player."

Bluegrass comes out of Celtic roots -- the same roots that gave birth to both Old-Time and Contradance music. Brendan Foreman looks at a new Rounder release, the Monroe Brothers' Volume 1: What Would You Give in Exchange For Your Soul, saying "...bluegrass actually grew out of the old-time country sound of the 1920s and early 1930s (as old-time country was an outgrowth of Celtic and English traditional music), borrowing many of the standard tunes and songs from old-time along the way. By the beginning of 1940s it's quite difficult to determine where old-time ends and bluegrass begins." Brendan garners wins an Excellence in Writing Award review for this review!

Going across the sea to present day England, we have a review of Bob Fox's Dreams Never Leave You, an album Lars says "...gives evidence of three facts. First, Fox is a good singer in the traditional vein. And take notice of that. This man is a real folk singer, not a disillusioned rock singer who turned folky. Second, he is also an ace guitar player, even if that came across much clearer on the winter tour where he performed on his own. On this recording, the accompanying players sometimes hide his guitar playing a bit too much. Third, Fox has got excellent taste when it comes to picking songs." The last review in this vein of Anglo-American music is Sekou Sundiata's longstoryshort, a talking blues album that did not appeal to Big Earl. See his review to find out why!

More satisfying was April Gutierrez's encounter of More Happy Moments With Hoven Droven, the new album by that august -- and wonderfully noisy -- Nordic group. She says "The bad boys of Swedish folk rock are back with their second American release -- a resounding reminder of their unique blend of hard rock and folk roots." April wins an Excellence in Writing Award review for this insighful review! Rebecca Swain, our very own Snowqueen, thinks that If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now, the Nields new album, is a delightful disc. Gary White also raves about Swamp Pop, the companion CD to the book of the same name. And Big Earl has the last word regarding music this edition with his review of Women's Songs From India, an album he thinks is more suited to a library collection than a home collection.

Books, books, and more books! First of all, you must read the new Peregrine's Prerogative in which Michael "Penguin" Jones reviews the entire once-popular Wild Cards series, edited by George R.R. Martin. Michael follows up that amazing feat with a look at Mickey Zucker Reichart's Flightless Falcon, a novel he notes "is a well-written book, by a good author with a respectable track record. It's not bad. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately, the more I thought about the plot, the more annoyed I got with the seeming waste of a good book. This is one instance when I urge you to find the book in a library or read it in paperback, and then decide whether or not it is worth the hardcover price." Both of these articles win well-deserved Excellence in Writing Awards!

Naomi de Bruyn was much happier with Fred Saberhagen's Ariadne's Web as she says "Ariadne's Web is the Grecian myth of the Minotaur, which Fred Saberhagen has used his magic upon and breathed new life into. From the first sentence you are drawn into the wonderful world of gods and their powers, and the chaos which can easily erupt around them." And Naomi writes our final book review as she looks at Sheila Stewart's '...and time goes on...', a CD of songs and tales that tells of the Scottish Travelers.

Two Charles de Lint related items finish out this edition. Chuck Lipsig has furnished us with a great interview of Charles that he did a few years ago when Trader was new. And GMR has provided you with a link to his Wiscon speech, a wonderful talk by him on... Oh, just go read it.