I believe in fires at midnight --- when the dogs have all been fed.
A golden toddy on the mantle --- a broken gun beneath the bed.
Silken mist outside the window.
Frogs and newts slip in the dark --- too much hurry ruins the body.
I'll sit easy ... fan the spark kindled by the dying embers of another working day.
Go upstairs ... take off your makeup --- fold your clothes neatly away.
Me, I'll sit and write this love song as I all too seldom do --- build a little fire this midnight.
It's good to be back home with you.

Jethro Tull's 'Fire at Midnight' off the Songs from the Wood album

26th of January, 2003

Jack Merry here.

(First, an update on what I was doing last week... No, I didn't capture the song of the Banshee in Sidhe glass -- she didn't cooperate. But I did have a great time doing a pub crawl with Stephen Hunt, as we visited as many pubs as we could possibly manage... I think it was fun, but I honestly don't 'member too much of what we did. I do 'member three pubs as having most excellent ales -- The Blue Peter in Polperro, The Star in St Just, and The Blue Anchor in Helston!)

It is indeed the dark time of the year. I'm sitting in me Green Man office listening to the CD-R that David Kidney made of Bela playing with the Huddled Masses Dance Band last week. It's nice to see that he has a steady but soft approach to mastering a CD-R, a sadly rare skill these days when everyone thinks they can do this without learning how first! The music is just loud enough to mask out the howling winds and driving snow that are quickly creating yet another night not safe for anyone to be out; looks as though Brigid and I will be using one of the guest rooms here tonight. Given that they've feather mattresses, goose down comforters, and ever-so-soft pillows, we'll make do, I'm sure. In the meantime, 'tis time for the evening feast. Brigid says that the kitchen staff is feeling eclectic, so they're serving extra spicy fish curries, mince pies, samosas, mulled cider, and several tasty puddings, including both rasberry and gooseberry syllabub. Are you coming along? Yes? Good -- the kitchen staff is always happy to feed a guest or two. But do grab your button accordeon and I'll bring me fiddle, as they'll want a spot of entertainment before we dine...

We've a couple of promotions to announce before the reviews. Craig Clarke is taking over as our Letters of Comment Editor. You can send your letters here, and they'll reach him sure enough. And Matthew Winslow has agreed to assist Grey Walker with the book review editing. Thanks, lads, for your new contributions. I'm sure you'll do splendidly!

Our first featured review this week is of Charles de Lint's new collection of stories, A Handful of Coppers, due to be released by Subterranean Press in February. This collection features stories published in the early days of de Lint's writing career, all written in the 'heroic fantasy' tradition, rather than the 'urban fantasy' de Lint is now so well-known for. Reviewer Grey Walker says, 'These early stories of de Lint's are not merely for the devoted fan who wants to own everything by de Lint, no matter how immature. They stand -- no they leap, run, slice back-handed and come up grinning -- all on their own.' Grey garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this review. (We should also note that we currently have thirty titles by de Lint reviewed here at GMR, including all of his novels, one of his chapbooks, and two novels he wrote under the name Samuel M. Key. You can find the reviews listed in this index under 'de Lint.')

Our other featured review is actually two by Stephen Hunt. First off is his review of Scottish Reflections by Bonnie Rideout: 'a fiddle player with a hugely impressive pedigree.' He declares himself rather pleased with both this artist's music and the approach of her record label, concluding that 'this CD is a brilliantly conceived compilation that draws together fourteen tracks selected from Rideout's collaborations with other artists on the Maggie's Music label... I'll recommend this album unhesitatingly, and play it often.' Kate Rusby's 10 celebrates this British singer's first decade as a performing artist and finds her revisiting many of the songs that established her early reputation. Stephen opines, 'When a singer has been singing these songs for as long as Rusby, she is able to forget about the technicalities of performance and allow her own voice and experience to extract and articulate every nuance of meaning. This is what singing traditional song is ultimately all about, and Rusby's a compelling exponent of the art.' This review gets Stephen an Excellence in Writing Award!

Jayme Lynn Blaschke starts us off in a rather startling way this week. 'Flanders,' he says, 'is, simply put, a marvelous work filled with bleak imagery and raw emotion that garnered wide acclaim and landed on many best-of-the-year lists when it came out. It also killed Patricia Anthony's career as a novelist.' Read Jayme's review for his explanation of this statement, and to find out why you simply must read the book.

Our new Letters of Comment Editor, Craig Clarke, also found the time this week to turn in three reviews. The first two are of audio books for children (well, aimed at children. Adults will like 'em, too!). Mary Pope Osborne's Tales from the Odyssey have been read aloud by James Simmons. Craig says, 'Osborne's simple-yet-poetic prose is action-oriented like its source, making it exciting listening. This, combined with Simmons' skill at characterization (plus, no doubt, his stage training), makes for entertainment that still retains the 'literary' feel.' Craig also enthuses about J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas, read aloud by Derek Jacobi, whom Craig says deserves his own category in the world of dramatic performance! Craig points out that 'the letters end on a sad note as the children are growing up and the world is in the midst of war (this is only hinted at, though, by Father Christmas's statement that 'there is no damage in my country'), but this did not detract from the delightful feeling I had from listening to these cassettes. In fact, the ending is much more poignant, seeing it from Father Christmas's hopeful point of view.' In a very different vein, Craig brings us another book, strictly for adults, Stephen King's From a Buick 8. One of our resident horror experts, Craig gives this book a solid recommendation. 'Not only is it completely different in tone and subject from his other haunted car book, Christine, but From a Buick 8 is one of the best books to come from his fingers in recent years.'

We've got the second half of the DAW 30th Anniversary celebration anthologies for you this week, 30th Anniversary DAW: Fantasy. Reviewer Michael M. Jones says, 'So what's the verdict? This is one family reunion that you shouldn't miss. There really is something for everyone in here, with so many authors representing such a wide spectrum of the fantasy world.' Michael gets an Excellence in Writing Award for his thorough and knowledgeable review.

No'am Newman doesn't often write book reviews, but we're sure glad when he does. It's not easy to review a tune book, but No'am's done a bang-up job with Lunasa - The Music: 1996-2001. You've got to read this review. No'am comes up with ten paragraphs of commentary about a book of tunes, and it's both informative and interesting! An Excellence in Writing Award for Mr. Newman, please....

Ryan Nutick, our Master Indexer, now shows an equally deft hand at reviewing, with his look at two audio volumes of The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas. As Ryan said to Grey Walker, 'I made a conscious decision not to review the stories, as they are all old episodes, and TZ fans know them all and love them. So tackling the production value seemed the best direction to go.' He's right, and his review gives you a clear sense of how these recordings sound, and how well they're made.

New reviewer Stacy Troubh is the owner of a tea bar in her other life, and her experience in the food business shows. Her review of Patricia Wells' The Paris Cookbook will make your mouth water. She says, 'Through her descriptions of open markets, quaint sidewalk cafes, and everyday access to some of the finest breads, cheeses and produce in the world, Wells captures the essence of Parisian life. A Paris Cookbook is more than a collection of recipes.' Well reviewed, Stacy. And welcome! (A pot of her Irish Breakfast tea and a scone make a most excellent breakfast!- - Cat)

Wes Unruh tackled a hefty tome this week! He says that Norse Mythology by John Lindow 'will not only acquaint the casual reader with the primary themes and characters of Norse mythology, it will also introduce the reader to the sources, the arguments, the geographic settings, and the various contradictory and interwoven nuances that abound within this branch of folklore. Then this book will continue to serve the reader as a reference both to and for the source texts, should one wish to further explore this fascinating and transcendant mythos.' After taking a deep breath, Wes then goes on in his review to describe the entries, the index, and the bibliography of this superb reference work. Thanks, Wes. We owe you.

Once again, Matthew Winslow finishes us off with a look at a classic, but this time in a new guise. J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight continues to be a seminal work of its kind, but what happens when it's read aloud by... a member of Monty Python, Terry Jones??? It works, Matthew says. '[Jones's] specialty was obnoxious British ladies. But in spite of that -- or maybe because of that -- Jones does a superb job with 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.' Even more oddly, he manages to make the poem a comedy. Passages I would never have seen as being inherently comical, he manages to make quite humorous. Most important of all, it works as a comedy.' Matthew gets an Excellence in Writing Award for proving that sometimes there is something new under the sun.

There are no film reviews this edition as the entire staff is at a private showing of the entire set of the uncut versions of Twin Peaks including the films. Cherry pie and black coffee is being served, so join us for this special event. Come back next week for some truly great movie reviews!

There are a couple of unusual things about Scott Gianelli's review of the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival 2003. One of them is that there were 43 different performances in the one night he describes; another is that Scott himself was one of the performers (he plays in a 'Swedish folk group called the New York Spelmanslag ('spelmanslag' is Swedish for 'fiddler's group'), which primarily plays polskas') as well as the writer of the review, and the final one is that he wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his inaugural live performance review here at GMR. Scott says, 'Despite my obligations to perform, I couldn't help feeling like a small child walking into Disneyland, or Rivendell for that matter, as I entered the building.' If you'd like to know what made him pay such a high compliment to this festival, do read his review for his take on both the auditory and gustatory delights of the evening.

Kim Bates leads off our music section with reviews of three bluegrass albums. True Bluegrass is a compilation of material by Rounder artists from the 1970s, and represents: 'a great slice of bluegrass history from a time when the bluegrass pioneers were slowing down, and today's icons were just appearing on the scene.' Mama's Hand is another Rounder compilation. Kim notes that 'this collection of slow, sentimental songs owes more to the mountain tradition that gave rise to country music rather than the instrumental flourishes that characterize bluegrass. Musicologists will also like this collection, as it represents a great look into the maternal archetype in American roots music.' And 3 is the latest from Vancouver's Great Northern, a group who provide an inventive, contemporary take on the music with the inclusion of a cellist in their ranks. Kim declares: 'I liked Great Northern from the moment I heard them on CBC radio...I'd put this up against pretty much any of the recent bluegrass releases I've heard in the past year, and expect it to come out ahead. 3 deserves as much exposure as it can get.'

John D. Benninghouse found One Ball of Clay -- Songs of Peace and Hope to be something of a mixed bag. John explains: 'this 16-song collection was assembled in the wake of the events of September 11th, 2001 and features the contributions of folkies from Milwaukee, Wisconsin... The sentiment behind the songs is irreproachable, but I found most of them to be pretty boring.'

Judith Gennett had no misgivings about Nostalgic Cafe Songs From the Balkans by Balkan Cabaret. Judith states that the goal of this Washington state band: 'is to play nostalgic, after-hours music... all 19 songs are good, the musicianship is just excellent and there should be something here for everyone who likes melodrama and uneven rhythms!' We find that Judith was equally delighted by Estonian Folk Music 2001: 'This promotional sampler presents a wide variety of folk artists associated with the festival and the music institute at Viljandi... Most of the musicians here are fairly young; what a thrill this would be for American and British commentators in their own milieu!' Judith, lovely lass that she is, is one of our most prolific reviewers. So naturally she gives us more tasteful reviews this edition! She says of these two CDs (Kristi Stassinopoulou's Echotropia and Ziroq's Self-titled debut album) that if you '[i]ntroduce pop sensibilities and original compositions into ethnic music, what do you get? Ethnopop, to use a solid but possibly outmoded term. Here are reviews of two really nice 'European' ethnopop recordings.' Folk Traditions In Australia was to Judith's liking: ' This 2 CD sampler has such a wealth and variety of material on its 41 tracks! Australia, like Canada and America, is an amalgam of cultures, but I suppose I've always thought of Australian folk music as songs about sheep shearing! There are some of these, for instance the great traditional song quoted above. But there are also many really choice pieces with very cosmopolitan roots. Few of these performers are known outside Australia, perhaps the Balkan band Mara! or the veteran concertina player and singer Dave De Hugard.'

Hurdy gurdies! Nyckelharpas! Cellos! Spanish artist Antonio Poves's Rota Mundi gets a rave review from Tim Hoke: 'This recording will appeal to fans of Early Music, Spanish music, and the hurdy-gurdy.'

Peter Hund notes that harmonica player Paul Harrington: 'isn't a household name' but reckons that Harmonica Soul Serenade, 'may just change that.' According to Peter, these: '14 tracks -- mostly instrumental and covering R&B, jazz, blues and swing classics, as well as a few originals -- simply smoke.'

Michael Hunter is one of the legions of Fairporters rejoicing in the release of Another Fine Mess: Live In New York '84 from Dave Swarbrick & Simon Nicol. While these are 'old' recordings by the fiddle, guitar and vocal duo, Michael wisely points out that: 'Like the music they play, they are adaptable and beyond mere fashion, which makes it a pleasure to hear them at any time.' It won't surprise you that Michael picks up an Excellence in Writing Award!

It's also a pleasure to welcome a new reviewer to Green Man! This week we say hello to Inigo Jones, who introduces us to his talents via a tremendous review of In Bloom II - World Music Produced in France. Inigo found much to enthuse about here, right from the opening: 'blistering track by Salif Keita.' As a whole, this double CD succeeds on several levels for our new reviewer, who says that: 'Even as it provides a survey of the diverse world music scene in France, including songs in at least a dozen languages, In Bloom II maintains a coherent momentum and groove that invites repeated listening.' Inigo achieves the rare distinction of an Excellence in Writing Award for his first review!

David Kidney has unearthed a really fascinating CD for us in the shape of Put a Flavor to Love by the splendidly named Janet Klein & her Parlor Boys. According to David, this music is the result of: 'a lifelong fascination with pre-WW2 pop culture. There is an air of authenticity surrounding this whole project. Janet Klein has done her homework, and come up with a marvellous selection of songs, sometimes obscure, once in awhile familiar, often naughty, funny, fabulous, but always musical.' David receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this fine review. Our Assistant Music Editor was a busy lad this week! Next is is Marina Belica's one sky. She 'was the singer for the October Project. A year or so ago, she released a dainty little CD (not quite an album, but more than a single) which featured her beautiful, haunting vocals set in ethereal musical environs. She is a marvelously enchanting songstress. Imagine my surprise on hearing one sky to discover that her first full length CD is instrumental music -- not a vocal track on the whole album!'

We have many fine musicians on staff of which Peter Massey is but one. I think this adds a lot to the skill of our staff in doing CD reviews. Just listen to his sage advice concerning Oliver Schroer's Celtica. He says this is not 'an album filled with music played for generations in someone's homeland, and you're not likely to hear these tunes at a traditional folk club session. Sadly they lack the fire, spirit, and feeling you only get from the real thing! In short the performance is too good, or perhaps too smoothly played.'

No'am Newman found himself somewhat at odds with a group called Stella over how best to describe the sound of their Pony Girl album. The band reckons that they play: 'well-crafted folk-rock with a dash of country and bluegrass thrown in for good measure.' No'am says: 'I term it up-tempo country with rock leanings!' What's indisputable is that Stella hail from Athens, Georgia, and utilise guitars, bass, drums and mandolins, which causes me to wonder how they measure up to that city's 'other' band! Red Room by The Mighty Rooster caused similar consternation for No'am, who reckons that while the groups intended destination is the: 'folk/indie niche also occupied by the Oysterband and the Levellers,' these tracks: 'sound as if they were taken from some forgotten semi-underground band's debut album from the late sixties or early seventies, and today they simply bring a knowing smile to my lips... Of course, you may like them more than I do.'

John O'Regan tackes a new band that has Terry Woods of Sweeney's Men and the Pogues fame in it (The Woods Band) and their CD, Music From The four Corners of Hell. He says that ' The new Woods Band has a sound both Irish and contemporary that is as unique and original as the band's original line up. Music From the Four Corners of Hell welcomes a folk-rock pioneer back to the fray and the results are grippingly exciting.' He also reviews the Niall Toner Band and their album, There's a Better Way. It's an Irish Bluegrass undertaking. Eh? It that a good idea? He thinks so, so read his review to see why. Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola's An Raicin Alainn and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh's Morning Star/Realt Na Maidine both get the nod of approval from John: 'Two young Gaelic singers releasing top notch though quite different solo debut albums. Lasirfhiona Ni Chonaola may have garnered the deserved critical applause but Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh's first outing is a highly impressive effort which ought not to be ignored either.'

Pat Simmonds has our sympathy as he's in New Zealand dealing with a death in his family. But before he left Toronto, he turned in a review of Shebeen's The Pebbled Shore which disappointed him: 'a Counting-Crows-meets-Belle-and-Sebastian like pop whimsy, and a neo-Celtic mood piece. While I'm certain that the intent behind this project was genuine, the outcome is lacking in several major departments. The choice and treatment of supporting instruments (keys and guitars) is unfortunate and the use of phase/flange effects is a stark reminder of why such things are not used more often in this type of music'.

Two sampler collections, Latinique and Arabesque, found a favourable reviewer in Mike Stiles: 'These are samplers. I'd recommend them especially for provincial friends who are just starting to explore the world music scene. Or commandeer the sound system at your favorite bar on a Friday night with one of these discs and see what happens.' Classical music, really old classical music, in the guise of Without You from the Masters of Persian Music gets a rave from him: 'This CD belongs to all music lovers in all traditions. Whether you play it as background music or as an intense 75-minute journey within (and you'll find yourself doing both), it will grow on you.' It gets rather colder where the next CD if from...: 'Aha, another Nordic CD [JP Nystroms' Stockholm 1515 Km] to review. First cut is 'Spel Nisses Vals,' a lovely waltz with just a hint of the Germanic oompah influence. I'd better head out to the beer garden for the rest of this CD.' Read his review to see if the music and beer truly did agree with each other! 'This review garners Mike an Excellence in Writing Award!

All strains of alt-country have found favour when reviewed by Gary Whitehouse. Now will the releases from Little Pink (12 Birds) and Mary Prankster (Tell Your Friends) find him also so inclined? Yes. But you'll need to read his review to see how they differ in style! Vassar Clements's Full Circle is a fiddling album that Gary fully approves of. He says this album 'sees Vassar returning to bluegrass, but also incorporating rock songs by some of the baby-boomers' biggest names. I'll admit that I approached this album with some trepidation after seeing and even listening to the first track, Cream's psychedelic power anthem, 1White Room.' It just doesn't work as bluegrass for me. But I have to admit that the fiddling and picking on it, as on the rest of this CD, is first-rate.

That's it for this week, folks. No'am's final review has inspired me to go and make a cup of tea, and relax with a few semi - underground band's albums from the late sixties and early seventies. Let's have a look here.. The Woods Band, Vashti Bunyan and Mandy Morton and the Spriguns - perfect! Now, where did that old packet of joss sticks get to?

Several readers have asked what Bela's last name is. Well, no one knows. He either gives us a different name each time we ask -- names that no one (including Reynard, who speaks a number of Central European languages) can pronounce -- or says he doesn't have one. There are volumes of the tunes that he collected between The Wars in the Library, but they simply say 'Bela' in a spidery hand. Nor do we know anything else about him beyond the various tales the rat fiddlers tell when they've had too much cheese and cider. (Would you believe them? I don't!) He could be any of a dozen nationalities, and his age is a mystery too. All I know is that he's a bloody fine violinist!

One final note. You may be interested to know that Blowzabella are getting together to do some special gigs this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the band. All the details are at their Web site.

19th of January, 2003

The winter falls, the frozen rut
Is bound by silver bars.
The snowdrift heaps against the hut
And night is pierced with stars.

-- author unknown
taken from an old penmanship book

Welcome! We have an issue of book reviews for you this week. It's a fine week for it, too. Seems like almost every reviewer I've seen today was hoarse and sniffling, carrying beakers of hot lemon and honey (and brandy) up to their offices. Even our Editor-in-Chief wasn't immune, which is why I (Grey Walker, that is) banished him with a warm afghan and some of Brigid's soup. I'd have gotten Jack to write this, but he left me a note this morning, something about a banshee sighting near Stephen Hunt's place in Cornwall, and wanting to go hear her sing. The note says, 'If we're lucky, I'll be catching her song in Sidhe glass. It's something mortals never hear -- or at least not those long for this world. But this recording should be safe to listen to.'

The cold is creeping in around heavy drapes and under baseboards. And evening comes soon and falls fast. The only truly warm place is the library, where Liath is keeping a fire of old apple wood burning. If you've no errands to take you out of doors, why not join us for a browse through the following reviews of some really lovely books? Old Tadhg is there. Perhaps we can coax a story out of him, too... Here's a candle. Candle light is warmer, somehow.

Our first featured review this week is of a book that won't be released until April, but we want to give you, dear readers, some lead time to start saving your mad money for it. The book is Diana Wynne Jones's new novel, The Merlin Conspiracy. It's a 'young adult' book, but quite good enough that all of us who love tightly-plotted fantasy full of original ideas can happily ignore that designation. As I (Grey Walker) say in my review, 'It took me about a day and a half to read The Merlin Conspiracy. It would have taken less time if I hadn't kept reminding myself, 'Don't gulp. Slow down. You're reviewing this.''

Our other featured review made me, two other editors, and the proofing team here at GMR tell one another, 'I've got to go and read this book NOW!' The book is Michael Chabon's Summerland, and Michelle Erica Green wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her enthralling review. If the book's as good as the review, it's good indeed. Here's a sample: 'Summerland reads like a seamless merger of A Wrinkle In Time and Field of Dreams... [It's] a yarn in the old-fashioned sense of the word -- a long, tangled story that interrupts itself with first-person narration, apologetic flashbacks, refresher courses in the form of lectures given by senior characters, and the texts of non-fiction books written by ferisher baseball players and scouting experts of long ago.' Now before you head out to buy the book for yourself and half a dozen friends you already know will want to read it, too, go read the rest of Michelle's review.

Christine Doiron reviews two books about Rowan Hood, a new girl outlaw in the land of 'young adult' fiction. They're Nancy Springer's Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest and Lionclaw: A Tale of Rowan Hood. According to Christine, one of 'em's a pick, and the other's a pan. Read her review to find out which is which.

Eric Eller earns an Excellence in Writing Award for his analysis of Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson. Eric says, 'Though a good story with an undercurrent of deep ideas (the nature of immortality, reality, and life), Darwinia ultimately fails to fully deliver.' The rest of his superb review explains in depth why he thinks so, and why you may want to read Darwinia in spite of it.

Michael M. Jones brings us a review of Alan Dean Foster's The Mocking Program, a book of which he says, 'It's not fantasy; I can't deny that it's unrepentantly science fiction. But it's almost mythic in its cultural extrapolation and linguistic experimentation.'

When he heard about Lisa Goldstein's newest book, The Alchemist's Door, Jason Erik Lundberg, a Goldstein enthusiast, specifically asked that GMR request it from the publisher for him to review. Was the book worth it? 'The beginning is a bit slow and unclear,' he warns, 'but get past the first couple of chapters and the novel sucks you in, forcing you to keep reading until the very end.' Sounds like a satisfied reviewer!

Jack Merry held another of his 'book talks' in the library this week, this time about Mabon and the Guardians of Celtic Britain: Hero Tales in the Mabinogion by Celtic scholar Caitlin Matthews, and Merlin Dreams, a collection of stories with Merlin as narrator, written by Peter Dickinson with illustrations by Alan Lee (conceptual artist for the recent Lord of the Rings movies). Jack likes both of these books, for different reasons. Read his review for his opinions.

Maria Nutick has two reviews for us this week. The first is of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's new book A Fistful of Sky. Maria says it's 'a creative, warm, funny and yet uncomfortable book that I highly recommend.' She's not so laudatory of Magic Time, a book by Marc Scott Zicree (noted television writer) and Barbara Hambly. 'Magic Time is a disaster novel. It's also a disaster of a novel.' In fact, Maria says that Magic Time goes so far as to 'jump the shark' and fall flat on its face. Don't know what 'jump the shark' means? Or just want to see why we unhesitatingly gave Maria this week's Grinch Award? Then you've got to read this review!

New reviewer Jessica Paige proves with her first review that we were right to take her onboard at GMR. She opens her review by saying, 'A Fancyfull Historie of That Most Notable & Fameous Outlaw Robyn Hood doesn‚t wait until you‚re done gasping for breath from saying the title to let you know what you‚re in store for: a good old-fashioned romp through the life and times of 'that most notable & fameous outlaw' Robin Hood.' This 'romp' is a play in Shakespearean style written by Scott Lynch-Giddings. Great review, Jessica. Welcome!

Still-fairly-new reviewer Wes Unruh garners his first Excellence in Writing Award this week. His review of The Ogre's Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups by Richard Parks is entertaining and gives just enough hints about the stories in the collection to whet our appetite without giving anything away. It's a tricky balance, but Wes is spot on. Bravo, Wes!

Grey Walker (that's me), who feels incredibly lucky to have gotten to review Diana Wynne Jones's forthcoming The Merlin Conspiracy (in Featured Reviews above), decided she'd also grab the opportunity to review a new collection of essays about Diana Wynne Jones's writing, Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. 'The essays range far and wide,' Grey says, 'exploring all sorts of facets of Jones's writing -- including some I never would have guessed were there.' (The other editors voted to award Grey an Excellence in Writing Award for her mix of 'enthusiasm and honesty' in this review.)

Gary Whitehouse's enthusiasm for William Gibson's latest novel, Pattern Recognition, won us over, even though -- like Foster's The Mocking Program above -- it's clearly science fiction. You'll have to check out Gary's review to see why Pattern Recognition, a book about how both subcultural 'folk' movements and marketing trends begin, swell, and clash in the fluid world of the internet, is relevant to GMR -- and why you'll want to read it, too.

Robert Wiersema reviews Jonathan Carroll's The Wooden Sea, which he says is 'a fine balance of accessible, mainstream fiction with elements of fantasy and science fiction and a subversive use of a style reminiscent of American fables, like those of Washington Irving. It's a heady mix, and it makes for compulsive reading.' He also reviews Moody Food by Ray Robertson, a novel whose main character is modeled on 'cult icon Gram Parsons, who almost single-handedly created country rock through his involvement with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and his solo work....' What makes this novel shine, Robert thinks, 'is Robertson's skill at writing about the music... no matter how much music theory you have, how gifted you are with descriptive language, it's virtually impossible to recreate the experience of music, the visceral and immediate response one has to a steel guitar or a ragged harmony... Robertson doesn't merely describe the music from outside. Instead, he enters fully into the flow of the songs, recreating them for the reader with an often heartbreaking clarity and a seeming effortlessness that belies his incredible skill.' As you can see from this quotation (and the whole review is like this -- you've got to read it!), Robert deserves an Excellence in Writing Award.

We finish out this week's reviews with a suitably respectful, thoughtful review by Matthew Winslow of a classic in the 'anti-hero' tradition. Grendel by John Gardner was originally published in 1971, but it is still pungently fresh today. 'There is a trend in much fiction that tells a story from the villain's point of view to try to create sympathy for the villain. Gardner, however, does not do that with Grendel. The reader does come to understand Grendel a bit better; Grendel's evilness is explained, but never is it justified, and therein lies the power of the novel. Grendel is not a monster, he is all mankind....'

I think I hear a violin, playing 'Drive the Cold Winter Away' (John Playford's Dancing Master of 1651 for you traditionalists).... It must be Bela. Stop and listen a bit, before you leave. It'll put heart in you. And you must certainly come back next week, for more reviews of books, music, film, gigs, and good cheer.

Just leave your candlestick by the door on the way out.

12th of January, 2003

The lights turned on and the curtain fell down,
And when it was over it felt like a dream,
They stood at the stage door and begged for a scream,
The agents had paid for the black limousine
That waited outside in the rain.
Did you see them, did you see them?

Neil Young's 'Broken Arrow'

Cat here... You should have been here last week as the Brownies helped me pack up dozens of books and other goodies which recently went out to reviewers. (Don't ask what their Guild demands for overtime pay. It's horrid, simply horrid.) What did we send out, you ask? Too much to list here, but let's see what I remember... There was the 4-CD set of J.R.R. Tolkien and his son, Christopher, reading selections from the writings of the father... there's the tapes of Derek Jacobi reading Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letters... Various readings of Ray Bradbury books... Diana Wynne Jones -- An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom, a neat look at that author... the 8-CD set of audioplays based on Serling's Twilight Zone scripts... a Lemony Snickety audiobook... two of Springer's Rowan Hood books... a neat look at Norse mythology... a look at Finnish mythology... McKillip's Riddle Master trilogy ... Parks' The Ogre's Wife... bunches of contradance tune books which must mean more contradance CDs... Oh, and another neat Tolkien audiobook: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight... Not to mention a book sure to interest you, our dear readers: Ale, Beer and Brewsters in England! And what was the name of that massive childrens art book that's going to Our Greyness? My, I'm getting forgetful...

Speaking of books, I was fully intending to read Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series from beginning to end this winter, but so far I've only managed two of the books, excellent though they be. What happened was that several other books called out to me for re-reading, i.e Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and Simon Green's Drinking Midnight Wine -- I've gotten into an ongoing jag of reading 'urban fantasies' by British writers. Oh, I'll return to the The Dark is Rising series eventually... but not for a while, as other books are calling out to me, including Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letters and Maria Tatar's The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. And then there's the small matter of having finally purchased a DVD/VCR combo machine. Which means we're watching Harry Potter,The Lord of The Rings, and other cool films!

Excuse me a moment; it's time to see what came in the post today...

Now that was an interesting bag of mail! I'm sure that our staffers will be particularly pleased with what came in. I wonder who the lucky reviewer will be that gets all the Kitchen Musician tune books? And I must say that all of these Celtic CDs look really impressive! Jack's already snatched the CD called Next Stop, Seelie Court...

Usually we feature reviews of books and music that are especially noteworthy. This week, however, we chose to feature David Kidney's review of Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories because the review itself is (to put it in erudite terms) really, really cool! It's.... but I won't give away the surprise. Go read it! You'll laugh heartily, and you'll agree that David deserves an Excellence in Writing Award for his audacity.

Donna Bird is back this week, with a review of a book that's as good for winter as a heavy blanket. The Dukays, by Lajos Zilahy, is an eight hundred page novel, translated from Hungarian. 'The Dukays decries the end of an era in Europe -- but it does so with a remarkable lightness and charm,' says Donna. She wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her thorough review.

Rachel Manija Brown has mixed reactions to The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, which contains selections of Tolkien's work read by the author and his son, Christopher Tolkien. When it's J.R.R. reading, Rachel is all ears. 'His lively and very funny rendition of The Hobbit's 'Riddles in the Dark' is an enormous treat, from his hissing, spluttering Gollum to his deadpan professorial asides concerning the difficulty of thinking of riddles when you're sitting next to a slimy creature who wants to eat you.' However, Christopher 'has only two inflections: Sonorously Dramatic and Sonorously Really Dramatic.' In fact, Rachel says, 'The only reason C. Tolkien did these readings is his distinguished parentage; and unlike the blood of Numenor, that doesn't count for much.' Rachel earns an Excellence in Writing Award for her delicious review.

Craig Clarke, our resident horror aficionado, has had the treat of reviewing two horror novels, re-released by Orb, that GMR's beloved Charles de Lint wrote under the pseudonym Samuel M. Key. From a Whisper to a Scream is due out later this year, and according to Craig's review, Newford fans will definitely be interested, since it's de Lint's first full-length novel set in that city. However, he warns that we should expect it to be a long, dark walk through the Tombs, certainly not a venture for the faint of heart...

Craig also brings us a review this week of a book that we ought to have reviewed long ago. Robert Cormier, acclaimed writer of 'young adult' fiction, wrote Fade in 1988. It has been described by Stephen King as 'what might happen if Holden Caulfield stepped into H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man.' Craig says, 'Taking a familiar story and crafting it for younger readers, Cormier has made it his own. It is surprising, compelling, original, and doesn't fall into the traps of most fiction.' Thank you for reminding us of this splendid book, Craig! And here's an Excellence in Writing Award for your office wall.

Rebecca Clayburn's concise review of mystery writer Anne Perry's foray into fantasy, Tathea, tells us everything we need to know about the book. Written in the tradition of Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Tathea is an extended moral allegory with Perry's characteristic 'rich detail and intricate plot lines.'

Our Editor in Chief, Cat Eldridge, also heard a reading of J.R.R. Tolkien's work recently, but unlike Rachel Brown above, his praise is unstinting. The Usual Suspects are a group of actors in Cat's hometown who do dramatic readings at the local book store. This time they were reading selections from Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas. 'In my opinion,' Cat claims, 'the Letters truly don't come to life for modern-day readers unless they are treated to a oral performance of them by accomplished actors!' Cat goes on in his review to talk about the Letters themselves in their published form, giving us a glowing description of the script in which they are written and the charming pictures which illustrate them. How fortunate we are, dear readers, to be able to share the Tolkien children's delight in this unique gift from their father.

Steve Power was not happy with Evening's Empire, a novel by David Herter. Steve had great hopes for the book when he began it, but Herter quashed them. 'I feel that David Herter lost an opportunity to write a very 'novel' novel. He had the plots, the characters, the scene and the quirky little nuances that other writers would not have conceived. And he wasted them.' Read the rest of Steve's review to see why he condemns Evening's Empire so thoroughly.

Grey Walker is hard at work in her office, writing two reviews for next week's issue. But she took a break to surf the 'net, and found a gem of a Web site for modern folklore enthusiasts -- or for the child in all of us. Gopher Guts is in the process of collecting the lyrics (including any and all variations) of the subversive songs that are such a large part of children's culture. 'On Top of Spaghetti' is here, as well as the revised 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.' Some of these songs have been sung for more than a century. 'Visit this site for scholarly interest, or visit it to prepare for your nephew's next visit,' says Grey. 'Either way, just visit it!' And you'll also want to take a look at our review of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts by Josepha Sherman and T.K.F. Weiskopf.

Isabel Allende is reknowned for her dense, beautiful stories combining historical fiction with magical realism. Recently, she wrote her first magical realism novel for 'young adults,' City of the Beasts. Tabatha Yeatts thinks that, while readers may bog down a little in the second half of the book, 'Allende makes learning about another culture interesting... By setting up this cross-cultural circumstance, Allende also makes it possible for readers to look at their own culture from another culture‚s perspective.'

Craig Clarke is back this week with another issue of his column The Book of Tales, which covers short fiction in magazines and such. This time he looks at The Spook and Mytholog (a new fiction zine edited by Managing Editor Asher Black), among other things.

We also have for you this week a poignant tribute to a great seanachi, Eamon Kelly, written by reviewer Mattie Lennon. Entitled In My Father's Time, this article lovingly chronicles Kelly's life and gives Mattie's impressions of his storytelling and acting. Mattie garners an Excellence in Writing Award for his eloquent portrayal of 'a man of many parts: actor, storyteller and writer, loving husband, devoted father and great Kerryman.'

Craig Clarke has outdone himself this week, with an Excellence in Writing Award winner, in the form of an essay entitled A Hawk from a Handsaw: Hamlet in Film. Spend some time with Craig as he explores 5 different film portrayals of the melancholy Dane, as well as a play in which Hamlet is only a peripheral character, the great Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Craig has some very definite opinions about which actors have done well with Hamlet, and which actors have overdone the Prince of Denmark, in his essay about a play which he says is 'so ingrained in global consciousness that people introduced to the play for the first time have seen it as "nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together." '

And Michelle Erica Green picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for herself, too, as she explores a film based on a Bruce Springsteen song; a film which, like the Springsteen album Nebraska, 'bleak look at the despair under the surface of the American dream and the convictions that allow people to survive it'. Written and directed by Sean Penn and starring a pre-Lord of the Rings Viggo Mortenson, this film combines elements of Native American folklore with the folklore of the Vietnam vet and the American heartland. If you haven't seen it, you'll want to after you read Michelle's marvelous review of The Indian Runner.

'Imagine anywhere from 21 to 28 fiddler/violin players on one stage with a rhythm section, throw in a random banjo or wooden flute ... sound like a party?' Barb Truex assures us that it was! 'It' was the Childsplay performance on December 5 of this past year, in Portland, Maine (USA). Not only were there all those fiddlers and such, says Barb, but along with 'a dazzling array of playing styles' there were also dancers. Barb's review makes it sound wonderful.

Stephen Hunt and Jack Merry wrote the commentary for the music reviews this outing! Both of them are now down in the Green Man Pub putting together the next edition of The Hedgehog, the inhouse newsletter for the staff. Or at least that's what they said they were going to do, but it looks like they're doing more drinking than work...

Kim Bates found time do a review despite a very busy week editing reviews! Indeed it seems that Red Dog Green Dog's Good Afternoon, This is Roughly Speaking rendered her damn near incoherent: 'Wow. Get this disc now! You'll be dancing to a twisted, psychedelic mixture of bagpipes, accordion and hurdy gurdy that's written after the French folk dancing music tradition. It's great, man. You won't be disappointed! Oh, OK, that's right, here at GMR we try to give you more in our reviews than what you will find in chat rooms. Sigh. All right. I'll stop listening long enough to write this review. But only because the editor in me insists!'

Stephen Hunt says that 'Annbjørg Lien is a Norwegian musician who I greatly admire for her talent and originality. Asher Black is an American writer who I greatly admire for exactly the same qualities! Asher's review of Aliens Alive, 'a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien's 2001 Norwegian tour,' is, therefore, an essential read. I (Jack) add that she's like Norwegian vodka -- a taste very much worth acquiring! Now pass me that bottle of chilled Lysholms Linie Aquavit as I want to toast both Asher and Annbjørg!

J.L. Emory joins us this week as a new reviewer, but not one that's happy with the CD he's looking at: ' As I sit listening to the Pistol Arrows' new album, Look!, I can't help but wonder why much of this music leaves me so cold. Oh yeah, it's the songwriting. Eric Sarmiento writes and sings the Pistol Arrows' songs, but he is far from possessing the coherent musical vision you'd expect from a front man.' Read the rest of his review for all the less than happy details!

Judith Gennett looks two CDs, With Teeth and Live: Do Not Immerse, from Broadside Electric,an American Celtic band that our Editor says he once booked in Portland, Maine. He says they are great live! Judith agrees: ''File Under Electric Folk,' says the back cover of Live: Do Not Immerse. This suggestion provides a good description of the music that Broadside Electric plays, as does the name of the band itself . Originally formed at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, these Pennsylvanians favor a mix of traditional British Isles songs (ie 'broadside') and electric arrangements. Unlike most American 'folk rock' bands, they also incorporate obvious influences from Early and Eastern European musics. Their songs are deceptively smooth and almost highbrow -- until you step back and realize that half of the band (Joe D'Andrea on drums, Jim Speer on bass, and less often Tom Rhoads on guitar) is really rocking out!'

Judith also took a listen to 'three old-time/traditional American releases that skin fiddles pretty well, while keeping that rough, front-porch flavor' The CD's in question are: Beverly Smith and Carl Jones, Moving Lightly Through This World, Tom, Betty, and Nathan Druckenmiller, Morning Star and Ken Waldman, Music Party. Our senior reviewer notes that: 'they take different forks in the road, and each has a few glitches, but all succeed at being real. Finally, she reviews a new release from Roam, an acoustic folk band from Yorkshire, who feature 'Celtic harp, uilleann pipes, and fragile vocals'. Ragged In the Rain is, according to Ms Gennett: 'a lovely album with few ties to English traditional song, the roots coming from magic, beauty...and trans-Atlantic folk and progressive folk'

Peter Hund was the lucky reviewer who got the first album in thirteen years (!) from country-rock pioneers, Poco. The CD is called Running Horse, and Peter's verdict is that ' Once again, Poco delivers'. So there!

Stephen Hunt continues his ongoing fascination with the works of Robin Williamson in his review of Skirting The River Road. The album is subtitled 'Songs and Settings of Whitman, Blake and Vaughan,'and finds Williamson collaborating with highly regarded jazz musicians. Stephen calls the CD: 'a staggeringly ambitious piece of work which seemingly strives to reach for and grasp the very 'essences' of these poetic writings, and express them musically'.

Michael Hunter has been waxing philosophical over a double live CD from Fairport Convention, entitled Cropredy 2002. Listening to these highlights of the band's 35th anniversary festival, Michael suggests that: 'perhaps one of the most important aspects of the whole event and the recording of it, is just how good it is to have something that provides this sense of continuity in our lives. Or maybe it's just that it's great music'.

David Kidney reviews two CD's from Kate Campbell and says: 'if you haven't discovered this gifted singer-songwriter, Monuments is a great starting point' and ' Twang On A Wire is Campbell's tribute to the Nashville women (Lynn Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Dolly Parton, Donna Fargo, Tammy Wynette , etc), and the songs that initially inspired her.'

Run! Hide the children! Put the dog in the kennel! Ukuleles en mass are coming! (Just kidding...) David looks at five CDs -- I kid you not -- that feature this instrument: Langley Ukulele Ensemble's Our Hawaiian Heart, The Enchanted Ukulele, Ukulele Family Album: 20th Anniversary Edition and Ukulele: the legend continues, and James Hill's playing it like it isn't. David sagely tells us: 'Arthur Godfrey and George Formby are not names that come up as major inspirations to musicians anymore. People hardly remember them at all. But George Harrison was a big fan. It is said that George Harrison had a ukulele in virtually every room of his home so when he moved from room to room he could simply pick up a uke and start playing. He'd play old favorites, standards with that plink-a-plunk sound that is the signature of the ukulele. He gave ukuleles to his friends as gifts, and even inspired old band-mate Paul McCartney to include a uke portion in his world tour last year. George's last album, the brilliant Brainwashed features ukulele backing on almost every track. Yep, the 'little flea' is making a comeback and it is turning into one of the most sought after instruments in the world. Wherever you go, though, you will not hear anything like the ukulele sounds which appear on any of these CDs up for consideration today!'

David has very nice things to say about Mose Scarlett's Precious Seconds CD: 'There's a fascinating story told on the liner notes of Mose Scarlett's new CD. Mose tells of his first guitar, a $17 model complete with strap and 45rpm instruction record. He describes how he worked in his room, learning four chords so he could play along with the record. And he tells how the movements between chords, the feel of the neck, and the touch on the strings became more fluid and natural every day. It's a beautiful story. This CD is proof of the hours he spent working. Precious Seconds is filled with his ragtime, jazzy guitar work, his deep baritone vocals, and some extraordinary accompaniment provided by a company of talented friends on second guitar.'

Leadbelly gets the treatment he deserves as one of The Tradition Masters CDs from Ryko. David exclaims: 'This historic music deserves to be heard. Everyone with an interest in roots music, or Americana, or folk song, or blues, should have at least one Leadbelly album in their collection. This is a fine place to start.'

David finishes out his reviewing with a bit concerning Cris Cuddy and his CD, come along carmelita. 'I'm a sucker for a happy ending,' he says, 'and many of Cuddy's songs do work out alright in the end'. Now go read it!

Paul Kamm & Eleanore MacDonald's Calling on Love and Live took Peter Massey way, way back: 'So what is neo-impressionist folk? Lets say you have been on all the 'ban-the-bomb' and 'anti-Vietnam war' rallies back in the 70's and you are a big fan of the 'beautiful-peoples-West-coast-America' folk music. Or you had been left in suspended animation for about 35 years and just come out. Well you will just love these albums, they are what I call a throw back in time to the late 70/80's when the world was a much nicer, simpler, gentler place to live in, and folk music reflected this era. You might say this is folk music to relax with, kind of like aromatherapy. Very similar to the singing of Simon and Garfunkel, it is a gentle style and very profound.' Peter continued time tripping in a look at CDs from two veteran, and I mean veteran, folkies, Holly Near's And still we sing and Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert's Lifeline Extended. Peter approvingly notes: 'I have to say I found some of the subject matter very moving, and thought provoking. It is good to see other people think this way, and if more took notice, the world might be a better place to live in. Both albums come with an extensive booklet containing lyrics and brief explanations about the songs. Both are very nicely sung and presented. With 23 tracks on Lifeline Extended and a whopping 37 tracks on And Still We Sing, there has to be something here to please everyone. Both the albums could be also filed under essential folk history.'

Peter runs out his reviewing with a look at one of the present-day angst activist folk rockers, Ani Di Franco and her live double album, So Much Shouting So Much Laughter. Peter notes: 'purely for anyone on my side of the wishing well, who has not heard Ani Di Franco, let me make the introduction. It is hard to put Ani Di Franco and her 6 piece band in any one genre of music. She is not what I would call folk music, nor is she Country, Roots, progressive folk, or Blues -- at least not that I have heard before! She is just different and very much so! She has a very innovative modern style that some people call fusion/hip hop, but in reality nobody's gt the right name for it yet, mainly because of the rhythms Ani uses. If I was forced to give a name for her music, my vote goes for Eclectic!'

Everyone who's interested in live music no matter where they live should go read Peter's Proposed new U.K. tax on Entertainment: Is this the end of Folk Music? essay now. The proposed Act is vile enough to make a musician spit on New Labour!

Peter rounds out his reviewing with a look at Lara Herscovich's There, the second album from a performer who he says is 'a New Yorker now living in the New Haven area of Connecticut. She is a semi-profesional performer, and by day is a social worker who has worked in Latin America. This explains her song writing influences, and her ability to sing in both Spanish and English. Lara manages to mix folk song writing with Latin rhythms to good effect.'

No'am Newman was very lucky in that he got to review The Great Waltz by Childsplay, though he had some caveats about this CD: 'These opening four tracks indicate the width of this disc's range, bringing one to the conclusion that liking one track does not exclusively mean that one will like the next track. Due to the changing personnel and instrumental line-ups, the disc is more like a sampler of modern violin music, whose common denominators are the violin maker and time signature. I thoroughly enjoyed some tracks whereas others failed to gain my attention, or deliberately lost it. All of the above is not meant to denigrate from the standard of playing and production.'

Lars Nilsson had a grand time listening to Ffynnon's Celtic Music from Wales: 'I have always had a weak spot for Welsh music. It may not be as instantly catching as Irish or Scottish music, but once you start to dig into it, is equally rewarding. For those new to the music on this path, Ffynnon is as good a place as any to start.'

Steve Power notes that A Breath on the Cold Glass is the second solo album from Scots cellist, composer and vocalist Wendy Weatherby. He says of this recording that he 'first heard this CD in that limbo time of year between Christmas and New Year. Here, on the West of Ireland, it goes dark fairly early and the weather was cold and damp. I lit a coal fire and made some mulled wine, while watching the scarf and gloved-wrapped walkers on the river bank outside my window. I couldn't have chosen a better musical accompaniment for my musings. Get the picture?' I do.. And so should you! This reviewer also found Scottish guitarist Stevie Lawrence's Standing Alone to be to his liking as he notes in his Excellence in Writing Award review: 'This is by far the best solo instrumental album I have heard this year. Heck, it's the best album of any kind I have heard this year. Buy it now or be (very, very) sorry!'

In addition, this reviewer covered two contrasting singer songwriter CDs this week. Into The Red comes from Tim Readman, former leader of the Vancouver band Fear of Drinking, who originally emerged from the North-Eastern English folk scene. Steve declares this: 'a strong debut solo album and one of which Tim Readman should justifiably be proud'. Secondsight is both the name given to the musical partnership of Linda Dunn and Robert Horne, and the title of their CD. Steve wryly observes: 'we are told that the new album 'mixes elements of rock and pop with contemporary singer-songwriter sensibilities, weaving a musical spell that is as spontaneous as it is refined.' Well, that's their opinion; mine is a bit different..' Tim Readman's Into The Red found favour with Steve: ' Tim Readman, former leader of the Vancouver band Fear of Drinking, originally emerged from the North-Eastern English folk scene and returned to Canada, where he now lives, in 1987... the 11 tracks that comprise Into the Red are intended to showcase his ability to write and perform traditional-sounding songs as well as those with a more contemporary flavour. In that regard, at least, I think that they work extremely well. A nice touch on the sleeve notes are the occasional quotations from famous writers, like Oscar Wilde and Gill Scott-Heron, which set up the songs and help us to see just where Readman is coming from, lyrically.'

Howdy! Anything from Master Reviewer Big Earl Sellar is always going to be a joy to read, and that pleasure doubles for me when he turns his knowledgeable attentions on the big guns of American roots music. There's plenty of his wisdom and wit in this Excellence in Writing Award review of Lightnin' Hopkins, the latest release in Ryko's 'Traditional Masters'series. Here's an example to whet your appetites: 'unlike many other older blues artists on the 1960's folk circuit, Hopkins wasn't a museum piece, hauled out of the woodwork for the benefit of a (largely) white audience' 'I've never rated Hopkins as highly as Wolf or Tampa Red, but this set will blow the socks off the many Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabes out there!'

Chris White states in his review of the eponymous Pork Tornado album that: 'Jon Fishman, Pork Tornado's co-founder and drummer, is far better known for serving the same role with his other band, Phish. Without Phish's heavy touring and recording schedule keeping Fishman away, Pork Tornado was able to do some touring, writing and recording of their own. The results are, as we northern New Englanders might say, 'wicked fun.' Strange as it may seem, us OLD Englanders might say 'Phish?'as the band's profile in the UK is slightly lower than that of the game of cricket in the US. Full marks then, to Chris, for this compelling review, which earns him an Excellence in Writing Award!

Gary Whitehouse found plenty to enjoy in Storms of Life, by Bernard Allison. Gary notes: 'Bernard Allison covers all of the many facets of the blues, from the Delta to Jamaica, Chicago to England, country to city, juke joint to nightclub. This dude can do it all, and then some' Gary has also been listening to four releases of archive American popular music from the Archeophone label. The 1890s, Volume 1, Wipe Him Off the Land and The 1890s, Volume 2, Wear Yer Bran' New Gown, reveal the 1890's to have been a dismal decade for song. As Gary observes: 'most of this stuff stinks!'This review does anything but. He addresses these hideous 'ditties'of racism and ugly National stereotyping in a manner which completely justifies yet another Excellence in Writing Award for Gary! He looked at yet two more CDs from this label: 1912: Waitin' on the Levee and 1913: Come and See the Big Parade thankfully see America's song writing in a far healthier state, with our Master Reviewer remarking: 'the lyrical and musical themes set by the songs of 1912 and '13 set the stage for much of what was to come in jazz, pop and even hillbilly music in the 1920s and '30s.' Both of these reviews garner an Excellence in Writing Award review for Gary!

With the assistance of Liath, I've been wandering in the Green Man library looking to see what can found in the crannies of that space. Keep in mind that no one, with the exception of Liath (who says that she's the only one the Library fully trusts), has the slightest idea just what the Library truly is, as it appears to change as it sees fit. Some aspects of it are constant -- the fireplace and overstuffed chairs are always there -- but even the doors that lead to it change. Right now, they are covered with the runes that Tolkien invented. Liath says that this is honor of the eleventy-first (111th) anniversary of the birth of Professor Tolkien. Now let's see what the Library has of interest... Ahhh, there's the seelie impression of Tolkien reading his Letters from Father Christmas, and there's the British edition of his Tree and Leaf collection. And over there in the myth/folklore section is The Golden Cockerel Mabinogion: A New Translation from the White Book of Thydderch and the Red Book of Hergest, one of the rarest translations to be found. Liath says a trader from London Below showed up at the Library bearing it; all he wanted for it was access to our maps of London Below in the late Victorian period, a fair exchange she said! Speaking of London Below, a hardcover copy of the BBC edition of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere has been added to the Library -- the version not bastardized by the Language Police for its USA publication....

Now I'm off to the Great Hall -- there's going to be a spectacular concert and dance of Balkan music there. The Huddled Masses Dance Band has hired Bela to be lead violinist. It's his first paying gig as a musician since he got here a month ago, and he's so excited that he's been speaking only French for a week!

Twelfth Night, 5th of January, 2003

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

'The Holly and the Ivy' is the most popular and enduring example of a genuine 'folk carol.' Its strange mix of lyrical imagery combines indigenous (British) Solstice celebrations, the (Roman) 'Saturnalia' and Christianity. The custom of bringing boughs of evergreens (holly, ivy) into homes has continued to this day, and these boughs are traditionally removed on 'Twelfth Night' (to prevent any attendant fey from taking up permanent residence!). This issue is being published on that day. As the twelve days (and nights) of this cycle traditionally started in England and the Celtic countries on Christmas Eve, this is the last night of celebration. And thus this is a night to gather friends and family so that all can play music, eat some hearty fare, drink libations, play games and tell each other tales. And that is precisely what we will be emphasizing in this issue!

Each of our editors has picked one or two reviews they want to show off this issue -- all of which you'll find in the Featured Reviews section. (Don't worry -- we're back with a fat issue next week!) In addition, they've choosen past reviews they think are worth your time to look at once again. Take a look over their choices -- they represent but a few of the nearly 10,000 books, films, CDs, live performances, and so forth that we've looked at thus far in Green Man.

Those of us who have gone to poetry readings and such know that some authors should never be allowed to read their own work aloud. Not so Dylan Thomas, says Maria Nutick. Over the holidays, she listened to the CD of Thomas reading A Child's Christmas in Wales, along with five of his poems, in 1952. She says 'Thomas had a booming, rich, dramatic voice and used it to enormous advantage... as he speaks from the past I can feel myself in the deep snow....'

Tim Hoke brings us a film that in only twenty short years has become a true classic. In a film 'filled with icons of Americana', Jean Shepherd takes us back to those childhood Christmases filled with snowy wonder, when we all longed for that one perfect present, that 'Grail and Excalibur rolled into one'. Tim reminds you not to shoot your eye out in this excellent review of A Christmas Story.

The Christmas Revels have been taking place in various cities across the U.S. (12 at last count) for some years now, and for quite a few people, they seem to be as much a part of the holiday season as any other holiday tradition (like the Nutcracker ballet, for example).

Vonnie Carts-Powell and her 7-year-old son attended the 32nd annual Christmas Revels in Cambridge Massachusetts recently, and Vonnie earns an Excellence in Writing Award for her review. ''The best part,' my 7-year-old companion declared at the end of the Revels, 'were the plays. And the crow dance. And the kids' songs. And the shadow puppets.' He nodded, decisively. 'Oh, and the guy on the rope. That was the best, too!'' Although Vonnie found that 'the combination of Revels traditions and Armenian traditions did get a bit odd at times,' she still thoroughly enjoyed herself, and said that 'the Revels entertains while respecting (rather than co-opting) the traditions on which it builds. It is a spectacle, and like all theater, the idea is to spell us, to create a brief magic of belief and ritual.' Take a seat next to Vonnie and her youthful companion and enjoy!

Bah humbug! Most Christmas music leaves some of us very, very cold. But there's hope for we curmudgeons! Here are two CDs that Kim Bates selected for us as our Featured Reviews.

The first is from our Scottish friends at Greentrax: Bah Humbug: The Alternative Christmas Album. Reviewer Steve Power says this CD is 'This is the compilation album for all of us seeking reassurance that we are not alone in our jaundiced and cynical view of the Christmas season. After all, hasn't the world lost sight of the 'true' meaning of Christmas? Is it not, now, simply all about commercialism, overindulgence, ignorance of the world's problems and any excuse to hang a bit of greenery from our hat and kiss everything in sight? No? Well…maybe we might not all feel that strongly about what Christmas has become. However, anyone harbouring even just a modicum of cynicism about this 'special' time will certainly find some solace in the thirteen 'alternative' Christmas songs featured here.' I will warn you that this CD has strong language on it, and I don't mean references to good whisky!

The other's an alternative take on Christmas music too. Of Los Straitjackets' 'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets! reviewer Craig Clarke says in his suitably pithy Excellence in Writing Award winning review, '[y]ou've been looking all over for it. You may not have known it, but it you were. What is it, you ask? You know, but I'll put it into words for you: An instrumental Christmas album with a surf rock feel.' Surf rock?!? Read his review to see if he's truly serious.

I (Cat Eldridge) usually don't get involved in these listings, as I get overwhelmed by the number of superb reviews done by our reviewers, but I couldn't resist this time! I noted in continuity that we've reviewed to date nearly 10,000 books, CDs, films, and live performances -- an impressive feat!

Let's start with books... Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising is a series I'm struggling with reading right now, as I'm finding it uneven, but Grey Walker's review of it is nothing less than superb. The same can be said for Jane Yolen's The Wild Hunt, which former staffer Jo Morrison brings to life in her review. I do believe that my own look at Paul Brandon's splendid music-and myth-tinged novel, Swim the Moon, captures it nicely. Another novel of music and myth, Charles de Lint's The Little Country, found a skilled reviewer in Our Greyness, as did John Glatt's The Chieftains: The Authorized biography (print and read versions) in our Music Editor, Kim Bates. The review by Michelle Erica Green of Mick Moloney's Far from the Shamrock Shore: The Story of Irish-American Immigration through Song is worth reading, as her grasp of Irish music and culture is quite excellent! Not all reviews that are good are positive -- Jack Merry has a review of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf (Beowulf: A New Verse Translation) insisting that not even that great writer can make this text work as a reading experience for him. My wife, Donna Bird, wrote a review of Wendy Kaplan's 'The Art that is Life': The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, which is a well-crafted (pun intended) examination of a 'must see' book on a truly amazing arts and architecture movement. I end my look at books of note on Green Man by commending Maria Nutick for her angry review of a series that has generally been treated with nothing but fulsome approval: Phillip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials. I may not agree with her, but she raises some valid questions as to what Phillip was up to!

With the help of GMR's archivist Liath o' Laighin, Book Review Editor Grey Walker has combed through the archives and found some holiday related book reviews. For starters, we have several omnibus reviews of assorted Christmas lore and tales. Take, for example, Jack Merry's omnibus review of a passle of books about Christmas. Included in this review are A Righte Merrie Chriftmaffe by John Ashston; A Country House Christmas, compiled by John Chandler; All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming by Henry Glassie; Dickens' Christmas, compiled by John Hudson; Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance by Clement Miles; When Santa Was a Shaman by Tony von Renterghem; and Christmas in Scandinavia by Sven Rossel and Bo Elbrond-Bek. In his customary style, Jack rambles through the lot, picking some, panning others. Take a taste for yourself! Maria Nutick also waxes enthusiastic in her omnibus review, which contains such dainties as a version of the Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by famed artist Jan Brett.

We (Grey and Liath, that is) also found several individual reviews of Christmassy books. Dickens is inextricably entwined with Christmas in the English and American cultures. Jack Merry was delighted out of all bounds to land a copy of The Annotated Christmas Carol, with annotations by Michael Patrick Hearn and illustrations by John Leech. And once you've soaked up the ultimate Christmas Carol experience, try it with a twist: Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol by Tom Mula. It's told from the point of view of -- you guessed it -- Marley. Former reviewer (and book review editor) Rebecca Swain says that Mula gives Marley his own chance to shine. Terri Windling and Wendy Froud teamed up to create The Winter Child, a tale set in Faerie during the Midwinter feastdays. Fiddlin' Jack says of this book, 'What we have here, me dear readers, is what the English call a trifle, a sweet dessert such as the Tart English Orange Trifle that me dear wife Brigid makes occasionally. Think of this as a Christmas sweet -- fare that one has as a treat.' Another treat would be Christmas Forever, an anthology of short stories edited by David Hartwell, which 'includes stories from some of the best science fiction and fantasy writers in the business.' While Rebecca Swain warns, 'The Christmas cheer is spread a little thin here,' she still recommends these stories for those who 'don't buy into the traditional warm, fuzzy Christmas, but still like to acknowledge the season.' Are you one of those? Then you might also try The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews. Former reviewer Jo Morrison intones, 'Ye of weak or uncertain faith, enter not herein. For herein lies the dispelling of many myths and legends, or at least the ancient origins of the traditions we now associate with the winter holiday season.'

Stephen Hunt said these reviews are good enough for the Holly & Ivy issue... Jack Merry's look at The Annotated Christmas Carol demonstrates how much more there is to this holiday classic than is apparent when reading or seeing it. Likewise Rebecca Swain's commentary upon Tom Mula's superb reading of Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol shows that she 'love[s] being read to. I love sprawling in a chair or on my bed, closing my eyes, and letting someone else create a world for me without any effort on my part. This audio recording did not disappoint me. I enjoyed it immensely.' A more interesting take on Christmas is, according to Master Hunt, to be found in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather novel which is reviewed by Rowan Inish: 'The premise of the book is simple. Certain entities, best described as auditors of reality, get loose through some wizardly bungling and decide that the Disc's equivalent of Santa Claus, the Hogfather (and yes, his sleigh really is pulled by pigs) needs to Never Have Been. To accomplish their goal, they hire the best the Assassins' Guild has to offer, a charming little psychopath named Teatime (pronounced tee-AH-tim-AH, or some such) who manages to infiltrate the Tooth Fairy's operation and pull it off. All sorts of chaos ensues, with Death filling in for the missing Hogfather in his own inimitable way, various other mythical entities inventing themselves to fill the void the Hogfather left, and ultimately, Death's adoptive granddaughter charging off with some unlikely companions to effect a rescue of the Disc as they know it.'

An omnibus that Jack Merry did that he called Midwinter Tale(s) is one Stephen recommends. It is an omnibus review of six books on Christmas traditions including A Country House Christmas. As Jack notes, 'The midwinter celebration, known variously as Christmas, Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, and so forth, has a very, very long history. No one's really sure how long ago humans first recognized the winter solstice and began heralding it as a turning point -- the day that marks the return of the sun. The coming of the Dark has long been portrayed in myth, story, and festival -- just take a look at Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series in which the battle between Light and Dark starts on an otherwise uneventful Midwinter's Eve. Susan Cooper notes she was 'trying to deal with the basic substance of myth: the complicated, ageless conflict between good and evil, the Light and the Dark.' Midwinter's Eve is a date filled with both myth and tradition.'

Cat here again. Film reviews are the most difficult for me to evaluate as film as an experience is even more personal than literature in the way I experience it. I hate reviews of films that disagree with my own perceptions of them. Really. Truly. (I've been growling all week at the negative reviews of the new Star Trek film.) But a review that affirms my view is truly a joy. Richard E. Dansky's review of The Lion in Winter expresses precisely why I liked that fictitous take on King Henry and his troubled family; Our Greyness likewise caught the essense of the theatrical version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (I reviewed the extended DVD version). L.G. Burnett's examination of The Princess Bride shows that a good book can make an even greater film! Michelle Erica Green's review of the first Potter film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, made me want to see the film. That's a neat trick, given that I can't stand the books. The film was a wonderful experience, but I still find Rowling to be a truly boring writer.

Maria Nutick here, recovering from the holidays with my feet up, a cup of hot tea, and a heavy head on my lap (no, it's not Ryan, it's our huge black Lab/Weimaraner mix, Karma). I've been perusing the archives, and we have some great film reviews hiding in there for this Holly and Ivy themed issue.

David Kidney has a superb review up of Christmas in New England. David says 'Christmas is over. And the only time we want to hear Christmas carols (if indeed, it could ever be said that we WANT to hear them) is in that couple of weeks just prior to and including the 25th of December.' But his review of this DVD containing 42 traditional carols presented by the New England Christmastide Players presents us with an excellent idea of something fun to pick up in preparation for next Christmas.

Holly and Ivy put me in mind of our own emblem, the Green Man, and his possibly best known incarnation, Robin Hood. And do we have Robin Hood -- from Jack Merry's thoroughly knowledgable look at Robin Hood and Robin of Sherwood to Tim Hoke's excellent review of the great Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood ('there's only one Robin Hood', claims Tim). Or try alumnus Kate Brown's look at the wonderful Sean Connery/Audrey Hepburn classic Robin and Marian -- or even her quite charitable (at least in comparison to some reviews I've seen) review of the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

These are just a few of the great films we have in our archives, but rest assured that by next Twelfth Night, we'll have given you dozens of new ideas for your midwinter viewing. Happy New Year!

I (Cat) couldn't resist picking some live performances... The Last Oysterband Gig of the Millennium as reported by Chris Woods -- complete with photos! -- makes me wish I had heard this band live. I have seen Steeleye Span live (the classic lineup with Maddy Prior) and Chris works a bit of writing magic in his review of their Daneside Theatre concert in Congleton UK. A Nordic concert that we and reviewer Barb Truex saw is caught perfectly in her review. Go read her look at Vasen at Kresge Auditorium, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine for a truly great review of a fantastic concert! I love live performances of all kinds. I, along with my wife, recently saw a theatrical production of Dicken's A Christmas Carol and a reading of Tolkien's Letters To Father Christmas. (I will be reviewing both shortly.) Concerts are a favorite too -- next March, we will be seeing Alisdair Fraser, Lunasa, and The Old Blind Dogs! Green Man has lots of live performance reviews, so how to pick those I found the best? Hmmm... With great difficulty... And recently, Maria Nutick's look at Heather Alexander/Uffington Horse and Gaia Consort, made me want to listen to Heather. Likewise for Meredith Tarr's indepth review of Susan McKeown and the Chanting House and Kíla.

Debbie Skolnik, Live Performances Editor, has these picks: 'Although it didn't take place this year, Cat Eldridge attended another Christmas traditional performance that's worth revisiting. Charles Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol' was staged in Portland, Maine in 2001, and Cat thought it worthy of superlatives. And alumna staffer Naomi de Bruyn saw a show with significant Christmas content in Victoria, British Columbia a few years ago, Rita MacNeil and the Men of the Deeps' 'Mining The Soul' tour. Although not all of the music was Christmas-oriented, enough of it was to allow us to include a mention of the show.'

Kim Bates checking in here encouraging you to take one last look at the holiday CDs we reviewed for this season -- it may be the Last Night of Christmas, but why not look back to the days before all the treats and parties, when playing Christmas music still had some appeal, and clothes still fit around the middle?

I reviewed four holiday albums, each with a different appeal. Ensemble Galilei, A Winter's Night Christmas in the Great Hall, gave us a Celtic and medieval look at the season, while St Agnes Fountain, an Anglo Trad supergroup, contributed some great new material and folk interpretations of some classics on St. Agnes Fountain and Comfort and Joy. Finally, Rounder's collection of bluegrass holiday songs had a surprising down home appeal on Oh Christmas Tree.

Peter Massey also liked Broceliande's Sir Christmas,, telling us that 'Broceliande are a 4 people coming from California, (where Christmas can be a little bit warmer) but they have chosen songs, carols and tunes from England, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and America.'

That's it for this year's crop of holiday discs -- if you're still wanting more from Green Man Review, you'll just have to wait until next year's helping of seasonal CDs begin arriving here in the Great Hall -- by owl post of course.

Cat again... Some say that the Neverending Session in the Green Man pub dates back centuries to when this building was first built. Others say that a street fiddler was hung on the spot where the Green Man building now stands and that his ghost drew the first musicians here so many, many years ago. Both of these tales may be nothing but a fanciful lie told by the musicians who keep the session going so that we keep them in pub grub and drink, but it is not in dispute by anyone that Green Man has covered more Celtic music than any other review magazine online. (The same applies for English traditional music.) Oddly enough, my wife's and my personal collection of CDs hasn't much Celtic music in it, as most of it is not to our liking -- we have far more English traditional and not-so-traditional dance music. Fortunately, our reviewers have wider tastes in this genre than I do!

Jo Morrison, whom I've mentioned above, was one of our better Celtic music reviewers, and her review of the Baltimore Consort's The Mad Buckgoat: Ancient Music of Ireland demonstrates that very nicely. A present well-liked staff member, Patrick O'Donnell, did a 'bang on the ear' job of commenting on the Chieftains Collection: The Very Best of the Claddagh Years, and Chuck Lipsig's review of everything the House Band released on Green Linnet will make you want to get all of their CDs now. Sometimes I find myself nodding in agreement with what a reviewer says about a CD: Tim Hoke's opinion of Llangres's Maqueta CD was exactly the same as mine (we more often than not get two or more copies of a CD for review. Hee, hee -- guess who often gets one of the extra copies? Me!). Jack Merry's look at MacKeel's Plaid is tinged with the sad reality that MacKeel broke up just after releasing this CD (a musician in the group says they have now reformed. Look for our review of that CD in the near future!). Debbie Skolnik loves Celtic music -- just read her review of Brian McNeill's The Back o' the North Wind to see how brilliant a writer she is! I did a review of what I think is the finest CD that Tempest, an American Celtic Rock group, did (Tenth Anniversary Compilation), which shows that it is possible to do Faster Louder Harder and do it with style and even grace. Speaking of 'FHL,' Michael M. Jones coined that phrase for his review of an EP by a group, Rook, that never existed. Confused? Read his review to find clarity. I'm finishing out my choices in the Celtic genre with a second review by Jack: The Kilmartin Sessions: The Sounds of Ancient Scotland which features the carnyx, possibly the loudest acoustic instrument in the world. If it isn't the loudest, it's certainly the scariest!

I just want to note a few of our stellar English traditional music reviews. First up's David Kidney's commentary on The Carthy Chronicles, which should be read along with his look at Fairport unConventional, a stunning 4-CD set of Fairport material that gets heavy play in this household (remember what I said about extra copies...). And anyone can review the famous groups, but we also review the less famous but just as talented groups that you may never otherwise hear about. Case in point is Chris Woods' look at two CDs from Marrowbones, a group which has Green Man staffer Peter Massey in it. Why is Marrowbones important for you to know about? Read Chris' indepth review to see! And than there's the matter of bands that want their early years to be, errr, forgotten. Take the Oysterband, which was once known as the Whitstable Oyster Ceilidh Band. Ed Dale has written the only review of their first four CDs anywhere online! And do check out the comprehensive look at Steeleye Span which the aforementioned Peter Massey did. Jack Merry gets the final nod from me, as I approve wholeheartedly of his commentary on that great English folk rock album, Jethro Tull's Songs From The Wood (this CD is due to remastered fairly soon). Go read it to see why Jethro Tull may well have created the quintessential not-so-traditional English folk album.

Stephen Hunt has two music reviews that he'd like to recommend to you...The first review is of the Washington Revels release called Behold That Star - An American Song Quilt. Naomi de Bruyn notes that 'This is a disc rich in the music following the end of the Civil War. A time when the newly freed African Americans were struggling to survive, and found themselves living alongside poor immigrants from other lands and parts of the United States. This was a period of severe hardship; in some cases all that these people had was their music to see them through. Their voices raised in song to the Heavens for a number of reasons, but mostly to show their faith in the hopes for something better.' The second review is of a recording of an Irish nature: A Real Irish Christmas collection. Brendan Foreman, our former Music Editor, says of this CD is '[w]hat makes this collection so extraordinary is the lack of bombasity and sentimentality which is so prevalent in the traditional holiday music genre. Instead, most of these tunes are simple, remarkably beautiful pieces played rather matter-of-factly by some real veterans of the field.'

David Kidney here. The Holly & Ivy issue? I wondered, 'Hmmm, what does that mean?' I thought about Buddy Holly, and sure enough when I searched for Holly on the Archives, I found references to him! I searched for 'pagan' and that didn't help, so I decided to interpret the Holly & Ivy issue myself. The reviews I am including are here because -- well -- because they deserve to be read again, and the music that they represent deserves to be heard.I read carefully through the 2002 archive from January to December, and I selected the following reviews. Kim Bates‚ reviewer of the music of Hildegard Van Bingen made me want to listen to this CD to find out just how it 'tap[s] the essence of these medieval 'chants' to extract the magic.'

From medieval music we move to the sixties folk sound of Eric Andersen. Andersen has a new CD which will be reviewed in an upcoming issue, but Irene Jackson Henry found much to recommend in the retrospective Violets of Dawn.

Big Earl Sellar reviewed a collection of bluegrass from Doc Watson and David Holt back in March and with the impact that O Brother Where Art Thou continued to have on music in the last year I thought it appropriate to include this marvelous review. Stephen Hunt's review of the free reed retrospective This Label is NOT Removable added a touch of English, Irish and Scottish folk music to the celebration, and it seemed to me that that was the essence of the Holly & Ivy Issue. It's another wonderful review of a rich collection of music. I couldn't help but choose one of my own reviews. I know, I know, but the set I reviewed is one of the most important box-sets released this year, and the fact of the matter is, it was soooo big it required two reviews which you can find here and here. One might argue it deserves a third review because we still haven't mentioned the mail-back live CD. Of course I'm referring to Fairport unConventional from free reed. This huge box should be in everyone's collection. It's remarkable.

There were many, many other worthwhile reviews, and tons of CDs worth listening to. I'm sorry I couldn't have chosen more, but Green Man is a growing dynamic resource, and sometimes pruning, while it looks reckless, can add to the richness and beauty of the plant. May the holly and the ivy thrive!


Yes, those gentlemen quaffing down ales in the corner are all members of Local 564 of the International Guild of St. Nicholas (representing Santas, Santa's helpers, department store elves, tree trimmers, candle lighters, gift wrappers for hire, chestnut vendors, sleigh drivers, carollers for hire, bell ringers, and related trades), as their Guild Hall is not far from the Green Man pub. And yes, their round bellies, wire-frame spectacles, and white beards are quite real -- The Guild hires only the most authentic of males, as their clients expect no less. Most of them have finished their work this holiday season, so they are all here to relax and trade tales of children pulling on their beards. But you wonder why they are in our pub and not somewhere else? 'Tis simple -- we allow no Christmas music, instrumental or vocal, to be played when any of them are here. All of them, down to the last grizzled veteran, have had their fill of Christmas music quite some time ago. Instead the players in the Neverending Session stick to their usual repertoire, which can cover anything from the strictest of Irish trad to a tasteful selection of material from the likes of Blowzabella, the Eel Grinders, and Citizen Camembert. So let's give this group of hard-working gentlemen a round of Corsendonk Christmas Ale on the house...


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Updated 20 Jan 03 01:20 GMT (RN)