'People like the world. Many people actually
prefer it to art and spend their days by choice in the thick of it.... When
the arts abandon the world as their subject matter, people abandon the arts.'
-- Annie Dillard
Greetings, fair readers. This is Liath ó Laighan, archivist for Green Man, welcoming you to this week's issue.
I have been standing at my window in the GMR archives tower often in the past few bonny weeks of May, watching spring unfold in the woods behind our building. When this world opens into green, scented life, bursting with juice, I find myself... homesick. An odd, human word for one of the fey to use, but I think it describes my longing for the fadeless beauty of the Other Realms. My heart is an arrow in my chest, straining to bury itself 'full fathom five' in the endless earth of Eld.
So why do I stay? Why do any of the fey (and there are a goodly few of us in these parts) stay in the human world? Curiosity. We're drawn like mayflies to the vigorous change mortals pour into their short lives. And as you remember from the old tales, a week in the Other Realms may see a decade, or a century, pass here. A century! A century of new stories, new music, new plays (films in these times, of course).... I couldn't bear to miss it all.
Just this past week, several staff were discussing the meaning of the colloquialism 'Hobson's Choice', and I found myself remembering Hobson himself (yes, I rode one of his horses, once). It made me smile to think of the passing years that have turned the hostler into a story, a story in two words. And all of those years have seen the making of many, many stories and songs. Some of which -- and some of the best of which -- we review for you here.
So join with me in sampling this week's fare of reviews!
Tim Hoke brings us our featured review with a look at last week's debut performance by Grey Larsen and Kevin Crehan. Larsen and Crehan are both experienced performers of Irish music, but this was their first live performance together and Tim found it 'mesmerizing'. Performing at an Early Music festival, their concert included a range of reels, airs, polkas, schottisches, and slip jigs, linking back to theme of the festival through some Baroque-inspired tunes. Tim also found a rare treat in their performance of traditional West Clare low-pitched playing. Read Tim's review to get a sense of how 'riveting' this style of playing can be.
Nathan Brazil starts our book reviews with a review of Marvin Gaye, My Brother, the new biography by Marvin's brother, Frankie Gaye. Nathan says, 'Frankie Gaye, who died unexpectedly before this book's publication, resists any temptation to paint a glowing picture, and bravely reveals a more complex story.'
Craig Clarke sweated over his review of Jack Dann's short story collection, Visitations. The review is thorough and thoughtful, pointing out the few stories Craig likes in the collection while detailing why, overall, as he says, 'I found myself not wanting to go back to Visitations after I'd put it down, which in itself makes for an unpleasant reading experience.'
Faith J. Cormier is much more positive about the new collection of short stories from Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Scarborough Fair and Other Stories. Faith says, 'I found myself reading Scarborough Fair and Other Stories instead of eating breakfast. The stories were just the right length take me past the last possible minute when I could get something to eat without making me late for work.'
Jessica Paige brings us an even more glowing report of Mojo: Conjure Tales, a short story anthology edited by talented writer Nalo Hopkinson. 'The best thing I can say about this book: whatever expectations you have going in, they値l be shattered coming out,' Jessica tells us. 'If you think that you値l like it, you値l love it. If you think that you値l love it, you値l really love it. And if, like me, you think that it will be interesting and not bad, you are in for a shock.' Read Jessica's review (which wins her an Excellence in Writing Award) for a taste of some of the stories here, as well as to discover her one negative criticism of the anthology.
Wes Unruh continues this week with his systematic reviewing of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. This time it's Book Two in the series, A Clash of Kings. In his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review, Wes says, 'George Martin's writing in this second book of A Song of Ice and Fire is so evocative that it is as if he has provided a looking-glass through which the world can be observed.'
Cat Eldridge probably has the best collection of books, music and films of anyone we know...this is due in equal measure to his fabulous taste in entertainment and his uncanny ability to search out the coolest of the cool in the most out of the way places. This week he brings us a review of a British mystery series originally broadcast in the early 70s and now available on DVD. Cat says 'I first encountered this series on American public television some twenty years ago when it was being rebroadcast. I hadn't at that time read the source material in the form of the Dorothy Sayers novels and short stories. She wrote of Lord Peter Death Breadon Wimsey, his eccentric family, Bunter who was his Gentleman's Gentleman, and other assorted characters who made up this world; I fell in love with this ever-so-slightly comical slice of an English society that is no more and might never really have been...' Read his review to find out more about the Lord Peter Wimsey DVDs: Clouds of Witness, Five Red Herrings, Murder Must Advertise, and The Nine Tailors.
'Tis the season of the sequel, and the most talked about sequel of the summer has opened; reactions are rolling in. Kevin Lau says of the original film 'Every once in a while, a movie comes along that manages to embed itself within the consciousness of the general public. Considering how many movies are released each year, and how many of them are, in short order, swept under the rug by our collective obsession with the Next New Thing (TM), this is no mean feat. In 1999, The Matrix did just that, emerging out of nowhere to challenge our perceptions on reality, fate, causality, and stylish black trenchcoats.' Of the next installment of the series, Kevin says...well, you can go read his discerning review of The Matrix Reloaded and find out for yourself!
Welcome back to the section of Green Man where the music never stops! This week you'll find Celtic artists ranging from established festival headliners to complete newcomers, avant garde European techno-folk, singer songwriters, musical humorists, Americana and Russian early classical music. Of course, not all of this music is consistently wonderful, but here at Green Man we expect, nay demand, that our staff produce informed, thorough reviews of all the CDs that we receive. While there are other 'zines that simply bundle a bunch of less high quality albums together, and dismiss them with one or two lines, we think that that you deserve to know not just that a particular CD 'sucks' but how and why. It's just one of the things that sets us apart, and hopefully one of the reasons that you stick with us.
Craig Clarke provides the proof of that introduction in his review of Waking Hour by singer/songwriter/pianist Vienna Teng, a collection that Craig found distractingly derivative. 'Her playing is remarkable and she has a wonderful voice' states Craig, (yet) 'the songs are simply far too reminiscent of other artists and led me, instead of listening to the songs, to play the 'guess the influence' game.'
Richard Condon reviewed Le B?Gher Des Silences and Valentin Clastrier's Hèrèsie which are two albums credited to different artists, but which feature essentially the same musicians. Confusing? That's not the half of it! Richard says: 'the musicians play both traditional and current instruments, mix sounds that would be more at home in or just after the Renaissance with folk, jazz and rock material, as well more exotic influences, and take advantage of contemporary electronic techniques.' He also asks the question 'who would buy this CD, apart from the friends and relations of the musicians?'
Stephen Hunt had to struggle with the dichotomy of liking everything about a group except their actual music! 'All four members of Emerald Rose come across as dedicated 'Celtophiles,' voracious readers, tireless champions of arts and culture, inclined towards paganism, and witty; in short, a really good bunch of lads. (But) 'even when judged purely in terms of 'a gig souvenir,' Celtic Crescent still fails to pass muster.' Stephen receives an Excellence in Writing Award for his angst ridden appraisal! Fortunately, the similarly titled Celtic Compass put an end to his uncomfortable squirming and swiftly had him purring contentedly. Many of Stephen's favourite artists appear on this sampler from Nashville's Compass Records; Lunasa, Sharon Shannon, Paul Brady, Paddy Keenan and Kate Rusby among them. Small wonder then that Stephen notes: 'I already own eight of the fourteen albums featured on Celtic Compass. That's six more to go on my shopping list, then...'
Peter Massey was thoroughly entertained by Lou and Peter Berryman's House Concert recorded live in Madison in March 2000. 'If you like your music with comical lyrics, and you like a good laugh, this is the album for you.'
Having enjoyed their previous CD, Lars Nilsson had high hopes for Eye of the Hurricane by Clan Terra. While Lars states that 'there are many pleasant things on this album, and throughout the playing is impeccable,' he also found that: 'Clan Terra seem to have problems with their direction. It sounds as though they want to be too much at one time.'
John O'Regan reviews a whole host of solo instrumental Celtic releases this week, starting with two accordion players. Swing by accordion player David Munnelly 'is good for the soul and the face guaranteed to uplift and elicit a beaming smile,' while Hugh Morrison's Feet to the Floor 'is good solid Scottish country dance music played with style and grace.' Moving on to the fiddlers, Hanneke Cassel's My Joy is rich, sonorous and possesses a wealth of ingenuity that screams out for wider exposure.' Carole & Teresa Lundgren's aptly titled Random Acts of Fiddling 'is an album that's literally all over the shop in sound, idiom, and execution, but to their credit this cheery-cheeked sense of adventure works. ' Sam Amidon's Solo Fiddle, meanwhile, is equally well named as 'the focus is on traditional Irish fiddle music played solo with no embellishments or accompaniment whatsoever.' He notes that Wendy Weatherby is a cellist and singer who has already established quite a reputation for herself on the Scottish scene. Two Loves demonstrates that 'Weatherby likes to play dance music as well as airs on the cello' resulting in 'a fresh vibrant contemporary Scottish sound sometimes bordering on the surreal.' And finally, John reviews The Seven Harps of Avalon by harper France Ellul, 'predominantly a Celtic/Ethnic fusion effort with the title idea taken from the seven harps of Avalon in the King Arthur legends.'
Music of Russian Princesses: From the Court of Catherine the Great is an album of music 'dedicated to the performance and promotion of Russia's little-known Baroque and Classical era, roughly 1750-1850,' performed by Talisman. Kelly Sedinger says it is 'charming, competent, and most importantly, beautiful music in the late Baroque/early Classical vein.'
By way of complete contrast, but no less enjoyable, Gary Whitehouse provides a fine review of Smoke Damage by Illinois-based trio Dick Smith, 'a slightly twisted but literate brand of bluegrass-influenced country music.'
So, what did you make of that lot? I'm sure that there'll be more than a few heated debates and gnashing of teeth over the opinions of our reviewers this week! If any of these reviews make you want to write in to our Letters page, we'd love to hear from you. But hey, if you want to tell us that we 'suck,' please try to do it with as much thought, wit, insight and intelligence as our staff! See you next time.
Merry met, all of you! Let us raise a cheer to the writers who've fashioned these reviews -- and to the editors who've brought them to us. I as archivist hereby award them an Excellence in Editing Award for all their work.
We'll meet again next week. In the meantime, if you share my curiosity as to what the future weeks will bring, I'll tantalize you with this bit of news. I have it on good authority that the mail room just received all the volumes of Christopher Tolkien's The History of Middle Earth from HarperCollins UK. Although our Editor in Chief was loath to release them, they have been passed on to Liz Milner, who will soon be bringing us a thorough, loving review of this monumental work.
18th of May, 2003
'She drank from a bottle called DRINK ME
And up she grew so tall,
She ate from a plate called TASTE ME
And down she shrank so small.
And so she changed, while other folks
Never tried nothin' at all.'
-- Shel Silverstein
Maria Nutick here. Welcome to another issue of Green Man Review. So, are you a Celtic music fan? A reader of urban fantasy? Looking for a review of the newest horror film? Are you one of our cadre of faithful regulars, or is this your first visit to these labyrinthine halls?
Chances are, you're here for a particular section or genre: books or live performance, folk rock or worldbeat, folklore or non-fiction. When I first joined the staff here at GMR, I thought I was coming on board as a book reviewer. I usually read the book section and little else. I failed to pay attention to music, films, or live performance, ignoring them and staying in my own comfortable niche. Then, when I became a proofer, and later Copy Editor, it became essential that I read every review in every issue. And I made a startling discovery -- I was missing out in a huge way! What an amazing variety of fascinating writing we have in our archives; our reviewers are knowledgeable on an enormous range of subject matter. Thanks to Big Earl Sellar I've learned more about Mongolian throat singing and what Ukrainian music sounds like 'through a filter of classic British punk'; Gary Whitehouse enlightened me about Cajun and zydeco music; David Kidney taught me everything I need to know about Ry Cooder. No'am Newman made me want to see Dervish in concert, and I MUST see Vasen thanks to Barb Truex.
Even in the book section there are hundreds of volumes I might not have tried had I not read the work of my fellow reviewers...authors I'd never heard of, both new writers and old. Thanks to interviews by Michael Jones I know much more about a couple of my personal idols, Terri Windling and Emma Bull ...I could go on forever. My point, of course, is that we rarely find treasures when we're not open to seeing them. I still love books, but now I head for the music section right away because I know I'll find something I never knew existed. Whenever I get a chance I slip into our archives and explore. I hope you will too. While you're exploring this issue, remember what the late, great Douglas Adams said: 'I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be'.
Charming author Holly Black is our Queen of the May, so it's no surprise that her new Spiderwick Chronicles would get a featured book review this week. Maria Nutick, who also reviewed Holly's smash hit novel, Tithe, absolutely loves The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide and The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone -- and she thinks you will, too. Maria says, 'These books are, like the creatures in them, uniquely charming. The storytelling is simple; the language is child-friendly and uncomplicated without ever appearing patronizing to younger readers, and as a result the books are as much a pleasure for adults as for kids.' And the artwork by collaborating illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi is 'truly lovely, stylized and yet with an aura of absolute authenticity.' Read Maria's review, and then go find these pocket-sized treasures for yourselves!
Both of the following music reviews receive well-deserved Excellence in Writing Awards. That said, the subjects of the reviews are just about as far apart as one could be and still fall within the purview of Green Man; Stephen Hunt looks at Northumbrian piper Billy Pigg whereas Jack Merry looks at the folk side of Metallica (!). Really. Truly.
Jack and Spike found a copy of 'Whiskey in the Jar' EP in the Green Man music library while doing a spot of cleaning. Metallica in our Library?!? Yes, as Jack notes that 'Metallica would belong in some urban fantasy novel if it wasn't real; not that 'reality'should be a hindrance as the Celtic rock band Tempest was in a Mercedes Lackey novel that's still unreleased, and there are several Green Man staffers who, when wearing their War for the Oaks tour shirts, have been told that folks saw the fictional Eddi and the Fey band in the early 80s when they lived in Minneapolis! Reality is, as always, somewhat up for debate, i.e. Emma Bull who played the Summer Queen in the War for the Oaks movie trailer is going to be the Summer Queen here at Green Man.' Read his detailed review to see why any lover of Celtic thrash music should hear this outstanding version of 'Whiskey in the Jar.
'There were two things Janey Little loved best in the world: music and books, and not necessarily in that order. Her favorite musician was the late Billy Pigg, the Northumbrian piper from the northeast of England whose playing had inspired her to take up the small pipes herself as her principal instrument.' -- From the opening paragraph of Charles deLint's The Little Country
What Stephen reviews is something much more traditional -- Billy Pigg, a piper who's largely responsible for the present sound of Northumbrian piping, and who finds himself in one of the classics of modern fantasy. Let's let Stephen explain: 'I'd never even seen a set of Northumbrian pipes until the 1980's, 'the lost decade.' By then, the cleansing fires of punk rock had burnt themselves out, and all that seemed to be left in the ashes were the twin horrors of the New Romantics (posturing with synthesizers) and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (posturing with guitars). Reasoning that there had to be something more fulfilling somewhere on the musical landscape of Thatcher's Britain, I braved the uncharted waters of my local folk clubs and soon found myself among a few dozen other souls gathered in a cellar bar to hear a very young woman (barely out of school) by the name of Kathryn Tickell. That encounter, my friends, can be viewed as a personal epiphany; the moment of realisation that traditional, instrumental music is capable of expressing joy, sorrow, passion and longing in a way that transcends the limitations of mere language. Like most shy teenagers, Tickell didn't talk much during her performance, but was happy to chat during the interval about her instrument, her music and her influences. She talked about people called Forster Charlton and Tom Clough (two surnames associated more with soccer than music to ignorant blokes like me), Colin Ross, and, more than anyone else, Billy Pigg -- a piper who died before she was even born. That name stuck in my memory because I thought if this girl who plays THAT music speaks so highly of him, then what in heaven's name must Pigg sound like?' Read Stephen's review of Billy Pigg, The Border Minstrel, to find out.
This is an unusual week for book reviews. Fully half of the books we review for you here are given definite 'thumbs down' by our reviewers. But the reviews themselves are lively, entertaining, and well worth the reading!
Nathan Brazil, a long-time Raymond E. Feist fan, starts us off with a look at Feist's eagerly awaited new novel, Talon of the Silver Hawk. Nathan is sorely disappointed. 'The problem was that the story read like Feist was trying to write in another author痴 style, and the name that sprang to mind was Guy Gavriel Kay. Feist has a gift for the grandiose, and when on form is capable of the spectacular fantasy which has brought him international success. Kay has the ability to take the minutia and subtleties of life, then weave them into something fascinating. But Feist is Feist and Kay is Kay and never the twain shall meet... Raymond E. Feist has written some fabulous novels, and I知 sure he will do so again, but Talon of the Silver Hawk isn稚 one of them.'
Rachel Manija Brown says something similar about Steve Perry's new novel, Windowpane. Rachel is quite familiar with Perry's previous books, which she describes as 'tales of hard-living, hard-fisted, hard-(censored) heroes' with 'an appealing sweetness.' 'Perry is a good pulp writer,' Rachel insists. However... 'Windowpane is an obvious attempt to rise above that status. Every page of it shrieks out, 'This is a labor of love! I am now an artist, not a hack! Wheee!' The result is almost indescribably ghastly. But I'll do my best.' Rachel's best, is, as usual, very good indeed. Read the rest of her review to be even more convinced that you should not read Windowpane, but that you should definitely read more of Rachel's reviews.
Cat Eldridge, on the other hand, is quite pleased with Simon Green's new novel, Something from the Nightside, which he compares favorably with Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. But while Gaiman has invented 'London Below', Green's Nightside is hidden in the heart of London. 'The good folk of everyday London do not venture into the utter weirdness of Nightside. The level of reality there is so different that the moon itself is closer to Nightside than it is to the London that surrounds Nightside!' It's worth noting that the 'weird reality' Cat highlights in this review makes an interesting -- and odd! -- conjunction with Jack Merry's review of Metallica (our first ever) in the Featured Review section above... Cat also reviews this week an 'ever-so-rare creature: a well-written and useful companion to a television series.' The series in question is the mystery series The Midsomer Murders, and the book is Midsomer Murders: The Making of an English Crime Classic by Jeff Evans. Fans of the series will most certainly want to buy this guide (from Amazon UK, perhaps, if you live outside of the UK?), and Cat has helpfully provided the link in his review.
Eric Eller proclaims himself happily satisfied with Oakley Hall's new Ambrose Bierce adventure, Ambrose Bierce and the One-Eyed Jacks. Although the novel follows the plot pattern of Ambrose Bierce's previous escapades fairly closely, Eric thinks this is actually a good thing. 'The talent that Hall brings to Ambrose Bierce and the One-Eyed Jacks keeps the novel fresh despite the familiar plot. Hall's gifts shine in the perfectly worked and ornamented dialog, as well as the carefully twisted intrigue. The killings, blackmail, kidnapping, and scheming keep the reader on edge throughout the novel. Recognizing familiar patterns and plot devices simply settles one in all the faster to enjoy Hall's recreation of Bierce's noted wit.' If you've experienced that 'noted wit' before yourself, you'll be glad to know that it's back. If you're new to Ambrose Bierce, see the links in Eric's review to GMR's review of the earlier books.
April Gutierrez brings us a study in transformations by noted mythographer Marina Warner, Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Doubling the Self. April says, '[Warner's] breadth of knowledge is amazingly vast, and she uses it to good effect, giving the reader an opportunity to visualize mythic, artistic and religious commonalities across not just geographic space, but also time.' April believes both 'academics and casual readers' will enjoy and learn from Warner's book on this fascinating topic, which embraces Jekyll & Hyde, Hieronymous Bosch, and Kafka's The Metamorphosis, among other things.
It was a close race between Jack Merry and Rachel Brown, above, as to who would nab the Grinch Award for the most biting negative review this week, but in the end Jack wins because he (in his typical 'take no prisoners' style) goes head-on with a much disputed novel in the field of fantasy/sci-fi, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill by Steven Brust. Some folks, as Jack puts it, 'rave somewhat incoherently' about this book. Others have no use for it at all. Jack is one of the latter. But why does Jack despise Cowboy Feng so much, even as he asserts that 'it starts with one of the best openers I've ever encountered' (and you've got to read said opener, quoted in Jack's review, to see that he's absolutely right)? Well, Jack puts it best himself...
Kelly Sedinger closes our book section with a review which, while negative, does not deserve a Grinch Award, but certainly an Excellence in Writing Award. Taking a careful and thoughtful stance, Kelly writes a thorough review of Dan Chernenko's new novel, The Bastard King, first in a proposed series called The Scepter of Mercy. Point by point, Kelly makes a case against this book, even as he scrupulously notes its positive features. As one example, he says that the Scepter of Mercy itself seems to be an awkward plot contrivance. 'Every so often, [someone] will say something like, 'If only we had the Scepter of Mercy!' The Scepter is this series' MacGuffin, and it's blindingly obvious that at some point there will be some kind of quest or mission to go recover the thing. But no quest unfolds at all in this opening installment of the trilogy, and what's more, we are never even given any explanation of just what the Scepter can do or why the Kings' lives would be so much better if only they had it... imagine Casablanca consisting of nothing but Viktor Laszlo sitting around Rick's Café with Ilsa, saying, 'I wish we had those letters of transit!'' In the end, Kelly's review lays out all the evidence, and you'll find yourself agreeing with his conclusions.
Reviewer Jason Erik Lundberg's look at Jonathan Carroll's White Apples rated a glowing letter from one of our readers. This in turn led to an intriguing conversation with Mr. Carroll. Read the entire exchange to discover the author's view on life.
Often letters we receive help us to improve our reviews. Such was the case with Jack Merry's review of Boiled in Lead's 17 March 2001. Read the letter from Drew Miller (including quotes from the original review) to get a close look inside our constant endeavour to give you better reviews.
The theremin came up in a book review last week; this week Tim Hoke got a taste of what he compares to a 'low-tech organic theremin'. Read his review of American traditional musicians Cathy Barton and Dave Para's Mother's Day concert. Barton and Para seemlessly combine traditional tunes with ones of their own creation to create an informal performance that is 'a lot like sitting in a parlor listening to a couple of friends.' Tim's review also highlights how, when properly employed, a leaf makes a great musical instrument.
Spring in Portland, Maine brings AprilFest, a month-long series of jazz concerts. Christopher White made it to three of the events and enjoyed each one. He doesn't have enough good things to say about what he heard; the performances variously demonstrated 'the sort of sort of intuitive 'group mind' playing that only musicians who are really listening to each other, and who are willing to forego ego gratifying flash in favor of truly serving the music, ever achieve' and 'a genuine marriage of word and music.' Read his review to see why Christopher earned an Excellence in Writing Award for his capture of the mood and energy of each performance.
You back already? Let me (Jack Merry) put aside the cool new novel, Kim Antieau's Day of the Dead tinged Coyote Cowgirl, that came in from Tor for review yesterday. And yes, it has both music and magic in it. The dedication is (in part) to Charles de Lint and MaryAnn Harris, midwives, as Kim puts it so nicely, to this novel.
The Hedgehog, the inhouse newsletter for Green Man staff, had an odd story in this week. Now I'm not 'tall sure that I should you, our general readers, the story, but maybe I will. Or maybe I won't. In the meantime, listen carefully... Can you hear Los Tricksters, a group last heard from in Smoking Mirror Blues, playing their song, 'Tezcatlipoca Blues', in the Great Hall? Yes, he's singing 'Got dem Tezcatlipoca Blues/ making trickster war news' over percussion worthy of Mickey Hart in his Planet Drum phase. Cool, eh? They are practicing for a concert here.
Ellen Kushner and Shirim Klezmer Orchestra's The Golden Dreydl is also reviewed by Judith. She says this CD is ' is subtitled 'A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah.' It combines a children's story by writer and radio host Ellen Kushner with a klezmer adaptation of tunes from The Nutcracker, originally released by the Shirim Orkestar in 1998 as The Klezmer Nutcracker. Kushner has behind her several fantasy novels, including Swordspoint, Thomas the Rhymer and The Fall Of the Kings. Resumès of the Shirim include the Klezmer Conservatory Orchestra, Hypnotic Clambake and Les Miserables Brass Band. The story and music were perfomed en duo on 'Sound And Spirit' on WGBH Boston/PBS, which Kushner also hosts, and have also been performed on stage. 'It's like Tschaikovsky meets Harry Potter and they go to a Jewish wedding.' says Kushner. Maybe.' Read to see why she thought this a fun album!
No doubt that David Kidney's having a fine time reviewing great CDs! Harry Manx and Kevin Breit's Jubilee is another good one according to him: 'In last week's Green Man Review we looked at a new CD by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the inventor of the mohan veena. Harry Manx is the only musician outside of India to play this instrument. He studied with Bhatt, and on his first two solo recordings Manx managed to bridge the gap between Indian music and the blues...an almost monumental achievement. On Jubilee Manx is joined by another Canadian musician, guitarist Kevin Breit, and the duo have produced one of the mellowest, sleekest, most sensual albums of the year.' Breit, who has played with Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Bill Frisell, Janis Ian and k.d.lang, met Manx at a guitar workshop at Summerfolk 2001. Breit's trio 'Folk Alarm' provided sympathetic backing for Manx's raga-blues and they developed a quick and long-lasting respect for each other. It has taken a couple of years as they followed their individual career paths but Jubilee finds them together and loving it!'
David loves the Blues so I'm not 'tall surprised that NorthernBlues Gospel Allstars' SAVED was to his liking: 'It's that good old gospel sound again, and this time it's ringing out from north of the 49th parallel, up Toronto way! NorthernBlues, a fairly new label, has in only a short time released some powerful, even definitive blues albums into a market that is far healthier than it's been in years. The blues are being used to sell beer and jeans, cars and meat pies! And on SAVED a group of Canadian musicians redeem the sounds from the commercial market, and use the earthy, funky blues rhythms to convey the cry of the 'justified.' It is a stirring album!'
I saw 100 ANS de musique traditionnelle Quebecoise (100 Years of Traditional Quebecois Music) when it wandered into the Green Man mail room. However me French was not anywhere as near as good as that which David has, so he got it. Lucky bugger! Is it good? Oh, yes, says he: 'I have to be upfront about this. I am a sucker for a box-set! Just looking at anthologies excites me! 100 ANS de musique traditionnelle Quebecoise is just what it promises to be, on four double CDs, all packed together in a wooden box. That's right! Eight discs of the music of Quebec. Wow! And no Celine Dion! Just fiddle tunes, jigs and reels, accordions and harmonicas. That's it. The real music of the Quebecois, who are the French speaking inhabitants of la belle province.'
The pipes are calling, the pipes are calling. The question is, is David running away screaming when he hears them? Surely his sanity was tested sorely as he read a book on piping (John G. Gibson's Old and New World Highland Bagpiping), watched two videos on piping, They Pipe Among Us and They Pipe Among Us, Too), and dared to listen to a half dozen CDs ( Peel Regional Police Pipe Band's Walking the Beat; Barry Shears's A Cape Breton Piper; Simon Fraser University Pipe Band's The Silver Anniversary Tribute, Alive in America, and Live at Carnegie Hall; and They Pipe Among Us collection.) Better than you might think: 'Taken together as a package, these discs and videos complement the book in sharing the all encompassing story of the pipes -- what they mean to a people, what they mean to individuals, how they sound, and how they become part of your reality.'
The publicists at Sony have been supplying us with some amazing CDs to review. Gods and Generals, a soundtrack to the American Civil War film, is a case in point. David nods his head in agreenment and comments: 'An altogether useful package then, is this Gods and Generals soundtrack. A couple of fine tunes by artists whom we here at Green Man are fond of; some moving and evocative orchestral pieces; the involvement of Mark O'Connor and Paddy Moloney and a collection of video material to add to our collection. Not an everyday listen, but one I am glad to have in my library.'
David's raving again: 'It all sounds so great. Contagious. Mellow. Enveloping. You just want to turn it up, and listen, close the door, shut out the kids, and the neighbors, and the dog, and...' Go read his review of Shiva Shakti from the group of the same name to see why he's raving!
The Outfit's Sense of Soul gets a once over from Peter Massey, who says: 'If you live in Toronto the band called The Outfit is sure to be familiar to you, as they are based there and are firm favourites in local venues. On the other hand, if like me you don't hail from the Big Smoke, well, in the words of the Beatles '...may I introduce to you' -- err -- The Outfit.'
Three singer-songwriter CDs get a look-see by Mike Stiles: John Parker Compton's 1, Chuck Pyle's Affected by the Moon, and Pete Sutherland's A Clayfoot's Tale. Our reviewer comments 'The best singer-songwriters in the US are in an undercurrent of talent that we here at the Green Man try to dowse out as often as possible. I lucked out with a trio of them for this review.
Floreando is a cool CD from a group of which Gary Whitehouse notes, ' Conjunto Jardín is a U.S.-based group that plays music in the 'son jarocho' style of the Mexican state of Veracruz. Floreando means 'flowering,' and refers to the efforts to preserve and revitalize this intriguing folk music.' He goes on to say 'Floreando is a delightful recording, filled with unexpected sounds, danceable rhythms and plaintive vocals.'
Ah now, do you remember the story about the angel who dropped in a while back?
The one who was talking about Richard Thompson and his ideas about angels? Well, she returned a short time ago (not that time has much meaning in the Green Man Pub). Reynard was sharing the tale with those staffers who were absent that evening, when the Lizard King himself wandered in and ordered tequila, with a beer chaser and Huevos Rancheros.
You and I both know that he's dead, but no one was in any hurry to point that out to him, so he sat there in his biker boots, leather pants, and dress white shirt, eating his rather late breakfast and chatting about Beat poetry and the Blues with Reynard. He'd still be there now if our Angel (no, I don't know her name -- she wouldn't tell us, saying 'true names must never be spoken and she'd get really pissed if we did'), hadn't just strolled in out of the fog and taken him back.
She apologized profusely, explaining that some souls keep getting drawn back to the mortal plane, but Reynard assured her it was no problem. She paid his bill in that same silver coin as before, the ones that were old when Rome invaded Britannia, and off they went, arm in arm, back into the mist...
So, whether this edition of Green Man Review was your first or your thousandth, whether you're here for the books or the music -- go a different direction today. If you're here for reviews of fantasy literature, go dig up some of our reviews of Cirque du Soleil soundtracks. Here for the newest in bluegrass? Stop in and check out some of the best in historical fantasy films. Drink from that bottle and grow a little. It won't hurt, I promise!
11th of May, 2003
'Funny thing about a box: a million guys can hammer it, they can play fast and hit all the notes and transpose from here to Wednesday. But out of that million, you'll find maybe one who gets it across. And like as not he can't play fast and won't budge out of C. Davey Green wasn't what you'd call a virtuoso, exactly. He didn't hit all the notes. Only the right ones.'
-- Charles Beaumont, 'Night Ride'
Craig Clarke here, hosting yet another fantastic, dream-inspiring issue of Green Man Review. It's finally feeling like spring after a particularly long winter. As you no doubt are aware, spring is a wonderful time for recreational reading (but then again, when isn't?). As it's been a slow week in the mail room, I've been passing the time cleaning up -- no small feat, I'm here to tell you. There's dust here that's older than I am. But that's to be expected in a structure as ancient as this one.
While picking through a particularly out-of-the-way nook, I came across a book called Lost Legends of the American West -- a collection of folktales and 'true stories' from that mythical period. It's a mysterious little book as it is in pristine condition but boasts a copyright date of 1893. Apart from the dust on it -- which wiped away easily -- there are no signs of age and the pages don't feel like normal paper, they're too soft, like a thin gelatin. But there are definitely some very interesting tales in here. One I liked in particular -- and that seems appropriate given that it's the month of May -- is simply called 'Piano Ridge.'
A man named Tom Casey and a lady named Katherine Spokes lived in the same town. He was the piano player at the local saloon and she was the daughter of a millionaire who had struck it rich in the San Francisco gold rush. Katherine was engaged to be married to a local lawyer's son named Frederick Stoughton, a marriage arranged by their fathers to their mutual benefit. One sunny spring day (in May, as it happens), Katherine and Tom caught each other's eye in town and were instantly taken with one another. Of course, Katherine's father would not hear of it and, as these things usually go, they were forbidden to see each other.
Long story short, the fiancee finds out, tracks Tom down and shoots him in the back while at his piano. Katherine was heartbroken, killed herself, and they were both buried together in the casing of the ruined piano out by a ridge where Tom had loved to go when he wanted to be alone. Now called 'Piano Ridge,' it is generally avoided because of the apparitions that have been sighted. Each May, at least one person reports seeing -- as though through a haze -- a young man playing a piano with a beautiful woman sitting on the bench at his side.
Not exactly the most uplifting story, granted, but it touches something in me, as does spring in general. It's good to be able to watch the new buds forming, and see the new growth on the trees and shrubs in my front yard. I don't even mind mowing the yard again (it's the only exercise I get). But most of all, I like the mild temperatures. Taking the dog out in the morning isn't so bad when it's no longer 28 degrees out...
But I've gotten off track. You're not here to listen to me babble, you're here to read our fine reviews. So, I'll detain you no longer.
Christine Doiron took a look at Sean Sexton's and Christine Kinealy's The Irish: A Photohistory 1840 1940 this week. Reviewing this book was a chance for her to learn something about Ireland beyond the usual stereotypes. Christine found the pictures to be outstanding but she discovered that the text was lacking. 'Certainly, since this is a photohistory, I understand that more importance would necessarily be placed on the selection and arrangement of the images. Still, it's disappointingly obvious to readers that this is the case.' Read her review and judge for yourself.
Lars Nilsson found the academic content of Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England interesting, touching as it did on his love of beer. The book didn't grab his interest as much as it could have, or as Lars put it, 'maybe I am not the right person to judge a work of this kind; in spite of being a great lover of beer, though not someone with a very keen interest in the history of women (but do not tell my wife about that), I found it hard reading.' Take a look at his review to judge for yourself.
Stacy Troubh had a tasty encounter with the new cookbook The Essential Mediterranean. Nancy Jenkins' book is an exploration of a few select ingredients (salt, olives and olive oil, wheat, pasta and couscous, wine and vinegar, legumes, peppers and tomatoes, pork, fish, and dairy products) to show 'how the food of the Mediterranean, the cooking of the Mediterranean, begins not with formulaic recipes, but [with] the primary ingredients without which the cuisine simply does not and cannot exist.' Stacy enjoyed the chapter-by-chapter focus on certain ingredients, along with the detailed essays on the background behind the use of each ingredient. Read the review to see if you find the book as enticing as she did.
Leona Wisoker was fascinated by Patrick O'Leary's The Impossible Bird. What made the book fascinating? The book kept Leona 'continually off-balance and at the same time' retained her interest. She found that O'Leary has 'a keen understanding of what makes humans real, from adult to child and all stages inbetween.' The Impossible Bird keeps the reader guessing; the writing is clever and unusual enough to ensure that you're never going to guess correctly. Read the review to see how compelling Leona found the novel to be.
Don't you hate it when a superior book is made into an inferior film? Rachel Manija Brown tell us that this is not the case with a recent release based on a young adult novel by Louis Sachar. Rachel says 'Holes...is the most deserving Newbery Award winner since Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown....The movie isn't as perfect as the book -- some of the performances by the adults are distractingly over-the-top -- but this adaptation of an extraordinary book is still pretty extraordinary itself.' Read her review and find out why you must see Holes.
Wes Unruh brings us a review of a film which he describes as 'a frenzied, high-energy thriller with enough action and gore to satisfy any horror fan's appetite'. Mmmm, sounds good so far. But Wes isn't completely convinced... of the 'two elements which can make or break a werewolf movie', one is missing! Read his intriguing review of Dog Soldiers to find out which it is.
It's been a slow week in the mail room; we received only two letters from readers. Diane wrote in to question Master Reviewer Big Earl Sellar's qualifications for reviewing krishna chant music (specifically that of Krishna Das). Earl replied in a typically articulate fashion.
Also, Peter Massey's review of Pol MacAdaim's album If We Don't Help Them Now was so appreciated by Mr. MacAdaim that he requested to quote it on his Web site. In addition, Peter responded to a recent letter written by Haley Bergstrom.
These and more are available on the Letters page, so dip in and swim around for a while.
Jack Merry here. Reynard wants to know if you'd like a little more of the Moroccan coffee with cardamom and cinnamon. Some rock and roll musician who is rather well-known is in the Music Archives right now researching Mab knows what, and he favours his coffee this way. He paid very well for the privilege to be in residence for a few months, but hey, if he wasn't here, he'd probably just be playing pinball in that riverside pub with the likes of Donovan! Great stuff, eh?
Now look over in the dark corner... See the man in the sharkskin suit with the long greasy hair nursing his ale as if he were broke? It's the A & R rep who's been looking for new talent here for years whenever we do a concert or festival that's open to the public. We likely won't see him around here much longer as he was one of the folks that Sony Records eliminated last week when they fired thousands of workers. Or at least I hope that he now goes away... If he doesn't, the Welsh band that I play with, Serrated Edge, is likely to do much, much worse than a mere reverse glamour this time! Who's he talking with? Rock Brantley. His real name is Raymond Bigot, but he chose Rock Brantley as a nom de plume. Writes bad surreal-stream-of-consciousness fantasy, based on folklore that he gets all jumbled up, while insisting that he's an expert on folklore, a 'self-taught and instinctive' expert.. Has a big ego too. Yes, big ego -- like a balloon, bloated, inflated and fragile. He wears dark turtlenecks, has longish hair, and smells of bad cologne. Even writes for Kudzu, one of those rambling, poorly written review magazines that no one smart ever reads. Spike, our doorman, keeps growling at them, but they're far too stupid to get the idea that they should leave now.
Craig Clarke, our Letters Editor, is also one rather good reviewer. To appreciate just how good he is, just read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review of the new Saw Doctors' CD in which he says 'The first thing I noticed about the Saw Doctors' Play it again Sham! was that I couldn't listen to it and not instantly cheer up. It's a veritable party in a jewel case. The Saw Doctors are full of energy and their clever songwriting is absolutely irresistible. I just might have a new favorite album. It'll certainly accompany me on long road trips. It's just the kind of energetic music I need to keep me from dozing off at the wheel.'
Belgian-based reviewer Richard Condon looks at German folk rock band, Lack of Limits, and their new CD, Out Of The Ashes. It makes for an interesting listening experience: 'The attentive listener may nevertheless detect an occasional trace of a German accent here and there and anyone encountering this music without knowing what it is would probably be puzzled by its provenance. The accomplishment with which five Germans handle the 'folk' part of the folkrock fusion on this recording illustrates well the rather bizarre fascination with performing 'Celtic' music that currently exists in Germany.' Richard gets a well-earned Excellence in Writing Award for his review!
A bit of modern Medieval music is what we have next as Eric Eller delves into a rather interesting album: 'The literary and musical traditions of European culture, as well as the landscape itself, provide rich veins for modern musicians. The quality and volume of the source material can go to an artist's head; it is too easy for music inspired by earlier traditions to descend into something more akin to parody than praise. Despite the dangers, InChanto's new CD, Amors, deftly manages its source material. The result is a rich, fulfilling album.' Eric receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this superb review.
Yet more modern Medieval music is up next.. Tim Hoke in an Excellence in Writing Award winning review says 'Pastourelle is the first release by Fortune's Wheel, an ensemble concentrating on the songs of the trouveres of medieval northern France. The trouveres were poets who patterned themselves after their southern neighbors, the Provencal troubadors. Their poetry often featured elaborate rhyme schemes (wasted on my non-Francophone ears; English translations are included in the insert), and the most common theme was courtly love. Judging from some of the song texts, courtly love seems to have worked as follows: The poet decided upon a woman to be the object of his desire -- ideally, she should have taken no interest in him -- and he would then proceed to cleverly expound upon her beauty and virtues, while also lamenting her total disregard of him. Self-pity provided a vehicle to wax poetic.'
David Kidney is looking forward to hearing The Old Kit Bag, the new CD from Richard Thompson which Gary Whitehouse recently reviewed, but like most of us here, he has interests in much more than just English folk rock music. A case in point is his review of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Sandeep Das' Indian Delta of which he notes 'It is not danceable, you will not be whistling the tunes, or snapping your fingers even though a maestro of percussion is present. It is meditative, beautiful, challenging and the mohan veena cuts through like a sabre. World music for people looking to experience something new! David also was lucky 'nough to get some of the recordings that master accordionist Dan Newton sent us: Daddy Squeeze and the Doctor's You Better Mind and Stonewhisper's From a Whisper to a Scream. Which of these Blues CDs should be heard and which should be avoided at all costs? I'm not sayin', but David certainly is, so go read his review!
Cuba is the next stop for one of our most prolific reviewers as he looks at John Stewart's Havana. Eh? John Stewart, the early member of the Kingston Trio? Cuban influenced music? Quite so. Our Master Reviewer notes that 'Havana is not a record stuck in the past. Stewart touches on current events, with the final cut. His song notes read, 'We won't let our people go to Cuba, but we can visit Red China instead?' The notes suggest this is not a political song, but based on the fine Ry Cooder was recently assessed for his attempts for record Cuban artists...what are we to think? 'Waiting for Castro to Die' indeed!'
Rock Brantley and his fellow writers at Kudzu hate omnibus reviews even though they have been the industry standard since the early heady days of Rolling Stone, N.M.E., Sweet Potato, Dirty Linen, Southern Rag, Crawdaddy, and the like. We, on the other hand, love omnibuses as they are a perfect way to look at the careers of artists such as the one that David covers in this Excellence in Writing Award winning review in which he looks at Jackie Washington's Blues & Sentimental, Midnight Choo Choo, and Keeping Out of Mischief, Ken Whiteley, Jackie Washington, and Mose Scarlett's Where Old Friends Meet and We'll Meet Again, and James Strecker's biography about Jackie, More Than a Blues Singer: Jackie Washington Tells His Story. Why is Jackie important, you ask? Let's have David answer that question: 'There are songs and singers which lead us into new directions. There are performers and material which reinforce who we are and what we believe. Jackie Washington, and his pals Mose Scarlett and Ken Whiteley, reflect our past...even long past. Times we have forgotten, or only remember through legend. That's why we need legendary performers. We need the Jackie Washingtons of the world. We need to look after them, and to pay attention to them.'
Speaking of music journals, we should mourn the passing of Rock 'N' Reel. Even the Web site has disappeared, so I must assume that this always interesting printed music zine, which was more real in its appreciation of English folk rock music and other genres than many of the better financed, more slick pubs were, passed away sometime in the past year as I have seen no printed edition in at least that long. I read every issue faithfully when it came out -- sometimes a year late and badly dated, but still well-worth reading. Let's down a pint of Dragon's Breath XXXX Stout to honour this now departed publication! Drink deep!
But for everything that ceases to be, something new comes along. The Irish Music Review is a new site devoted to reviews of not just albums of Irish traditional music, but also those by singers and musicians working on its borderlines. Reviews are very much welcomed, but please contact the editor in advance before submitting them. And, if you're interested in submitting your own album for review, please also get in touch first. The site is maintained by Geoff Wallis, co-author of the Rough Guides to Irish Music, Dublin and Ireland.
Peter Massey look at Scots Jimmy Hutchinson's Corachree -- Scots Songs and Ballads and American Gary Greene's The Grand Imagineer caused him to ask a question: 'Singers like Gary Greene and Jimmy Hutchinson beg [a] question: are they the tradition bearers of their part of the world?' His review nicely answers that question with an affirmative yes!
Now 'tis fair to say that Lenora Rose doesn't like Appalachian Celtic Consort's Drop O' the Pure album. In her Excellence in Writing Award winning review, she notes it is 'a nice album of traditional tunes, competently played. If you believe that is a good review, you do not know how 'nice' can be a curse when other groups are called a thousand better adjectives. Or how 'competent' is not enough in a genre full of competent players all playing the same jigs and reels'. Another EIWA goes to Lenora for her second review. She was definately more enthused by Celtic artist Heather Dale's The Trial of Lancelot as 'this album is a gorgeous work, a thrilling study of a legend that has fired many imaginations.' Lenora notes this album 'shows how much she has matured as an artist. Her voice and her compositions are still the central appeal, but the arrangements are now rich, and the instruments are no longer chosen by necessity and ease of access.'
Big Earl Sellar is not known for being shy when it comes to saying what he thinks of a given album. (Just go to our Letters page for proof of that!) So you can trust him when he proclaims loudly as he did in the Green Man Pub last week that Mongolian group Yat-Kha's CD is very, very good! In his Excellence in Writing Award review, he goes on to note that 'I can't recommend this disc strongly enough. On the band's Web site, there are downloadable samples, and I'd strongly recommend anyone reading this review check them out. Yenisei-Punk is a stunning disc, and Yat-Kha deserves the widest possible audience possible! Utterly fantastic!' Big Earl sure as bleedin hell writes a lot better than Rock Brantley ever has!
Like David Kidney, Gary Whitehouse is a great lover of Richard Thompson and English Folk Rock in general, but he also likes all sorts of music including Bluegrass. So how did The Coming Grass and their new CD, Transient do in his opinion? Quite well actually: as he says in his Excellence in Writing Award commentary: 'As alt-country (whatever that is) has evolved into something called Americana and helped spawn a revival of bluegrass and old-time music, it's easy to forget what it was originally all about. The Coming Grass is here to remind us, with 14 tracks of rootsy rock and twangy country.'
Now I must leave you now as Spike says he has news about Manchester United and their latest game that must be shared. And he's buying this round of Dragon's Breath XXXX Stout, so I can't really ignore him!Ta-ta!
Finally, an announcement from one of our favourite publishers. Julia Bannon at Harper Collins says 'The Baroque Cycle is about to begin . . . Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson -- 9/23/03. In this wonderfully inventive follow-up to his bestseller Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson brings to life a cast of unforgettable characters in a time of breathtaking genius and discovery, men and women whose exploits defined an age known as the Baroque. Learn more here. Sign up for Neal Stephenson News to be the first to know about publication details!' We certainly are looking forward to reviewing this fantasy novel from one of the best writers ever to grace this culture!
I hope you found this issue to your liking, crafted by loving hands specifically for your enjoyment. Feel free to sample any and all of what we have to offer. Simply browsing the indices could keep you busy for hours and I'm sure you'll discover some new treasures to share with friends. And please write us to share your comments and opinions -- positive or negative -- on anything on Green Man Review.
You've heard from us. Now we'd like to hear from you.
4th of May, 2003
Unite and unite and let us all unite
For summer is acome unto day
And whither we are going we will all unite
In the merry morning of May.
-- 'The Padstow May Song' from Cornwall'
Welcome friends, I'm Stephen Hunt, your host. Do come and join us at the bar of the Green Man. It's a bit of a squeeze, but we'll make room for you. It's the First of May, and I'm obliged to frantically jot down a few notes to meet our publishing deadline. The maypole that Kim told you about last week is now the focus of everyone's attention here. It looks magnificent, decked with May blossom and garlanded with the white rose and the red. Any minute now, the Obby Oss will emerge from the back gate of the pub and lead the revels through the streets. Who's inside the Oss? I wouldn't tell you if I knew, but Jack's the Teaser as always, resplendent in top hat and tail coat, club in hand, ribbons flying in the sunshine. Step it up, Jack! What's that you're drinking, you say? That's a pint of Doom Bar, a fine Cornish ale named for a sand bar in Padstow harbour, treacherous to unwary navigators and formed, some say, by a mermaids curse. That's what Morveth the artist told me, anyway. She's unusually chatty today. May Day seems to have that effect on folks. Still, it tastes good, doesn't it? Reynard's cousin, Radjel, brought the barrel, so 'give to us a cup of ale, the merrier we shall sing.' Hang about, there's a surge towards the door, just time to invite you to raise a glass to our team of reviewers who, once again, have endeavoured to bring you all that's best in book, film and music related reviews. Oss oss! Whee oss!
(... Oss oss, wee oss! )
The Oss looks a fearsome brute alright, particularly in comparison to the graceful, serene creature greeting all onlookers with a smile. Hail the Queen of The May! You say she looks familiar? Look closely my friend, that's none other than Holly Black, author of Tithe, our favourite faerie tale of recent times. The selection of our May Queen has been the cause of a few heated debates over the years, but this appointment was a unanimous verdict! Holly delivered a tremendous acceptance speech, whilst regally enthroned on the flower strewn bar billiards table at the Green Man on May Eve...
'Im honored to be picked as Green Man Reviews Queen of the May. I feel a little like a wide-eyed young maiden with blossoms in her hair, what with my first book out only half a year, writing this from the road on my very first tour. The world of publishing is still green and new to me and I can hardly believe my luck.
Still, I have a suspicious nature. Although I searched through GMRs archives (a difficult task as I kept becoming distracted by things I wanted to read), I found no mention of what specific duties are expected of the GMR May Queen. Beltane marks shaking off the season of death to begin celebrating life with all the debauchery that entails. So, before anyone asks, Im flatly refusing to jump naked over any fires.
But May Day is not just a celebration of fertility, it is one of the times when the veils between worlds are at their thinnest. If you hear the sound of tinkling bells, youre advised to hide your face and let whatever it is go trooping by. Most of us, I suspect, would be hard pressed not to peek.
When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother asking, 'who do you think you are, Queen of the May?' when one of us would act haughty. I didnt know what the May Queen was, only that she was special. And the next time someone asks me just who I think I am, thanks to GMR, I will have a hell of a reply.
So, as May Queen, I propose we leave a little food by the side of the highway for the Folk, make garlands from weeds, pole dance, bathe in morning dew, drink dandelion wine and hope for a long, giddy season of hope.'
Jack Merry here. That top hat and coat's older than the Green Man building itself, having been worn by many a Jack down the centuries. And even a few Jennys from time to time.
I love to snuggle up with a cat, a cup of coffee, and a
good book. Or failing that, I'll snuggle with me wife, Brigid, under the
covers. But that's not why I'm here today. (Well, maybe I am. But that's
'nother tale to be told later. After the children have all gone to bed.)
The tale being told right now concerns Billy Pigg. In the period immediately
before the modern resurgence of the bagpipes by groups like Blowzabella
and the Eelgrinders,
to name but two of the more famous, Billy Pigg was one of the most influential
players. He was taught to play Northumbrian pipes by members of the Clough
Family, and Pigg became the major player of traditional Northumbrian pipe
music along the border running between England and Scotland. Although he
recorded quite a bit of material, almost all of his many recordings were
reserved for privately owned tapes. An autobiography, The
Border Minstrel was published in 1997 by the Northumbrian
Pipers Society. Billy Pigg forms an important part of the story in
Charles de Lint's The Little Country.
Now why I'm telling this tale is that Master Hunt himself, now a resident
of the same Cornish region that The Little Country
is set in, is writing us a detailed review of the (just recently released
on CD) Billy Pigg album, The Border Minstrel. I'm looking
forward to another of his insightful reviews!
Charles de Lint and Charles Vess are the men of the hour. Their new book, A Circle of Cats, is our featured review this week. We almost had a traffic jam in the staff lounge over who would get to review this one! Maria Nutick, the fortunate reviewer, says, 'A Circle of Cats is not a novel, or a novella, or even, at 44 pages, a chapbook those are merely convenient labels assigned by publishers and booksellers to assist them in categorization. Call Cats instead an enchantment, a weaving of words and pictures into pure magic.' Whether or not you've read Seven Wild Sisters, Maria insists that you must read this, its prequel.
Nathan Brazil received Garth Nix's novel Abhorsen, and brings us this week a review of Nix's entire series, beginning with Sabriel, continuing on with Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr, and finishing up with Abhorsen itself, the third in the trilogy. Read Nathan's review to see why Swiss Tony would urge you to read this series.
Craig Clarke has long been a fan of Roald Dahl's 'wickedly dark mainstream fiction', but he'd never read any of Dahl's work for children. So what was his reaction to the audiobook of The Minpins and Esio Trot, read by Joanna Lumley? 'It was a wonderful discovery that the man that wrote such stories as 'Lamb to the Slaughter' and 'The Landlady' ... came up with these tales for young readers.'
Faith J. Cormier was eager to review Patrick Faas' cookbook cum social commentary Around the Roman Table, because she wanted to see how it compares with another book she's read and enjoyed, Platina: On Right Pleasure and Good Health (written six centuries earlier, newly translated by Mary Ella Milham). Faith says, 'These two recent books both attempt to make ancient Roman cuisine (and incidentally its culture) accessible to modern readers ... But the two are based on the same ancient sources; indeed I suspect that Around the Roman Table is the book Platina would write if he were alive now.' Read Faith's Excellence in Writing Award - winning review for a taste of these two fascinating books, delightful compilations of recipes and bits of ancient Roman culture.
Andrea S. Garrett has another children's audiobook for us this week, the ninth in Lemony Snicket's saga of the disastrous lives of the Baudelaire children, The Carnivorous Carnival. Andrea thinks that Tim Curry's reading of this book is what makes it work for her. 'I really cannot imagine a more perfect voice for these wordy, ironic books then the ironic voice of Mr. Curry. When I致e listened to other books on tape, I always remained too well aware that I was listening to one person reading, sometimes in a laborious tone. When I listened to The Carnivorous Carnival, I was truly transported by a storyteller.' While Andrea says that you don't need to have read the first eight books in the series to enjoy this one, she also insists that she's going back to find all the others!
Michelle Erica Green gobbled Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in one long gulp on a flight over the Atlantic recently. In her review, she assures us that the novel does, indeed, deserve its spot on the bestseller list. 'This is a thriller for readers who like art, words, visual puns and word-games, which should come as no surprise given that its protagonists are both cryptographers.' The book has done so well that it has pulled Brown's earlier novel, Angels and Demons, back onto the bestseller list as well. Michelle promises us a review of that one, too, in the next few weeks.
Master Reviewer Michael M. Jones has turned in our first ever 'vampnibus' this week. That's right, this is an omnibus review of eleven vampire novels. And the titles include (taking a deep breath) Bruce Baugh's Shards, Shadows and Sacrifices; Philippe Boulle's The Madness of Priests; Steven Brust's Agyar; Nancy A. Collins' Darkest Heart; P.N. Elrod's Lady Crymsyn and Cold Streets; Barb and J.C. Hendee's Dhampir; The Ultimate Dracula, an anthology edited by Byron Priess; and The Best of Dreams of Decadence, an anthology edited by Angela Kessler. Whew! We figure we'd better hurry and give Michael his Excellence in Writing Award for this one before any new titles appear in it -- he says the vampire books on his desk seem to be eager to make others of their kind...
Michael also has for us a review of the two latest in Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights series, The Glasswrights' Journeyman and The Glasswrights' Test. Michael likes these books because, 'this is a rare fantasy series, in that it relies much more on characterization and plotting than it does on magic and flash. The only true magic in the series is subtle and powerful, stemming from the gods when they choose to make their presence known in subtle ways. No displays of awe and grandeur here, but instead quiet manifestations, the smell of sea salt or the sound of laughter, or the feeling of black velvet to symbolize the passing of a divine being. The characters live in a grounded world, and rely on their own wits and skills to accomplish things.' The Glasswrights' Test isn't available in stores yet, but read Michael's review to see what you have in store for you, and also to see why you should go back and read the earlier books in the series!
Nellie Levine offers a review in praise of an odd, lovely little book that doesn't seem to fit into any category properly. Is it a travelogue? A fairy tale? A picture book? Tibet through the Red Box, by Peter Sis, seems to be all of these and somehow, mysteriously more. Read Nellie's review, and then follow her link to the book's Web site to see for yourself a little bit of this enchantment that was recently named a Caldecott Honor Book.
Maria Nutick has another book for us this week, an anthology of first stories by now-famous authors entitled Magical Beginnings, edited by Steven H. Silver and Martin H. Greenberg. 'Andre Norton, Peter S. Beagle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Schwartz, Charles de Lint, Megan Lindholm, Ellen Kushner, Esther Friesner, Mickey Zucker Riechert, Emma Bull, Mercedes Lackey, Tanya Huff, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Michelle West, Lisanne Norman, Fiona Patton. There, now you want to go off and read this book, right? My work here is done.' No, don't worry, dear readers, Maria has lots more to say in her review!
Wes Unruh reviews the first of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. 'While Ned Stark, Hand of the King, seeks the truth of his predecessor's death, his bastard son Jon Snow discovers that the dead can walk when it's cold enough. And as the motto of House Stark says, 'Winter is Coming'...' Wes says that this novel is 'at times pure horror, other places very much a dark ages mystery.' Wes plans to review the other novels in this series in the weeks ahead. Also, we plan to have a review for you of a graphic novel based on The Hedge Knight, a short story prequel to the series. So stay tuned!
Matthew Scott Winslow finishes our book reviews with an omnibus review comparing and contrasting two books by the same Tolkien scholar, Jane Chance. The books are The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England. Matthew says, 'It's interesting how some authors always hit the nail on the head (so to speak) and some authors can't help but miss their mark every time. Most, however, fall somewhere in between, writing both good works and bad. These two books by Jane Chance show the author firmly entrenched in the latter camp: one of the books is an excellent study, the other is forgettable (and I pray I can forget it soon).' Which is which? You'll need to read Matthew's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to find out!
No fan of commercials, Cat Eldridge was delighted to see a selection of Midsomer Murders episodes without such annoying interruptions. Read his review, and find out why he enjoyed these 'frightfully complex' mysteries set in this 'rather odd area of this not-so-real England!'
Michelle Erica Green takes a look at Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, a 'deliberately elusive glimpse' of the life of the painter Michaelangelo. Michelle didn't consider it smooth viewing, as it 'takes liberties with history and plays games with the interpretation of art', although she also thought it 'visually striking and emotionally wrenching'.
'46 minutes of pure Americana!' is how David Kidney describes My Dear Old Southern Home. David's feet must have been tapping while he watched and listened to Norman and Nancy Blake. He says, simply, 'They are extraordinary.'
David also viewed the almost universally critically acclaimed
Rabbit Proof Fence,
and found it disturbing and moving. The film is a portrayal of three girls,
fugitives from an Australian governmental policy, and David's observations
gain him an Excellence In Writing Award.
Letters Editor Craig here. I'm always surprised by the breadth and diversity of our international readership. A letter we received this week confirms that even more: James Hane wrote to request permission to reprint Robert Wiersema's Matrix review for use in his mythology class--in Bogotá, Colombia!
While searching for information on Robin Williamson, one reader discovered an accidental bonus--a friend and colleague on our staff. Read to find out the who, why, and where, and what might happen next.
We often give authors a sneak peek at the reviews we've written of their works, and this week's Featured Review (A Circle of Cats) is no exception. Read what publisher Sharyn November and author Charles de Lint have to say about Maria Nutick's wonderful treatment.
It's been a banner week here at Green Man and you can 'read all about it' on the Letters page. And don't hesitate to send in your own thoughts and opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows? Maybe you'll see your name on the Letters page and you can brag to your friends!
John D. Benninghouse makes a welcome return to our pages this week with his review of Blues Country by Bronxville, NY band The Renovators. He says that this band 'play a raw combination of blues and country that would sound right at home in a tavern. The emphasis here is country.'
Jennifer Byrne observes that 'Ani Difranco has never been a lady to hold back, either musically or lyrically.' Evolve 'sees Ani at her most complex, her least conventional,'and 'kept me coming back for more. This woman has a draw that I can't quite place.'
Judith Gennett adds to her rapidly expanding collection of Excellence in Writing Awards for her review of The Stones Of Callanish, a 'folk opera, 'written by English poet and humorist Les Barker. Nick Dow, Rod Paterson, Leslie Davies, Janet Russell, Phil Cunningham and Savourna Stevenson all contribute to Barker's opus, an album that Judith calls 'A lovely work recommended for those who love Scottish music, synthesis of Scottish music, history, geography, and words.'
Stephen Hunt reviews Goodnight Ginger, the latest release by the highly acclaimed John McCusker, and rates it very highly indeed. He concludes: 'This is an album built to last, by a musician who is both a visionary and a craftsman.'
David Kidney wasn't exactly engaged by The Lost Tapes Vols 1 & 2 by Underground British blues rockers The Groundhogs. David explains: 'I had to bring in an associate reviewer to help with this one. Meet Spike, who helps me out with stuff that's just beyond my comprehension.' David and Spike will have to decide among themselves who gets to keep the Excellence in Writing Award for this review!
Peter Massey, like Judith, reviews an album of Les Barker material performed by an all-star cast. Some Love Songs by Les Barker features the voices of Fiona Simpson, June Tabor, Roy Bailey, Pete Morton, Lesley Davies, Eliza Carthy, Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, Alison Younger, Keith Hancock and Chris While. For all the promise of that cast list, Peter still reckons 'it is hard to identify who the audience is that might buy this album.'
Jack Merry observes that: 'Though we at Green Man generally have no trouble finding the choicest Nordic CDs there are to be had, I expect that isn't always true for you!' His review of three new Nordic CDs not only introduces us to the fine music of Frifot (Sluring), Mari Eggen and Helene Høye (Glød), and Frigg (Frigg), but also to cdRoots' Cliff Furnald: 'the individual responsible for this wonderful online store', that makes these artists' work available. Thanks, Jack!
Lars Nilsson is another reviewer with a fondness for Scots Celtic music. Angus Lyon & Ruaridh Campbell are the accordion and fiddle duo responsible for Simple Tricks , of which Lars says: 'I like this album very much. It has been running a lot in my CD player for the last month and it will certainly be kept in the pack of CDs frequently played long after this review has been completed'.
Kelly Sedinger says that 'Skott Freedman's album Some Company falls into a category that I like to call 'Sensitive Male Contemporary' -- earnest lyrics, expressing Freedman's inner feelings (mainly dealing with relationships), sung over solo piano background. He fits squarely into the musical terrain explored by such artists as Jim Brickman and Bruce Hornsby.' Kelly receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Big Earl Sellar really enjoyed ¡Si!cd by Orquesta Cumbre De Pinar Del Rio. Big Earl notes: 'This interesting CD came my way recently, an older release from the explosion of Cuban discs that came out in the mid 1990s. It's a highly danceable take on the music from this island. Where many releases emphasis the sons and other traditional forms, this Orquesta has heavy dollops of swing and torch permuting throughout.'
Gary Whitehouse says 'The Continental Drifters are currently on an extended hiatus, but that doesn't mean you can't hear some 'new' music from this quintessential American roots-rock band.' That 'new' music comes in the form of two CDs, Nineteen Ninety-Three, and Listen, Listen. 'Together or singly, these releases should make the Continental Drifters some new fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and keep their long-time fans happy as they await whatever will be the next incarnation of this superb ensemble.'
Finally this week, a review of I'm Staying Out by Caitlin Cary, a CD Gary describes as 'a masterful blend of styles, from wistful folk to crunchy rock, blue-eyed soul to honky-tonk. Every song -- most co-written with her collaborator Mike Daly -- is a little Southern novella, ripe with character and action sketched in the sure strokes of Cary's lyrics.'
That's it for another week. After all the revelry of the day we're meeting up in the Great Hall tonight for our annual screening of The Wicker Man. It's a grand occasion where everyone dresses up in early seventies rural Brit clobber and sings along with the soundtrack. Apart from being loads of fun (much better than The Rocky Horror Picture Show), it's a chance for us all to indulge in a little mutual congratulation of the fact that while we may have shed a few inhibitions, none of us lost our heads. Chop chop!
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Updated 25 May 03, 06:30 GMT (MN)