Welcome to GMR

If you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the fortnightly edition which is up every other Sunday morning and which alternates with a Story on the other Sunday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, Nordic live music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novels, action figures such as that of Spider-Man, the new Doctor Who series, fiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices. You’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library. And you’ll also get to hear music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album.

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What’s New for the 19th of September: Red Molly cover Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning”, All Things Neverwhere, live rock and roll from New Zealand, lots and lots of Kit Kats, and much more

“Anyway, death is so final, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” asked Richard.
“Sometimes,”  said the Marquis de Carabas.

Neil Gaiman’s 
Neverwhere

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If you look down to the bottom floor of the central well of the Library, you’ll see our card catalog on the wall nearest the circular staircase. Yes, a physical card catalog, as I feel it’s important for the Several Annies, my sort of Library Apprentices, to understand the relation of books to each other and nothing does that better than a physical tracking system. The card catalog represents one hundred and seventy years of the constant evolution of this Library and the entire Kinrowan Estate by extension.

Got a subject you’re interested in? Oh, cider making? Our card catalog has a précis of each book on that subject, the year published, the author(s) and of course where it’s located, as the Library has myriad locations, from the cookbook collection housed just outside the Kitchen to the botanical books that Gutmansdottir, the naturalist studying The Wild Wood, has in her work space, and the extensive fiction collection on the wall behind us.

A good review works like that as well. It, when done right, not only helps you in telling if you’ll be interested in seeking it out (and some of our reviewed books take a bit of effort to find as many are long out of print, or are of works done on presses long gone) but also places it within the greater landscape of literature itself.  And our music reviews also do this, so that you know where Dexy’s Midnight Runners falls in the history of the 70s Birmingham, England, music scene and why their ‘Come On Eileen’ caught on with the MTV listening public.

And of course we cover other interesting stuff such as mystery filmscookbooksFolkmanis puppets, chocolate, really tasty ale, neat action figures and tarot cards.

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All of our literary and related reviews in this section this time are of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. To my not surprise given its popularity among the staff here, I discovered that we’ve reviewed it quite a number of times – as a book of course multiple times, as an audiobook several times, as a BBC series, as a graphic novel and even as a theatre production, so I decided to bring all of those together here.

April leads us with the graphic novel that was made of it: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

Cat is up next with a recently released full-cast production audiobook of Neverwhere: ‘I spent nearly four very entertaining hours listening to the latest interaction of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a full cast production that I swear was completely rewritten yet again for this production. Gaiman would win the 2015 BBC Audio Drama for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Drama for this series. He certainly deserved it!’

He also looks at Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text: ‘There are any number of editions, many in the author’s preferred edition, of Neverwhere from inexpensive paperbacks to really costly hardcover editions signed by Gaiman. And of course, it exists as a digital publication in the same author’s preferred edition, not to mention as a graphic novel, a BBC series which is interesting if flawed,  and a full cast audio-drama, which is splendid.  But the edition I own, well, aside from the audio-drama and an ebook, is the illustrated edition with artwork by Chris Riddell.’

Cat has a small treat for us to finish off his reviews: ‘Neil Gaiman’s “How The Marquis Got His Coat Back” is a fun appetiser of a story though it really should be put back into Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text where it really belongs instead as an appendix at the end, or as a separate audio story, as it’s really just a chapter within that greater story. It’s wonderfully played here by the cast of Paterson Joseph, Bernard Cribbins, Samantha Beart, Adrian Lester, Mitch Benn and Don Warrington with a special appearance by Neil Gaiman as he always does in his radio productions.’

The audiobook version of this novel has a second review by Kestrell that starts off this way: ‘I’m not a big fan of audiobooks. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy having someone read to me, because I do — I’m even married to a man who reads to me as often as I let him.’  Now read her review to see why Gaiman narrating it won her over!

She had some worries about a stage production of this novel before she saw it: When I sat down to view Lifeline Theatre’s live stage production of Neverwhere, I had my doubts. Works of fantasy offer a particular challenge for live theatre in that the fantastic often translates poorly to the limitations of the flesh and the material world, resulting in bad fur suits and the omission of many favorite passages.’

Rebecca, who loved the novel, watched the BBC series that became that novel. Did she like it? Let’s see: ‘I enjoyed the show. I really did, despite all the things I’ve tutted over in this review. And if you’re a Gaiman fan, or a Dr. Who fan looking for something new, or you like urban fantasy and don’t mind the BBC’s style, you’ll probably like it too. But if you’re addicted to The O.C. or Friends or some other shining example of American TV, you’ll probably be happier skipping it.’

Richard finished off these reviews by giving us a second opinion on the novel:  ‘Neverwhere is the story of a not-quite-nebbish named Richard, who is a perfectly archetypal young executive. He’s got a suitably generic job, a suitably socially climbing fiancee and a suitably mundane existence being harried along by the demands of each. Richard’s is exactly the sort of life that could do with a swift kick of magic, and that’s exactly what he gets.’ Now read his review to see why he thinks this tale of London Below is worth reading.

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As a woman who grew up snarfing on all sorts of Japanese Kit Kat bars (#HapaLife), Denise decided to see how the other half lives by eating her way through several flavors Hershey’s has on offer in the States. First off, Kit Kat Duos Mint and Dark Chocolate. ‘… this one seems to be the one that would play well even in Peoria. Mint and dark chocolate. Sounds refined, no? Yes.’ 

Next up, she nibbled on Kit Kat Duos Mocha and Chocolate, which seemed to whet her appetite for a Mocha Frappe. At least for a little while. ‘And yeah, I understand that mocha and chocolate is basically coffee, chocolate, and chocolate. But I’m okay with that.’

Wandering into the world of Limited Edition flavors, Denise decided to try Kit Kat Key Lime Pie, a flavor she had her reservations about, but seemed to be pleasantly surprised by. ‘This particular combo of sweetness, umami-esque lime flavor, and silky texture is a bit too much all in one sitting. But that’s okay. That means I have some for tomorrow. Or later tonight.’

Lastly, Denise decided to try the Kit Kat Cereal Candy Bar, and has been requesting a GMR Purple Heart ever since. (I hate to tell her, but we don’t have those…perhaps Blodeuwedd can work some feline charms on her, and snuggle the pain away.) ‘DAMN this smells like candy plastic. You know what I’m talking about; when a food has so many chemical reactions going on that all you can think of is an ’80s Strawberry Shortcake doll and that “strawberry” smell. But with more plastic.’

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Big Earl rhapsodizes about Doc Watson and David Holt’s Legacy in this archival review: ‘Jaw-dropping playing, great songs, fantastic stories, and more than enough yucks to keep the tempo up, all wrapped up in a beautiful package. And cheap to boot! Strongly recommended.’

Gary steps outside his usual comfort zone to review some actual rock music! And by a band from New Zealand, no less. ‘So, rock and roll. Two guitars, bass and drums. Loud, messy and emotional. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I still need it. And who better right now to provide the catharsis of rock and roll than Auckland, New Zealand’s The Beths?’

‘If you like sharply poetic lyrics in aggressively engaging musical settings, don’t sleep on this one,’ says Gary of The Felice Brothers’ new album From Dreams To Dust. ‘The Felice Brothers have been on my radar for years but I confess this is the first I’ve checked them out. I’m regretting my omission. This is smart and catchy music.’

Gary was very favorably impressed with Volume 16 of Naxos World’s Folk Music of China series, this one featauring Folk Songs of the Dong, Gelao & Yao Peoples. ‘Anyone who likes multipart ensemble singing with intricate, close harmonies will find this disc absolutely indispensable. I’m a big fan of the choral music of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and the music of the Dong and Yao people on this disc rivals anything found there.’

Percussionist André Ferrari is a part-time member of the Swedish folk ensemble Väsen, and nyckelharpa virtuoso Olov Johansson a full-time member since it was founded in 1989 or thereabouts. Gary reviews a new recording by Ferrari and Johansson called In Beat Ween Rhythm. ‘Playing nothing but the nyckelharpa, percussion and some electronic synthesizers, they’ve made a program of highly engaging music rooted in tradition but thoroughly modern.’

In her archival review, Jo was pleasantly surprised by a Celtic harp recording. ‘In general, harp recordings can capture a good bit of the enchantment of the instrument, but rarely do they come close to the magic of hearing a live harp performance. Jennifer White’s Clarsach sounds more like sitting in someone’s living room listening to them play harp live than any other I have experienced.’

From deep in the Archives comes this extensive review by Kelly of Howard Shore and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s The Lord of the Rings soundtracks. ‘Let me lay my cards on the table: As far as I am concerned, Howard Shore’s work on The Lord of the Rings constitutes not just the finest individual aspect of the films themselves, but also one of the finest efforts in film scoring of the last two decades, if not the finest.’

Also from the archives, Patrick took a deep dive into Jimmy Young’s Pipe-works, an album featuring the Scottish smallpipes, Northumbrian pipes and border pipes, and dedicated to a specific ship. ‘But this album does more than bring together different types of bagpipes. It also doubles as a tribute to Greenpeace’s first “Rainbow Warrior,” which was scuttled by members of the French Secret Service. … As such, Pipeworks is at once celebratory and melancholy…’

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For our What Not this time, Robert takes us on a tour around Lincoln Park Zoo’s South Pond Nature Boardwalk: ‘ If you’re visiting Chicago and need a break from the museums, architecture tours, shopping, and theater, check out South Pond in Lincoln Park, just south of Lincoln Park Zoo, for a nice relaxing hour or two. It’s another restoration project in the Park, this one under the auspices of the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, and it’s come along quite nicely — I call it “the Lakefront, BC — Before Chicago”.’

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Now lets finish off with ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, a Richard Thompson penned song which was first on his Rumor and Sigh album, as covered here by the all female Red Molly band. It was assumed when this song was released by them as there’s a red haired Molly in the song that they’d named the band after this song but instead it’s because there’s a red headed Molly in the band. We’ve reviewed several of their recordings including Love and Other Tragedies.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Cernunnos

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I’ve rarely been scared deeply but I was upon encountering The Horned God while on a walk with two of the Estate’s Russian wolf hounds deep in the woods a few days ago.

As you know, this Estate is big. Really big. Part of that is a result of being on The Border with the realms of The Fey, but it’s also a very old Estate that never got broken up. You can walk in the direction away from the village that’s twenty miles away and where Riverrun Farm borders us, for more hours than really bear thinking about. I had packed a lunch, some ale, a book, and a desire to be away from everyone for a full day, as I was getting grouchy for no good reason.

So I set out not long after dawn, walking in a direction that would take me past the Standing Stones and into the forested area we leave alone. It’s an old forest, old as anything in these Isles, which is a situation best not dwelled upon. Really old forests mean even older beings and so I was was not surprised when I encountered one here.

So why was I scared so deeply? Because old gods such as the one I encountered there are rarely of the compassionate sort. And standing there tall and wide of beam with skin more like bark than anything else with a set of antlers complete with deep green moss was what I took to be Cernunnos. What else could such a being be?

Despite being roughly human in shape, there was an inhumaness to him, something in his eyes and bearing that said he’d been living for longer than I was comfortable thinking about – and I’ve talked with Odin. Fortunately for me, it seemed that he had no interest in me, for he noticed me not as he moved on toward wherever he’d been headed before I came upon him.

I decided that I’d skip playing music and eating lunch out there. Suddenly I was very desirous of getting back to that which I had been wanting to be away from! Oh, and the Estate Russian wolf hounds had already decided that returning home was a task to which they quite urgently needed to attend.

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What’s New for the 5th of September: All things whisky; Child ballads and Welsh mythology; demon barbers and swamp things; Rick Danko, singers from Queens and Florida; a rat in a tin can, and much more

After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink. Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Prefect Dram

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Summer is passing as it always does on the Kinrowan Estate in fits and starts with both unseasonably warm weather and weather that means a fire is built in the rooms that Ingrid, the Estate Steward, and I have on the fourth floor of Kinrowan Hall. I think having a fire this time of year, as the early Autumn rains begin in earnest, is as much about feeling warm as being warm.

And that also applies to my fondness for both playing and listening to Celtic music as both activities are quite comforting. It just feels good to be either a member of the Neverending Session, particularly when they’re here in our Pub, or working behind the Bar when they’re playing. That space feels at its very best on a late Summer evening when there’s a chill in the air and the Neverending Session is playing this steller music.

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April says ‘Wise Children, like Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, is comprised of stories within stories. The framing story concerns events occurring on the day of Melchior’s 100th birthday — which also happens to be Nora and Dora’s 75th birthday. But Dora runs away with the narrative and lays out a memoir for the “Lucky” Chances (as the sisters were known professionally), beginning two generations before they were even born, with their paternal grandparents. Along the way, readers are treated to a brief history of British live stage entertainment — with a brief foray into American movies — throughout the 1900s.’

Thomas the Rhymer gets the approval of Debbie: ‘Ellen Kushner has taken Child Ballad #37 (upon which Steeleye’s version is based) and thoroughly fleshed it out into a most enjoyable and fascinating read. In one of those odd coincidences in life (or maybe not so odd), the aforementioned Maddy Prior is quoted on the back cover of this paperback, saying “A book to introduce those who know nothing of the ballads to their rich and deep content … and intrigue those already familiar with them.” I couldn’t agree with her more. Think of it, if you will, as your invitation to a most marvelous world you might not discover otherwise.’

Cat has an unusual offering from an English writer: ‘Let’s start off with what Boneland isn’t: despite sharing a primary character with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, beloved children’s novels known as The Alderley Tales that were published in 1957 and 1964, this is very much an adult novel not intended for the pleasure of children whatsoever. Indeed its tone is more akin to what the late Robert Holdstock did in his Ryhope Wood series than anything else Alan Garner has done excepting Thursbitch and Strandloper.’

Grey looks at The Wood Wife by Terri Windling: ‘Some writers give us stories that are like keys to the door of our cage. They let us escape out of a world that is mostly mundane, often confusing and troubling, into worlds of light and beauty. Because of them, we learn to hope for a better world. Then there are writers who give us stories that are like looking glasses, through which we can see our world with fresh, strangely clear vision. Because of them, we learn to love the world we have more fiercely. In her fairy tale The Wood Wife, Terri Windling gives us a story that begins like a key, but turns into a looking glass in our hands.’

Iain looks at Angela Carter’s The Curious Room: Plays, Film Scripts and an Opera. As he says of her in his review, Sometimes the Reaper is just too damn unfair. Angela Olive Stalker Carter died of lung cancer in 1992 at the far too young age of 52. Writer, feminist theorist, folklorist, opera buff, playwright, poet — she was these things and much, much more. ‘

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by him: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Steven has a look at a novel in a long running mystery series: ‘Tony Hillerman’s Hunting Badger was inspired by a real 1998 case that resulted in the murder of a police officer. The author refers to the case repeatedly but doesn’t offer any clues to its solution. Instead, he uses it as the springboard for a story that plays on Navajo history and mythology, with the “Badger” of the title turning out to be both a legendary Ute warrior and his son, the former having been thought of as a witch by mystified Navajos and the latter perhaps taking advantage of his father’s tricks following a murderous raid on a casino.’

Warner has a mystery for us: ‘One Last Lie is Paul Doiron’s latest novel of adventure and mystery in the wilderness near the U.S.-Canada border. Filled with questions of past sins and current crimes, the book manages to continue in the trend of exciting and detailed mysteries in Doiron’s work. Like many mysteries, this volume starts with a little breathing room to familiarize us with the protagonist.’

He next moves on to this book: ‘Rhythm of War is a big step for Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. Sanderson has a reputation for writing very long books, as well as very intricate rule-based magic systems. At over 1,200 pages, many of them focusing explicitly upon characters researching the systems in this setting, Rhythm of War stays very true to form in that regard.’

He finishes off with a short story that became a novel, albeit of a compact nature: ‘Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground is a fascinating example of a lost novel. A relatively early manuscript by an author famed for his work dealing with the American black experience, this volume is as much a reflection of what could have been as it is an extension of his existing themes and storytelling.’

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Our food and drink reviews this time is all about whisky, something that many of us here at the Kinrowan Estate are quite fond of. Did you know we do whisky tastings here? The tastings are one of the two times a year, midsummer, and the annual Robert Burns supper being the other one, when Iain dons his clan kilt with full regalia. It’s quite a sight. And the Neverending Session plays nothing but traditional Scottish tunes for them. There’s also a concert at each tasting featuring performers such as Dougie MacLean, the Old Blind Dogs or Shooglenifty.

So let’s start off with American whisky. Gary looks at a detailed history of that drink: ‘I realize that movie Westerns are no longer the cultural touchstone they were for my generation, but I’m sure many of you have no trouble remembering a movie scene in which a cowboy walks into a saloon, orders a whiskey and the barkeep pours him one from a clear glass quart-size bottle. Maybe the cowboy even says “I’ll take the bottle” and heads for a table. Sorry, but it probably didn’t happen that way. Like so many other historical details, the makers of Westerns probably got that one wrong, or so implies Reid Mitenbuler in his lucid book Bourbon Empire.’

Jennifer heard tell of putting smoke in your booze years ago, but it was a while before she met an actual smoke-flavored whiskey. Actually, it’s even weirder than that. Here she reviews the most controversial of the offerings from Two James Distillery of Detroit.

Judith looks at The Water of Life; ‘You would think that one album about booze would be enough for even a Scotsman, but not for singer-traditional songwriter Robin Laing. The Water of Life is Laing’s second, after The Angel’s Share, with songs on both CDs from his one-man show on whiskey. Laing, originally from Edinborough but now living in rural Lanarkshire, seems to have settled into a distillery groove. Great idea!’

Speaking of great ideas, the late Iain Banks, best known for his Culture novels such as The Hydrogen Sonata and Surface Detail, decided to ask his publisher for money to sample the smaller whiskey distilleries in Scotland. The resulting book, Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram was given a rave review by our Cornish-based Michael, who aptly notes that ‘This review was written over Hogmanay, 2003, under the influence of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie Port-Wood Finish, both of which, I’m delighted to report, meet with the approval of Mr Banks.’

Coming full circle, Vonnie looks at yet another album about whisky by Robin Laing: ‘Whisky for Breakfast is an amiable album, not to be taken too seriously, about the pleasures of life as seen through the lens of whisky. Robin Laing’s songs all have something to do with whisky, but the thread is interpreted broadly, with celebrations of drinking but also history and a grand sense of place.’

Lets finish off with  a recommendation of a whiskey tasting blogspot which is described this way: ‘SmokyBeast is penned by a whisky-loving wife and husband team in New York City. We sit down every Sunday night after our daughter goes to bed, and crack open a well-earned reward: a bottle of dark, smoky, and delicious whisky. Here are some of our favorites, and some lessons we’ve learned along the way.’ Need I say more? I think not.

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Craig is a big fan of the PBS film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s stage musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. So how did he feel about Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Sweeney Todd, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter? He liked it! ‘It works as a horror film, as a tragedy, as an oddball romance (of sorts), and best of all, it still works as a musical.’

Although she liked the original Wes Craven film of Swamp Thing, Denise was less happy with the DVD set of the first two seasons of Swamp Thing: The Series based on that movie. ‘I’m a Swampy fan, so when I started watching this set I was excited. That excitement dimmed once I got hip-deep into the first episode. These episodes are touted as “the first 22 episodes in the order they were meant to be seen!” so things should flow seamlessly. But the first five episodes are horrible, jumbled messes, bouncing from one scene to the other with little if any explanation for the gaps in continuity.’

Gary enjoyed a concert DVD from one of his favorite musical acts, Calexico’s World Drifts In: Live at the Barbican London: ‘Calexico is one of the most interesting bands performing right now, both aurally and visually, and World Drifts In captures the band in all its glory during a festival at London’s Barbican hall in November 2002. The Tucson alt-rockers put on quite a show.’

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Cat predicted a serious hit to his disposable income from the purchase of many new graphic novel series, after he spent some quality time with one particular tome: ‘So can I say 500 Essential Graphic Novels will help assist me – or you, for that matter – with finding new series? Quite well I’d say, given that it covers more than three hundred fifty authors, four hundred artists, and yes, five hundred graphic novels.’

Elizabeth was not pleased with the comic treatment of the Marvel universe’s Wolverine Volume 1: Prodigal Son, which she found to be the literary equivalent of a cheap knock-off action figure toy. ‘Heaven knows, the creators of this forgot everything they knew about Logan, as well as about plot, subtly-developed female characters, and realistic dialogue.’

Jack was thoroughly pleased with Alexander Irvine’s The Vertigo Encyclopedia, which he found to be a valuable guide to the various graphic series published by the estimable Vertigo house. ‘It is absolutely perfect for sensing if a series will interest you, as each entry for the major series includes a look at the characters and key story arcs, plus generous amounts of the artwork for that series.’

Raspberry dividerBig Earl did his best to review Abdouli Diakite and Mamadou Sidibe’s Jebebara: The Bamana Djembe; and various artists’ Tambacounda Senegal: Live Sogoni. They’re a couple of field recordings featuring the African drum known as the djembe. ‘It’s a beautiful sounding instrument, and in the hands of a master, an incredibly versatile one. However, on its own, it’s still a drum, and after a while, one would really appreciate another instrument (even a differently toned drum) to accompany the sound.’

David appreciated an album looking back at “The very best of” Dickey Betts from the 1970s and ’80s. ‘Bougainvillea’s Call reminds us that there were two great guitarists in the Allman Brothers Band, and it makes an outstanding call for us to pay more attention to the Richard Betts side of the equation.’

David truly enjoyed a reissue of an One More Shot, an early album by Rick Danko, Jonas Fjeld and Eric Andersen. ‘The studio album is beautiful. The three members play acoustic guitars and take turns singing lead and harmony vocals. They are complementary and supportive. This is truly a collaborative effort.’

Gary reviews an album that combines 19th century poetry with country music, noise rock and even jazz. ‘Queens-based singer, songwriter and bandleader Nico Hedley has dubbed his first full length album Painterly. It’s an odd sort of adjective, but just one listen to the album’s first track and its first single “Tennessee” explains it succinctly and sufficiently. This is an album whose lyrics and sound are indeed painterly.’

‘Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra is a modern big band featuring lots of horns including Bernstein’s slide trumpet, trombone, up to three saxophones, violin, guitar, bass, drums and the occasional guest vocalist,’ Gary notes. They’ve just released the first of a four-part series of albums of new music, this one called Tinctures in Time.

Gary reviews an album from Florida native Matthew Fowler. ‘The Grief We Gave Our Mother is a lesson in how arrangement and production can turn a collection of good songs into something more. Along the way a collection of confessional songs that started out as bare-bones acoustic numbers became an album of sparkling, enlivening and enlightening indie folk songs.’

Since Deb mentioned Steeleye Span & Maddy Prior’s A Rare Collection 1972-1996 in her book review above, we dug through the archives and found Michael’s review of the record. Of which he says, ‘The twenty tracks are a mix of never-before-released songs, different mixes, unusual edits, songs from solo and collaborative albums and so on. Yet, it comes across as a pretty cohesive album in its own right. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily “sound” like a compilation. All the tracks flow together well, and the musical quality is as high as anyone who knows Steeleye Span will expect.’

Speaking of Richard Danko, No’am was ambivalent about his posthumous solo album Times Like These. ‘Liking The Band does not mean that automatically you are going to like Rick Danko’s solo records, especially if The Band’s records you like the most were recorded in the 1960s.’

Peter warmed up to Jim Causley’s Fruits of the Earth, an album of old English folk songs by a young English folk singer. ‘I wasn’t quite sure about this album to begin with but it does grow on you. I fancy it will be favoured by the staunch traditionalists amongst you, so don’t be put off of buying it by the cover. It has a lot of excellent songs. The sound and content could have been recorded 20 years ago.’

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Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

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I’m very fond of the newish wave of Scottish bands that started up some thirty years ago, I’m also giving you the Peatbog Faeries, Peaties to their  fans, doing ‘The Great Ceilidh Swindle’ at the 2006 Celtic Connections in Glasgow. This band’s a favourite among the Fey including a friend of mine, Jenny Thistlethwaite.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Rooms

Green LeavesKinrowan Hall’s a vast sprawling edifice going back far longer than one would suspect and it’s been added unto more often than perhaps was for the better. What that means is that we who are staff here each have private space that’s unique.

The rooms here used as living space are eclectic to say the least. Myself and Catherine, my wife who’s a musician, have rooms on the fourth floor that consist of a bedroom, living room and a third room. What, no bathroom or kitchen, you ask? Well there are shared bathrooms on every floor and of course the Estate Kitchen is second to none in terms of feeding everyone here.

What’s interesting about our rooms is that they were completely renovated for us before we moved in some twenty years ago. The heating system was upgraded to the latest forced hot water compete with the flat wall radiators which are amazingly effective and keep us comfy even in the coldest weather. The trade-off for this is that we don’t use the fireplace that was here as it, like all such fireplaces, was really horrid at both heating this space and being energy efficient. I admit probably felt nice.

The bedroom is generously sized and has a lot of built-in storage, which is great for us. It looks over a near-by apple orchard, which of course means amazing smells in the spring. We’ve got a cozy sitting area with built-in bookcases, a comfortable couch and chair, reading lamps and a Turkish rug that’s centuries old. Again it looks out upon Oberon’s Wood. The third room I mentioned is actually the largest room which is how it can be both her work space and our personal library.

The rooms are up on the fourth floor which means it’s a quiet enough space. Reynard and his wife have quarters here as they moved into the space occupied by the former Steward when Ingrid took that position over.

It’s particularly nice during one of the fortunately rare blizzards we get as the storms are awesome from this viewpoint — you can see the walls of snow coming across the landscapes!

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What’s New for the 22nd of August: some Grateful Dead, Lady Astronauts, Swedish and American jazz, a Tenth Doctor tale, and much more

In the middle of this poor life, we are surrounded by mystery, and the pity of it is that we would rather just be poor. No real tolerance for mystery at all. — Jennifer Stevenson’s Trash, Sex, Magic

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Come in… Let me pour you a pint of Dark Hollow Ale, one of our soon to be Autumn offerings here in the Green Man Pub —  I think you’ll like it. A Brewer from Big Foot County in the States who visited us collaborated with Bjorn, our Brewer, on it. He said that it reminds him of wood smoke, brightly coloured falling leaves and of the promise of an Autumn just starting.

Yes, I’m playing music by the Grateful Dead and the various associated bands and solo performers as I like most of what they did and the Neverending Session’s off elsewhere this afternoon. They’re helping Iain, who is doing a hands-on music lesson for the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices, who are learning the grimmer side of Scottish ballads such as ‘The Cruel Sister’ as performed here by the Aberdeen based Old Blind Dogs at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica one November, twenty seven years ago.

I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries as late, so I included a number of my favourites this time. Most are traditional mysteries, though David Hutchinson’s Europe In Autumn, one of my choices, is clearly SF also.

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Cat had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballads series had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.

A certain Charles looks at Charles Vess’ Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess. Now as his detailed review’s as much about the friendship that grew between them, I’ll let you read this charming tale of friendship and art without further ado. Oh and the book itself is simply stunning — truly an art gallery in a book form!

Gary was initially confused by Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon, because he picked it up without knowing that it’s an alternate history type science fiction tale, involving female astronauts in the late 1950s and early ’60s. ‘Let’s say I was confused for a while to be tossed into the first-person narrative in the voice of Nicole Wargin, who claimed to be a former military pilot and an astronaut, but she was parading around in heels and diamonds, and fielding a lot of archaic sexist banter at a dinner party hosted by her husband the governor of Missouri, who’s thinking about running for president.’ 8/22 or 9/5

Leona gives an incisive review of  Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, an Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, ‘this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

A Britain that never was also catches the interest of Lory: ‘Jo Walton has a knack for genre fiction with a twist. In the World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw, she gave us a Victorian family saga — complete with siblings squabbling over an inheritance, the woes of the unwed daughters of the house, and the very important question of What Hat to Wear — with a cast of dragons, literally red in tooth and claw. Now in Farthing, her material is the mid-century British country house murder mystery. The story is told in alternate chapters through the eyes of Lucy Kahn, a reluctant visitor to the family estate of Farthing, and over the shoulder of Inspector Carmichael, who has been sent from Scotland Yard to investigate the death of one of the other guests.’

Next we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a looked by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Richard has a look at a book containing a very big mystery: ‘David Hutchinson’s Europe In Autumn is really three books. There’s the first half of the volume, which is an elegantly crafted spy thriller set in an all-too believable near future Europe of endless “pocket” nations. Reminiscent of early period Le Carre (you’re going to hear that comparison come up a lot in connection with this series, and with good reason), it’s a slow burn that details the transformation of the laconic Rudi, a chef in a Polish restaurant, into a high-powered member of the secret organization Coureurs des Bois.’

He also has a look at, well, let him describe it: ‘Not So Much, Said The Cat is a largely themeless short story collection from five time Hugo winner Michael Swanwick. Apart from the byline, there’s little to unify these tales, which leap from the end of the Cretaceous to the deserted highways of post-apocalyptic Russia to the mean streets of Hell itself. Sometimes the stories themselves jump boundaries, as in “Goblin Lake,” which starts out as a Munchausen-style tall tale of old Europe and takes a sharp left turn into metafiction, or “The Dala Horse,” which starts as a fairy tale, veers into postapocalytpic grimness, takes a sudden left into cyberwarfare and sentient AIs, and then closes the circle with a fairy tale ending.’

A noir mystery is up next as Robert looks at Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy, which has been in his ‘peripheral vision for some time, and was brought front and center by Boiled in Lead’s CD Songs from The Gypsy. I’ve sort of put off Brust’s collaborations, of which this is one, although I can see that I’ve got to catch up on them.’ He goes on to say that he found this Hungarian folklore-tinged novel to be terrific, a comment I wholeheartedly agree with!

Warner says Marie Belloc Lowndes’ The Chianti Flaskis a most enjoyable little story featuring the agony of a murder trial and the bizzare nature of what can often follow. This is a wonderful twisting mystery that deserves more attention than it currently gets. Although as in most romantic mysteries, there is some focus a man (in this case a doctor named Mark Scrutton) the lead of the story is without a doubt a woman.

How about some horror? Warner has a nifty collection for us: ‘Joan Passey’s Cornish Horrors: Tales From the Land’s End is a well crafted theme anthology focusing upon strange and horrific tales relating to Cornwall. The stories in this collection were written over the better part of a century, ranging from the 1830’s all the way to 1912. They vary in subject matter, tone, style, and even the presence of the supernatural. The unifying elements are Cornwall and the out of the ordinary, a set of standards that creates an excellent assortment of stories for the reader.

Next up he reviews a bit of pulp: ‘James Swallow’s Shadow is an enjoyable read. Something on an update of a very old formula, and a part of a series that still manages to stand on its own. If one enjoys this type of thriller it is easy to recommend, and skipping the previous volumes shouldn’t be much of a concern.’

Some classic fantasy is his final review this edition: ‘Gene Wolfe’s Sword &  Citadel is a nice new omnibus of the third and fourth volumes in the series known as The Book of the New Sun. This new edition contains two classics of science fantasy The Sword of the Lictor and The Citidel of the Autarch in one package, with the bonus of a new introduction by celebrated author Ada Palmer.

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On June 11, Jennifer posted the megilleh for roasting a pig, Jenniferstyle. Today she’ll tell you how to keep your guests from gnawing your leg off while they’re standing around, drinking, and smelling the pig.

This is a pragmatic rather than a dramatic choice. You want to build suspense, sure, but more realistically speaking it’s very hard to predict the exact minute when a roast pig is donety-done-done. So invite people for three hours early. No need to tell ’em it’s pot luck – most people bring something anyway, and by people, we mean wives, because we have known husbands who say, “But there’s always way too much food, why are you cooking something to bring?” Cue eye-roll.

Just in case, however, and so’s not to let the table look bare or throw the first three arrivals back on their own bowl of potato salad, have these dishes ready before the first guest shows up: Tump chiliChocolate trifle,  Mint julepsBBQ chicken wings and corn bread.

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We start off our video reviews  with a Tenth Doctor story, ‘The Unicorn & The Wasp’ which Cat reviews: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’

An English country house murder mystery also gets reviewed by David: ‘As traditional as the genres he chose might have been, in Altman’s hand they were turned upside-down, and sideways. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie became anti-hero and opium addict in Altman’s “western” McCabe & Mrs. Miller, set to the music of Leonard Cohen! A laconic Elliott Gould became Raymond Chandler’s private dick Phillip Marlowe in an updated LA for Altman’s “detective” classic The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman has been the most American of directors, and now, in Gosford Park, he takes on the English country house murder mystery. Altman’s Agatha Christie film? What could this mean?’

Green LeavesChristopher reviewed some Swedish jazz on Bobo Stenson and Lennart Åberg’s Bobo Stenson/Lennart Åberg. ‘As testament to Stenson and Åberg’s talents, there is never the sense of something missing in this album. When needed, they comfortably create the propulsion and rich bottom usually provided by bass and drums, but also make excellent use of the open, spare, quality inherent in the duo format. This is “chamber jazz” in the best sense of the term, intimate and personal.’

David has some thoughts on songs, improv and how they meet in his review of Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead: ‘The Dead were not known for songs. They were the band of the long, free form jam. Deadheads reveled in the invention and magic created during what critics called “noodling”! Songs require structure and form. You might think that structure and form are concepts far outside the realm of improvisation, but the best improvisers require structure and form. It gives them something to hang their hat on.’ There’s much more, so check it out.

David has some good words for a project by three blues singers, Eric Bibb, Rory Block, and Maria Muldaur’s Sisters & Brothers. ‘The trio sound as if they were born to sing together. They capture the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the spiritual and the physical aspects of a life of blues. The sound is up to Telarc’s high standards. Producer Randy Labbe manages to capture pristine sound that never loses the essential humanity of the performers. Warm and real.’

Gary tried hard but couldn’t find anything not to like about Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream TriosSongs From My Father. ‘It’s a tribute by one of the most creative musicians in contemporary jazz in honor of his father, himself a top player and bandleader since the early 1950s who’s still going strong today at age 96. And it contains the last recordings by a titan of the jazz world whom we lost in early 2021.’

Gary has mixed feelings about The News, a new project led by free jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille with a new quartet of guitar, piano and bass. ‘Throughout the program Cyrille’s stickwork, particularly on cymbals, is mesmerizing. The sort of control and focus this type of music requires of all the players can’t be overstated. Undoubtedly I’d find it enthralling live in a club or theater setting, but much of it doesn’t quite gel for me as a recording.’

Gary enjoyed another jazz album, this one featuring New York pianist Orrin Evans fronting a quartet. ‘The Magic of Now is pianist Orrin Evans’ 20th album as a leader, and it’s surely one of his best, the statement of a mature artist at 46 years of age.’

Gary reviews yet another in Naxos World’s series of the Folk Music of China. This time it’s Vol. 15 – Folk Songs of the She, Miao & Li Peoples. ‘Much of this volume has a slightly more informal feel than the others I’ve covered. In addition to that giggling we hear a rooster crowing twice during one song, other background noises, singers pausing to clear their throats – the sort of thing that reminds you these are field recordings, though with much higher production values than I usually associate with that genre.’

Speaking of the Dead, Jack took a good long listen to another tribute album that’s long out of print now but well worth seeking out. ‘Deadicated is a compilation celebrating the Grateful Dead’s 25th anniversary. According to the liner notes, proceeds from this CD were to be given to organizations combating the devastation of the world’s tropical rain forests, specifically Rainforest Action Network and Cultural Survival.’

Scott reviews some Finnish folk music by singer Anna-Kaisa Liedes. ‘Best known for her work in groups like Niekku and MeNaiset, Liedes has spent her career blending Finnish and Karelian song traditions with vocal improvisation and experimentation. She continues in this fashion with her new CD and new backing band, both called Utua.’

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For our What Not this week, Robert takes us once again to the Field Museum of Natural History and a blast from the past as we wander Inside Ancient Egypt: ‘As we traverse Stanley Field Hall, the central main-floor atrium of the Field Museum of Natural History, we notice off in the southwest corner, behind a row of arches, what looks to be an ancient Egyptian mastaba. Well, close — it’s a reconstruction of a mastaba, more precisely, the mastaba at Saqqara that housed the tomb on Unis-Ankh.’ There’s more, of course, so feel free to investigate.

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I’m going to leave you with the late Kage Baker reading one of her own works, that being her Empress of Mars novella. It was supposed to be included on a CD in the limited edition version of the story that was going to be published by Nightshade Books but that never happened, so she gave us permission to publish it digitally. So find a quiet place to listen and settle in to hear a most excellent SF story told by a master storyteller!

Kathleen, her sister and a damn fine writer as well, notes that ‘she was an old-fashioned storyteller. She loved adding dimensions, and felt that all her stories should be either copiously illustrated or read out to an audience.’

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Venison Stew

A letter from the journal of Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to her friend, who was staying in Constantinople as of this letter. Alex, as she was known, copied her personal correspondence into her Journal. She noted in her will that her letters were to be part of the Estate Library upon her death. She would live to well over a hundred, even longer than her Queen would!

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Dear Tessa,

It’s now starting to get seriously cold here and we’ve enjoyed the heating in Kinrowan Hall as it’s been below freezing overnight for the past fortnight. I’ve pulled my long woolen skirts and sweaters out of storage and am glad that there’s not much that needs doing outside this time of year that I can’t delegate to Estate staff. As I get older, I’m very much appreciating that our Steward convinced our bankers in Edinburgh that a central hot water heating system was needed. It’s certainly nice to be warm in the winter. 

Fitting for the weather, Cook decided a few days ago that a venison stew and sourdough rolls would be a good repast for the communitarian supper we have on Fridays here. Fortunately we had some venison that was aged just right after hanging outside for several days, so I had the lads take a haunch off it and deliver it to him for use in the stew.

Cook noted that was a particularly good Fall season for venison, as the previous winter had been mild and the summer fattened them up nicely and you want meat well marbeled with fat, which was also the case with the pigs we let forage in the acorns dropped by our ancient oaks. My staff has had some very long days slaughtering the latter and getting the meat either preserved in a brine or, as is our preferred manner, twice smoked before hanging in the dry, cool cellars beneath Kinrowan Hall.

Potatoes, carrots, onions, dried mushrooms,  juniper berries, and a generous measure of red wine went into the large stew pot yesterday so that the stew would have a chance to get its full flavour. It certainly smelled good when one passed the Kitchen and it tasted even better! Fresh pressed cider and hot gingerbread for dessert were all else served and it was quite sufficient.

Now I’m off to The Pub to sit by the fire and listen to the musicians play while I work on another sweater. The wool was from the North Country farm whose daughter Catriona is a Library Apprentice here. We traded some of our metheglin, Welsh style mead,  for it. It’s lovely wool indeed!

Affectionally yours, Alex
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What’s New for the 8th of August: Many things Boiled in Lead, several things Ian MacDonald, Elizabeth Bear on chocolate, Peter Gabriel in concert, Danger Girls, Wobblies, and SF-inspired folk music

When I am dead, I want for my grave
A flashy funeral pray let me have
Six highwaymen for to carry me
Oh give them broadswords and sweet liberty
Oh give them broadswords and sweet liberty

‘The Newry Highwayman’

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What’s that lovely piece of music I’ve been playing in the Library? That’d be Boiled in Lead‘s version of a trad piece called ‘Newry Highwayman’ Not ‘tall trad the way that they do it, but who cares long as it’s great music? I’m playing only that band this afternoon as I go through the correspondence that’s come in to me this past fortnight.

Some of it is from the publicists we deal with who thought I might be interested in purchasing something they were hawking for the Library. If I’m interested, particularly if it’s fiction, I’ll see if there’s sufficient interest among the Estate community, since the purpose of a work is to be read over and over, not sit on a shelf.  And some works never garner enough interest to be worth having. For those books, we use the British Interlibrary loaning system.

In between lots of coffee and setting up my ‘office’ which is myself, a large mug of Blue Mountain coffee, a very large and warm cardamon chocolate sticky bun and my iPad, I‘m now down in the Kitchen on the corner bench watching the staff as they talk among themselves as they prepare the evening meal of roast chicken, new potatoes, sautéed corn and peppers, and blackberry tartlets with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Sounds positively yummy!

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April starts us off with a treat for fairy tale aficionados: ‘Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are well known, even to those who’ve never heard his name. His stories have entered our cultural consciousness (who doesn’t know of “The Little Mermaid,” even if it’s only through Disney’s version) and verbal lexicon (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”) and are here to stay. Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen offers a glimpse at the man behind the tales, the subtle nuances of his art and language and renders the stories all the more powerful.’

Cat considers Emma Bull’s Finder to be the best look at the Terri Windling created Bordertown series: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled “A Novel of The Borderlands,” which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’

He was also pleased with The Best Thing You Can Steal, the first installment in the new Gideon Sable series from Simon R. Green. ‘Gideon Sable is a thief par excellance. He specializes in stealing the kind of things that can’t normally be stolen — sometimes they don’t even exist as we normally define such things. He’s even stolen his name — he’s not the first Gideon Sable. So now he’s planning a master heist, to steal something from the most evil man in the world.’

Chuck notes that ‘I figure this much: Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road starts with a green man crossing the desert, so this has to be the perfect book for Green Man Review. OK, the book calls him a “greenperson,” and the desert is on a Mars of the future, transformed by mankind’s effort, but you get the idea. Trailing this greenperson is Dr. Alimantando. He comes to a place along a railroad, where, almost accidentally, he settles and starts the community that he names Desolation Road. Soon after, more people begin arriving and, in short order, the community becomes a village, a city, a war zone and a ghost-town — all within 23 Martian years. That’s the story.’

Gary reviewed Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales From The White Hart which, he notes, ‘is a series of superficially linked stories told by the fictional patrons of a fictional pub somewhere in London. The narrator is a fictionalized version of Clarke (the other patrons rib him for being a teetotaler), and I’ve no doubt some of the other patrons mentioned are probably based on others in his scientific and writing circles.’

Gary also looks at a perennial favorites of lots of us: ‘The long and colorful publishing history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with a new edition that seems to be aimed at reclaiming the written version of the story as a way to introduce it to young readers. It’s a handsome hardcover book with illustrations by the young Jemima Catlin, who was hand-picked for the assignment by the Tolkien Estate.’

An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Kelly says ‘Poul Anderson, who died in 2001, was one of the grand old voices of science fiction right up until his death, winning the Hugo Award seven times, the Nebula Award three times, and being named in 1997 as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. His was a long and prolific career. In the middle of that career, he created a character named Dominic Flandry, whose adventures had eluded me as a reader until my review copy of Ensign Flandry arrived on my desk. Now I’m wondering why.’

Kelly has a review of the audiobook version of a novel jointly written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. She says, ‘If you’ve never heard Good Omens, you should. Whether or not you give a damn about theology or metaphysics, I prophesy you’ll find yourself chuckling often — or, like me, barking — as Martin Jarvis and these two well loved masters poke fun at everything most people hold dear and bring you to the brink of Armageddon.’

Richard looks at an Ian MacDonald novel which is set in the same reality as Desolation Road  and has a cautionary note as his first words: ‘You will know whether you will love or hate Ares Express long before you have finished the first chapter. The litmus test is very simple: what is your reaction to the name of the main character. If you find Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Assim Engineer 12th to be painfully twee or flat-out incomprehensible, then you will hate this book.’

Robert looked at a novel that should probably have a warning label, The Incrementalists, a collaboration between Steven Brust and Skyler White: ‘Readers who like everything laid out plainly are going to hate this book – nothing is up front. I was struck by how much of the story happens behind the words: it comes in layers and as they get unpeeled, one discovers more layers.’

And there’s more as he reviewed the sequel as well: ‘Call it “slipstream”: it’s not exactly science fiction, although it could be; nor is it fantasy, although it has elements of that, in the gritty, contemporary, urban vein; and anything it takes from mainstream fiction is more from the realm of Pynchon than Hemingway. I’m referring, of course, to The Skill of Our Hands, the sequel to The Incrementalists from Steven Brust and Skyler White.’

Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief is says our Warner, ‘ a fun and fast moving read. Not for those who need clean language, or who cannot handle the occasional tragic moment, but quite enjoyable. This would be easy to recommend to readers who might enjoy something rougher and darker fantasy.’

Up next for this reviewer is bit of comic fluff: ‘this David Ebenbach’s How To Mars is a fascinating bit of comedy built from a series of shorter pieces into a novel. A group of people are on an ill-considered mission to chastely colonize mars. One of them has gotten pregnant. As a premise goes, this certainly lends itself to comedic potential.’

A tough subject wraps up the reviews for this staffer: ‘Jamison Green’s Becoming a Visible Man is an excellent autobiography of an at this point fairly well-known trans rights activist and expert. It also represents an excellent tool for individuals seeking to better understand the trans man, the issues he might run up against and the life he might lead. A popular book in its area when first printed in 2004, this second edition updates and expands itself greatly.’

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A certain Elizabeth has a chocolate story for us: ‘Best chocolate? Here’s a story: About ten years ago, my sister-in-law gave my family, gathered some 20-odd strong in Vermont, a box of extremely expensive Belgian chocolates for Christmas. (I can’t recall the name of the company, but I’ll check later.) We spent the week eating them, and then when there were only a few left, my 8-year-old daughter Callie picked one out, bit into it and cried out; then held out her hand to display a small metal bolt. (Fortunately no teeth were broken.) I took the bolt, and when we got home to Maine, wrote a very nice letter to the chocolate company’s American office, explaining what had happened, and sent it off with the offending metal. I then told Callie and her four-year-old brother, “We will now be supplied with chocolate for life.” Well, we weren’t set for life, but a week later an ENORMOUS box of chocolates (huge box, and three layers deep) arrived with a very nice very apologetic letter from the company. We ate those chocolates for about a month. They were fabulous. Sadly, I’ve never been able to afford to eat them since.’

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OK, I’m not sure this exists anymore and I’m reasonably certain it was only released on VHS but Michael says it’s worth seeking out: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first showed in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.’ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’ The story is found in the Dreams Underfoot collection, which is available what I call the usual suspects of Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo.

Cat has another one of those ‘if you can find this, you must watch it’ reviews. This time out he tells us about Secret World Live, a DVD of a 1993 Peter Gabriel concert. ‘Peter is a man comfortable on the boundaries between folk and rock, between nature and technology, between theater and music — he thrives on the edges where most artists truly dare not go.’

Michelle enjoyed the updated film treatment of an age-old fairy tale, Ever After: A Cinderella Story, directed by Andy Tennant. ‘As a lighthearted twist on convention, Ever After offers many pleasures; and as a fantasy of a Renaissance woman out to transform her own fortunes if not her society, it has the virtue of a happy ending.’

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Denise was a little surprised to find herself enjoying Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection, by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell. But she found the story and especially the art too titillating to put down. ‘As far as the story goes, with the not-so-subtle nod to Indiana Jones-type, rock-’em-sock-’em action, the pages turn quickly. Every chapter/issue has a cliffhanger that will kill any idea of “just one more page before bed.” ‘

Donna takes a close look at a graphic treatment of a subject she knows something about, the labor struggle in the United States. Here she reviews Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman. ‘Intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the IWW, Wobblies! is an unabashed tribute to the union and its founders and members, known and unknown.’

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From the Archives, we have a couple of reviews of CDs by Americana musician Darrell Scott:

Brendan had mixed feelings about Darrell Scott’s Family Tree. ‘Combining his husky, world-weary voice with a cadre of top-notch musicians — Sam Bush on fiddle and mandolin, Vassar Clements on fiddle, and Tim O’Brien on backing vocals, just to name a few — and his own capable guitar and mandolin work, Scott has produced a fine work of country-tinged, straight-forward modern American folk music.’ Read his review to find out what his misgivings were.

Christopher also had mixed emotions about two releases by Darrell Scott, Theatre of the Unheard and Live in NC. Of the former, he says, ‘Perhaps this says more about my prejudices than the record, but I find the deeply earnest nature of it somewhat embarrassing, in much the same way I have a problem with Bruce Springsteen.’ And of the latter, ‘Live in NC works so much better than Theatre of the Unheard because the songs are given space, both terms of both the arrangements and timing.

Since we’re talking about Boiled in Lead and related matters, do check out the detailed omnibus review that Chuck wrote on BiL’s first decade. It covers Boiled in Lead and Hotheads (1985 and 1986), 1989’s From the Ladle to the Grave, Orb, Antler Dance, all the way to 1995’s Songs From the Gypsy.

Daniel reports on Tori Amos’s Tales of a Librarian, an early career overview of an American musician who’s difficult to classify. Is she Americana? Pop? Singer-songwriter? ‘Tales Of A Librarian is the CliffsNotes version of Amos’s decade-long career — a career that, in addition to being broadly represented on the album, is also depicted bravely and unflinchingly, warts and all.’

David has high praise for an anthology of music by the band everybody thinks of as just Neil Young’s backing band, Crazy Horse’s Gone Dead Train: The Best of 1971-1989. ‘It’s amazing that so many personnel changes, so much tragedy, could lead to so many great (but virtually unknown) songs. These guys deserve to be heard. The album flat out rocks.’

‘Jay Hammond, now based in Durham, North Carolina by way of Brooklyn, and his musical collective called Trippers & Askers, have created a layered masterpiece of spiritual, jazzy indie folk music that speaks of hope to this pandemic-battered and climate change scorched world,’ Gary says. The album is called Acorn, and it’s inspired by Parable of the Sower, a prescient, spiritual science fiction tale written in the 1990s by Octavia Butler. Read his review for more about this multi-layered project.

Judith laments that she turned up her nose at folk dancing while at college, now that there’s lots of good Balkan music to dance to, like The Baksheesh Boys’ self-titled CD. ‘At my college, the typical folkdancer was a nerdy professor’s daughter wearing a homemade polyester peasant blouse who danced with a buck-toothed smile to crackly Monitor LPs. Hence, I long ago missed the boat on Eastern European music. Now, they’ve got wonderful live party music on that boat and I have two left feet!’

In addition to enjoying the increased popularity of East Asian film in the west, Kelly is glad to see the scores and soundtracks to these Asian films becoming more accessible. Here he takes a look at two CD releases of such scores, Shigeru Umebayashi’s House of Flying Daggers and Tan Dun’s Hero. ‘Tan Dun’s score to Hero is a fairly contemplative effort, and is marked by the restraint of a classical composer. … Composed by Shigeru Umebayashi — who was once the front man for the Japanese New Wave band EX — the score to House of Flying Daggers is more animated than Hero‘s, and it supplements the traditional orchestral sound with Asian instruments such the Chinese erhu and pipa, as well as wooden flutes and Chinese percussion.

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Swedish duo Olov Johansson & André Ferrari are releasing their first album after playing together in Väsen as well as other projects over the years. The album, In Beat Ween Rhythm, features Johansson on nyckelharpa and Ferrari on percussion, drums and bass. We’re eagerly anticipating the full release – it was out July 31 in Europe and is coming somewhat later in the States – and encourage you to check out their video of the first single, “Skevschottis.”

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Let’s finish this edition with Boiled In Lead playing ‘The Newry Highwayman’ at Minnesota State Fair 10 years ago. It’s a lovely piece of music with their usual full own enthusiasm. I never have the privilege of seeing them live unfortunately, though Cat did once.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Gathering of Stitchers

Green Leaves

I was watching the new reading group that had sprung up last Fall as they met in the Pub near the fireplace. They call themselves ‘A Gathering of Stitchers’. It was, not surprisingly, a reading group devoted to books on knitting and related subjects. Liath put together the group, but like all our reading groups (there’s at least a half-dozen at any given time with overlapping memberships), the group is communitarian in nature, which means everyone decides on what to read.

They started off with a surprising choice, McKillip’s Solstice Wood, but Liath said there was an interesting take on weavers and magic in it, which there assuredly is. Later choices included books on wools of the world, the Silk Road, the riots against mechanized weaving, and an oral history of knitting in rural Scotland between the Wars.

I wasn’t ‘tall surprised when I discovered that the Steward had granted them a generous stipend to visit sheep farms in the Nordic countries and talk to weavers and knitters there. And she promised them yet another stipend to go to Turkey as well. I was going on that one with Ingrid, my wife who’s the Estate buyer and our Steward, as Istanbul is one of her favourite purchasing cities, but the political unrest there made us cancel that trip.

Several years after getting the group going, we snagged our first meeting of Nordic weavers and knitters who decided to gather here in the dead of winter, as many had farms, which meant they couldn’t get away during the summer. Some forty came, stayed ten days, had a great time, and arranged to come back the next year. I was particularly happy, as the Pub made a very tidy profit at a normally slow time of year.

Oh and it’s fascinating to watch them discuss the book they’d just read and knit as they did so. They maintain eye contact, converse intelligently, and knit steadily along without ever looking down!

Green Leaves

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What’s New for the 25th of July: Jerky; Alice’s Restaurant on film; Roger Zelazny and Stephen Brust; all things Looking Glass Wars; Norwegian death metal, Palestinian oud, early country rock, modern jazz, and much more

These fragile, worn, faded, thin, cheap paper-bound books. They smelled of dust, and mould, and age. They smelled, faintly, of pee, and tobacco, and spilled coffee. They smelled like things which had lived. They smelled like history. ― Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station

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It’s a wet day here with constant rain and wind enhanced by the sound of thunder as extremely violent storms roll across the Estate. By no means a day to be outside, so Kinrowan Hall is busy from the Kitchen and Pub in the basement to the private flats for senior staff on the top floors of this ancient, sprawling building.

My Several Annies are managing Library affairs such as need doing so I’m putting together this Edition while sampling the just tapped Summerland Ale named after a certain novel by a baseball loving staffer and munching on some most excellent Riverrun cheddar cheese and a quite superb smoked garlic beef sausage.

My reading this week has been an old favourite, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country, so I’ve been listening to music from it as done by Zahatar on their Little Country album, plus music from Kathryn Tickell and Billy Pigg as well as Janey Little, the smallpiper in it, was inspired by them. Now let’s see what’s in this edition…

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Brendan said he enjoyed and learned a lot from The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs, a serious and scholarly look at the subject. ‘Be warned, though, if you are in the least offended by words like “cunt,” “prick,” “fuck,” or “pubic,” or the various sentences that usually contain these words, then do not read this book.’

Cat, our Editor in Chief, found a lot to like in Seanan McGuire’s Indexing books: ‘I’m re-listening right now to one of those things that Seanan McGuire does so ever well: she takes a familiar story and make it fresh. … I first read it as novels when they came out some six years ago and then listened to it a few years later. Now being home confined due to three knee surgeries, I’m doing a lot of audiobooks and this was a series I wanted to revisit while working on other things.’

He says Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks features a protagonist somebody is trying to kill as he moves along a time-travelling road. As one does. ‘Zelazny really didn’t do plots all that well, but he was gifted at developed unique characters and settings. So, like so many of his novels, this one’s true strengths lies in the unique nature of the setting, combined with the character development…’

Diane says she learned a lot about classic children’s literature from the details about the authors’ lives detailed in Don’t Tell The Grownups. ‘If you ever wondered at the appeal of Kate Greenaway’s winsome lasses with their wispy Empire gowns, if you’ve ever contemplated the universal charm of Winnie the Pooh, if you’ve ever tucked The Secret Garden into your suitcase to peruse on vacation, then Alison Lurie’s book of essays is for you.’

Jack looks at the fist volume of a much praised anthology series: ‘One could do far worse for winter’s reading pleasure than any volume of the YBFH. I certainly have spent many a night when the snow was falling, the wind howling, and the temperature colder than I care to know, reading from one of these fine volumes. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection was a good start to a series that has indeed proved to be the best of its kind, period. My kudos to Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling for an excellent start to what would be a long running series.’

Lahri highly recommends Hy Bender’s The Sandman Companion for all fans of Neil Gaiman’s epic graphic literature series. ‘If you fall into the avid fan category, then The Sandman Companion is an essential supplement, or concordance, to the series. Gaiman’s stories are thick with mythological characters and references from around the world. He also pays constant homage to his favorite authors, films and books, and he is a devil at hiding clues and foreshadows of future stories in earlier issues. Author Hy Bender is exhaustive in searching out these intricacies of Gaiman’s work and does an excellent job of putting them all into context.’

Cat to the Dogs was warmly regarded by Naomi: ‘To be honest, I owe Ms. Murphy an apology. The first paragraph of this novel elicited an audible groan from me, and some fast second thoughts. After all, who wants to read about a woodrat dangling (still warm by the way), from the mouth of the protagonist, even if he does happen to be a tomcat? Well, I persevered, and by the end of the first page was intrigued, if not engrossed, in the unfolding tale.’

An (un)novel set in a future Tel Aviv caught the interest of Richard as well: ‘Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is barely a novel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, it’s a loosely connected series of stories featuring a rotating cast of characters, and the gently ramshackle DIY nature of the narrative structure matches up perfectly with the DIY, maker-centric vision of the world that Central Station presents.’

Robert first has a look at what he hopes is the beginning of a new fantasy series by Tanya Huff, The Enchantment Emporium: ‘It’s coming on May Day, and the Aunties are all baking pies in preparation for the ritual, when the news comes that Allie’s Gran is dead, by way of a letter from Gran herself. She’s left Allie her business in Calgary — a small business, she writes, that has become crucial to the local community. It’s not until Allie gets to Calgary that she begins to realize just what community Gran means. And it’s in Calgary that things start to get really weird.’

He also has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

Warner says that Stephen R. Bissette, Mark Morris, Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon and Stephen Vol’s Studio of Screams ‘is an impressive piece of horror writing, a love letter to a snapshot of the genre that simultaneously takes a look at the damaged nature of the culture which produced it. Rather than simply finding the sins in the past, this book holds that disturbing mirror up to the current events relating to said culture as well. Easily recommended to horror fans who have the slightest interest in the genre.’

Next up is Albert E. Cowdrey’s Revelation & Other Tales of Fantascience which ‘includes an assortment of stories by the author dating from the year 2000 up to 2015. They are varied in style and subject matter, yet each includes definite style familiar to the author’s work.  A delightful introduction by Gordon Van Gelder helps to make clear the place Cowdrey holds in science fiction, reflecting the myriad different aspects of it and influences held. It is a useful piece thay sets the reader up for the contents.’

He says has a novel in translation for us that sounds very cool: ‘Ae-Ran Kim is a known quality as an author, however this first novel marks her as a skilled novelist as well. The literary community has greatly look forward to future work by this woman, as she manages to pull universal human experience from relatively niche aspects of the world. My Brilliant Life is a pretty easy volume to recommend, perhaps not for someone in the grips of a depressive episode, but for a reader who needs something that explorers and its own strange way affirms the human condition.’

He has a slim mystery for us to consider: ‘Gerry Spence is an old hand in crime writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Blood on the Table fits well into the legal-thriller genre, while also using the switch in era quite well. To anyone looking for a nice period legal thriller this would be an excellent volume to pick up.’

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Denise sampled three jerkys and all were winners in her opinion. Read on for her tasting notes!

Beer infused beef jerky? She says it’s a winner: ‘Righteous Felon crafts a whole lot of jerky. But I sunk my teeth into their Victorious B.I.G. because I needed to know what beer infused jerky tasted like. This one’s a collaboration with PA’s Victory Brewing Company, using their Storm King Imperial Stout to infuse this jerky. So this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’

Next up is some very meaty jerky: ‘I get a carnivorous hankering every now and then. And when I’m too lazy to throw a hunk of animal muscle on the barbie, I grab some jerky. I love dried meat; it’s got a lot of flavor, a lot of protein, and while the majority of jerky chews like shoe leather, I tough it out. Because mmmm, meat. When I saw Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co. had Smoked Beef Chipotle Cracked Pepper Jerky that’s described as “premium meats smoked to tender perfection”, I knew I had to give ’em a try.’

Finally she finishes off with Golden Island’s Sriracha Pork Jerky: ‘Pork jerky! I’ve had beef and bison, but never pork. So I dug into this bag, curious…and hungry. The first piece out of the bag, and I got something that was stringy and thinly sliced. This is a jerky you’re gonna have to chew.’

Raspberry dividerDenise, a big fan of all things Willy Wonka since, like, forever, wasn’t sure what to expect from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. ‘I went into the theater hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. What I got was a new spin on the tale, a wicked little treat packaged for today’s audiences with a screenplay that is closer to Dahl’s book. Let’s just say I breathed a sigh of relief.’

Craig has some strong opinions about a certain superhero movie from the ’90s: ‘Director Sam Raimi’s first big-budget mainstream offering (after the success of the first two Evil Dead films) is arguably the best comic book superhero movie not actually based on a comic book superhero: Darkman.

David travels back in time to the ’60s with Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant, the movie inspired by Arlo Guthrie’s famous story song “Alice’s Restaurant Masacree.” ‘Arthur Penn took the bare bones of Arlo’s story and fleshed it out: he added characters, and motivations, and events that were far from Guthrie’s original, but he came out of it with a full bodied, honest portrayal of life in the ’60s.’

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Faith does a bang-up job of reviewing several of the early entries in Frank Beddor’s series that began with The Looking Glass Wars and spun off the related Hatter M series. She starts with the original story, of which she says ‘The Looking Glass Wars is a revisionist fairy tale. You know the sort of thing: “What if ‘insert name of story here’ was based on something that really happened?” In this case, the idea is that the Alice Liddell who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was really Alyss Heart, heir to the throne of Wonderland, who ended up in Victorian England through a series of bizarre events that I will not spoil by explaining here, and was adopted by the Liddell family.’

She follows up with the sequel, which focuses on the machinations of Alyss’s evil Aunt Redd: ‘Seeing Redd is darker and more adult than The Looking Glass Wars. It’s a tinge more violent, and the violence is somewhat more graphic. (Sacrenoir is somewhere past creepy, and Blister is disgusting.) Still no sex beyond a couple of kisses, though. The doggerels of war live up to their name, and Redd on an ATV is priceless. This is definitely a good read.’

The Looking Glass Wars trilogy is accompanied by a comic mini-series Hatter M, and Faith reviewed the eponymous first issue here. It turns out, she says, that ‘…Alyss’s parents were killed in a coup staged by her nasty Aunt Redd, poster-child of Dark Imagination. Queen Genevieve’s dying command to her loyal bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, was to save Alyss. Hatter M only partly succeeded. He managed to send both Alyss and himself to Earth, but they were separated during the journey.’

Finally, in Hatter M, Volume Two: Mad With Wonder, Alyss’s would-be bodyguard gets caught up in the U.S. Civil War. ‘Unbeknownst to poor Hatter M, Alyss is safe in England, being raised by the Liddell family and befriending Lewis Carroll. (The fact that Carroll later betrayed her is immaterial. During this period they were very close.)’

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Craig welcomed the return to form of Norwegian death metal band Turbonegro with their album Retox. ‘Though the songs by Happy-Tom and Euroboy form the basis of the experience, it is Hank von Helvete’s vocals that truly carry the day, deftly riding the line between parody and tribute. Tongue firmly in cheek, Turbonegro crafts solid hard rock songs with a combination of wit and sincerity.’ Be warned, it’s an X-rated sort of sincerity!

David was highly entertained by Tommy James & the Shondells’ 40 Years: the Complete Singles Collection 1966-2006. ‘The first disc is packed with familiar tunes, all the original hits, and while I wish the extended version of “Crimson & Clover” was here, the single version is the one they were playing on the radio when it first came out. The production is perfect for car stereos. Man, they could mix records back in the ’60s and ’70s!’

He raved a bit about Shemekia Copeland’s Never Going Back. ‘She surrounds herself with a great band, including Oliver Wood, Arthur Neilsen and Marc Ribot on guitars; bassist Ted Pecchio; John Medeski and Ike Stubblefield on Hammond organ and Kofi Burbridge on Wurlitzer piano, she sings a dozen soulful numbers in a voice a bit higher and clearer than long time fans might be used to.’

Deborah takes a look at two somewhat related releases, Wake the Dead’s Blue Light Cheap Hotel and Camogie’s Celtic Americana. The former is a Grateful Dead tribute and the latter a Celtic flavored singer-songwriter disc. ‘The Dead covers on Blue Light Cheap Hotel run an interesting gamut of well-known to relatively obscure. They start with a cover of “Sugar Magnolia,” and I have to say, leading with this wasn’t the best choice. … Luckily, it picks up from there.’

Donna found the music on the Palestinian oud ensemble Le Trio Joubran’s Majaz “… hypnotic and mysterious. I imagined myself sitting in a coffee house somewhere in one of those ancient Middle Eastern cities (I thought of Damascus, but that’s just my current passion) with maybe a single barefoot dancer circulating around the room. I could almost smell the frankincense burning and see the candles flickering in the wall recesses.’

Gary says Ben Goldberg’s Everything Happens To Be., with a front line of Goldberg on clarinets and Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, combines jazz ideas with a lot of experimentation. ‘That unexpected pairing of clarinet and tenor up front is what initially drew me to this release. It jumps right out at you from the very beginning on the opening track “What About.” It’s a long, slow, emotional work that plays with the form of klezmer and maybe even the idea of sevdalinka.’

Gary’s taken another stroll down memory lane. This time he gives us his take on what he considers a long forgotten gem, Michael Murphey’s third LP, simply titled Michael Murphey. ‘I have to confess that I first became aware of Murphey when nearly everybody else in the listening public did, with the release of his fourth album Blue Sky Night Thunder and its multi-platinum single “Wildfire.” It was a new sound at the time, a polished version of what we now call Americana, filled with lushly recorded, very romantic songs. When I started digging into his back catalog I realized the earlier, rougher albums were much more to my liking.’

From the archives, Gary takes a deep look at Tom Waits’ three-disc set Orphans: ‘These days, the typical Waits album contains three basic kinds of works: blues-based stomps, shouted out in a voice that sounds like Sasquatch gargling gravel, backed by clattering and banging vocal-beatbox percussion; slower, quieter, usually piano-based songs of romantic longing or innocence lost or destroyed; and … well, a mulligan stew of other stuff — spoken word pieces, poetry, noise experiments and curious instrumentals. For this set, those three types have each been given their own disc, subtitled Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards.

Scott unexpectedly found himself enjoying Ragnarok and Land, two albums from Týr, a group from the Faroe Islands that makes what they call “folk metal” music. ‘I can’t really say I’m much of a metal fan, and the first time I played Ragnarok I really didn’t know what to make of it. By the third or fourth listen, though, I was totally digging it. People who simply don’t like any heavy metal won’t embrace Týr, but there’s something to be said for any record that rocks hard and has depth at the same time.

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This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience…)

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There are bands for which I’ve a deep liking for pretty much everything they done and so it is with Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ which I’ve heard playing off and on over the past forty years. It’s certainly an upbeat, feel good summer song much like ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s. It was recorded forty years ago this August at the Park West in Chicago.

The studio version was released on Chicago V in 1972 and peaked on the Billboard charts at number three which is bloody impressive. It was lovely enough that I’ve never gotten tired of it. But I’ve prattled on enough about it, so here’s the song for you to have the pleasure of hearing performed live.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cat Myth

Green Leaves

Gather around, kittens. I, Maeve, shall tell you of Oweynagat, the Cave of Cats, on the isle of Eire, so far away in the land of men. Pay attention — all cats must know these things!

The humans call Oweynagat the Mouth of Hell, but it is simply one of those places where the Beautiful People and their creatures emerge into the realm of Man. Though it is but a cave to the eyes of the humans, to the eyes of us cats and of the Sidhe it is the pathway to a great and beautiful palace standing near the borders of The Underworld.

The entrance to the cave is small — five large cats walking abreast with their tails held high might brush the sides and top! Humans, even small ones, must crawl to enter. But it opens to a high and long cave that descends into the earth.

This cave is in the land of my namesake, Queen Medb, who was born to the maidservant Crochan, who waited upon Queen Étain of the Sidhe. Medb ruled over the kingdom of Connacht, and made her palace near to Oweynagat.

Listen carefully, kittens! This is important. If you need to walk between worlds quickly, Oweynagat is a good place to do so.

The Mórrigan, that Crow, she and her creatures often make their way into the human world through Oweynagat to sow war and destruction, and most often on Samhain, which the humans and Sidhe celebrate today. For this reason, humans who are clever do not tarry long near Oweynagat at Samhain.

The legends of and around Oweynagat are largely stories of human and godly foolishness, of little consequence to us cats. Our tempers flare and die, we spit and growl and fight, but it is rare for the temper of a cat to change the course of the history of Felinity. We are not like humans or gods, who allow their temper tantrums and foolishness to change their own destinies! Irusan, King of the Cats, found out why paying attention to Man is a terrible thing, and paid with his life. Men talk of little else but money, and so stories of Oweynagat often feature cattle, which were how men in those old days measured riches.

The humans have collapsed the middle of the cave now, but those of us who can walk-through-walls know that you can still reach the Underworld here. And today, on Samhain, the veil between the worlds is especially easy to cross.

The humans don’t remember why they call the cave Oweynagat. They wonder now at the name, and try to link it to the wildcats of the old stories who came to fight human heroes. But I will tell you, kittens, that if the humans go into the cave with no lights, they will remember very quickly! You have but to look up to see the cats of the cave looking back at you, eyes glowing in the dark.

Remember, kittens! Mrwowr – so be it!

Now. Shall we go find some milk for our dinner?

Green Leaves

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