Whats New for the 14th of April: It’s truly Spring, so go outside and enjoy the warm weather. Really it’s worth doing.

Remember, pain is not a test. Knowledge is not enough.
Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

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The tulips such as the one in the vase on my desk here in the Estate Library are the predominant flowers this time of year as every Estate Gardener for the past three centuries has had a rather keen interest in them. The more recent ones are acquired by Gus, our Estate Head Gardener for three decades now, in trade with MacGregor, a fellow tulip enthusiast who goes to the Turkish tulip markets to get the much rarer heirloom tulips. Just don’t get Gus talking about tuplips unless you’re planning on being there quite awhile!

If you’re really interested in all things tulips, you can drop by his workshop late this afternoon as he’s giving the Several Annies, my Library Apprentices, a practical exercise in how history really happens, using the Dutch Tulip Mania as his example. And we’ve reviewed a book on their origins in the guise of  Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, which has a nice article on the actual history of the so-called Tulip Period of the Ottoman Empire. Do beware that these papers are dry at times as they’re intended for other scholars.

I’m off to the Kitchen as soon as I get this Edition done and  I suspect you’ll want to join me in heading for the Kitchen after you read and listen to our offering this time as Mrs. Ware and her talented staff are serving up just baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies with glasses of Riverrun Farm whole milk. Yes real whole milk — bet you’ve never had that!

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Cat looks at the urban legend retold yet again of a ghost girl asking for a ride home on the anniversary of her death: ‘Seanan McGuire decided to tell her own ghost story in Sparrow Hill Road which, like her novel Indexing, was originally a series of short stories published through The Edge of Propinquity, starting in January of 2010 and ending in December of that year. It appears they’ve been somewhat revised for this telling of her ghostly narrator’s tale but I can’t say how much as I’ve not read the original versions.’

Deborah reviewed Sam Cutler’s memoir with the delightful title You Can’t Always Get What You Want: My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates. ‘One of the most remarkable things about You Can’t Always Get What You Want is its brilliant balancing act. If there’s very little gel on Cutler’s lens, there’s no vituperation, either. This is no “I know where the bodies are buried and I’m getting back at you gits!” tell-all. This is one man’s memories, setting the record straight for one of the most pivotal periods in modern music and, by extension, in popular culture.’

Grey says of Medicine Road that ‘I suppose it’s fitting, for a story about twos, that the creators are two Charleses. Charles Vess’s illustrations make this not-so-simple fable deeper and richer. Vess combines line drawing and painting in a way that makes his pictures simultaneously vividly life-like and fairy tale-remote.’

There’s a bar in the above novel where the Dillard sisters play called A Hole in The Wall which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood WifeIt’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first novel  to take full advantage of the myths of Southwest USA and Mexican region. And Grey notes that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

A woman who sees ghosts is the central character in a novel that Kathleen reviews for us: ‘Cherie Priest is a first time novelist. However, she writes with ease and a deceptive power, like the flow of the Tennessee River through her home city of Chattanooga. Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a Southern Gothic with a hint of hard boiled mystery: there’s grit in the magnolia honey and in the heroine as well.’

Leona gives an incisive review of  Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a 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.’

I’m picking books this time that I consider summertime reading, starting off with a Charles de Lint novel that Mia looks at: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’

Somehow, we’ve never done a stand-alone review of the following novel which Robert has now corrected for us: ‘Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars is a strangely deceptive novel. It seems, at first, fairly straightforward – a narrative about a group of artists trying to make it, interspersed with sections of a folk tale – but you start to wonder whether it’s really that up front or if Brust is pulling a Gene Wolfe and playing with your head – there seem to be all sorts of clues in the book, but are they?’

Robert confessed to some difficulty in reviewing the art anthology Spectrum 12: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner. ‘I learned early in my career as an art reviewer to avoid group exhibitions, especially those with very large themes. I find many of the same problems in discussing the newest Spectrum: disparate visions, a wide range of approaches, and, since these are all illustrations, a variety of assignments. Not an easy thing to discuss.’ We also have Robert’s reviews of Spectrum 13 and Spectrum 15.

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Reynard told me a few minutes ago that he asked Kathleen what her favourite libation was and she waxed nostalgic: ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’

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Denise got down with a concert film called Dub Side of the Moon, featuring a dub version of the classic Pink Floyd album. ‘It’s not like the Easy Star All-Stars play Dark Side with a cheesy reggae track tacked on, then call it their own. They reimagine riffs, add vocals and take different turns with the music, all the while staying true to the course of the original album’s main concepts. A bit of animation starts things off; a lone Rasta man in his spaceship (don’t question it, it’s cool) picks up a transmission on the other side of the moon. He wakes from suspended animation and gets to grooving.’

IMG_0272Nathan recommends It Was a Dark and Silly Night, a collection of comics for younger readers. ‘Those interested in more slapstick humour, subtle messages and a good variety of image styles may find this title to be just the job. Stories include Patrick McDonnell’s charming tale of a Moon who is afraid of the dark, Lemony Snicket and Richard Sala’s unique origin for the Yeti, and Neil Gaiman’s irreverent Jell-O tag in the cemetery escapade.’
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In new music, Gary waxed enthusiastic about Standards II by jazz pianist Noah Haidu and his trio. ‘This time out, pianist Haidu is joined by two legendary players, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart, who’ve been collaborating for five decades now.) Some of these chestnuts they cover with the simplicity of a hard bop trio circa 1959, and others they turn inside out, so to speak.’

He was also highly impressed by Vedan Kolod’s Birds. ‘The Russian folk music ensemble Vedan Kolod has created a triumphant album in the midst of personal and national upheaval. Birds, their tenth album since forming in 2005, is a master work of world music combining traditional Siberian folk songs and new songs in the traditional style, played on an array of acoustic instruments.’

From the archives, Brendan had some words of advice about Okros Ensemble’s Transylvanian Village Music. ‘To many an untrained Western ear, this music can have a jolting, often unpleasant quality with its very complex and unusual harmony patterns, made even more so by the violinists’ tendencies to use microtones, i.e. the notes between the standard A, A sharp, B, C, etc. However, with repeated listens, this music will reveal its beauty, especially if it is played the way it was meant to be: very loud.’

Cat Rambo gave an enthusiastic nod to a couple of albums of kids’ music, Ants Ants Ants‘ Why Why Why? and Red Yarn’s Old Barn. Both can be listened to by kids and adults, she says. ‘Overall there’s a more mature vibe [to Old Barn] than Why Why Why, including several adaptations of traditional folk songs like “Sally Ann” and “Did You Feed My Cow?”

Gary enjoyed the “Balkan blues” on Amira Medunjanin’s Damar. ‘This album’s intimate production heightens the impression that Amira is pouring out her heart’s deepest sorrows to you alone. Unlike some recordings in this tradition that is many hundreds of years old, she places these songs, both traditional and new compositions in the tradition, in unique and innovative settings.’

Gary also was enthusiastic about Dark Desert Night by 3hattrio. ‘I’m a huge fan of southern Utah, home of Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce national parks. And I’m a newly minted fan of this outfit called 3hattrio, which is based in the Zion area and makes music that matches the region’s lonely grandeur.’

Jack swooned over an album called Hambo in the Snow from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley, and Charlie Pilzer. ‘Hambo in the Snow is not a Nordic traditional recording ‘tall, but a Nordic-American traditional recording firmly grounded, like A Prairie Home Companion, in the culture of Minnesota. So, it’s not surprising to sense a slightly mist-eyed vision of the Nordic countries…’

Jayme got a kick out of Andean Fusion’s Andean Sounds for the World Vol. VII, which contains the band’s exhuberant takes on everything from Ennio Morricone to The Beatles to Celine Dion to Carlos Santana. ‘Rather than a dilution of their skill and a case of selling out, the songs showcase the creativity and flexibility of Andean Fusion, with clever arrangements and performances that never betray the band’s roots.’

Judith reviewed Aoife Clancy’s Silvery Moon. ‘If her name were not so Irish and were it not for the reputation of Cherish the Ladies, it would be easier to present this as a folk album with a few Celtic tracks, instead of a Celtic album with leanings toward American folk. But trust my words, Silvery Moon is a folk album.’

Naomi reviewed  Chulrua’s Barefoot on the Altar, which she says ‘gives us a sampling of all aspects of Irish music, from jigs to airs. All are played with a skill and passion that make the music itself seem as if it were a living entity. The majority of the 17 tracks are traditional; the entire 70 minutes are a journey to another time, another style of life.’

Scott wrote a geneerous career overview of Nightnoise. ‘How you view the legacy of Nightnoise depends a lot on your perspective. For a fan of New Age music, Nightnoise were a flagship band who brought quality and credibility to a genre that didn’t always enjoy the best of reputations otherwise, and whose popularity has waned considerably in the intervening years. As a folk music fan familiar with the other work of Mícheál and Tríona and of Johnny Cunningham, I consider Nightnoise to be a worthy endeavor by some world-class performers, but most of their music fell a bit short of these musicians’ best work.’

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Our What Not this time is a favourite tune as we asked a Winter Queen, the late Josepha Sherman, what hers was: ‘OK, my dear: I play the folk harp a wee bit (I’m sadly out of practice) and of the older songs, I like ‘Sumer is icumen in,’ ca. 1260 or so, by our old friend, Anonymous. I like it both for the melody and the words, which are cheerful and alive with the image of animals jumping about for the joy of it. It also makes for a cheerful round for several voices. For the earliest songs, though we don’t have the melodies, alas, I love some of the Ancient Egyptian love songs, which are downright modern — such as the one about the girl who sees her boyfriend and rushes out to meet him with half her hair still undone!’ She went on to note that ‘The Ancient Egyptians had our concept of romantic love, btw, clear in their songs. There’s even a sadly fragmentary one of a wife undressing her husband, who’s passed out after what was clearly too much drinking at a party, and how she loves him even so.’

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So I’m following up on Scott’s review of Nightnoise by  finish off with some choice music from them, to wit ‘Toys, Not Ties’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain thurry years ago. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and also included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Designing Trolls

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Dear Anna,

Imagine an old forest witch, a crone with a cackle and gnarled hands. Well Justina did one of those when she was here the first time. Alas the Troll proved more elusive in design. Much more elusive. And of course, this troll was not the vision of just Justina, the potter, but instead was created on a collective basis.

There aren’t many descriptions of them in Old Norse and what exist are more intent on describing their personality as in the Prose Edda:

Troll kalla mik trungl sjǫtrungnis, auðsug jǫtuns, élsólar bǫl, vilsinn vǫlu, vǫrð nafjarðar, hvélsveg himins – hvat’s troll nema þat?

Which roughly translates as:

They call me a troll, moon of the earth-Hrungnir, wealth sucker of the giant, destroyer of the storm-sun, beloved follower of the seeress, guardian of the “nafjord”, swallower of the sun: What’s a troll if not that?

Other Old Norse sources note they are magical creatures with special skills, but that doesn’t say if that was good or evil. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s universe, trolls are large humanoids of great strength and poor intellect.

What they found with the help of Iain, who called on what he calls L-Space to ask private estate librarians in Norway to dig deep into their archives for folk material not commonly accessed by folklorists, was that they are dark and slow of movement and covered with a tangle of foliage, like a forested mountain brought to life. Now this of course added a whole new level of complexity to this project as most trolls under the bridge projects use a smooth looking design with almost no fine work. Justina, however, noted this actually made the project easier as the leaves, moss and such would make hiding the seams easier.

The first step was what is called a one sixth scale model of the troll-to-be. Now keep in mind that no one expected Justina to work full-time on this so she danced a lot, gossiped in the pub while listening to the Neverending Session, spent hours reading in the Library, taught the Several Annies (and anyone else interested) basic and advanced pottery.

That model went through, I think, at least a dozen iterations before it was considered right by just about everyone present here this Winter. It was indeed leafy, mossy, and similar to what one of Tolkien’s Ents might have looked like if it was far more stocky and a great deal shorter. (One of the models now lives in a museum in the home city of the Norwegian Several Annie who got the project going; Justine took one with her; and four got sold by us on behalf of her.) And so the project stood until after Candlemas as we agreed no one should would work on it during the Winter Holidays.

And that’s where I’ll leave the tale for now, as Chasing Fireflies, the contradance band that I’m calling for this coming weekend, wants to go over the list of dances they’re considering. Gossip has it that they’ve been intensely interested with the dances of John Garden, the Australian composer and Jane Austen scholar, so it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve come up with!

Affectionately, Gus

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What’s New for the 31st of March: Foxes in fiction; new Americana, Russian folk, Persian, and Nordic music; Justice League comics; Cajun music on film, and more!

You think foxes only hunt with their eyes?Tale of The Nine-Tail, a Korean serial

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Chilly breezes are still with us, but we’ve hit that time of year when the outside temperatures may be anywhere on the scale — spring’s not quite here, but winter is starting to let go, so we’re in a thaw-and-freeze time. All of which makes walking a bit of a gamble — one needn’t wade through snow drifts (the paths are clear), but it’s always a question of whether a puddle is actually a puddle or a sheet of ice. It pays to have fast reflexes, just in case.

And on mild days, everything drips, so walking under the trees may very well mean icy water down the back of your neck. A broad-brimmed hat is very useful.

The birds don’t seem to mind — the crows actually seem very happy, now that some of the snow cover is gone and they can poke around in hopes of something tasty. The sparrows, as well, are foraging around the clear places, looking for any seeds or buds they’ve missed before.

The squirrels are starting to nip the ends off of twigs: they’ll wait for the sap to start dripping out, and lick it off, as a nice side to the flower and leaf buds that are just starting to swell. The rabbits are still hunting down the last of last year’s dried grasses and herbs — it’s still a bit early for tender new shoots, but they remain hopeful.

And although there’s a lot going on outside, right now it’s a bit raw and blustery, so I’m just as happy to be curled up next to the fire putting this edition together. But, given the mood — well, we have to be prepared for anything.
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Let’s talk about a few foxes in fiction.

Ben Aaronovitch’s What Abigail Did That Summer, a Rivers of London novella, has one Abigail, a fascinating teenager of quite some standing on her own, but also a talking fox named Indigo.

Rita Mae Brown’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie is one in her series of American no kill fox hunting series where all the animals are intelligent including of the foxes.

Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest naturally being set in a very old forest has to have at least one fox among the characters that our girl Lillian will meet; this one is named charmingly T. H. Reynolds.

In “Fox Wife” by Hiromi Goto, we learn the tale of a kitsune wife. You can find this included in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm.

The animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms has a most charming Japanese kitsune as one of its characters.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox plays off the kitsune myth in some unexpected in ways in its story of a dead Asian ancestry SF detective sort brought back to life. Possibly. I’m actually more fond of the cover art done for the trade paper edition as I like the kitsune there.

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Denise has a review of Lindt Excellence Roasted Hazelnut Dark for us: ‘Dark chocolate! How lovely. Breakfast of champions, some may say. Well, I say that all the time, so I think that counts. Toss in some “heart-healthy” hazelnuts, and I’ll live forever, right? Don’t answer that. But in my quest to have my chocolate and eat it too, I drooled when Dear Editor sent me some Lindt. And while squares of dark chocolate with chopped hazelnuts mixed in might not be the superfood I desire it to be, it sure is delicious.”

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After a successful run of more than 25 film festivals, Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi’s Roots Of Fire will see theatrical and streaming release in a little more than a month. Gary reviewed the documentary about Cajun music and culture in the 21st Century in late 2022. ‘Anyone who enjoys Francophone Louisiana roots music and music documentaries in general will love Roots of Fire. The film focuses in particular on the young musicians who are bringing Cajun music into the 21st century, honoring their past and their forbears while moving the music forward and making it their own.’

IMG_0272J.J.S. Boyce turned in a thoughtful review of Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair’s Identity Crisis, about the Justice League of America. ‘There’s a lot of history here: the JLA is a Silver Age comic book creation, while most of its core members are themselves Golden Age heroes. There’s a definite sense that Meltzer pokes subtly at the fourth wall — some of the newer and less prominent members of the team seem to speak for the audience in holding the League history, and the old battles of timeless heroes like the original Flash, Green Lantern, or Batman, on a kind of pedestal. They aren’t just talking about the universe of the story itself, they’re talking about our perception, as fans, of how and why these guys became legends. Why, no matter how old we get, we’ll never outgrow Superman, even if we think we’ve outgrown comic books.’

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In new music, Gary has high praise for everything about the self-titled six-song EP from Wonder Women of Country: Kelly Willis, Melissa Carper, and Brennen Leigh, including stripped-down, mostly acoustic arrangements on solid Americana songs. ‘What those sparse arrangements do, of course, is make room for the vocals, particularly the three-part harmonies, which is what this power trio is all about. (The mixes on all of the tracks by Steve Mazur subtly push each of the lead singers’ vocals to the front but also leaves a lot of room for the backing of the other two.) I can’t decide which song provides my favorite moments of delicious harmony.’

Also in American roots music, Gary reviews the self-titled debut of a very talented quartet. ‘Remember back in the early 2000s when you first heard and were struck dumb by the youthful virtuosity of Crooked Still? Or perhaps, a decade or so later, by the stringband supergroup vibe of The Goat Rodeo? I sure do, and those are the same feelings I got when I heard the first notes of the self-titled debut from what may be this decade’s roots supergroup Ezra.’

Gary also enjoyed Gordon Grdina’s The Marrow. ‘Canadian Grdina is a Vancouver-based guitarist, composer, improviser, and master oud player who is incredibly active in improvisational and experimental music of many kinds, most of it based around Middle Eastern and specifically Persian themes. On The Marrow he and a top notch jazz ensemble join with Persian vocalist Fathieh Honari on a deeply trance-like set that focuses squarely on his masterful oud playing.’

He also got a kick out of the eclectic Norwegian family band Hulbækmo & Jacobsen Familieorkester’s Rundsnurrknurr, which has a kitchen sink’s worth of instruments played by its four members. ‘At 17 tracks full of such a variety of sounds, it comes very close to the line beyond which is “too much of a good thing.” But it’s an hour’s worth of wonderful, fun, creative music. Put it on your Nordic folk playlist and I guarantee you’ll love each track that comes up on shuffle.’

There’s also more Russian folk music from Gary. ‘The Russian folk rock band Otava Yo is dealing with the turbulence facing their part of the world by doing what they do best — making music. And what music! Their latest album Loud and Clear is full of stirring and uplifting music — Slavic folk tunes and songs played on a mix of traditional and modern instruments in a style that’s appealing to modern audiences, and full of exciting vocal harmonies.

From the archives, Brendan had high praise for Finality Jack’s Glory Be. ‘The mellow, melodic nature of this music may fool the listener into not really paying attention to it but just letting it flow into the ears. But, unlike a great deal of contemporary instrumental music, each tune here stands up well to concentrated listening, opening up more and more upon each repeat. This is actually remarkably complicated music, almost experimental in its mixing of styles and various melodies.’

Craig was intrigued by a CD by “Blumpkin Nation” that was really more of a various artists’ compilation. ‘With a title like The Invisible Movie Soundtrack — to which there is no accompanying film — it is difficult to listen to this album without wondering just what kind of cinematic experience this would accompany.’

David was fond of Jeff Black’s Tin Lily. ‘Every song is strong but there are some highlights. There’s the driving “Libertine,” and the piano-rocker “Free At Last.” And then there’s “Closer” and “All Days Shine” or “Heaven Now” and “These Days”; but whether an acoustic love song or a solid rocker, each song brings you closer to the conclusion that Jeff Black is the real thing.’

Lars found that the box set The Remains of Tom Lehrer was a dream come true. ‘Well, this box is a jewel. You get both the studio and the live versions of the first two albums, the third LP and eight bonus tracks never seen on LP. With it you get a 80-page book with a full biography, Lehrer’s answers to some common questions, all the lyrics and notes on the recordings.’

Peter was disappointed by an offering from Dick Gaughan, Lucky For Some. ‘The album was recorded in the Vegas Suite studio, and (in my opinion) it is spoilt by too much ’empty hall’ reverb being added. It made it very hard to catch the lyrics; in fact it was almost impossible on several tracks. I had to resort to reading them in the cover notes booklet. It was only then, on reading the lyrics, that I realized there might be one or two decent songs here with a lot of potential. It will be interesting to see what they sound like live, or if other artists do covers of them.’

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Our Coda today is courtesy of Brighton, England, based singer/songwriter, novelist, poet, and playwright Nick Burbridge and his musical vehicle named McDermott’s 2 Hours (when he’s not collaborating with the Levellers). Nick can slip easily from Irish folk to really great folk rock, so it won’t surprise you ‘tall that Nick’s a favorite of many of us here including myself and we even interviewed him once upon an afternoon.

So he most generously said we could use anything on the McDermott’s 2 Hours Live at Fernhame Hall recording, so let’s part company with their ‘Fox on the Run’. No, it’s not about fox hunting.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cookbook (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I’m going to pitch a book for that culinary folklore seminar you’re teaching next Winter here for those visiting food writers, as I really think it’ll be a good addition to that endeavour.

One of Several Annies, Iain’s library apprentices, was literally squealing with delight in the kitchen this week over a book that just got added to the collection of cookbooks and culinary history we have here at the Kinrowan Estate. It was Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook by Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple. And I would be remiss not to note that the illustrator is Sima Elizabeth Shefrin, whose work here is simply charming.

The recipes look really great, with easy to follow instructions that allow even an inexperienced cook to make each dish easily. Our reviewer noted that ‘When I think of the books I loved as child, I get hungry. There was Pooh lapping up honey and cream teas, Mary Poppins handing out magical gingerbread, while Frodo chowed down on mushrooms and lembas. Food surely is an integral part of children’s literature. After all, where would Cinderella be without her pumpkin coach? Would Alice in Wonderland be half as memorable without the magic mushrooms and the strange bottles labeled “Drink Me?”‘

This is traditional fare like you find here with lots of butter and the like: no thought about healthy cooking is here! But then food centered on Jewish folklore would hardy be concerned about counting calories and getting enough greens in your diet, would they? (Iain used it in a course on Jewish traditions for his Several Annies several years back, as he firmly believes learning should be fun. And this is a very fun book.)

I’ve got other books that I’ll bring to your attention but the person skiing down to the Post in the village as the road’s closed again wants to get going.

Warmest regards, Gus

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What’s New for the 17th of March: A grab bag of fantasy and folklore including American Gods; some fantastic graphic novels; a grab bag of CDs including Scottish Traveler stories & songs, and folk songs from all over;

In a circle of stones they placed the pot,

In a circle of stones, but barely nine
They heated it red and fiery hot
‘Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.

They rolled him up in a sheet of lead
A sheet of lead for a funeral pall.
They plunged him in the cauldron red,
Melted him, lead and bones and all.

At the Skelf Hill the cauldron still
The men of Liddesdale can show
And on the spot where they placed the pot
The grasses they will never grow.

Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain.

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The above bit of British history and folklore seems appropriate as we approach the Vernal Equinox. It’s a time when our thoughts turn to things old and weird — standing stones, bonfires, fertility rituals, and the like. For your enjoyment this outing we’ve a sampling of folk music old and new, intriguing fiction and non-fiction, and  bits and pieces of the usual entertainments and diversions.

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Cat had the pleasure of reviewing a special offering, the Author’s Preferred Text and The Reader’s Copy of same, of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. ‘It features over 12,000 words, roughly 40 pages, of new material that did not appear in the trade edition of the book. It have heard that this material did appear in a very limited edition printing by Harper Collins, but nowhere else! Did this additional material add to my enjoyment of the story Gaiman is telling. Oh, yes. It’s a story with enough difference from the previous version to make sure that you too will pay close attention to the story once again.’

Christopher found Scott Mebus’s Gods of Manhattan to be a bit of a pastiche. ‘He begins by borrowing the underlying concept from Neil Gaiman’s excellent novel American Gods, namely that those individuals who are remembered and perhaps even revered by a sufficient number of people live on as gods. He then moves down the shelf to liberally grab elements from the Potter series: a reluctant boy hero, with a special gift he’d gladly relinquish for a normal life with a whole and normal family; a dark, mysterious villain seeking the boy’s destruction; a magical mentor; a parallel world unseen by all but the select few. Finally the author grafts on bits and pieces from a middle school textbook on the history of Manhattan.’

Gary says the City of London is one of the supporting characters in The System of the World, the third installment of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. ‘The plot is as convoluted as a four-dimensional map of that city, but at its heart is Daniel Waterhouse’s mission to attempt to reconcile Newton and Leibniz, who have developed competing philosophies of Life, the Universe and Everything. Newton’s remains based on the ancient principles of alchemy while Leibniz’s is based on monadism, which is a bit closer to our own current molecular and atomic system, which was developed over the ensuing couple of centuries.’

Joseph was nervous about reading Amy M. Clarke’s lit-crit book Ursula K. Le Guin’s Journey to Post-Feminism. ‘I deeply love Le Guin’s writing. Reading The Left Hand of Darkness I learned how science fiction can plumb the depths of human experience. Her Earthsea series taught me more about character growth and development than any course ever could. And her strong female characters in a hyper-masculine genre gave me the courage to include the rarest of characters in SF, non-stereotypical gay males. I did not know what I would do if I learned that somebody whom I’ve placed on the most precarious of pedestals may actually be a flawed human.’

Lenora gave a thorough review of Susanna Clarke’s beloved novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. ‘The world Susanna Clarke creates is altogether as thoroughly detailed as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, if rather more prosaic and less full of wonder. The story we read is only a late part in a much longer history, set in a few small locales in a much broader universe. The sense of just how much world there is outside the story — in England, Europe and the rest of our world, in Faerie, and in even less known worlds — is one of its riches.’

Michael reviewed what is obviously one of the foundational texts of Green Man Review, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. ‘This is, without a doubt, his best work to date, certainly one of his most impressive. Freed from the constraints of the 32-page monthly pamphlet format, allowed to go where the story takes him all in one sitting, Gaiman’s given us a hallucinogenic, hypnotic, insightful guided tour into the workings of our own belief structure.’

Robert got a lot of pleasure out of reading Daithi ÓhÓgáin’s The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance. ‘It’s a treasure house of names, places, stories and ideas — everything from a short biography of Ní Mháille (Grace O’Malley, a sixteenth-century pirate queen who once visited Queen Elizabeth) to St. Patrick, and from pigs to fairies (not as far apart as you might think.) I admit it — I spent hours wandering from cross-reference to cross-reference.’

Jennifer read an entire series of books about Folklore Made Simple by Dr. Jeana Jorgensen, all about folklore, sex, fairy tales, sex, and sex education. ‘All four books are a lightning read. The tools of folkloric study are laid out clearly, the anatomy of fairy tales lovingly laid bare, the history of sex education swiftly yet thoroughly plundered, and the back end of each book crammed with juicy references and resources.’

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Jennifer tries Red Ass Rhubarb Wine with a little dark chocolate mousse. Why rhubarb? And really with chocolate? Check it out, and, bonus, a mousse recipe so easy it’s a crime.

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Michelle had very mixed feelings about the Walt Disney version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. ‘On the level of children’s fantasy, I can’t imagine that anyone could be dissatisfied with this film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe regardless of whether one has read and enjoyed Lewis previously. It’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, and if there are images or themes in the filmed version that seem familiar from Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events, I suspect it’s because Lewis has been so influential on contemporary children’s authors rather than because of any borrowing on the part of the filmmakers.’

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April filled us in on what John Constantine: Hellblazer: Rare Cuts was all about. ‘As with most monthly comics, Hellblazer has seen reprint in graphic novel form; however, until recently, a number of the earlier issues did not receive this treatment. The reason’s unclear: it wouldn’t seem to be for content reasons . . . few storylines could be more controversial than Garth Ennis’ version of the Annunciation, which was collected. For whatever reason, when Rare Cuts was published in 2005, it was a first look at some key stories seen only by those who collected the individual issues.

Camille liked what she saw in Eddie Campbell’s The Black Diamond Detective Agency. ‘The palette Campbell uses is soft, almost faded around the edges, reminiscent of an old sepia photograph or the yellowed parchment of worn maps. The occasional clarity and sharpness of hard black and jarring red effectively illustrate violence, emotional and physical. The looseness of line and blurry edges help soften the sharp delineation of time and space: between childhood and adulthood, between love and hate, between good men and bad, between innocence and guilt.’

Michael was quite pleased with Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s Baltimore: or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. ‘Golden and Mignola make a good team, as witnessed by their previous collaborations (Golden’s written a few Hellboy novels) and Baltimore is certainly a success for them both. It may have its flaws, but all in all, once I got into it, I couldn’t stop reading, eager to find out what manner of twisted horror would be thrown at the characters next, and whether they’d see a victory over the vampires terrorizing the world.’

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In new music, Gary reviews releases from two Russian women’s ensembles, Slavyanochka Ensemble’s Molodoi Tud Wedding, and Vereya’s Soitua Maa. Of the former, he says, ‘As is typical of Russian and Ukrainian songs in my experience, the harmonies are less dissonant than you’ll find in Balkan offerings, but the performances here are fresh, energetic, and professionally performed and recorded.’ And of the latter, he explains, ‘The group was formed as an authentic folklore ensemble in 1995 in the city of Sortavala, in the Russian Karelian oblast that borders the Karelian region of Finland. This new release is the first attempt by founding director Margarita Berezhnaya to perform and record these songs in modern settings, and it succeeds quite well for the most part.’

From the archives, Gary reviewed Teddy Thompson’s second solo release Separate Ways. ‘No sophomore slump for Teddy Thompson. On the contrary, his second outing, Separate Ways, is altogether a more muscular and cohesive affair than his 2001 self-titled debut. He’s aided and abetted by dad Richard and mom Linda (on the hidden bonus track), in addition to a fairly hefty handful of other standouts, including Garth Hudson, Dave Mattacks, Smokey Hormel, Tony Trischka and the singing Wainwright sibs Martha and Rufus — oh, and another folksinging couple’s offspring, Jenni Muldaur.’

Naomi enjoyed The Lighthouse, a CD by Paul Cranford ‘and friends.’ ‘Should you like good Cape Breton fiddling and original compositions, then this is the disc for you. Paul Cranford is a talented fiddler with sensitive fingers and impassioned playing.’

And Naomi was thrilled at …and time goes on …, a CD of music and stories from Scottish Traveller Sheila Blair. ‘This CD contains a wide variety of tales and songs, from the dark and frightening to the magical and happily-ever-after. This CD will make you laugh, gasp, bite your lip in anticipation, and then sigh in relief. I really liked this delightful CD, and will listen to it many times in the coming years. Much to my surprise, my whole family actually sat and gave it a listen and enjoyed it — even the teenager who listens only to “metal.” ‘

Noam gave a mixed review to Kevin Burke’s In Concert. ‘This recording was made over the course of two evenings shortly before Christmas 1998 in Portland, Oregon, which is where the London-born Sligo-style fiddler Burke has lived for the past twenty years. Although Burke has recorded several albums with various line-ups, this is his first solo album since Open House, which was released in 1992. It contains twelve instrumental tracks, although there are actually something like twenty-five tunes contained within, since most of the tracks are medleys.’

Peter explored Polar Bear and Another World Away, a couple of early albums by multi-instrumentalist and singer songwriter Ben Walker. ‘Some of the subject matter and lyrics for his songs had me puzzled for a while, until I learned that Ben has worked as a psychiatric nurse and teaches a special-needs music class for adults with learning difficulties. Ben has drawn on his own life experiences and emotions, so then it all came into place.’

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As our Coda, Gary offers up “Brobakken,” a new single by Norwegian folk rockers Gangar.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Apple Brandy

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A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to Tessa, her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex, as she preferred to be called, lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen.

Dear Tessa,

I must confess that I just got over a headache brought on by drinking more than a bit of a most excellent apple brandy that we laid down ten years ago. We were celebrating the birth of a daughter to a couple who works here, Ingrid and Jacob. It’s their first and she takes after her mother in both her blue eyes and flaxen hair.

Our idea for doing apple brandy came to us from a Several Annie whose family in Normandy was fond of Calvados, their version of apple brandy that is produced as a rather coarse, rough brandy that must age for several years to acquire its flavor, amber color and the right amount of alcohol, which our Brewmaster, Sven, says is ideally between 40 and 43 percent. Sven got the distillery equipment that he needed to produce it from France, and didn’t The Steward complain about the cost as he approved the funds transfer to our agent in Normandy.

We sampled it after the preferred two years of aging, then at five years, and now at ten years. Sven figured long aging would make it more smooth, less biting, and he was right. Sipped cold, it’s simply wonderful. And all too easy to drink while sitting by the roaring fireplace in the rooms of The Steward on a nippy early spring night.

We were also celebrating Ingrid’s being promoted to Lead Publican in the Green Man Pub when her baby was past nursing, the first woman to hold that post. She’s been studying with the retiring Lead Publican, who’s moving back to Glasgow so he and his wife can be near their grandchildren.

Love Alex

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What’s New for the 3rd of March: Mysteries and Murderbot; fiddles Hardanger, nyckleharpa and violin; springy music; rhubarb wine and dark chocolate mousse and a Seabiscuit, and more

I hate misplaced apostrophes.

Detective Sergeant James Hathaway on the Lewis series.

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MacKenzie here. One moment while I feed Hamish, our resident hedgehog, his live grubs. I keep trying to convince him to try woodworms, but a hedgehog is really not an innovator. Unfortunately. There, now we can talk…

The number of patrons of our Library always jumps dramatically when the evenings start getting colder. Now, understand that all of the staff here are voracious readers, a fact not at all surprising to me. Mind you, there’s a fair number of dilettantes among the scholars: the Reference shelves aren’t as trafficked as I’d like to see. This lot has its collective head in the clouds and its collective arse on a faerie mound as often as not.

Of course, the overstuffed leather chairs near the well-stoked fireplace in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room invite long sittings on cold nights. And one can learn all one needs to know about what is going on around here, over a cup of tea and a tatty scone or two; there’s no finer room in the place for a bite and a gossip over High Tea than in the Library staff room that overlooks Oberon’s Wood. But I hope the real attraction is the books here. It had better be!

I decided to do all mysteries this time. So do read them, along with the music reviews Gary has rounded up, Jennifer’s creative use of rhubarb, Reynard’s pick of a Dylan’s song performed by a trio of legendary musicians and other reviews Gary found.

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So how about a bevy of mysteries to consider reading on these oh soon to be Spring evenings? I’ve selected a few of the myriad ones we’ve done over the years (and one new SF mystery); you’ll find they cover everything from English Manor House mysteries to psychic detectives…

April leads off our reviews with an unusual novel from an SF writer doing his only thriller: ‘Dead Man’s Brother is a delight to read — Roger Zelazny’s language and characters seem right at home in this genre — and regrettably over all too fast at less than 300 pages. If only more such jewels were left to unearth…’

Cat has a review of Rita Mae Brown’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie of which he says that ‘This series grows out of her passions for horses, hounds, and American fox hunting which show up frequently in her fiction and non-fiction works – she has for some time now been a member of a local fox hunt club. Please note that American hunt clubs do not kill the fox as part of their hunt but let it escape. Indeed they care for the foxes on their property by feeding them and making sure they get enough food in harsh winters.’

He also looks at the first novel in a now long running )fourteen books deep so far) mystery series: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read.

Craig looks at a noir novel from a beloved author: ‘In 1985, over twenty years since the publication of his last full-length work, 1962’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury reentered the novel-writing world with the release of Death is a Lonely Business, his foray into a genre dominated by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald — the crime novel.’

Elizabeth looked at a unique shared story narrative: ‘The Medieval Murderers (authors actually: Michael Jecks, Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Ian Morson and Phillip Gooden), after pooling their talents on The Tainted Relic, have done so again with The Sword of Shame. As in Relic, each author contributes their own murder mystery, written within the time period of their choice and with their own characters, with the only catch being that each story revolves around the same object.’

The latest installment of Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries is of course SF also a mystery of sorts. We have Gary’s review of System Failure. ‘Things are proceeding as they do in a Murderbot story, with our intrepid, shy, sarcastic hero providing security services and advice to a group of humans who seem, to Murderbot, determined to get themselves killed through curiosity or lack of planning or carelessness, or, most often, all three. But wait … there’s something we’re not being told. And we know it’s being kept from us because every so often Murderbot’s report file is interrupted by the word redacted just like that, in italics.’

Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg’s Once Upon a Crime definitely appeals to Grey: ‘Fairy tales had a major impact on shaping the imagination of folks long before they were first written down. And mystery fiction goes back many, many centuries as a genre. The themes that were the basis of the material shaped by such writers as the Brothers Grimm, Victor Hugo, and Hans Christian Anderson are also ideally suited to the mystery genre. The possibilities are endless, with questions such as “What makes you think that a wolf ate your grandmother?” being ripe for treatment as mysteries.’

Joel has a review of China Miéville’s intertwined cities as told in his Hugo winning The City & The City novel: ‘With acknowledgments to writers as diverse as Chandler, Kafka, and Kubin (to say nothing of Orwell), I don’t need to tell you this won’t be your typical detective story. But given this is Miéville, would you have really expected a typical anything?’

Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart  gets a loving look by Lenora: ‘Ellis Peters has a gift for titles. This aptly named book is the story of a fierce ballad-singer named Liri, who fell in love with a musician — then saw him cheating on her. It’s the tale of a venerable college of music-lore in danger from scandal. It’s the story of a misunderstood, brilliant young musician carrying a volatile secret. It’s all of these, and none of these, and it’s more than that. This is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and fact 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.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets looked at 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.’

From the Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch, Lis has a review of the audiobook of Whispers Under Ground. ‘When Peter Grant’s young cousin, Abigail Kamara, drags him and his colleague and fellow magical apprentice, Leslie May, to a railroad track running under a school playground, they do find the ghost. But the ghost is no threat, and doesn’t seem to be pointing to anything of concern now. So when the first case that lands on his desk on Monday is a man stabbed to death on the track at Baker Street Station, he puts the ghost aside, and sets about finding out why the British Transport Police officer, Sgt. Kumar, thinks there’s something odd about the case in a way that makes it the Folly’s business.

Lory says of another mystery series: ‘Before there was Lyra Belacqua, there was Sally Lockhart. Prior to creating the unforgettable Lyra of The Golden Compass and its blockbuster sequels, Philip Pullman was perhaps best known for his trio of books featuring another kick-ass female: a pistol-packing, checkbook-balancing, mystery-solving Victorian orphan. I adored these books as a teenager (like Sally herself, I was sixteen when the first volume was published), but hadn’t read them in years when the chance came to review them for GMR. Would they still be as compelling as I remembered, half a lifetime later?’

Lory also gives us a mystery set in a Britain that never existed: ‘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.’

Richard offers us a bit of pulp in Manley Wellman’s The Complete John Thunstone: ‘he’s a familiar character with a few unique twists. A psychic detective in the old-school style, he’s wealthy, well-built, and as quick with his fists or his saint-forged swordcane as he is with his wits. Erudite, charming and nattily attired, he tangles repeatedly with the nefarious, seemingly unkillable sorcerer Rowley Thorne, a nemesis seeming cloned from bits of Aleister Crowley and Professor Moriarty. Where Thorne strives to unleash darkness on the world (and win the affections of the Countess Sharon Montesco by fair means or foul), Thunstone and his allies fight to hold the shadows at bay. As such, he fits comfortably within the psychic detective tradition; it’s Wellman’s skill at characterization that makes him stand out.’

Robert’s review of 9Tail Fox that whittles down the general genre label and gets to the heart of the story. ‘The book cover claims that Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox is ‘A novel of science fiction.’ Considering what science fiction has become over the past generation, that could well be valid — with some qualifications. I’m going to call it ‘slipstream’ in honor of its genre-bending tendencies and let it go at that.’ is it mystery? Read his review to see if it is.

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Remember rhubarb? That huge tropical-leafed plant in your grandmother’s garden with red, red stems, and you chew the stems and your mouth goes dry for the next three days? Jennifer reviews Red Ass Rhubarb wine and gives us a recipe for dark chocolate mousse to eat with it.

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Grey, in her review of the film Seabiscuit, says her eyes stayed perfectly dry whenever the visual and audio cues said she should be crying. ‘But I teared up every time I saw the horse(s) who play Seabiscuit take the track. It’s beautiful! The way horses run when they’re racing… there’s an emotion in it that isn’t human, but that I find heart-rending all the same.’

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April was pleased with Jim Butcher and Ardian Syaf’s Welcome to the Jungle, a standalone story connected to a series of novels featuring the exploits of wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden. ‘Butcher’s usual snappy dialogue translates quite well into the comic format. Syaf’s art is clean and attractive and he does an excellent job of realizing Butcher’s characters, Harry in particular, right down to his trademark duster, pentacle pendant, blasting rod and staff.’

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In new music, Gary reviewed the third album by one of his favorite groups, Nils Økland Band’s Gjenskinn. As with the Hardanger fiddler and his band’s earlier efforts, he says, this one presents Norwegian folk themes viewed through a multifaceted lens that incorporates jazz, classical, minimalism, and more. ‘All of these players are top-tier, in demand musicians in their fields, and all are adept at improvising within the rarified levels at which Økland composes and into which he leads them. The sense of focused joy in their performance is palpable.’

Gary also attended a show billed as Väsen and Hawktail, and figured the two bands would play separately. ‘But it turns out that Hawktail isn’t just some Americana group but in this case is the acoustic supergroup I formerly knew as Haas Kowert Tice, and they’re not opening for Väsen but playing along with them in a sort of super supergroup! It was the best night of music I’ve enjoyed since before the pandemic began four years ago.’

From the archives, Barb reviewed a bunch of Nordic fiddling CDs in her omni review of Alicia Björnsdotter Abrams’ Live at Stallet, Marianne Maans’ Marianne Maans, Majorstuen’s Jorun Jogga, Jan Beitohaugen Granli’s Lite Nemmar, and Kristine Heebøll’s Trio Mio. ‘With this group, the versatility of the violin is evident as we move from solo settings to a sextet and everything in between. Through all of it, the violin is the binding force. The geographical areas represented include Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.’

Christopher gave a mixed review to a couple of albums by Darrell Scott. ‘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. All of the songs but one go over the five minute mark, being allowed to unravel themselves slowly and powerfully, the rhythm section giving its best and Scott himself proving to be a talented and effective guitarist. His voice, much more relaxed, is fitting and there are times that he even shows potential to be a remarkably good singer.’

Gary liked Jolie Holland’s Springtime Can Kill You, which he said ‘ …is a 12-song cycle about love, its joys and disappointments. It opens with “Crush in the Ghetto,” a lovely and lilting love song with the sighing refrain of “look what you’ve done to me.” Lightly plucked electric guitar and lightly brushed drums accompany her singing, grounded by a low, thrumming bass and the distant soughing of horns and organ.’

Judith reviewed Dark Light from Waterson:Carthy, which at the time was Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, and their daughter, fiddler Eliza Carthy, with accordionist Tim Van Eyken. ‘You would think that after all these albums, the little extended family would get boring, rest on their laurels, but actually Dark Light is quite fresh-sounding, a nice album with subtly interesting interpretations of the old songs.’

It’s not too early to start planning to attend Denmark’s annual Skagen Festival – which fans of Seaside Hotel may be interested in! Lars told us all about it. ‘On the last weekend in June every year Skagen hosts an international music festival with a folky direction. Fairport Convention, the Dubliners and Runrig have played the festival in recent years.’

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Reynard found a really interesting song while he  looking at the list of the latest additions to the Infinate Jukebox, our digital media sever. It’s the Dylan song, ’Highway 61 Revisited’ as performed this time by Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne. You can hear it thisaway as it was performed on the 17th of November, 2000 at the Shrine Auditorium in Mountain View, California.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Pub

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It was a fairly typical evening in our Green Man Pub. The weather had turned sharply colder even for this time of year  and that meant a steady flow of custom her which kept Finch, my lead barkeep, busy along with one of the Several Annie’s, Iain’s Library apprentices, who was working the floor got us tonight.

So listen as I give you a tour of the Green Man Pub.

The Pub got expanded and modernized when we started hosting music festivals, community gatherings and even the occasional wedding here. The location of it is actually underground as it’s on the first of three levels of cellars under the Estate Main Building. You get it from the greensward side of the building where it has a door out to a stone patio that overlooks the greensward. That wall consists almost entirely of very energy efficient windows which make for a spectacular view, especially during Winter storms.

The other way in is a circular staircase near the check-in area for guests here.  It’s interesting to watch first time visitors emerge from the Stars there as they more often than not expect a Ye Olde Pub and get something that looks like a Scandinavian coffeehouse.

Ale, bourbon, cider, mead and whiskey, both Irish and Scottish, are the mainstays here,with us making the first three here. We also stock bourbon, brandy and vodka.  Don’t ask for a cocktail as we don’t do them ever though I’ll make you what I consider the best Irish coffee anywhere.

The fireplace is reputed to be a thousand years old but I doubt it. It’s big enough to stand me to stand in and I’m nearly six feet tall. We made it energy efficient several back, so it gets used from early Fall to late Spring. We have roasted a whole hog in there and the smell permeated much of the Estate Building.

We can seat upwards of sixty punters here but it’s best when there’s a smaller crowd here. I like it best when there’s thirty or so here with the Neverending Session here playing tunes as the punters talk quietly among themselves and we serve them as need be. No TVs here, but there’s a dart board that gets a lot of use.

There’s an area in left corner that’s always dark and cold. I’ve seen the ghosts that haunt that area and I’ll spare you the nightmares that the ghosts engender. If you’re lucky, you’ll never see them. Just don’t sit near that spot.

Come sit at the bar and I’ll pour you an Winter Ale for you to enjoy. It’s got a touch of our honey in, the raspberry honey to be exact.

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What’s New for the 18th of February: More Tolkieniana – non-LOTR stories, letters, references, etc.; music acknowledging Black History Month

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” — Gandalf to Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

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Greetings! It’s Gary, the sometime Music Editor, again, with another mostly Tolkien edition. Now, there are worlds of essays, theses and tracts that could be (and probably have been) written about the parochialism and indeed colonialism inherent in the first two sentences Prof. Tolkien puts in Gandalf’s mouth in the quote above. For there’s little doubt that Tolkien saw his hobbits as avatars of the English Everyman, homely and stodgy, set in his conservative ways, yet capable of rising to the occasion with nobility and heroism should circumstances call for it, while glossing over the fact that to millions of subject persons around the world, the British Empire more closely resembled the subjugation and enslavement offered by Saruman and Sauron, than the bucolic and carefree life of The Shire.

And yet … And yet, I know of no words that more accurately sum up our philosophy here at Green Man Review than Gandalf’s final sentence there — about “food and cheer and song.” What we try to do here, as we savor these cheerier aspects of life, is reflect a bit on the questions posed by the arts, and maybe prompt you to do the same.

This time out the Tolkien content is mostly books and one film review; I hope to have a graphic novel review to share in the near future.

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Asher took an in-depth tour of Tolkien’s The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book. The author, he says, spoke of Bombadil in two ways: ‘On the one hand, he has called Bombadil both the spirit of the dwindling English countryside and the spirit of natural science: “the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are ‘other’.” On the other hand, he has suggested that the reason he couldn’t bring himself to keep Bombadil out of The Lord of the Rings is that he represents something larger, something best not left out, though he hesitated to look too closely at what that was. One can surmise that this is true both of Tom as he appears in the Ring saga and also as he appears in the Adventures.’

‘Every Christmas between the years 1920 and 1943, the ever-so-blessed children of J.R.R. Tolkien received some of the most unique mail that a child could ever hope for: letters from Father Christmas himself!’ says Cat in his splendid review of Letters From Father Christmas — both the book itself and a readers theater style performance of them at his local bookstore. ‘Beautifully illustrated and delivered in various ways, they told of all kinds of things that happened at the North Pole, and about the folk who lived there with Santa.’

And Craig reviewed the audio version of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas audio, read by Derek Jacobi. ‘For those who may not be familiar with his work, I’ll simply say that you are in for a treat. Jacobi was the perfect choice for this reading. Not only has he read other Tolkien works but his voice resembles that of a kindly grandfather, ideal for the character of Father Christmas.’

Grey wrote an admiring review of J.E.A. Tyler’s The Complete Tolkien Companion, which she said is an invaluable reference. ‘Tyler is an author and journalist who is, in my opinion, one of the best authors of general “Tolkien guides” available today. While his scholarship may not be as extensive as that of some other authors, he has the ability to see the entire legendarium and its interlinking components, and to lay out and cross-reference those components with an understanding and clearness of text that makes his work easily accessible to readers, from the Tolkien neophyte to the Tolkien scholar. If you only have one reference book on Tolkien on your shelf, it ought to be this one.

Jack bestirred himself to read and review J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf and the Critics, a collection of different versions of a lecture by Tolkien on the ancient Anglo-Saxon epic. He recommends it, with a caveat. ‘Just keep in mind that our dear don was writing a treatise on Beowulf that takes into account the entire thousand-year history of that ballad as a cultural object. Bloody Hell! He does a rather neat job in some forty-five or so pages of giving you everything, and I mean everything, you’ll ever need to know ’bout Beowulf. Just drink lots of very strong coffee before reading it – you’ll need the caffeine!’

‘Tolkien lived in that long-vanished era when letter writing was an intrinsic part of daily social and business activity,’ Jack says in his review of, what else, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. ‘There were few phones, obviously no e-mail, and telegrams were used only for very urgent business. (He did use airgraphs, a special postal service to reduce the mail volume, for letters to Christopher and the like.) But the proper gentleman or gentlewoman wrote letters — lots of letters! And Tolkien was, like the hobbits he created, a perfect English gentleman.’

He also reviewed and contrasted a couple of reference books aimed more at a general audience, Robert Foster and the Brothers Hildebrandt’s Tolkien’s World from A to Z: The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth, and J.E.A. Tyler and Kevin Really’s The Tolkien Companion. He definitely prefers the latter. ‘ Tyler rightfully assumes that one has either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings in hand and is simply seeking more information. And information is what you get in The Tolkien Companion — a generous serving of lovingly detailed material that will enhance your understanding of these books every bit as much as The Annotated Hobbit will do. Tolkien’s World from A to Z just can’t compare to it!

Kathleen reviewed her copy of Tolkien’s Smith of Wooten Major & Farmer Giles of Ham that she first read when she was 13, a time when many readers of her generation were disappointed by them. ‘They aren’t epic, or sweeping, and there are no elves, hobbits or dwarves in them. That’s been a problem with a lot of Tolkien’s non-LOTR over the years, and not even the elf-centric The Silmarillion pleased most of his audience. But dismissing Smith and Farmer Giles is as much a loss to a reader as is ignoring the appendices of LOTR itself.’

Lisa reviewed a fairly obscure Tolkien text, Narn I Chîn Húrin, or The Tale of the Children of Húrin, which takes place many thousands of years before the bits we’re all more familiar with. ‘There are the usual things one expects in Tolkien’s mythic prose; it’s archaic but less like the King James Bible than some of his work, and a bit more like Norse saga. That said, there are influence and motifs from Siegfried and Norse saga, and the Finnish tale of Kullervo in the Kalevala. There’s a bit of medieval Irish too, in terms of the effects of the curse; it’s reminiscent of geasa like the one Macha put on the men of Ulster. But for all its archaism and tragic mythos, The Children of Húrin is extremely readable, and a very well made book.’

Liz wrote a monster review of the 2003 HarperCollins five-volume edition of Tolkien’s The History of Middle-Earth. The history was an immense undertaking for all involved, and the review was likewise. ‘At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’

Liz also reviewed some collected essays and lectures of Tolkien’s, published as The Monsters and the Critics, which Jack also touched on at some length in his review of Beowulf and the Critics (see above). ‘These seven essays provide a glimpse into Tolkien’s intent as a scholar, translator of texts, and novelist. Just as Sir Gawain’s shield device, the pentangle, gave graphic evidence of how Gawain’s virtues were inextricably linked, this book shows how Tolkien’s interests in philology (i.e., historical linguistics) and the art of fantastic fiction were bound together, each giving life to the other.’

Matthew was impressed all around by the audiobook of Tolkien’s translation of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” as read by Terry Jones (yes, that Terry Jones). ‘One of Tolkien’s first scholarly works was a modern English translation of the 14th century alliterative poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Although there have been a handful of translations since, Tolkien’s stands out as accomplishing a two-fold mission that few others have achieved. He brings the poem into the modern idiom in a way that is readable, but he also retains the alliterative metric structure that the anonymous Gawain poet was trying to revive.’

Matthew also reviewed a helpful reference book, Christopher Tolkien’s The History of Middle-earth Index, which gathers the indexes from all 12 volumes of The History of Middle Earth into one volume. ‘The Index contains every entry from the separate indexes of the History, as well as Christopher Tolkien’s explanatory text that prefaces each separate index. However, instead of gathering all the references to a particular name under one heading, Tolkien has chosen to keep the entries separate. Thus, we have a separate heading for Beren’s appearances in the first volume, followed by an entry for Beren’s appearances in the second volume, etc.’

Warner reviewed the award winning book by academic Holly Ordway, Tolkien’s Modern Readings, in which Ordway lays to rest the notion that all Tolkien read was medieval literature. ‘It is a fascinating volume at times, veering from works still known to current readers all the way to quiet, esoteric works that have largely passed into oblivion. The book focuses on works likely to have influenced the creation of middle earth related works (specifically The Hobbit, Lord of The Rings, and the Silmarillion) and proving Tolkien read them.’

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‘Now I admit that I groaned at first, muttered somethin’ about all the shite that the Jackson films have loosed upon the buying public such as Gollum bookends and Gandalf hats to name but two products,’ Jack recalled about the time he learned he was to review The Real Middle Earth on DVD. ‘However, I found this DVD to be both pleasantly low-key and well worth watching. Indeed it’s narrated by Ian Holm, a definite reason to watch it!’

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Robert has a treat for us: three chocolate candies from Chocolove: ‘Chocolove is an American company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, that produces chocolate bars and candies using all natural ingredients and following the traditions of European chocolatiers. What came across my desk was three packages of “nut-butter cups” — one the classic peanut-butter cup, and two made with almond butter.’

 

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One of our Diverse Voices got ’round to reading the original DC series Watchmen when it was issued as a collector’s box of 12 editions – and read it all in one go! ‘It is rich in meaning, in imagination, in visual and verbal motifs, to dizzying degree. Watch the Rorschach blobs, the embracing lovers, the viscous gloss of moving blood, the clock. Moore is ambitious and he set a remarkable standard. My favourite episodes are four and ten — the monologue-driven time travel of the first and the sheer colour and energy of the second are pleasing and meaningful to degrees usually reserved for tosh such as War and Peace. And reading the more relevant Watchmen should take considerably less time.’

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In new music, Tatiana reviews Hajda!, the debut album by Hajda Banda, which she says ‘…is a captivating journey into the rich musical traditions of the Podlasie region in eastern Poland, the western parts of Belarus, and Polesye on the Polish-Ukrainian-Belarusian border. The album showcases the band’s commitment to preserving and innovating rural music from the borderlands, infusing it with their unique style and ideas.’

From the archives, Big Earl reviewed Deep River of Song: Big Brazos – Texas Prison Recordings, 1933 & 1934, a collection of field recordings. ‘Made entirely of group or call-and-response singing, this disc covers a surprising breadth of the pre-1950s African-American musical spectrum. “Old Rattler” gives us a look at the blues of Leadbelly and Muddy Waters, in the form of a folk song. “I Wonder What’s The Matter,” led by Lightnin’ Washington (one of the stars of this disc) foreshadows slow testifying gospel, and ultimately the Africanization of jazz by Davis & Malaska some 30 years later. While most of this disc was either taken from the black culture mainstream (“Black Betty,” “Long John”) or entered it (“Hammer Ring,” “Great God A’Mighty (Long Hot Summer Days)”), there’s still a fascinating angle to how these songs are performed.’

He also reviewed another recording in the Deep River of Song series, Virginia and the Piedmont. ‘The breadth of talent presented, both amateur and professional, is simply phenomenal. We get to hear a very young Sonny Terry, in full falsetto glory, blowing that great blues rural harp of his. Brownie McGhee is unfortunately rather quiet on these recordings but adds to the proceedings nonetheless. Their scorching version of “John Henry” is alone worth the price of this disc; coupled with their other two tracks, it ups the disc’s desirability considerably.’

Brendan reviewed another of the “Deep River” series, Black Appalachia. ‘The sheer variety of songs here is daunting; there are fiddle reels, work chants, square-dancing numbers, hoedowns, blues, as well just straightforward folk songs. What makes this CD so interesting is that the Lomaxes (travelling with famed bluesman Leadbelly) recorded these songs at a time of great transition for the American folk song. The current crop of rural musicians were taking all of the various American idiomatic styles – the blues, country, ragtime, swing – and melding them to create new sounds.’

David reviewed a handful of the CDs released as part of the Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues juggernaut of the early Aughts. He round them to be a mixed bag but was still enthusiastic. ‘Before the deluge, a lot of this material was obscure and hard to get. Some of it didn’t exist at all. If Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues introduces blues to a new generation, if it causes people to reconsider this powerful American music, then it’s done what many before couldn’t do. Bravo to Columbia/Legacy, and to Martin Scorsese for for their efforts in this worthy cause.’

I also reviewed Down In Jamaica, a box set celebrating the 40th anniversary of the reggae label VP Records. ‘The set isn’t a bunch of deep or obscure tracks, but rather hit songs by some top artists. It’s taken almost exclusively from singles, which were the main form in which the music was produced. The 94 tracks feature 101 artists on four CDs plus four seven-inch singles and four 12-inch singles.’

Next I reviewed One Night In Indy, a previously unreleased live date by jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery. ‘Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more undiscovered recordings of Wes Montgomery, here comes Resonance Records with yet another one. And One Night In Indy is a truly great record for jazz fans and Montgomery fans – and even for fans of Eddie Higgins, with whose trio Wes is sitting in on this date.’

And I reached way back into the past to review some compilation discs that highlight the work of actor and singer Bert Williams, the most important Black recording artist of the early 20th century. ‘It’s a tragedy that a talent of Williams’ caliber was restricted to playing the role of the shufflin’ darky, even if it was an act that he perfected. He longed to try his hand at dramatic roles, but at the time the prevailing wisdom was that white audiences wouldn’t accept a black man in any but a comic role.’

The Rough Guide to Chicago Blues CD got Richard to reminiscing about his youth. ‘Suddenly there we were, white kids growing up in post-World War Two England, steeped in the music of Chicago’s Southside, pestering record stores for obscure recordings by Black musicians destined initially for the North American “race” market; i.e., the relatively prosperous (anyway, prosperous enough to buy records) urban African Americans whose music this was, and many of whom lived in Chicago.’

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Our What Not this time is sort of about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer. Extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions, Winter 2000. Persuasions’s the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

We’ve got these reviews of other works by her, Dancing Through Time subtitled Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances which is set to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.

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I think a bit of rather lively music in the form of ‘Red Barn Stomp’ to show us out this edition will do very nicely.  Recorded sometime in June of 1990 in Minneapolis by the Oysterband  with June Tabor joining them there as well. The lads were on tour in support of their Little Rock to Leipzig album where you can find another version of this tune.

Ian Tefler, a band member, tells us that the name of this piece was chosen to sound trad. It features John Tefler calling the tune and very neatly incorporates the actually trad tune, ‘The Cornish Six-Hand Reel’ in it as well.

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What’s New for the 4th of February: Mostly Tolkien – The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, films, and even some audio

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – Thorin Oakenshield, to Fili and Kili, The Hobbit, Chapter 4, “Over Hill and Under Hill”

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Hello, you’re probably not expecting me. This is Gary, the GMR music editor. I’m filling in for Iain, who is … well, he seems to have gone walkabout. He was singing the praises of various malts in our last edition, which was followed shortly by this year’s Burns Night, when he seems to have sampled one that he particularly enjoyed. None of the staff is certain whether the dram in question originated in, well, the ‘real’ Scotland outside the gates of Kinrowan Estate, or the … other Scotland that’s across the invisible border that intersects with the Estate here and there. But the best guess is that we won’t see Iain again until he can bring back a bottle or better yet a barrel of the elixir for the Pub.

Be that as it may. This is the time of year — cold, wet, often stormy — when you’ll find staffers and whatever visitors have washed up on the Estate curled up beside one of our many fireplaces enjoying a dram, or a pint of something dark, as they read (or more likely re-read) their favorite work of J.R.R. Tolkien. As you might imagine, our Archives are replete with reviews of The Don’s works, and so I’ve asked a couple of The Annies to see what they could come up with. Unsurprisingly, they’ve rounded up enough for at least two editions. This time we’re focusing on the core works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Next time out the plan is to take a tour through the less well known works, the more recently published stuff, and perhaps some of the many books that’ve been written about Tolkien and his work … or maybe those will be left for yet a third. As I said, there’s a lot …

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Not a fan of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit, I liked a recent new edition of the book with illustrations by Jemima Catlin. ‘It’s a perfect size for reading aloud, its illustrations just right to be seen when held up by the reader or the book is sturdy enough to be passed around. Those illustrations, as befits this rather gentle adventure tale, are humorous or mildly scary as appropriate. As a bonus, you can read it in just about the same amount of time that it would take you to watch all three installments of the overblown and misguided movie adaptation.’

Iain gives us the rundown on The Annotated Hobbit, with Douglas A. Anderson’s annotations added to the classic tale. ‘All in all, an amazing amount of information gets added to an already finely detailed tale. I must stress that I would not have wanted this to be my first encounter with The Hobbit, as the annotations are distracting, but I will cherish this valuable addition to me library!’

In her in-depth review Liz acknowledges that Tolkien’s The Silmarillion is a difficult read. ‘So why read The Silmarillion if it is difficult? The obvious answer, “because it is the backstory to The Lord of the Rings,” doesn’t do the book justice. The Silmarillion is way more than just a prequel. It can stand on its own as a work of art.’

Naomi wrote a delightful review of the book that started it all. ‘The Hobbit is a delightful tale for old and young alike; it is a tale to be shared, and a kick-start to the imagination of us lowly humans. Dare to dream, for look what treasures you may find; a dragon’s gold, a night spent in the company of elves, a meeting with royalty — there is so much to be experienced here in this single novel. Don’t deprive yourself of an incredible experience. Read it!’

Naomi also wrote a loving review of The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books, just a bit before they became an even bigger sensation than they were with the release of Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. She speaks for us all when she says: ‘Tolkien created an unparalleled masterpiece, and left a strong and undying legacy behind him, as witness the continued popularity of The Lord of the Rings, which has now been translated into both animated and live-action films.’

Rachel didn’t much care for the readings by Christopher Tolkien on The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection CDs. However, she says, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’s readings are a different matter. Most especially, his lively and very funny rendition of The Hobbit‘s “Riddles in the Dark” is an enormous treat, from his hissing, spluttering Gollum to his deadpan professorial asides concerning the difficulty of thinking of riddles when you’re sitting next to a slimy creature who wants to eat you.’

She did, however, have unqualified praise for the huge set of The Lord of the Rings audio version, read by Rob Inglis. ‘Even if you’ve read the books many times yourself, hearing them aloud is different. You are forced to listen to passages you might have otherwise skipped or hurried over, and many of them yield up unexpected treasures, a turn of phrase or simile that you never noticed before. We can never again read them for the first time, but this is the next best thing.’

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Grey took on the daunting project of reviewing all three of Peter Jackson’s LOTR films: The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. This passage from the first of those reviews serves as her generl feeling about all: ‘As director and one of the writers of the screenplay, Peter Jackson worked very hard to remain faithful to Tolkien’s massive epic, while working within the restrictions of a limited number of screen hours. He has, over all, succeeded admirably. The movie flows smoothly, and the plot progression seems as inevitable as it does in Tolkien’s luminous prose. But, as closely watching fans will undoubtedly notice, Jackson did indeed make several changes to Tolkien’s story.’

Robert was ambivalent about the film adaptations Jackson did of The Hobbit, at least the first two installments that he reviewed: An Unexpected Journey, and The Desolation of Smaug. ‘I have to confess, I was not one of those wildly enthusiastic about Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Quite aside from the liberties he took with the story (which, if you’re trying to compress three lengthy novels into three films, are understandable in large part), I had reservations about some of the characterizations, the lack of support for some scenes, and the pacing. Those faults are not so much in evidence in The Hobbit, but they haven’t vanished, either.’

Going back a bit further, Sarah reviewed the animated Rankin-Bass production of The Hobbit when it came out on DVD. She didn’t like what she saw … or rather, heard. ‘The most disappointing thing about Rankin-Bass’ The Hobbit is that it didn’t have to be disappointing. The animation is fluid and lively, the character designs are expressive, and the backgrounds are a joy. The movie even holds true to the book in its shoreline. The only elements that don’t work at all are the soundtrack and script, but they manage to sink the entire thing.’

She liked Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Lord of the Rings better, especially the smaller moments. ‘Bilbo’s moment of Gollum-like ring fixation, Boromir’s low-key feuds with Aragorn, Galadriel’s self-mocking laugh when Frodo offers her the Ring; these added more character to the story than any number of spectacular fight scenes. Character development fan that I am, I’m willing to accept a badly-costumed Balrog in exchange for Sam’s frantic terror when he looks into the Mirror.’

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Cat dug into The Road Goes Ever On — A Song Cycle, in which composer Donald Swann put some of Tolkien’s poems to music, with Tolkien’s approval. ‘Now before you run out as a Tolkien fan and purchase the 2002 edition which was released only in Britain by Harper Collins (with a CD of the songs to boot!) be advised that this is mostly sheet music, something that even most of the regular members of the Neverending Session would find boring. Really boring. But if you’re interested in a relatively practical look at how some of Tolkien’s poetry is as song, this is the book for you.’

Kelly wrote a deep and deeply enlightening review of the full set of The Lord of the Rings film soundtrack recordings, in which he says, ‘ …these three scores reward repeated listening more than any other scores I have encountered in quite a few years. There’s a constant sense of discovery as one studies what Howard Shore has wrought, as one discovers more and more connecting tissue between all of those separate and distinct motifs.’

In new reviews, I enjoyed Tutupatu’s IV. ‘The debut album from Madrid-based Tutupatu is a blend of psychedelic krautrock, ambient synthesizer music, free jazz, and experimental noise. I’ve never really listened to krautrock before, and I’m still not sure it’s my thing, but the three out of this album’s five tracks that are more ambient than krautrock are beautiful and mesmerizing.’

I also review Ville Blomster (wild flowers) the debut studio album from Norway’s Liv Andrea Hauge Trio. ‘The trio’s members come by their obvious tight connections by dint of hard work. Only together a couple of years, they’ve spent most of the time playing together in live settings since they recorded their debut Live from St. Hanshaugen in Hauge’s living room only a couple of weeks after they got together.

Tatiana makes some good points about a new recording from a world music ensemble called Hysterrae. ‘This debut self-titled album by Hysterrae is a captivating and innovative exploration of world music, blending the traditional with the contemporary. The collaborative effort of four acclaimed Italian and Iranian world music artists from different ethnic and musical backgrounds, along with the electronic music producer Emanuele Flandoli, results in a unique and mesmerizing listening experience.’

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The Russian World Music Chart for 2023 was recently released. This new effort was created just three years ago to publicize the excellent but overlooked contemporary and traditional folk music that’s currently being recorded throughout the vast lands of Russia and Siberia. To explain a little more about the topic, we also have a Q&A with Daryana Antipova and Tatiana Naryshkina, two members of the organization who are also GMR’s latest contributing reviewers.

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We don’t normally link to YouTube in our Coda, but I’m making an exception this time to present audio of Tolkien reading the chapter “Riddles in the Dark” from The Hobbit. It originally appeared on an LP and now is available on The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, which you’ll find reviewed above. So take whatever device you’re using and a cup of tea over by the fireplace and prepare to be enchanted: “Riddles in the Dark.”

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