What’s New for the 10th of December: A mixed bag of seasonal and other Nordic, Celtic, and British music; omni reviews of late-in-the-year music

Books. Cats. Life is good.T.S. Eliot


Yes, this Estate has cats, some very special cats. That story is told over here. And they start settling in very nicely about now, as they really don’t like the cold, wet and windy weather we get starting this time of year. So they stay close to the kitchen (naturally), the Library with its enclosed but ever so warm fireplace and other places they favour until the weather turns much more agreeable.

(It also has some very unusual foxes. The foxes are the smallest known foxes  and they usually gathered together as a group. However, they keep themselves warm by hiding inside tea cups when the weather is cold. Or so claims Reynard. I’ve never actually seen one, nor has anyone else here on this Estate, but he swears by his story. With a twinkle in his deep green eyes. And he looks like a fox with his red hair and wiry build.)

In the meantime, would you like some nutmeg spiced eggnog and some of those just out of the oven iced gingerbread squares? This time of year, which is to say all Winter, we try to keep treats around the Estate for both staff and guests to indulge in as they wish.


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.

Gary takes a look at three recently published books: The Anguish of Snails by Barre Toelken; Myths of Native America, edited by Tim McNeese; and When Brer Rabbit Meets Coyote, edited by Jonathan Brennan. If you’re interested in furthering your knowledge and understanding of the folklore and folkways of American Indians, you’ll want to see what Gary has to say about these three books.

Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas’ Haunted Legends, says Gereg, is ‘something of a paradox:  As a collection I found this volume kind of weak, but there are a lot of very fine stories in it.  So many, in fact, that on going back over the anthology a second time, I wondered why I’d thought it was weak in the first place.  As a reader, I’d probably just leave it at that; but as  reviewer, I feel I owe it to my adoring public to tell you precisely why I feel the overall effect is weak.  So I dove back into the book for a third time. Such travails are how I earn my fabulously high salary here.’

Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale gets a loving look by Grey: ‘Cat Midhir has stopped dreaming. People assure her that it isn’t possible, that she just doesn’t remember her dreams, but Cat knows they’re wrong. Where her dreams have been, there is only heaviness and loss. For Cat, this loss means more than it would to most of us, because she is that rarest of all dreamers, a person who returns to the same dream every time she sleeps. In her dream world live her truest friends and her only source of inspiration for the books and stories that have won her acclaim in her waking life…’

Kim found a book that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals. This novella, she says, takes the reader ‘..into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up.’

We’ve noted before that not all of everything that comes in for review finds favour with us. Such is the fate of a novel by Kim Antieau which Mia reviews for us: ‘Coyote Cowgirl has all of the necessary ingredients to be a great book; unfortunately, like the cinnamon flavored scrambled eggs in one scene, there are other extra ingredients that spoil the recipe. It’s not horrible; even more reprehensible: it’s mediocre.’

(One reader wrote us to that he ‘was relieved, after reading Mia’s review of this novel, not to be the only one ‘crazy’ enough to find the book unsatisfying.)

Robert’s review of 9Tail Fox 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.’ Ahh, but is it any good? Robert’s review lets you know.

Zina ends our book reviews with Charles de Lint’s What The Mouse Found and Other Stories: ‘Ah — two of my favorite things, paired in one slim volume. (Sorry, I’ve always wanted to use the phrase “slim volume” somewhere.) Fairy tales and Charles de Lint. The postman dropped the package through the door this afternoon. Just a bit later, here I am at my computer. I couldn’t not read it right away, could I?’


We asked a number of folk we know this question; Is it a bowl of your mother’s fish chowder Or a warm doughnut dusted with powdered sugar? Comfort food is as individual as each of us. We here at Green Man Review are interested in your story! And here is Deborah Grabien‘s reply:

Well, it’s an odd thing: as a cook, I think all food is comfort food.

No, I’m not being difficult. It’s just that I love to cook, and I don’t cook anything I don’t also love to eat, unless I’m cooking for a large crowd. The whole thing about food is that — like air and water — it’s one of the great imperatives. Sex is brilliant, but you can go without it your entire life with no ill effects, and in fact, many do. Try going without food, air or water, though, and you’re in serious trouble.

We seem to be in an age when everything is based on competition. I used to watch the Food Network for a chance at recipes I didn’t have, ideas, fusion for things I hadn’t come across. Now it’s all about pitting cooks against each other. And that, for me, is 180 degrees from what cookery is supposed to be for. I can’t watch it anymore. “Challenge” this, “Worst” that, “Best” whatever. What are these people talking about? It’s food.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a big pot of bolognese bubbling away on the 150 BTU simmer burner, or a bowl of warm peas straight from the garden drizzled with butter and sea salt, or a slab of cinnamon savarin, or fresh pineapple carved off the heart and chilled in its own juice. A bowl of cereal, a cup of cocoa, an apple, a burrito: it’s all comfort food. Why would I cook it, or eat it, if it did anything other than please me?


In honor of the 40th anniversary of the release of the classic film A Christmas Story, we pried Tim’s review of it out of the archives. Check out the review for news of a celebration in Indiana next weekend! Says Tim: ‘Based on stories by Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story is the tale of 9-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), growing up in fictional Hohman, Indiana (Hohman is a street in Shepherd’s hometown of Hammond, Indiana). The year is 1940. Christmas is approaching, and Ralphie wants a special Christmas present — an Official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle (“with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”).’


Nathan enjoyed the comic book of children’s stories, It Was a Dark and Silly Night, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. ‘Comprised of twelve stories and printed on high gloss paper using vivid but never glaring colours, the book put me in mind of the British comics of my childhood. The kind of comics that featured characters such as Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan and the Bash Street Kids. So anyone who is looking for a more American style, full of muscular super people in swimming costumes, should look elsewhere.’


In new music this time, Gary turned in an omnibus review of jazz music that was released late in the year, including three archival sets and two CDs of new music: Ahmad Jamal’s Emerald City Nights, Cal Tjader’s Catch The Groove, Chet Baker’s Blue Room, Lafayette Gilchrist’s Undaunted, and Espen Berg’s Water Fabric. ‘The end of every year brings a flurry of music releases that’s hard to keep up with. To the usual year-end releases designed to appeal to holiday gift buyers has now been added the new tradition of archival sets being released for the Black Friday version of Record Store Day.’

From the archives, Barb greatly enjoyed Frå Folk Te’ Folk, a disc of Norwegian folk music. ‘Knut Kjøk and Dag Gården have released a polished recording that speaks to their traditions and modern folk music simultaneously. There is much emotion and soul, and their arrangements are superb. These musicians are well matched as a duo and I look forward to more of their music.’

Gary had unqualified praise for Lado’s Preveliku Radost Navišćujem Vama (Christmas Songs and Carols of Dalmatia). ‘This music is an uplifting experience for music lovers of all countries and creeds. If you enjoy sacred music, or if you like Balkan singing, Christmas Songs and Carols of Dalmatia is worth seeking out.’

Jayme was surprised by a Celtic music CD, Clandestine’s The Ale Is Dear. ‘Clandestine, amazingly, is a three-piece contemporary celtic band sporting guitar, fiddle and bagpipes that predates the Riverdance mania. And it’s based in Houston, too, not a city one would expect to be a hotbed of Celtic music. Unlikely roots, to be sure, but it works for Clandestine, a band that cut its teeth busking Renaissance festivals. Somehow, they manage to avoid having the bagpipes dominate the other instruments, and this balance of power results in a sound that’s as fresh as it is lively.

Lars gives a mixed review to two seasonal CDs, Johnny Coppin’s Keep the Flame, and Laurie Lee & Johnny Coppin’s Edge of Day, the latter of which is partly spoken word. ‘I must say the idea behind the record appeals more to me than the record itself. I have listened a few times, but very little sticks in my head. Every time I have played Keep the Flame I feel like going back to listen to it again; I do not get that feeling with Edge of Day. But then again, I have never been very hooked on spoken words on records, so maybe I am the wrong person to pass judgment.’o

Lars also reported in on an album by a new group, The Hush, featuring Bob Fox. ‘All in all Dark to the Sky is a good effort from a newly formed group. It may not grab you instantly, but slowly grow on you with repeated listenings. Sometimes the arrangements are a bit over-soft, but the highlights are far more common than the tracks that get programmed away.’

‘Cleveland-area musician Craig Markley showcases the emerging vocal talent of his daughter Kara in this self-produced offering for the holiday season,’ says Lory of Craig and Kara Markley’s Once Upon a Winter Moon. ‘There’s nothing wildly original here, but the arrangements are well-crafted and pleasant to listen to. The two original instrumentals, “Lady With the Silver Thread” (by Craig) and “Tinuviel” (by Kara) are cut from the same cloth, fitting in seamlessly with the more traditional melodies.’

Mike was ecstatic over a box set from Free Reed entitled MidWinter: A Celebration of the Folk Music and Traditions of Christmas and the Turning of the Year. ‘MidWinter provides an ideal soundtrack for those of us who are growing increasingly weary of what the season brings in this day and age. It is exactly the meaningful connection back to tradition that will warm the heart and soul throughout those long, cold winter nights. Now then, where’s my mulled wine?’

Peter had mixed feelings about singer-songwriter Tony Reidy’s The Coldest Day in Winter. ‘Tony’s lyrics are quite good. The album has a nice cover and inset booklet containing all the lyrics, but for entertainment value the tunes leave a little to be desired. Tony may not be the best singer I have heard, but he sings from the heart and soul, which I think is more important in folk music.’


Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’


Reynard recently recently reviewed the Horslips authorised biography, Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography, so let’s give you a WNEW FM broadcast recording of them performing their ‘Trouble (With a Capital T)’ at The Bottom Line, NYC, on the 26th of November, 1979.

Because I’m very fond of the newish wave of Scottish band that started up some thirty year 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.

Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.
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