What’s New for the 7th of January: Robert Holdstock and other easonally appropriate books, jazz in winter, real and not-real beer, a poor comic book, cold weather music, and Gary’s music pics of 2023


If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased. ― attributed to Katharine Hepburn


Traditional Central European and Jewish comfort foods are common here in Kinrowan Hall. Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook, says ‘It’s not the sexiest cuisine in the world, but it’s so satisfying and perfect for this time of year. When Rebekah, our Jerusalem born and raised Several Annie, decided to join our kitchen family, her knowledge of Jewish food was a decided blessing.’ And that’s how I came to be sipping on a most delightful cardamon spiced coffee along with some chocolate rugelach on this rather cold morning.

It’s not something I’d eat in hotter, more humid weather but the weather is becoming ideal for such edible delights. I’ve even been looking forward to lox, onions and cheese in scrambled eggs for breakfast – the lox is from the salmon in the river that runs through this Scottish Estate.

Meanwhile I’ve been organising the reading groups, which always gear up as the weather gets colder, with of course the usual Norse language study group, ones devoted to works by McKillip, Tolkien, Sayers, Holdstock and Wynne Jones. There  was a Harry Potter group but her transphobic remarks awhile back got her informally banned here, as our staff is definitely leftist in their political persuasion.


Cat reviewed The Bone Forest, a story collection by Robert Holdstock that predates the tales in his beloved Ryhope Wood series. ‘ “The Bone Forest,” the title story of this collection, is the true beginning to the Ryhope Wood series, Well, sort of,’ he says. ‘Narrative cycles, be they written, spoken, or sung, by their very nature do not allow for true beginnings or ending. The tragedy that is the preordained fate of all who enter Ryhope Wood has no ending. So where does the ongoing tragedy that is these families’ entanglement with Ryhope Wood, particularly the Huxleys, start?’

He also reviewed the first two books of Holdstock’s Merlin Codex, Celtika and The Iron Grail. ‘If you have the time to read carefully, holding lots of details in your head, you’ll find much to enjoy here. This Merlin is quite unlike any other Merlin you’ll encounter, as he has a depth, a reality to him, lacking in most Merlin portrayals. Holdstock really has made Merlin his own, and Merlin as a character is much better off for it.’

Gary reviewed Craig Morrison’s Go Cat Go!, which he says is a flawed book about rockabilly music. ‘It is one of the most vibrant and durable musical styles ever to be born in America, but it’s more popular in Europe than in its homeland. It’s difficult to define, but everybody knows it when they hear it. And it wasn’t recognized as a distinct genre until after it had nearly died out and been revived.’

Jack came up with a massive omnibus review of books dealing with British folk lore, fairy tales, and legends. Of one of them by Nina Auerbach, he says, ‘Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers is an interesting look at how different Victorian women writers were in terms of what they created. The editors note rightfully that Victorian women were less likely to idealize childhood, as their own childhoods were often less than perfect, so their fiction tended to be much darker than that of their male counterparts.’

Jack also reviewed a big stack of books about the history and folklore surrounding our celebration of Christmas (I know, I know, but Christmas isn’t officially over until the last decorated tree comes down…). A scan of the titles reviewed include When Santa Was a Shaman, Dickens’ Christmas, All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas, Christmas in Scandinavia, and, I kid you not, A Righte Merrie Christmasse!!! (Exclamation points are the publisher’s, not mine.)

Jo Morrison warns readers of weak or uncertain faith away from reading The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas, by John Matthews with contributions from Caitlin Matthews. ‘The book itself is a work of art, filled with lavish illustrations ranging from paintings you might see in an art gallery to contemporary photography, and everything in between. Divided into seven basic sections, the book discusses some of the most significant symbols of the season, one in each of the first five chapters. Starting with the current associations of these symbols, the chapters soon branch off in many directions, exploring the probable roots from which these traditions stemmed, be those roots Norse, Greek, or pagan.’

Richard also reviewed a Robert Holdstock book, an earlier work called Unknown Regions, which he gave a mixed review. ‘Even when Holdstock does stumble, as he does with Unknown Regions, he gives you something interesting. A trifle next to the Ryhope books, Unknown Regions still provides much of interest. And if it ultimately fails to satisfy, that’s in part because this reader, at least, expects such great things from each and every Holdstock novel that something that’s merely good is below the bar.’

Robert brought us a review of a fascinating book about the intertwined lives of the people and animals of Siberia: ‘In its southern reaches it was the site of one of the most significant events of animal domestication in human prehistory, and one that is little-known in the West: the domestication of the reindeer. This phenomenon, and the lives of the people who live with their herds, are the focus of Piers Vitebsky’s The Reindeer People.’


If you’re among those attempting an alcohol-free January, Denise has a review that may be of interest: BrewDog’s Punk AF Non-alcoholic beer. ‘I have to say that Punk AF could fool a serious beer drinker if you put it in her glass and said nothing but “hey, here ya go.” This beer (beer-ish?) ain’t your momma’s O’Doul’s.’

As an antidote if one is needed. we offer Chris’s review of Garrett Oliver’s book The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. ‘I greatly enjoyed the introduction with its overview of beer; what beer is, the basics of brewing, a view of beer and brewing through the ages and the setting forth of Oliver’s basic premise, namely that for any meal one can find appropriate beer(s) to accompany the food. I also particularly enjoyed a number of chapters in the second section dealing with specific brewing traditions (e.g., Lambic, Wheat, British). The book is well written, informative and engaging. My one negative comment is that The Brewmaster’s Table is at times a tad too earnest and dry for its own good.’


Camille warms our wintry souls with her review a DVD of a couple of winter jazz concerts that are more than a half-century old now, Duke Ellington At The Cote D’azur With Ella Fitzgerald And Joan Miro, and Duke: The Last Jam Session. ‘… in a kind of gritty, sepia-tinted black and white, Duke Ellington’s Orchestra plays in all their sweet fullness. If you love this music, watch live footage of the stuff. Watch the facial expressions, the raw emotion, the individual responses of various members of the orchestra as they listen to their fellow musicians play. Watch Ellington pounding out on his keyboard or counting aloud to the band during such numbers as “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and “La Plus Belle Africaine” and the Shakespeare-inspired “Such Sweet Thunder.” All of this serves only to intensify the appreciation for this music’s complexity and virtually assures longevity in future listenings.’


Camille was dissatisfied with DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, even though, or perhaps because, it ticked off all the necessary clichés … er, elements of a superhero comic. ‘ …[Y]ou’ve got a Multiverse on the brink of collapse. You’ve got your Villain, and your multitude of Heroes, and even your One Last Hope for Humanity. Everything is meticulously and lovingly rendered in eye-stabbing hues, from every gravity-defying globe of a breast to every pointy torpedo of another breast to every chiseled cleft and pout of heroic jaw and lip and chin. Nearly any randomly selected page opens onto at least one explosion or jagged slash of lightning; manly bulges abound, and there are plenty closeups of tears and blood coursing across agonized expressions.’


In new music, Gary put together a review of his favorite albums of 2023. ‘My music coverage for Green Man Review focuses mainly on jazz, World roots, and Americana. And that matches the music I listen to personally as well, pretty much in that order. I’ve found that the lines between those three “genres” are pretty blurry, though, as we’ll see.’

From the Archives, Asher got a big kick out of a record called ain’t being treated right by Texas band the Burtschi Brothers. ‘This is a 16-track omnibus CD of Burtschi experience and development. Many of these songs are field-tested live performance hits like “you hold the whiskey, i’ll hold the money,” “just out of reach,” and “casting my shadow” that wowed audiences at multi-band outdoor concerts, openings for blockbuster acts, and venues frequented by cutting-edge college music devotees.’

‘It’s a great pleasure to begin the a new year with an album of Irish music that is filled with stellar arrangements, tunes and songs that don’t pop up on every second disc, fine musicianship and a one of those famous Irish tenor voices singing the traditional style,’ Kim says. What’s she so enthusiastic about? Why, Danú’s stellar album Think Before You Think.

An upbeat album that Gary likes to start the year with is by a Cape Breton Island duo, Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac’s Seinn – and he’s been doing so for a good 10 years now. ‘Really, there’s hardly a less-than-stellar moment on this album. Both Lamond and MacIsaac bring this music forth from deep in their souls, and they and their collaborators bring a great sense of fun and passion to it that comes across at every turn.’

Lars spent a long time listening to The Bushburys’ Trying to Catch the Sun before he felt up to reviewing it. ‘Though they are an English group you can easily detect American influences on the record. Sometimes they come close to country, sometimes the songs sound like Woody Guthrie and there are one or two songs that could easily have been written by early Paul Simon. The instrumentation varies, always with a very strong emphasis on the acoustic, including lots of acoustic guitar, some banjo, accordion and a drummer who is more of a percussionist than a drummer. But in spite of the changes you always recognize the sound as the Bushburys.’

Mike reviewed two releases by Dan Newton and his Café Accordion Orchestra, On Holiday: A Musical Cruise; and La Vie Musette. ‘Here are two CDs that had this reviewer reaching for the escargot and absinthe. The Café Accordion Orchestra has preserved a style of squeezebox playing that richly deserves remembering for its historically pervasive folk character.’

Patrick had nothing but good things to say about Nua Teorainn, a compilation of music by some of the best artists on the Green Linnet label. ‘The 15 full-length tracks on this sampler CD give a taste of each artist that leaves you hungering for more. From the commanding voice of rising star Niamh Parsons on the lovely traditional ballad “Fear a Bhata” to the mahogany-mellowed sound of veterans Kila on their avante garde “Tine Lasta,” this CD showcases some of Green Linnet’s best and brightest.’

‘The first time I became aware of The Bushwackers was over 30 years ago, when I had a telephone call from a friend who told me he was going to make a Lager-phone,’ says Peter in his review of the 30th anniversary edition of that band’s Australian Songbook. Who are the Bushwackers and what’s a Lager-phone? Read his review to find out.

Peter also reviewed The Bushwackers’ 25th Jubilee, a live recording from Australia Day 1996. ‘What a concert it must have been; the album boasts 16 tracks of the favourite songs from the band featuring their specially invited guests, some of whom have been members of the Bushwackers at some time or other over the years.’

Sean reviewed an album of excellent Irish music titled Cairde that was compiled to benefit a Dublin hospital. ‘Unlike a number of compilation albums I could name, this collection has been self selected by the musicians; consequently it does not suffer from the over commercialised complaint of many of this type that are swiftly made up from a trawl through a company back catalogue to get the most bucks for the least recording effort. What we get here is an album of 22 high quality recordings, technically excellent without the dead hand of over arrangement or the tweaking and twiddling so often meted out on “re-mastered” compos — it’s a virtual Macy’s shop window for the variety of top flight recording studios in Ireland.’

Stephen isn’t alone among Green Man reviewers who greatly enjoy the music of fiddler Bonnie Rideout. ‘Rideout’s particular forte is the performance of the slow laments and song airs which comprise the majority of the music on Scottish Reflections. Her exquisite tone and wonderfully controlled bowing (legacies of her classical training?), combined with her emotional empathy for these tunes, has resulted in some wonderful recordings.’


What not



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.

More Posts

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.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Graphic Literature. Bookmark the permalink.