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


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.

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.


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.”


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.’


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.’


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.

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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