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


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!


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.


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…’


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.’

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.’


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.’


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.

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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