What’s New for the 28th of April: Tull, Ian MacDonald, Finnish candy and The Wicker Man

One day I walked the road and crossed a field
to go by where the hounds ran hard.
And on the master raced: behind the hunters chased
to where the path was barred.
One fine young lady’s horse refused the fence to clear.
I unlocked the gate but she did wait until the pack had disappeared.

Jethro Tull’s “The Hunting Girl”


What’s that? A Maypole going up in the courtyard in front of the Green Man Pub? There can be no surer sign that summer’s ‘acumin’in!’ It looks like the denizens of the pub’s Neverending Session may be lured outside, along with staff members tucked away in offices in the most unlikely places.

Yes, spring has burst out all over, and some of the folks around here seem to be feeling the effects of the impending May Day. Who was that slipping into Oberon’s Wood just now? Well, spring is as good an excuse as any, I suppose.

We’ve got spring greens in our salad, and some of the winter vegetables roasting on the grill, along with some tender lamb steaks, braised with mint and garlic. Are we starting early? I suppose, but this is the Kinrowan Estate staff, after all.

So pull up a chair, fill your plate, get Reynard to pour you a pint, and feast your eyes on this week’s set of reviews.


So let’s have a look at novels by just one writer this time, this being Ian MacDonald as I am again reading his two Mars novel, Desolation Road and Ares Express, two of the best SF novels ever done. sp let’s start off with this novels…

So Chuck says  that ‘I figure this much: Ian MacDonald’s Desolation Road starts with a green man crossing the desert, so this has to be the perfect book for Green Man Review. OK, the book calls him a “greenperson,” and the desert is on a Mars of the future, transformed by mankind’s effort, but you get the idea. Trailing this greenperson is Dr. Alimantando. He comes to a place along a railroad, where, almost accidentally, he settles and starts the community that he names Desolation Road. Soon after, more people begin arriving and, in short order, the community becomes a village, a city, a war zone and a ghost-town — all within 23 Martian years. That’s the story.’

Richard looks at the other Ian MacDonald novel set in the same world as Desolation Road and has a cautionary note as his first words: ‘You will know whether you will love or hate Ares Express long before you have finished the first chapter. The litmus test is very simple: what is your reaction to the name of the main character. If you find Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Assim Engineer 12th to be painfully twee or flat-out incomprehensible, then you will hate this book.’

Now let’s look at some other novels by him… 

We’ll start off with Elizabeth’s look at this novel: ‘ Following his previous work, River of Gods, which depicted a near future India, Ian McDonald launches into a new country, a new culture, and a new mindset for his most recent novel, Brasyl, a dazzling, if somewhat warped, story involving three separate but somehow connected narratives that evolve across three different timelines.’

Gary says the Istanbul of Ian McDonald’s near-future novel The Dervish House is rather like what our own world could be very soon: ‘…hotter, more crowded, with an even starker divide between rich and poor, and teeming with technology. … It’s also brimming with Anatolian spirits that sometimes seem indistinguishable from the effects of nano-technology.’

This novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

Another novel Gary looks at in this review is set in a richly imagined future India, Ian Mcdonald’s River of Gods. And it’s a bloody good read as well: ‘You can hold whole universes in your hand, between the covers. And as with those old faery tales, you need to pay attention to books like River of Gods. They contain important truths, hidden inside entertaining stories.’

Following up on this novel, is  Cyberabad Days which Tammy notes is “author Ian McDonald returns to the technologically brilliant, parched and i-Dusty India of 2047, an India first visited in his award-winning novel River of Gods. The seven stories collected in this volume follow the rise and fall of this new India, from the luxurious, robot-monkey guarded palaces of the super-rich to the slums where the robotwallahs rule like tinpot gods.’


Cat R. reviews and finds it very sweet: ‘There is certainly both a determined sweetness and solidity to this Finnish candy (lakritsi in Finnish). The label tells me this is called “black gold” in Finland but a cursory scan of search engine results failed to corroborate this. It is an enigmatic candy that, despite the name, has no black licorice taste to it.’


Speaking of Beltane, Mia reviewed one of our favorite films, The Wicker Man. ‘This film is psychological thriller, detective story, action film, comedy, all of these things and more. Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle) considers it the finest film that he ever made, and it has a cult following that shows no signs of lessening almost 30 years later. On the most visceral level, I would call The Wicker Man a film about the nature of faith.’

In new music, Gary reviews the electro folk EP Da Vo Gornitsa (Yes in the upper room) by the Russian group Leli. ‘Leli performs songs from the Belgorod, Kursk and Tver regions. The singing is polyphonic, by men and women mixed, and they’re accompanied by some unnamed traditional instruments that include flutes and zithers, plus some rock instruments like electric and acoustic guitars, horns, and drums, plus those synths. The vocal and instrumental parts are recorded on analog equipment.’

He also liked some new jazz. ‘A seasoned veteran working a date with talented younger artists is a trope almost as old as jazz music itself. It finds one of its most delightful recent expressions in this ecstatic album anchored by leading Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen, accompanied by Danish drummer Daniel Sommer and London guitarist Rob Luft. As Time Passes is a thoroughly enjoyable guitar trio recording by three players in obvious synchronization.

Tatiana reviews Sukha-khur, a new Russian world music album from a musician who performs as Zor. ‘The musician Zor, having been on stage for more than 30 years, has a fine sense of national music, and at the same time, his work is very original and filled with deep philosophy. Although Zor was originally a guitarist, he has now mastered the two–string suukha-hur perfectly. But in the album Suukha-hur the musician went even further. The album is based on an instrument with only one string and the musician’s own voice. However, with this, he creates a truly magical sound!’

From the archives, Chuck found the Funks Grove album Albuminium Blue hit ‘n’ miss, but overall he liked it. ‘Lojo Russo’s smoky singing sets the tone and the band, especially, Eric Penrotty’s penny whistle playing, more than hold up their end. Borrowing one more time from my review of The EP — since it’s just as correct for Albuminium Blue — “for solid, smoky folk-blues, this is one great group.” ‘Martin Carthy and friends in the band Brass Monkey lead off their album Flame of Fire with the old chestnut “The Swinton May Song,” David tells us. I have never heard an album Martin Carthy was involved with that didn’t yield treasures. Brass Monkey’s Flame of Fire is no exception. Musical, danceable, foot-tappable, it harkens back to the past to make one appreciate the long history of folk music.

Gary was enthusiastic about the 2006 release from Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You. ‘Holland owned me from the first time I heard her sing “The Littlest Birds” on her home-recorded first release, 2003’s Catalpa. Through 2004’s Escondida to this new release, Springtime Can Kill You, Holland’s music follows a true trajectory of her own design.’

Jack found Jethro Tull’s Songs From the Wood to be right in his wheelhouse. ‘Now, this is not your typical countryside, as our narrator will encounter green men, a huntress who may or may not be the leader of a Wild Hunt, druids, mad whistlers, and maidens who are certainly no longer chaste by the time the song ends. Ian is indulging his interest in folk motifs in a very serious manner.’

Lars had high prise for an album by Scottish folksters Jack Tamson’s Bairns. Rare, he says, is something special. ‘Maybe not quite another “The Lasses Fashion,” but almost. Had they been 25 years younger we would have hailed them as the new messiahs of Scottish folk, now we just get proof that these lads know their craft and that they still can deliver the goods.’

Mia was surprised to find she enjoyed Sons of Somerled by New Age musician Steve McDonald. ‘Generally I am not a fan of New Age music, which so often begins with a grand design and rapidly deteriorates into plinky woo-woo pseudo-ethnic background noise. Sons of Somerled is not of this ilk. Though the most obvious instrument on this album is the synthesizer and some of the traditional instrument sounds are actually done with keyboards, McDonald has done a truly wonderful job of capturing the feeling of traditional Scottish music.’

Tim was disappointed by Fling’s The Wild Swans At Coole. ‘With a name like Fling, you would expect something fast, wild, and maybe a bit out of control. You’ll find none of that here. This Dutch band favors a mellower sound, with lush, almost orchestral arrangements. Evertjan’t Hart’s uilleann pipes strain at the leash sometimes, but never quite break loose.IMG_0272

I personally have a keen liking for the Jethro Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies, which is why you’re getting a cut off the album Jack reviewed above. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine story about boy meets girl riding horse and … Oh just go give it a listen! It’s a soundboard recording done over forty five years ago.


I'm the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I'm married to Ingrid, our Steward who's also the Estate Buyer. If I'm off duty and in a mood for a drink, it'll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider. I'm a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!

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About Reynard

I'm the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I'm married to Ingrid, our Steward who's also the Estate Buyer. If I'm off duty and in a mood for a drink, it'll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider. I'm a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!
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