What’s New for the 23rd of June: A special edition for the Solstice, Wales in literature and music, and yes, in film.

She’s looking for the music. She can hear it but she can’t find it. There are candles everywhere. Some parts of the room are low-ceilinged and high-cushioned, just right for kissing and gossip and splitting a bottle. Some parts are ballroom-size. The floor slopes down, away from the stone ceiling. Dawn trips a little, blames the drink. The bass gongs through her blood, a fiddle skirls, the faraway downbeat (alone of a tinny fusillade) cracks two glasses touching, a false blow, ting! Not in this room. Nor the next.  — Jennifer Stevenson’s ‘Solstice’


So, Midsummer has just come and gone, but summer’s not an event that disappears once the presents are opened. No, now we’re in the golden eternity, that endless perfect afternoon that arcs from June to September, a rainbow in every shade of heat. The air smells of forges and plums, cool water becomes a lover, and the best room in any house is the bower under a tree. The oaks are favoured for the best shade, one of the apricot or peach trees for snacks, or the rose arbors for the sheer overpowering delight of the perfume. With, of course, a book or three.

It’s that way here on the Kinrowan Estate, of course. Most of the staff are either out under the trees all day, or down in the cellar making sure the ale doesn’t evaporate in the heat. Reynard says that’s both a public service and a public trust, and tries to restrict it to his own staff; but when the heat hits triple digits, a lot of us turn dwarf and head for that little iron-bound door to the down-below beside the bar. Imagine our mixed mob of thirsty mortals, nature spirits and semi-demi-hemi immortals, all trying to sidle unobtrusively down the cellar steps!

In defense, Reynard has posted the score sheets for the Summer Reading Club on the cellar door. MacKenzie and Lilith are the judges, of course. They keep a special cart in the hall outside, filled with select and unusual volumes: that’s the trick, see, you have to read and review whatever the two of them have put out there. MacKenzie, I think, is trying to educate the lot of us — Lilith, being fey, has a warped sense of humor and slips in the real oddities. At least, I think it was her who stocked the Domesday Book in the original Old English.

Next to drink, the regulars in the Pub like books best, so there’s hardly a one who won’t pause before he tries to dive down the stairs to check his standing in the ranks. There are dozens of little leather wallets hanging on that door, and every one in the Club has personalized theirs some way: poker work, horse brasses, Avery labels, glowing eldritch script. When someone finishes a book, they add a review to their wallet. Scores are kept for quantity, of course, but also for quality — a thoughtful analysis of Gus’s little monograph on iris corms got twice the points garnered for someone’s slapdash review of all 140 volumes of the North American Manticore Stud Registry.

And of course, a lot of the non-drinkers — well, people who drink less, anyway — are usually popping in to check their scores as well, so there’s a sort of automatic defensive cordon in front of the door. And not only are all the readers checking the master lists to see who has read what and how long it took them, most of them are trying to peek in someone else’s wallet to check out their latest effort as well. It’s all anyone can hope for to get an ale they actually ordered!

Of course, we all manage. You can’t keep us away from books or ale, not if those delights were guarded by the Summer Queen’s guards themselves! So sit you down and have one of each, and celebrate the summer with us. If you can’t make up your mind, Reynard will be happy to try the new season’s brew out on you; and you could do worse than check out the tasty volumes on display in this edition.

Hail the Summer Queen!


Cat reviewed an Arthurian collection edited by Mike Ashley. ‘The Merlin Chronicles includes superb tales of magic and adventure, most specially written for this volume, ranging from short stories to complete novellas — including a Robert Holdstock piece, “Infantasm,” which I can’t find anywhere else. Their common theme is the dark side of the Arthurian world, the realms in which Merlin and the magic of the old beliefs clash with what Arthur thought he was creating.’

He wasn’t persuaded by the thesis of Kath Filmer-Davies’s Fantasy Fiction and Welsh Myth: Tales of Belonging. ‘What she does not prove to my satisfaction is that “Welsh stories, used with skill by accomplished story-tellers, break down cultural barriers, establish humanity as one family, remove our deepest fears and fill us with assurance and hope.” It’s a pity that that was the thesis of Fantasy Fiction and Welsh Myth: Tales of Belonging, as it has some cracking good stuff in it that is not related to the thesis.’

I (Iain) reviewed the audiobook edition of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service when it came out a decade back: ‘Listening to The Owl Service as told by Wayne Forester, who handles both the narration and voicing of each character amazingly well, one is impressed by his ability to handle both Welsh accents and the Welsh language, given the difficultly of that tongue, which make Gaelic look easy as peas to pronounce by comparison.’

Jo Morrison reviewed Jeffrey Gantz’s The Mabinogion, and Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones’ The Mabinogion, and had some advice on which to choose. ‘This proves difficult indeed, for although they both relate the same stories, their differences are profound and pronounced. The Everyman edition is more poetic, with flowery language and more ancient ways of speaking. The text is comparable to reading the King James version of the Bible, both in tone and in word choice. The Penguin edition is more modern, reading like contemporary stories. It is easier to follow for the modern ear, but loses some of the mystique lent by the older translation.’

Kim gave a rave review to Alan Garner’s opus. ‘The Owl Service is one of those books I found transformative as a young person. It also set me on the path to the original tales of the Mabinogi, and provided new insights on their worldview. I admire Garner’s courage in moving beyond the good and evil morality tales that simplify issues for children.’

Kim gives a gracious review to Donna R. White’s coverage of the Malbinogion, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature. ‘White delivers a very competent discussion of both Garner and Alexander, particularly the influence of poet Robert Graves’s White Goddess on both authors, and includes enough interview material to satisfy adult fans looking for a reason to revisit these works.’

Next up, Kim turned in her own massive omnibus review of The Malbinogion in literature, including many of the works of Lloyd Alexander and Evangeline Walton. ‘The Mabinogion has inspired many other writers, such as Alan Garner and Susan Cooper (see her The Dark is Rising series), in creating compelling fiction for young adults. The material provides an early glimpse of the themes that inspired the Arthurian romances, and shows an early European worldview that shares a lot more with the Nordic myths than with the Mediterranean.’

She also gives high marks to the audio versions of three books by Lloyd Alexander, The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, and The Castle of Llyr audiobooks, as read by James Langton. ‘I heartily recommend these audiobooks as an antidote to discontent on long car rides, and as a lure for Alexander’s writing. Like the printed books, these offer both insight and delight, drawing on classic mythology, coloured with the best of American sensibilities. These heroes struggle with themselves as much as with any external foes, and when they triumph, there is a place for them in a world where people are tolerant and sensible.’

Lisa had some quibbles with John Matthews’ The Song of Taliesin: Tales from King Arthur’s Bard. ‘In many cases Matthews has substantially fleshed out, altered or “improved” his sources where they might, in the frequently poor translations he relies on, have appeared obscure or corrupt. In some cases, in a desire to fit very different traditions into a coherent philosophical system, Matthews depends too much on more modern assumptions from Wicca (typified by frequent generic references to “the goddess”) and New Age esoteric mysticism — more than I, for one, am comfortable with in a Celtic context…’

She had more than quibblers with Matthews’ Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman, which she criticized thus: ‘…in its mingling of outdated with current, of academic scholarship with New Age wishful thinking, the free-ranging combining of texts from different sources, and an excess of unsupported assertions, the book is not at all reliable in a scholarly sense.’

One of our diverse authors reviewed Audrey L. Becker and Kristin Noone’s Welsh Mythology and Folklore in Popular Culture. ‘The editors make some large claims for the influence of Welsh mythology and legends on modern popular culture in their introduction, “Re-Imagining Wales,” which does make one important point: the Wales of the Mabinogi, the central body of Welsh myth, is not the “real” Wales.’

Rebecca gives three thumbs up to Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. ‘In short, these novels are everything the Arthurian legend should be. They are full of noble characters and great deeds, and deep emotion without sentimentality. They are dignified and graceful, and they leave the reader in no doubt as to why the legendary Arthur is still remembered today.’


Jennifer offers chilaquiles for breakfast on a hot summer morning. No, really. When your ears are sweating a little, you don’t notice the heat outside so much. Your clothes smell delicious all day. Takes ten minutes. Any lucky soul who shares your breakfast with you will roll over with their paws in the air and love you for a solid week afterward.


Take a number of well-known musicians, toss in fans and a camera crew, put all on a train traversing Canada. That was the intent of the Festival Express. Sound intriguing? David thought so: ‘It opens with a faded map of north Ontario, Kapuskasing dead centre. Then the camera pulls back and from the middle of the screen comes a train — an old Canadian National engine — and tracks, lots of tracks. This is a movie about that train and the people who rode on it, and the places it stopped, and what happened one week in 1970 when this train went from Toronto to Calgary … with a cargo of rock’n’rollers and all their paraphernalia. What a summer.’

In new music, Gary gives a glowing review to Linda Thompson’s Proxy Music. ‘What do you do when you have a heart (and a notebook) full of songs but can’t sing them yourself? Well, if  you’re Linda Thompson and you have connections to (and are beloved by) several generations of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, you sign up a bunch of them to play and sing them. By proxy, as it were.’

He also reviewed some new jazz. ‘Melodic, rhythmic, replete with lush harmonies and head-turning improvisation, Tarbaby’s You Think This America is just about everything I want in a jazz record.’

And from his personal archives with just a touch of a tie-in to Wales, Gary looks back at a favorite classic album, Deep Purple’s Book of Taliesyn, which he says ‘was definitely of its time, and this was not the version of Deep Purple that went on to mega-stardom with a string of hits that started with “Smoke On The Water.” But there are a lot of ideas here that were fresh at the time, some remarkable arrangements, a rhythm section capable of working a deep groove, and two extraordinary soloists in Lord and Blackmore.’

From our Welsh Music Archives, Huw was disappointed by Telyneg’s Nadolig Yng Nghymru (Christmas In Wales). ‘Overall, I have to say that, for me, the CD’s constant mixture of spoken word and music doesn’t work. It’s occasionally entertaining on the first listen. On repeated listens, though, it is irritating. To be positive, Bowen’s harp music is wonderful. I would have been happy to listen to an entire CD of it. The songs are a bit of a mixed bag, with the selection of modern and traditional songs in two languages lacking any real sense of coherence.’

Jo says that ‘those interested in the Welsh tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’

Kim says ‘Carreg Lafar’s second album, Hyn … “combines great vocals and tasteful arrangements of Welsh traditional music, along with some nice originals, in a mix that seems slightly medieval and mysterious, while at the same time anchored with contemporary folk sensibilities.’

She also had very nice things to say about Pigyn Clust’s Perllan (Orchard). ‘This is an exquisite album. It’s difficult to decide whether the instrumentals or the vocals are more compelling — rest assured that both are lovely, and the combination is at once exciting and restrained. This disc will appeal both to fans of Celtic and early music, who will probably find it difficult to remove from the CD player.’

Kim also reviewed a brace of Welsh music recordings, from Crasdant, Gwerinos, Ogam, and two various artists’ collections, Welsh Choirs Sing Folk, and the Rough Guide to the Music of Wales. ‘Not surprisingly, these albums boast some fine vocal performances, and some interesting similarities with related Celtic and European traditions. There is both the call-and-response singing and the interesting harmonies that one would expect in a land of choirs. There are also some very fine female vocal performances, all with a distinctive style that is quite different that of neighboring Ireland, Scotland and England.’

‘I have always had a weak spot for Welsh music,” Lars admits. ‘It may not be as instantly catching as Irish or Scottish music, but once you start to dig into it, is equally rewarding. For those new to the music on this path, Ffynnon’s Celtic Music from Wales is as good a place as any to start. They are a little less traditional in their approach than groups like Calennig or Ar Log, but are a fine way to start developing a taste for what could be considered as the little sister of Celtic music. Full Welsh lyrics with English translations add to the experience.’

Lars reviewed Calennig’s homage to the music of trad singer Phil Tanner. ‘But A Gower Garland is much more than just a re-recording of songs collected from Tanner. It is a tribute to the culture of a small part of south Wales. Tems and Carron-Smith have done their research very well. They have dug deep into the local traditions, picking songs to show different faces of the life of Old Gower. And each song is accompanied by a detailed description of where the song comes from and what it was used for.’

He also reviewed two various artists’ compilations, The Music of Wales, The Folk Collection, and The Music of Wales, The Classic Collection. ‘Together these albums present a nation’s musical heritage. They provide a fine starting point for anyone wishing to get musically acquainted with Wales. They also serve well as a souvenir from the country, which according to its people would be larger than England if you flattened out all the mountains and hills.’

Peter had high praise for the live album Once Upon A Winter’s Night by Yardarm Offa. ‘The quality of the recording is excellent; indeed if not for the audience singing the choruses, it would be hard to distinguish it from a studio recording. But the band singing live and responding to the reaction and mood of the audience as they are enjoying the songs and joining in, is a joy to behold. It lifts the band, and you get that extra sparkle in the performance that is impossible to recreate in a cold studio recording. This is true folk music, as it should be, and what you hear in a real folk club.’

Peter enjoyed Trefor & Vicki Williams’s Timeless Land. ‘The duo seem to have found their own niche in the spectrum of folk performers, with Vicki taking the lead on vocals. All the songs are performed softly and honestly with an effective simplicity that makes for good listening. Probably what you might expect to hear in a U.K. folk club.’

Tim was pleased with a couple of Welsh discs, Llio Rhydderch’s Melangell, and Boys From The Hill’s Boys From The Hill. ‘Welsh music isn’t something that’s easily found, at least not where I live. I have found that it’s usually worth the effort when I do manage to track some down. I was thrilled to hear these two discs. One documents an old, but still extant tradition. The other is more contemporary in sound, but the influence of that tradition is heard throughout.’

Vonnie Carts-Powell reviewed a batch of Welsh CDs that contained some overlap, starting with a compilation she liked very much. ‘The various artists’ compilation from Sain was an invaluable aid to gaining some clue about the state of Welsh folk music. Goreuon Canu Gwerin Newydd (The Best of New Welsh Folk Music) is a sampler of 18 tracks by 15 Welsh groups, including the hilarious reggae interpretation of Welsh sea chanty “Flat Huw Puw” by Gwerinos.’


We’re still processing the loss of Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot just over a year ago in May 2023. To celebrate the Solstice, here’s a live recording of his ‘Summertime Dream’ from a 1979 live broadcast on PBS’s Soundstage program.


We all tell stories and Jennifer Stevenson tells a great one in ‘Solstice’ which Grey reviews for us here: ‘The reader somehow senses that everything Dawn sees, each action she takes, even her name, has a deeper significance. She’s not just playing for a great party, she’s playing to keep a shrinking, fading man alive on the longest night. And if it’s an over-the-top, splendid bash that keeps the sun alive for another year, well, human beings believed that for a very long time. Maybe this story will help us remember some of what we’ve forgotten.’

You can hear the author splendidly reading  ‘Solstice’ here. You can read the story thisaway.


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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