What’s New for the 7th of July: A Passel of Roger Zelazny Reviews, A Write-up of an Irish Pub, Two Pieces of Live Music by Rosanne Cash, Where Irish Coffee Originated, Irish (and a Little Welsh) Music of a Modern Sort

Time is never called in my recurring dream of pubs. — Ciaran Carson in Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music

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I’m Iain, the Librarian here at the Kinrowan Estate. I‘m settling in for a quiet day of reading and answering correspondence after finishing the forthcoming edition (my fellow librarians and book lovers still like letters despite email which we all use of course), as Ingrid, our Steward, took my apprentices, the Several Annies as they’ve been called for centuries out of tradition, for the day for them to learn what an Estate Steward does.

So first breakfast. Unlike Reynard, I always drink tea as I never developed a taste for coffee no matter how good it was. So it was lapsong soochong, a loose leaf first blush smoked black tea from Ceylon. With a splash of cream of course. And a rare surprise too — apple fritters served with thick cut twice smoked bacon, using apple wood only, and yet more apples in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg infused apple sauce. There was even mulled cider for those wanting even more apples in their breakfast fare! Thus fortified, I turned to writing the What’s New for this week …

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We’re doing nothing but works by Roger Zelazny this time so we’re leading with a review by April of his longest work: ‘Roger Zelazny’s Amber series spans three decades, ten volumes, several short stories, a RPG, graphic novels and even a recent revival attempt (John Betancourt’s Dawn of Amber series). Packed into those original books and stories is a wealth of characters, settings, items and plots — far too much minutiae for any but the most die-hard fan to remember. And that’s where Krulik’s The Complete Amber Sourcebook comes in. The Sourcebook is not for someone who has not read the entire series, as spoilers are literally everywhere. Krulik assumes an audience already familiar with the core set of books.’

She also has look at an unusual novel from a SF writer doing his only thriller: ‘Dead Man’s Brother is a delight to read — Roger Zelazny’s language and characters seem right at home in this genre — and regrettably over all too fast at less than 300 pages. If only more such jewels were left to unearth…’

LCat leads off a review in this way: ‘If you started listening to audiobooks over the past ten or so years, considered yourself to be extremely lucky as you’re living in a true Golden Age where narration, production, and ease of useless is extremely good. But long ago, none of that was something you could take as a given as it most decidedly wasn’t.’ Now read his review of Roger Zelazny’s Isle of Dead to see if this older audiobook transcended these limitations.

And he says ‘Roadmarks features a protagonist somebody is trying to kill as he moves along a time-travelling road. As one does. ‘Zelazny really didn’t do plots all that well, but he was gifted at developed unique characters and settings. So, like so many of his novels, this one’s true strengths lies in the unique nature of the setting, combined with the character development…’

The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, I will note, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Read his review on this bibliography which only diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong  sf emphasis should consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy.

Let’s not give away what happening in the story Lis reviews which is A Night in the Lonesome October: ‘Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event. Jack has a very sharp knife, which he and Snuff use in gathering the necessary ingredients for the ancient and deadly ritual that will be performed on Halloween.’

Robert has a rather unusual book by him — well, unusual for Zelazny, at least — Damnation Alley: ‘One of the key elements of Zelazny’s work was his complete disregard for the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream literature. Consider that, within a science fiction framework he frequently introduced mythological characters, not as mythic archetypes but as actual characters, and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable stylistically within the genre into more widely accepted literary conventions. And, having said that, I’m faced with Damnation Alley, a novel from early in his career (1969) that seems, on its surface, to undercut my points.’

While poking around in the back reaches of the Library, he also ran across an old favorite, Roger Zelazny’s collection The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories: ‘Although he published his first story in the early 1950s, Roger Zelazny didn’t really impact the science fiction scene until 1963. That’s when I remember reading “A Rose for Eccelsiastes” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (with their best cover ever illustrating Zelazny’s story). He followed it up the next year with the title story of this collection, which won him his first Nebula award. Zelazny and his contemporaries went on to become the American branch of science fiction’s New Wave, and pushed the envelope until it was altered beyond recognition.’

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Reynard had the story of Irish coffee: “ Let me tell the tale of Irish coffee while I fix you one. It is said the very first Irish coffee was invented by Joseph Sheridan, a barkeep at an airbase located in Foynes, a small town in the West of Ireland.”

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Gary, the music editor, here. In new music, I reviewed a new release Birds & Beasts by one of my favorite groups. ‘As much as it has depicted desert landscapes, the music of SUSS has essentially been inward looking. Reflective of the effects of those landscapes on the artist’s eye and ear. With their fifth full length release, the ambient country masters turn outward to revel, in their subtle, introspective way, on the creatures that populate the world around them.’

Another new one is from one of my favorite singers, Jake Xerxes Fussell’s When I’m Called. ‘Common elements of the human condition — the passage of time, mortality, and especially themes of travel and wandering — run through the nine songs on this LP, all delivered in Fussell’s melted-butter baritone.’

I also enjoyed new music from Cuban band leader and cuatro virtuoso Kiki Valera, an album called Vacilón Santiaguero. ‘This is the summer album I didn’t know I was pining for. It takes me back about 20 years to when the world and I were very into Son Cubano, but rather than an exercise in nostalgia, Vacilón Santiaguero feels and sounds vibrant and fresh.’

It being just after Independence Day in Ameria, I delved into the Archives intending to compile some reviews on the themes of liberty and freedom, but ended up with a big batch of Irish (and a little Welsh) music! Go figure.

Christopher Woods wrote up Dragons Milk and Coal, the second studio album put out by the Welsh band Bluehorses. ‘Anyone who likes loud, lively, fun, slightly punk-flavoured pub style folk-rock will simply love any of the Bluehorses albums. They are all very good. This one however is the best yet, and to my mind, it’s up there with the likes of Oysterband and The Men They Couldn’t Hang for both its musicianship, and its blend of traditional and new.’

Chris White reviewed Paul Brady’s Nobody Knows: The Best of Paul Brady. ‘This retrospective collection pulls together tracks from over half a dozen albums, released through the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, and it demonstrates quite a wide assortment of material and musical styles. Ranging from traditional songs to slightly bluesy ballads, these songs sometimes tend towards a Van Morrison sound and at other times tend towards an almost mainstream, commercial sound.’

Jack Merry lovingly wrote up a career overview of The Pogues’ discography. ‘Once upon a time there was a band called The Pogues whose original name was Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for “kiss my arse” before a BBC suit realized what it meant and said that they needed to change their name if the Beeb was to air their material. Pogue Mahone was indeed a good description of this band: their wild and drunken mix of trad material with the energetic kiss-off attitude of punk created a musical style that London and the greater world of rock ‘n’ roll had never seen.’

Jack also had some opinions about The Pogues’ live release Streams of Whiskey, over which there was some controversy over whether it should’ve been released. ‘This was obviously a truly fantastic concert and everyone is having the time of their lives. No one gives a shite if the vocals are good, or if the instruments on key. All the cuts here together make for an impressive display of what the lads sounded like live. Only ‘The Fairytale of New York’ should’ve been here but isn’t.’

Jack also did an omnibus review of Black 47’s first six albums and an EP, in which he noted that ‘…Black 47 is the quintessential Irish-American rock ‘n’ reel band as it merges traditional material with the political and cultural consciousness of the newer Irish immigrants. All the usual themes are here — political angst, love, racism, violence, and redemption.’

Judith reviewed a new release of an old concert, Paul Brady’s The Liberty Tapes. ‘Both the sound and the lineup send a cheerful shiver of deja vu up the spine of a veteran listener or player. Brady sings as he does on the old Green Linnet LPs that have by now been played over and over, and it’s that same crisp winning sound that won us over way back when.’

Mike was enthusiastic about the latest from Black 47. ‘On Fire is a live recording of grand musical and engineering quality. Much of the energy came from the band’s playing to their own audience on their home court of New York City. We kick off with “Big Fella,” a tribute to Michael Collins, that has a rockin’ sax break. Second up is their own take on “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which proves that yes indeed, you can mix Dixieland, Irish riffs, the spoken word, and rock — if you but have the right trombone player.’

Peter, in his inimitable fashion, gave a positive review to Paul Brady’s The Paul Brady Songbook — the CD version, that is. ‘You might say this is really the album from the film of the book! In August 2002 RTE television, Ireland’s national TV station, filmed a six programme series featuring Paul’s music, called The Paul Brady Songbook. This was shown only in Ireland, from October through December of that year. This album is a selection of those recordings. I understand there is also a three-hour DVD available of the entire series of programs. Just to confuse you it is also called The Paul Brady Songbook.’

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Our What Not is Kim‘s writeup of Keoghs Irish Pub, her favorite pub in her hometown of Toronto. She says the owners have made ‘community building seem effortless, and have built the relatively new (circa 1997) pub into a hub for celebrating Irish culture in North America. The bar and its patrons are friendly, and some of the session night regulars appear to be stalwarts of the local Irish music scene. This is no age ghetto either — regulars range from pensioners to young, and often easy on the eyes, patrons in their 20s. The decor is tasteful and simple, not too dark, and the fireplace and kitchen add a bit of warmth, while the snug creates a spot for quiet conversation.’

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So the Infinite Jukebox, our somewhat fey media server, has a song written and performed by Johnny Cash’s daughter, Rosanne,  that shows that she’s every bit as great covering her own material as she is covering his material as she did here. This week it’s ‘Runaway Train’ which comes from the same Bimbos concert in San Francisco that January evening. It details the end of a relationship that may or may not have been about her own such ending but it’s certainly heartfelt.

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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