What’s New for the 1st of the October: Horror, time travel, murder and fantasy, and comics journalism; personal Scandinavian jazz, ancient Persian songs, bluegrass, Americana, and a podcast; Johnny Cash on TV; chocolate and empanadas

Never argue with a librarian; they know too much.
Carole Nelson Douglas’s Cat in a Red Hot Rage

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It is, as all nights are on this Scottish Estate far from the light pollution of any city, a good night for star gazing if weather permits. I’ve got my gaggle of Several Annies, my always all female Library Apprentices (and yes I do know their names but I usually use this appellation) are getting a stars-related mythology lesson from Tamsin, our resident hedgewitch, on this crisp evening. And her owls are helping her out.

I listened for awhile but realized being warm was a far better option so I decided that I’d stitch together this edition in the Pub while ensconced in the Falstaff Chair near the fireplace with a generous pour, neat of course, of Talisker Storm whisky as the Neverending session backs a sweet sounding red-headed freckled coleen singing ‘Run Sister Sister’,  a Red Clay Ramblers song with deep Appalachian roots.

I’ve been reading Sharon McCrumb’s Ghost Riders as I’m very fond of her use of supernatural elements with the Appalachian setting. I think it is the best of her Ballad novels.

Raspberry dividerCat liked just about everything about John Clute’s The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror. ‘Keep in mind that unlike both the Encyclopedia of Fantasy and the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, where the entries therein were very much a group effort with myriad contributors, this is the effort of Clute alone. An effort matched by the superb work of Payseur & Schmidt in creating a reference work written in ink with legible type faces (Gill Sans and Adobe Caslon Pro to be precise) on good paper in a book with a decent binding.’

Cat also gave a strong review to From The Files of The Time Rangers by Richard Bowes. ‘From the cover illustration, which for me evoked memories of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in the way it depicts a neo-Gernsbackian era that never was, to the use of Olympus as a living, real space, this is one very fun novel. No, not in the comic sense of a Pratchett or some of Gaiman’s work, such as Anansi Boys, but as a reading experience.’

Denise gives a rave to Kim Harrison’s For A Few Demons More, part of her Hollows series. ‘What separates this series, and For A Few Demons More in particular, is the fact that here, nothing is without price. There are no easy outs, no deux ex machina to pull anyone out of the fire at the last minute. You want to play with dark magic? It’ll cost you. Think you’re all powerful? Guess again. And when you get beat up, it hurts. Harrison lays the cards on the table in this story, but then she starts dealing from a different deck, leaving readers with no clear signposts to guide them along a predictable path. The end result is a book that straddles the fantasy and mystery genres easily, giving readers plenty of character and plot development – with a hint of possible secondary character romance, just for fun – during the ride.’

What’s it like to live with a comics artist? Faith tried to find out from Blake Bell, with mixed results. ‘I Have to Live With this Guy! is a fascinating biography of the relationships between fifteen couples. One or both partners in each couple is involved in the comics world. Along with the biographies, you get fascinating insights into North American culture since World War II in general, and more particularly into the comics. It’s enthralling, so long as you can get past the sloppy writing and editing.’

How about what happens when a literary critic takes on Agatha Christie? Faith read Earl F. Bargainnier’s book to find out. ‘The Gentle Art of Murder isn’t heavy academia or an easy way to find out “whodunit” in whichever of Christie’s works you haven’t read yet. It’s an accessible, unpatronizing, even-handed examination of one of the most popular authors in English of the 20th century.’

Kestrel reviewed a young adult fantasy book, part of a series. ‘Holly Black’s Ironside – along with the preceding books Tithe and Valiant – is highly recommended as an outstanding YA fantasy series which provides a powerful metaphor for young adulthood itself. Most of all, it is that rare and perfect thing, a great book with great characters whose problems you want to all come out right in the end.’

Sue Harrison’s Call Down the Stars is a storyteller’s dream: a story within a story within a story,’ says Patrick. ‘And if that’s not enough to get the gears in your mind spinning, it’s about – say it with me, now – storytellers.’

A selection of mysteries seems appropriate for the upcoming month, and Warner has an eclectic assortment to recommend.

Coming from a smaller press, Jodé Millman’s The Empty Kayak illustrates questions raised when a mystery involves influencers and loved ones of the investigator alike. With an odd mix of evidence and a personally invested detective, the tension feels quite real.

Lindsey Davis’s beloved series of mysteries in ancient Greece returns with Fatal Legacy. Flavia finds herself looking at the standards of her time and some oddities of marriages as she tries to determine her next steps. With new and old crimes to solve, she has to be especially careful.

Sometimes a mystery involves family history not of an ancient sort but more recent. Joanne Leedom’s Burning Distance is one such example. When a girl’s father dies under odd circumstances it pushes her life in odd directions even as her romance blooms with a young man in ways that will change the course of her life.

Lighter subject matter or heavy, the Matter of Britain is known the world over. In Jean Luc Bannalec’s The King Arthur Case this trend continues with a look into a modern day setting with the seventh of the Brittany Mysteries. Commissaire Dupin finds himself taking a trip only to encounter yet another murder.

Sometimes being a fan fo a genre can lead one into false expectations. A.F. Carter’s The Yards sounds like a classic mystery set near London and dealing with the police.  This instead deals with a woman solving crime in the Midwest. A small town named Baxter with dying industry and falling population has little hope when death rears its head.

Next, a mystery novel that plays on people’s fears disease as well as their loves of dogs and children. As Peter James returns to his Grace series with Stop Them Dead, a book set in the 2021 stretch of the pandemic shows some of the darker sides of the push toward pets at the time. As multiple incidents spin out of control, the problems a disease new or old can cause become apparent.

As a final oddity there is Truman Capote’s likely final work. “Another Day in Paradise” looks at crime almost from the side, Focusing instead on the life of a woman who is the victim in a couple of events while simultaneously living in privilege.

Raspberry dividerThe Johnny Cash TV Show had great music and performances, Gary says in his review of the DVD showcasing some of the best bits. ‘The Best Of The Johnny Cash TV Show is also a great time capsule into things like fashion and TV production. Powder-blue suits and miniskirts abound, as do pompadours on the men and beehives on the women – Loretta Lynn wears a black wig that’s truly hideous. Some of the sets look like they came from Laugh-In or Hee-Haw.’

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Jennifer reviews Nordi by Fazer Finnish chocolate bars, and then, in keeping with her theme of more fat more carbs she did for the recent Pandemic lockdown, feeds us Chorizo Empanadas, and shares a recipe modification that didn’t win. Don’t worry. 

You get from here the version of Chewy Grains and Sausage Casserole that works, as well as the blow-by-blow on what went wrong with the innovation. 

Raspberry dividerDavid reviewed a special edition of Palestine, Joe Sacco’s groundbreaking work of comics journalism. ‘Bound in hard cover, with a colour plate on the front cover and embossed gold titles, the book just feels rich. It is solidly put together, with the original nine isues of the comic all joined, plus a wealth of support material including Sacco’s rough sketches, some photographs used as source material, and some additional text to fill it all out. I can’t imagine that it would be possible to assemble a more complete edition.’

Raspberry dividerBarb clearly enjoyed a CD from The Poozies: ‘The songs and tunes on Changed Days, Same Roots come from Sweden, Ireland, Poland, England, Scotland . . . did I get it all? They weave these traditional and contemporary pieces into a cohesive, beautiful whole with superb musicianship and singing. I love the textures they create with the harps, fiddle, and accordion. Each instrument is clearly present because of the differences in their timbres.’

David gives an overview of Johnny Cash’s lengthy career in his review of his final studio album American IV: The Man Comes Around, which he said ‘ … is a potent conclusion to a life’s work. It commences with Johnny reading a passage from Revelation sounding like a haunted preacher and then that acoustic guitar and a tale of the end times. That fundamentalist bent is still alive. “Hurt” comes next, and while Nine Inch Nails might have been talking about heroin, Cash makes this song about life!’

David got into some bluegrass music with two albums by Rhonda Vincent, Back Home Again, and The Storm Still Rages. ‘Back Home Again’ begins strongly with “Lonesome Wind Blues,” which sets a high benchmark for the music to follow. Marc Pruett sets the tempo on banjo and is joined by Ron Stewart’s fiddling and Rhonda’s own superlative mandolin work. Guitarist Bryan Sutton (who impressed this reviewer so much on the Dolly Parton bluegrass albums) is a feature performer on these albums and is just as impressive here as he was with Dolly. Rhonda sang backup on The Grass Is Blue so Back Home Again has a sense of deja vu to it.’

David overcame his initial misgivings about Paula Frazer’s A Place Where I Know, a collection of home recorded demos. ‘Okay, the first time I listened to it, it grated on my nerves, and sometimes … especially when she emits those high-pitched long-held notes, my spine tingles. But there’s some really intriguing stuff going on here. Frazer’s main influence seems to be Ennio Morricone! Soundtracks to Italian westerns. Big landscapes, filled with intimate, subtle music. Twanging electric guitars, noodled electric keyboards, over top of the acoustics and the overdubbed harmonies encase the image-heavy lyrics in a spooky package.’

Next David reviews a late-career offering from Chris Whitley, Hotel Vast Horizon. ‘The Dobros and National guitars are marvelous instruments … and Whitley’s unique open tunings allow a spectrum of voicings and riffs that echo influences from blues, jazz and world music. Not limited by western scales, Whitley is not afraid to use dissonance and any other sounds he can strain from the six strings and the spun-steel plate. This is music to play loud, and yet it is essentially quiet in approach. But volume allows a fuller appreciation of the sound of the instruments.’

Gary found something special about a new Scandinavian jazz album. ‘It’s not often that a musician, especially a jazz musician, reveals as much about themselves as Jesper Thorn does in conjunction with his new project Dragør. The Danish bassist and composer has previously released two critically acclaimed and well received albums, Big Bodies of Water in 2016 and especially Boy, which came out in the difficult first year of Covid, in November 2020. Both revealed him as the creator of deeply personal, introspective music in which he works out more or less in public his innermost conflicts and feelings.’

Gary also reviews a new release from one of his favorite jazz guitarists. ‘Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel returns with the same trio that recorded the critically acclaimed Angular Blues, for another outing that seamlessly blends folk, classical and jazz. Drawing on the quieter aspects of the repertoires of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, Dance of the Elders is atmospheric, textured, sometimes playful and always finely nuanced.

Eclectic improvizers from Netherlands and a Persian singer of ancient poetry? Yes, Gary says. ‘The Netherlands-based Rembrandt Trio is led by jazz keyboard player Rembrandt Frerichs, with Tony Overwater (double bass and violone) and Vinsent Planjer (drums and percussion). They have collaborated before with Iranian musicians on instrumental projects. This time out they’re working with the highly respected singer Mohammad Motamedi, a gifted improviser and student of Persian poetry both secular and spiritual.’

Gary gleefully enjoyed a couple of offerings from English low-fi country punk singer Muleskinner Jones. ‘His latest effort, Death Row Hoedown, is not quite a full-length CD with nine tracks clocking in at just shy of a half-hour. After a raucous intro track, the title song “Death Row Hoedown” sets the scene with lots of electric guitar and growling, yodelling vocals about various grisly methods of execution.’

In Music Commentary, Gary has good words for one of his favorite music podcasts, Discord & Rhyme, which reviewed two Beach Boys albums on the occasion of their 125th episode. ‘They made me seriously re-evaluate my thoughts and feelings about the Beach Boys, and I came away with greater respect for their career as a whole, even some of the later albums that I’d never heard of and that hardly made a dent on the charts. That’s the mark of a good music podcast.’

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Our What Not this time is about the Folkmanis Puppets of an Autumnal Nature, or at least that’s how Cat defined them. They were the ones Cat asked Folkmanis specifically to send and then he handed off to various staff members for review. So here’s the review of these wonderful puppets.

The Worm in Apple puppet gets reviewed by Robert: ‘One of the more unusual items to cross my desk from Folkmanis is their Worm in Apple Puppet. It’s a nice, big apple — not shiny, since it’s made of plush, but it is very appealing — unless you count the small green worm peeping out of a hole in the side.’

Next up Denise looks at the  the Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet. While she’s as entranced as ever by this company’s creations, there’s one quibble. ‘Mine looks as if he’s suffering from agoraphobia. Exo-karpoúzi-phobia, maybe?’ Read her review to find out what’s going on…

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Autumn for me is when I start craving the sound of certain performers, one of which is Kathryn Tickell. She to me is one of the more interesting sounding of the Northumberland performers that risen up in the past thirty years in the years since Billy Pigg was active.

So let’s listen in to her performing ‘The Magpie’, ‘Rothbury Road’ and ‘The Cold Shoulder’ which is from an outstanding soundboard recording of a performance at the Washington D.C. Irish Folk Fest from the 2nd of September, fifteen years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Béla

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I noticed that Béla was enjoying a meal of  goulash and dark beer, something that the Kitchen being fond of him cooks him frequently. (I’ve had that goulash — it’s as good as any I’ve had in Hungarian eateries!) Like many here at this Estate, I’ve pondered just who he is as no one here now is clear quite how he fetched up here.

He’s been here at least forty years and was a man of middle age when he got here according to what I remember from being told by the previous Steward. I’d guess that he’s in his eighties now but quite hale still.

He speaks German, Hungarian and French but not a bit of English after all the time he’s been here. It doesn’t seem to be a problem as there’s usually someone here who shares at least one language with him.

I though he was Hungarian but Iain, our Librarian, says what Béla claims is quite a bit stranger. Iain says that he claims to have been born in the Ottoman Empire long before it became Turkey. Now that it would make him well over a hundred! Not impossible give we’re situated on The Border, but still odd as that usually only effects those who spend time in what Yea called The Celtic Twilight.

His room is sparse with just his clothes, his books in the languages he knows, and his violin. That violin is a Strad. Yes, one of those rare instruments. I’ve been told by Max, the resident luthier here at the Estate, that it’s definitely the real thing. Béla won’t say where he acquired it, nor does he think it’s anything extraordinary that he has it.

I’ve never heard him play anything except various folk tunes, be they of European origin, or of the Celtic traditions. He’s very fond of learning new tunes and actually had Sara ap Morgan, a  cwrth  player who stayed with us for a summer that turned into several years, teach him Welsh fiddle tunes as she spoke French as well as English and Welsh. He even learned quite a bit of Welsh from her as well.

He always lends a hand, be it with Kitchen work or helping me with work outside. He’s as handy with a cross-cut saw at his age as workers fifty years his junior. Th local GP who does his annual physical says he’s in his late fifties or early sixties.

So the mystery remains…

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What’s New for the 17th of September: WWII (and other) mysteries; jazz, Americana, Celtic music and more; Doc Martin; summer beer and ale

We keep our cats as happy as we can. Anna Nimmhaus

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The piper at the gates of dawn has resumed their ritual after taking most of the summer off. Now from just before the first light hits the high meadow with its benediction of the new day ’til several minutes later when the sunrise glistens off the slate roof of Kinrowan Hall, the piper plays on. Some say the instrument is Great Medievel Pipes but I doubt that as I’ve never seen them here; more likely is that they are border pipes or uilleann pipes, which can be amazingly loud.

I’m now inside our Kitchen this morning as it’s just cold this morning for this time of the year. Autumn’s not even here but the weather’s giving us an early taste of what’s to come. Even the Estate felines and canines who like going outside are sticking close to the fireplaces and other warm spots inside Kinrowan Hall today.

In between lots of coffee and setting up my ‘office’ – which is myself, a large mug of Blue Mountain coffee and my iPad – in the sitting corner of the Kitchen, I’ve been editing this Edition which includes a a bevy of interesting things as always – though notice that the book reviews are all mysteries this time. Oh and Gary has a brilliant ending piece of music for us by Norwegian guitarist and composer Trond Kallevåg.

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Rebecca Cantrell’s A Trace of Smoke found all of Donna’s pleasure points: ‘At first I thought it was a murder mystery, and it’s true that the plot revolves in part around a mysterious murder that the protagonist and narrator, Hannah Vogel, determines to unravel. The story takes place in Berlin in 1931, during the latter days of the Weimar Republic. So it’s a historical murder mystery. I would further characterize A Trace of Smoke as belonging to the noir subgenre in terms of its grittiness. However, the rest of this review should make clear, it also contains elements of suspense and romance, a very appealing mix for my taste.’

Donna takes a deep look into the noir fiction of Phillip Kerr, including six titles: Berlin Noir (which collects three books), The One From the Other, A Quiet Flame, and If the Dead Rise Not. ‘Yes, this is a detective series, for sure. The first person narrator and principal character is one Bernhard (Bernie) Gunther, a hard-boiled homicide detective who quits the Berlin police force (the Kripo) because he doesn’t want to become a member of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party. He becomes a private investigator, at least for a while. Taken altogether, the novels span a period of nearly a quarter century, and in that time Bernie covers a lot of territory, both in terms of his location and in terms of his means of support.’

Donna also found Paul Grossman’s The Sleepwalkers notable for its authenticity. ‘Although I have read a lot of novels that capture the look and feel of 1930s Berlin (as I have seen it depicted in film and still photographs) rather well, I have to acknowledge Paul Grossman for his detailed and compelling descriptions of particular locales. In a paragraph of a baker’s dozen lines, he draws a very clear picture of the Alexanderplatz. I’d never realized before that it was the home of the city’s two largest department stores (Wertheim and Tietz) as well as the police station. When Willi rides the S-Bahn out to Spandau, Grossman provides a lyrical description of the urban scenes that roll past the windows of the commuter train.’
Reviews September

Donna continued on the theme of novels set during WWII with Rebecca Cantrell’s A Night of Long Knives, and David Downing’s Stettin Station. ‘There is nothing light or amusing in either of these novels. I would characterize them instead as harrowing page-turners. They also both share common themes regarding the heroism displayed by ordinary people when they find themselves challenged by events around them. If you share my interest in this difficult period in history, I certainly encourage you to check them out!’

James R. Benn’s Billy Boyle and The First Wave combine WWII murder mystery with action adventure and historical fiction, all of which Donna enjoys. ‘Both of these novels do a good job of portraying the dangers and the moral ambiguities of war. Benn, a professional librarian with an obvious World War II fascination, makes excellent use of historical events and other details, such as descriptions of uniforms, weapons, and vehicles, to lend verisimilitude to his stories.’

For good measure she also covers Blood Alone, James R. Benn’s follow-up to Billy Boyle and The First Wave; it takes place mostly on Sicily. ‘I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that the plot revolves around the (historically accurate) use of Sicilian Americans as agents in pulling off the invasion. Among these was the gangster Lucky Luciano, then imprisoned at Great Meadows Penitentiary, who through third parties was able to make contact with Don Calogero Vizzini, a Sicilian Mafia leader who persuaded thousands of members of the Italian armed forces to surrender to the Allies rather than continue fighting against them. The combination of World War II intrigues with Mafia plots and counter-plots makes for a very exciting story!’

Author Bartle Bull Sr. excelled at describing scenes and intense action, Donna says in her review of his books Shanghai Station and China Star. ‘That intensity of experience has its downsides, if you are a sensitive reader. All of Bull’s books are rife with violence and eroticism, often as not intermingled in the same scenes. He also has a tendency to use strong imagery to describe cultural practices. In these two novels, for example, he dwells extensively and at length on the Chinese custom of foot binding. In many respects, these books suggest what The Indiana Jones Chronicles might have looked like if they had been R-rated. About the only R-rated element missing from Bull’s narratives – and I mean completely missing – is crude or obscene language.’

Finally, Elizabeth reviews Jonathan Green’s Unnatural History, which combines mystery, alternate history, and pulp and a way she wasn’t crazy about. ‘This novel reads like pulp from top to bottom. The book takes place in an alternate 1997, one in which Queen Victoria and the British Empire are still alive and in control (through means not explained until the end), dinosaurs still exist, dandies still sport waistcoats and cravats while exploring Britannia-owned colonies on both the Moon and Mars, and of course, all the important people have ridiculously melodramatic names.’

Raspberry dividerDavid makes a strong case for the beloved British TV series Doc Martin, in his review of Season 2. ‘Doc Martin is filmed in Port Isaac, Cornwall and part of the charm of the series is the incredible beauty of the Cornish countryside and seaside. The opening credits are in time lapse photography, and show the tide receding and stranding the fishing boats on the sand. I never tire of watching these credits, as this image is particularly striking. But the programme is wonderfully written as well. These people are ordinary people going about their business. The stories are warm, sometimes shocking, often funny, and the actors playing the roles are perfect.’

Raspberry dividerDenise decided that since the Summer Solstice has come and gone, now is the time to try out some summery brews.  To celebrate warmer weather, she tries two from the Flying Dog brewery, Family Tree Belgian Pale Ale and a rare nitro pour of their blood orange IPA, Bloodline.  For fans of brews with a sour kick, Council Béatitude Cherry Tart Saison may strike your fancy, but she warns Saison fans, “Folks looking for a pour that’s more Saison than Sour? Probably should look elsewhere. People willing to walk on the wild (cherry) side? C’mon over.”  She promises this will be the first in an ongoing series of summer brew overviews, as she attempts to find a beer, ale or cider that will hold her until her beloved porters and stouts re-emerge in the fall. 

Raspberry dividerDavid was thrilled with every aspect of Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown, a Canadian comics artist. ‘His drawings for Louis Riel are elegant – cartoony, but instantly recognizable portraits of real historical figures. His John A. MacDonald is a delightful caricature. Somewhat reminiscent of Herge, the drawings maintain a dignity and a style that is all Chester Brown. Beautiful. This is a lush and husky book, printed on heavy paper, bound well between hard covers – it is a comic book designed to last. And it is filled with such wonderful drawings, and such dependable research, it should last.

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Gary has a lot to say about Norwegian/Finnish singer Sinikka Langeland’s new album, on which she is backed by an all star jazz ensemble. ‘Many of her albums have centered on the culture of Finnskogen, the “Forest of the Finns” on Norway’s border with Sweden, and have featured mythological themes, Finnish rune songs, or works by traditional poets (Hans Børli, Edith Södergran, Olav Håkonson Hauge). But on Wind And Sun she turns turns to the contemporary Norwegian playwright and poet Jon Fosse, whose poetry resonates with Langeland’s fascination with natural mysticism.’

Songs of nostalgia and mourning from Finland are featured on Emmi Kuittinen’s debut Surun Synty, Gary says. ‘She specializes in the songs and laments of Karelia and Ingermanland. In addition to lead vocals she also plays keyboards, accordion, ukulele and the Finnish-Karelian zither called kantele. Here she’s joined by Antti Rask, with whom she shares vocals in both leads and duets and who also plays ukulele and cello; Mimmi Laaksonen on wind instruments, harmonium, and vocals, and Kirsi Vinkki on vocals, fiddle, and the bowed lyre called jouhikko. Some of the best moments on Surun Synty come when all four join in marvelous harmony singing.’

Gary also reviews a grand new album by Finnish fiddler Emilia Lajunen. ‘The music on Vainaan perua: Satavuotinen Sakka is part of her doctoral studies at Sibelius, which has also included elements of dance, movement, and play, combining traditional and modern experimental approaches. It combines elements of two different Finnish traditions: the archaic, minimalist rune songs from the Kalevala tradition, which comes mainly from eastern Finland. And the dance-centric “Pelimannimusiikki” violin music of the 19th century, which comes mainly from western and central parts of Finland and is influenced by other European styles.’

This sounds interesting! Gary reviews an album of experimental music called Moonshine, by Maurice Louca and Elephantine. ‘On Moonshine, Maurice Louca’s ensemble Elephantine uses classical Middle Eastern modal music as a springboard to an entrancing blend of genre-defying sounds. It’s a dense, heady swirl of multi-cultural instrumentation united by jazz and other improvisational styles and modernist classical music.’

‘Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno have made a delightful album that reflects the changes in their lives, moving from old-time and folk country in a more indie roots and folk-pop direction as they’ve moved from Portland, Oregon to Durham, North Carolina,’ Gary says of the pair’s new album Imaginary People. ‘Now going by the stripped-down name of Viv & Riley, they’re reflecting on new maturity and a new community, working at holding on to their roots as they move forward in a troubled and troubling world.’

Also in Americana, Gary reviews Margo Cilker’s sophomore release Valley of Heart’s Delight. ‘It’s been nearly a decade on the road building a musical career for Cilker, and many of the songs here reflect lessons learned along the way. A major theme is the tension between family ties and finding your own way, keeping sight of your roots while striking out for your own place in the sun.’

Jayme makes a strong claim for an album of Scottish music: ‘For anyone who is of the firm opinion that the Battle of Culloden was the darkest moment in the history of western civilization, Smithfield Fair’s Jacobites By Name is the album you’ve been waiting for. If you’re not craving a big old steaming hunk of haggis by the time the last song fades from your stereo speakers, you’ve not got the least smidgen of Scottish blood in your veins.’

Michael was enthusiastic about Seven Nations’ debut album The Factory. ‘I’ll say it up front: The Factory has bagpipes. Lots of them. In fact, it pretty much starts off with an amazing bagpipe instrumental that soon launches into “The Factory Song,” a curious ballad based upon a handcar/traditional song and modified by Kirk McLeod for this album. It’s an energetic song with a trace of melancholy and regret, a tale of the men working day and night in a factory, the sort of song they might have sung to keep up their pace and rhythm while working. ‘

While he was at it, Michael reviewed a couple of other Seven Nations releases, The Pictou Sessions and the self-titled Seven Nations. ‘There’s a reason that Seven Nations has fast become so popular, with seven independent albums under their belt and a nationwide fan following. It’s not just the fact that they spend over two-thirds of the year touring and playing. It’s because they’ve thrown rock, pop, traditional Celtic and more into a blender and hit “puree” to create something wholly unique. Their lyrics are powerful, the vocals strong, the instruments energetic.’

Michelle tells us about Get Your Breath Back, a self-released CD from a Norfolk/East Anglia dance band, Straight Furrow. ‘Musically, this is a very strong recording, with precise instrumentation and a lovely selection of tunes. From the title I was expecting mostly foot stomping jigs and reels, and maybe a piece with a caller for dancers to follow. Instead, there’s a mix of haunting airs and delicate melodies that one could imagine at a wedding processional.’

Rick had some pretty high praise for Ron Sexsmith’s Retriever. ‘There are some serious subjects broached on this album, from pity for a driver who kills a child in an accident, to the loss of dignity on reality shows, but the overall mood is happiness, which is also the title of one of the tunes. This is an uplifting album, in spite of these rather heavy themes. It leaves you with an appreciation for true love, commitment and compassion.’

Raspberry dividerGary brings word of a new single by Norwegian guitarist and composer Trond Kallevåg. The atmospheric and cinematic tune “Fargo” is the first single from the forthcoming album Amerikabåten. ‘With its blend of noir Americana, American kitsch and cool Nordic atmosphere, “Fargo” not coincidentally sounds like it could be part of a Coen Brothers film soundtrack. Listen to it here.


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A Kinrowan Estate story: My Library

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It’s not difficult to find the exterior alley-entrance to my personal Green Man library; not so difficult, if you know just where to brush aside the thick glossy leaves of winter ivy threatening to swallow the old painted planks of the rounded wooden door. The shiny, beetle-like carapace of the black buzzer for afterhours deliveries of linen-wrapped tomes sits nestled in brick beside the iron handle of the exit, used for late-night, fumbling departures of Green Man staff leaving bleary-eyed and sleepy from hours of post-midnight reading and casual tippling.

In a perhaps over-enthusiastic bout of literary egalitarianism, I’ve cast off the shackles of genre classification, declaring loudly and often that no library of mine is going to be splintered into so-called ‘genres’. Genre categorization is — well, I was going to call it a tool of the patriarchy, but let’s call it marketing and distribution, instead. Punk rock habits die hard, I’ll admit, and rigid genre labels smack too thoroughly of arbitrary authority for me to not question their value.

Instead, I’ll shelve like books by author; we’re not trying to hawk product here. I imagine myself tapping a fingernail idly against my teeth in thought, other hand on kilted hip, eyes narrowed as I consider the dust-moted, sunlit room. All right, then: we’ll section off fiction from non-fiction from cookbooks, though author trumps function. And comics deserve their own shelves for archiving and storage purposes . . . But no fiction subgenres! My main criterion for the works here is good, right?

Now we’ve got that settled, ambiance. I like a little genuine reading going on in my library, so people have to want to hang out for awhile or forever. I’ll just plump this worn velveteen cushion, move this ottoman a little to the left . . . ahh, better. The room is generously supplied with big, comfy chairs, no harsh overhead lighting (I’m perversely averse to ceiling fixtures), and coffee tables solid enough to prop the feet on. And I was most insistent regarding the draft beer taps and espresso machine in the corner. We’re always careful with the books, never fear; we mind our pints and our demitasse. Quality of life, people, quality of life . . .

Sorry. Got distracted for a time there with my gilded, dog-eared copy of Anansi Boys and a pint — all right, two pints — of stout, enjoyed so much more with my oversized boots braced on the low wood table, mellowed by the rings of a hundred hot and cold beverages and chosen for just such a purpose.

And so, to the books. Strangely, I’m vastly less concerned about the actual books. I’m egalitarian, genre-dextrous. I’m always willing to give something new a try, my library eternally open to submissions. I’ll admit I’m glad to be merely the designer here, and not the librarian or the acquisitions committee.

However, if pressed, I might humbly submit to the KInrowan Estate Private Library Acquisitions Committee for consideration the complete works of the following authors (in no particular order): Claude Lalumière, Neil Gaiman, Dorothy Parker, Barry Hughart, Emma Bull, M.T. Anderson, Philip Reeve, Georgette Heyer, Doris Piserchia, David Sedaris, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Peter S. Beagle, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brien, Raymond Carver, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George R.R. Martin, Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez (Complete Love & Rockets and Palomar collections), Richard Adams, Carl Hiaasen, Larry McMurtry, Connie Willis, Roger deV. Renwick, Scott O’Dell, Edward Gorey, and Anaïs Nin.

And please, everyone feel free to throw in any magical, mystical weirdness that transcends the boundaries of the ordinary. I’m sure I’ve forgotten, or never been exposed to, so very many wonderful things.

Enlighten me.

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What’s New for the 3rd of September: Gary pens a short tribute to Jimmy Buffett, New jazz and Americana music, a grab bag of styles from the archives, books about English folk rock, books about breakfast and brunch, a black and white world, a panned comic, and more

The lie wasn’t meant to be believed. It was just social grease, intended to keep wheels turning. — Aliette de Bodard’s Fireheart Tiger

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Come in… Let me pour you a pint of Dark Hollow Ale, one of our Autumn offerings here in the Green Man Pub – I think you’ll like it. A brewer from Big Foot Country in the States who visited us collaborated with Bjorn, our Brewer, on it. He said that it reminds him of wood smoke, brightly coloured falling leaves and of the promise of an Autumn to be.

Yes, I’m playing music by the Grateful Dead and the various associated bands and solo performers as I like most of what they did and the Neverending Session’s off elsewhere this afternoon.

Iain, your usual host here, is doing a hands-on music lesson for the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices, of learning the grimmer side of Scottish ballads such as ‘The Cruel Sister’ as performed here by the Aberdeen based Old Blind Dogs over thirty years ago.

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Cat leads off with Ann Scanlon’s The Pogues: The Lost Decade which he says  she ‘has captured the Pogues from their very first days in early ’82 ’til a decade later when they released their only commercially successful album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, an album that really did sound like it was produced instead of being simply tossed togather. Ann’s clearly at ease with the band. And it’s clear she had the full cooperation of the band, their friends, and assorted never do well hanger-ons. This is a fuckin’ brillant work of ethnograpghy that catches the evolution of a band as no other book I’ve read has done.’

Next up is Clinton Heylin’s No More Sad Refrains: The Life and Times of Sandy Denny in which I had forgotten that our reviewer Chris does reference that zombie biography: ‘In some ways it’s apposite that a book written about an artist as emotionally charged and mercurial as Sandy Denny should itself have had a difficult and rocky genesis. Some people, myself included, were expecting a biography of Sandy written by Pam Winters to be issued by Helter Skelter last year. It’s not my place as a reviewer to pass judgment on the disagreements which caused that project to flounder, and led to Clinton Heylin writing this book. Nevertheless, I include these comments to clarify the situation for those readers who do not know the background, why a biography did not appear last year, and why the author of this book, Clinton Heylin, is perhaps not the same author that they may have expected. It also helps explain the rather unusual comments in Clinton Heylin’s acknowledgments. Maybe one day that full story will unfold, but I shall keep my thoughts and comments on the book in hand. ‘

Last Night’s Fub: In and Out of Time with Irish Music pleased Chuck who tells us what’s about: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are the of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

Scott Allen Nollen’s Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001 gets a superb look see by Kate: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Lis says ‘Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett’s Irish Folk, Trad And Blues: A Secret History is a sprawling, overcrowded, rush-hour subway car of a book that piles on more eccentric musicians, frenetic booze-ups and unscrupulous music industry types than my brain could keep track of. It is a collection of essays and previously published reviews and interviews that covers roughly thirty years of Irish, English and American music-making (from 1962 to 1998). The book explores the history of the English and Irish Folk Music Revivals of the 1960s, Van Morrison and Them, the Blues boom in Northern Ireland, Irish Rock, Irish Folk Music in the 1970s, The Irish Trad Revival, and the Folk Music Revival of the 1990s.’

Fairport Unconventional was one of those astounding box sets Free Reed did. And I’m just looking at this tasty treat: ‘As amazing as the music lovingly collected in this box set is, the one hundred and seventy page book is in its own way even better. Shaped to fit the box set as you can see by the photo of the box set, it’s a full history of the band as written by Schofeld who’s very obviously a diehard fan as he amusingly with an introduction entitled ‘Fairport Convention: A recipe for success’ which includes this choice tidbit: ’11 lead guitarists, 11 lead vocalists, 6 fiddle players, 7 drummers, 5 keyboard players, 2 bass players’ which makes the band not all that different than any band that’s lasted thirty-five years such as the Breton fest noz bands.’

I also looked at Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography: ‘Horslips were, and in many ways still are, the Irish equivalent of Steeleye Span and, to a lesser extent, Fairport Convention, as they blend English and Irish traditional material and a rock and roll sensibility into what was the first Irish folk rock group.’ Did they get what they deserved? Oh yes.’

Richard ends our English folk rock biographies by looking at Patrick Humphries’ Richard Thompson: The Biography: ‘Biographies of musicians are always dangerous propositions. Too many are tell-alls that insist on concentrating on lurid details and scandal, to the point where the reader forgets that the book is about a musician. Others go the other way, and are so slavishly and obviously creations of the PR machine that they’re essentially worthless as sources of fact. Books of both these sorts tend to cluster around hugely successful acts, and to clutter bookshelves right around holiday time.’ And let’s just say this this is decidedly not the biography this artist deserves.’

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Lenora takes a nuanced look at a film not often thought of as nuanced, Pleasantville, starring Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon. ‘The theme of the piece is change – not progress, which suggests all change is for the better, all innovation immediately positive. Indeed, along with sex, art, and literature, there is prejudice and rioting. Rather, it puts forth a simple concept: the world changes, for good and ill, and people change with it – or against it. It most definitely takes the side of those people who work to embrace change, or at the least to accept it and face it unafraid.’

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Some books on breakfast and brunch are up next, plus one on bacon…

Gus has our bacon book, which is Jennifer L.S. Pearsal’s Big Book of Bacon: ‘Yes bacon. We use a lot of bacon at this Scottish Estate. Bacon in cheddar and bacon rolls, bacon and tomatoes in eggs, bacon in beef stew for a little extra flavour. Even one enterprising Kitchen staffer even created ice cream with smoky bacon and chocolate as its flavour. It actually tasted rather good. Well you get the idea.  So when I discovered this book in a pile of galleys sent to us, I decided to give it a review.’

Reynard says succinctly of Heather Arndt Anderson’s Breakfast: A History that ‘So if you’re really interested in all things breakfast down the centuries, Breakfast: A History is ideal for you and why this is so I’ll detail here.’

Next he looks at Joshua Samuel Brown’s The World’s Best Brunches: Where to Find Them and How to Make Them: ‘Sometime ago I review The World’s Best Street Food which is also from this publisher. It’s a superb book and this one is too. So let me detail this book and tell you why that is so. When I work the late shift at our pub, the Green Man Pub, I get done around three and not up until ten or so. That means my first meal of the day is really a late breakfast verging into a hearty lunch. So a book on brunches of an unusual nature definitely caught my eye.

And Alexandra Parsons’ A Proper Breakfast is ‘Yes, another breakfast book. I eat breakfast most every day as I work afternoon to early evening hours when possible in the Estate Pub which I manage. That means I get up around eight in the morning and eat breakfast with Ingrid, my wife. When I travel with her, we both look forward to eating breakfast in whatever locale we’re in. So I read breakfast books when I run across them. And this is a lovely, quiet gem of a book that covers a lot of ground in under a hundred pages.’

Stacy has a tasty one for us: Carrie Levin’s The Good Enough to Eat Breakfast Cookbook: ‘ Considering it’s the most important meal of the day, restaurant owner Carrie Levin teaches us what breakfast should be in her new book, The Good Enough to Eat Breakfast Cookbook. After over 20 years at New York’s famous restaurant Good Enough to Eat, Levin generously opens her kitchen and shares her personal tricks of the trade with the home cook.’

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We like comics here, so if there’s one we don’t like we’ll tell you, as Richard does with Divine Right: The Adventures of Max Faraday, a title from Wildstorm. The problem, he says, is “…in addition to its tired origins, Divine Right is also heir to some of Wildstorm’s worst excesses. Hypersexualized character concepts? Check. Creepy brother-sister incest implications? Check. Gratuitous head explosions, skimpy costumes, and obfuscatory growly macho dialogue? Check, check and check. And of course, mandatory crossover throwdown between every superteam available. Wearily, finally, check.

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Big Earl was about as excited as he gets about the South Asian music on Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma’s Sampradaya. ‘Since this program is divided into three tracks, each over 20 minutes long, it’s really difficult to choose highlights. The closing track “Teen Taal” contains some breathtaking playing, with fascinating pauses, call-and-response work, and some insanely fast playing by Sharma. His touch is exquisite, with hard hammering mixed with delicate strums, and some utterly fantastic work with harmonics – notes played from node points on the string, resulting in high-pitched, bell-like tones.’

Chuck gives a good description of a disc he reviewed: ‘Imagine, if you will, a singer, backed by guitar, bass and other instruments, performing something between blues, quiet jazz, and folk. Maybe it’s a smoky bar or a coffee house – any place where music is played for a small crowd. Now, imagine that place is in Scotland, just outside Glasgow. I don’t really know if Andy Shanks and Jim Russell’s Diamonds in the Night is performed in that type of setting (except it was recorded near Glasgow), but it feels like that type of music – close, intimate, and personal.’

Faith found the music on Good Intentions, an album by New York-based Irish group Shilelah Law, to be competent and enjoyable. ‘Decent – yes, that would be my verdict on this album. It doesn’t exactly have a unifying theme, but it does a competent job on a variety of songs, both traditional and original. It’s fun, enjoyable light listening.’

Faith also reviewed three CDs by the Newfoundland band The Sharecroppers: Natural, This New Founde Lande, and Home, Boys! She found a lot of stylistic variety on all of them, as she notes in her review of Natural: ‘Does this variety of styles show the Sharecroppers’ versatility, or that they were struggling to find a voice? Probably a little of both. Their later albums are somewhat more homogenous, but I also detect a hint of refusing to be locked into a category. You decide.’

Gary penned a short tribute to Jimmy Buffett, who died Sept. 1. ‘I’m not a real Parrot Head, as the Buffett fanatics call themselves. I stopped following him in the mid-80s, when he started getting played on country music television and became a cultural phenomenon. But for a few years there in the late ’70s and early ’80s I listened to Jimmy Buffett as much as I did to The Beatles and Linda Ronstadt and a few other favorites.’

Gary gives a glowing review to the new recording from The Handsome Family. ‘I’ve reviewed my share of pandemic-inspired albums, but Hollow does as well as any of them at capturing the sense of dislocation, surrealism, and existential dread that we’ve all stared in the face for the past three-plus years. Partly because this is where the songwriting and domestic duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks have lived since forever: A world where nature can go from cuddly to threatening in the blink of an eye, where the world and the cosmos loom like Poe’s Pendulum in our psyches, and where every house (and airport, and motel, and convenience store) is haunted.’

Gary got a lot out of pianist Carsten Dahl’s The Solo Songs of Keith Jarrett. ‘Danish pianist Carsten Dahl joins with his trio of bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Stefan Pasborg, plus virtuoso trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and saxophonist Fredrik Lundin and members of Ensemble Midtvest to explore some of Jarrett’s most iconic songs, many of which he was known to toss off as encores.’

Gary also enjoyed the oddly titled recording Are You Sure You Three Guys Know What You’re Doing?, by Mike Jones, Penn Jillette and Jeff Hamilton. ‘What it is, is a collection of stone cold classic jazz, the kind you’ll hear in a supper club or a small dark basement space. Three guys having a great time working out on these standards and the occasional original that’s very much in the standard vein. Such a program! It opens with the Gershwins’ “S’Wonderful,” works through “Watch What Happens,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Perdido” and more before winding up with Jones’s original “Blues For Burns.” ‘

Gary was surprised by a recording from the late pianist Mulgrew Miller, who joins his short list of pianists he’ll tolerate in a solo setting. ‘This is entirely on the strength of this new release, Solo In Barcelona. from Miller, who died much too young in 2013. I was a bit reluctant to dive into this one, but a few words from Ron Carter about how much he loved and missed his friend Mulgrew Miller, on the recent documentary Finding the Right Notes, persuaded me to give it a try. I’m glad.’

Gary reviewed a new live release by a leading jazz quartet. ‘Mark Turner is a highly respected saxophonist with countless credits to his name as a leader and player in others’ ensembles. This is his first live release as a leader, and he chose to do it in the most storied jazz venue on the planet, the Village Vanguard. It’s a great place for Turner and his mates to be heard in peak form.’

John was ambivalent about the music on the Shine Cherries’ self-titled recording. ‘Shine Cherries are a trio from Albuquerque, New Mexico and are kindred spirits with the more well-known Handsome Family. Both groups play Americana filtered through a rock music sensibility. But whereas The Handsome Family take existential despair head-on and make a post-modern lemonade, Shine Cherries are more self-effacing as they tend to approach the melancholic more cautiously.’

Our correspondent Down Under, Michael Hunter, interviewed Adrienne Piggott and Nick Carter of the pagan folk rock band Spiral Dance. In his introduction regarding the rarity of such music, Michael said, ‘It’s true that Spiral Dance stand out, and it’s true the reason is the originality of their music. But sadly, it is as rare here as anywhere else. Myth and legend in music are never likely to make a lasting impression on the mainstream of society but, of course, that’s not the point. It still speaks to a great number of people on a deep, almost intangible level and the music this band produces does it better than most.’

Kim reviewed a couple of Sharon Shannon’s early solo records, which she liked quite a lot. ‘Both Out the Gap and Spellbound include numbers with fiddle replacing accordion, avoiding repetition in arrangement. Both CDs are enjoyable, although if I had to choose I would probably opt for Spellbound, because it contains about half of the same tunes, and I like the new tunes on it better than the remaining tunes from Out the Gap.

No’am found that Mike Asquino’s She Believes In Me wasn’t quite what he expected from a singer songwriter, but that doesn’t mean he liked it much. ‘Whilst the disc does have a warm and immediate style, there is very little variation in the dynamics. I’ve been listening to it with continuous play, and find it difficult to tell when the disc starts again. Two exceptions are the comparatively dramatic “Phone Calls And Memories,” and the stone country rock of “Old Friends And Fine Wine”. Another song that escapes the formula is “American Cowboy,” which is much more country than pop, and as such immediately causes my hackles to raise. But I’m sure that Asquino’s middle aged American audience will lap it up.’

Pat found a few shortcomings in Shebeen’s The Pebbled Shore. ‘Track four is an attempt at “The Foxchase,” perhaps the most demanding piece in the uilleann piping repertoire, where the player reproduces the sounds of the hunt from joyful gathering of the hounds to the fox’s unfortunate death; but here the end product sounds something more like a chipmunk on acid let loose in a cage of canaries.’

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Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’

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So let’s finish out this week with ‘The Two Sisters’ by Clannad, taken from a concert in Köln, Germany over forty years ago. This is one of the lesser known variants of the Child Ballad more commonly known as ‘The Cruel Sister’, so yes a variant on the song above. Pay attention to the lyrics at the end as they tell the gruesome end that the murderous sister deservedly comes to. It’s an ending worthy of the original Grimm Tales, and is noted in other folk ballads as well.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Library and Its Librarian


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I’m the lead publican here at the Pub, and, if I must say so myself, a damn fine concertina player even though I need to find more time to play these days. I’m also an avid reader, so I’ve made many a visit to the Library here which is why you’re getting this tale today…

The Kinrowan Estate Library is full of dark paneling, with darkly stained walnut shelves up to the ceiling, with an open atrium of several stories, topped by an opaque skylight, with several stories of bookshelves, so that one can look up and see the books, or peer over the wrought iron balcony, over the white marble floors, or see a reader curled up below in a lovely overstuffed, winged armchair. All the shelves have those brass ladders attached to a sliding rail, so that one can climb up and get to the things tucked away on the top shelves. Many of the shelves have sliding glass doors, some with leaded stained glass, so that one is never sure of what might be inside. And some are locked! One must ask the Librarian for the key, if one has a pressing need. There are also study rooms with long tables, with lamps in the middle. And one can ask the assistants to get things from the stacks. Ah, the stacks. Given the nature of the filing system it is difficult to say what might be in there….

As one staffer put it, it has ‘Nooks. Crannies. Things you can hide under…. Capability to find exactly what you are looking for immediately — invaluable for research… Capability to find exactly what you really, really want to be reading right now, whether you knew it or not — invaluable for fun… Ambient lighting that adjusts automatically for print size, strength of bifocals — or lack thereof…’ Sounds like a pretty normal library, eh? But the Library here is like none other as it straddles, like the GMR offices, the Border. As Maria Nutick once noted, ‘The Library may be the only place where you can go to read William Shakespeare’s The Trapping of the Mouse or Edgar Allen Poe’s The Worm of Midnight while listening to the music of Gossamer Axe or Snori Snoriscousin and His Brass Idiots. The world of literature is a big, big place, and it’s an intrepid and meticulous soul who can keep track of the shifting tapestry that we call reality.’

If you think the Library is a bit strange, wait ’til you meet the Librarian! Have you seen John Hurt as The Storyteller in the series of the same name? Iain MacKenzie is every bit as scruffy as The Storyteller was. Tattered old clothes that have seen much better times, long hair and a very scraggly beard… Now I know that one expects Librarians to be bespectacled boring and rather quiet beings. Sure. You obviously haven’t spent anytime here, as ‘normal’ is never what happens around here! No one here remembers when he first showed up, nor are we sure how he came to be the Librarian, but he’s living proof that knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and that those who search for it must be brave, if not foolhardy.

The Librarian presides over a collection that holds as much delight as it does difficult truths and disturbing stories. No, the scruffiness is not accidental, it’s the product of long years looking clearly into corners that might have preferred not to see the light of day. After awhile knowledge sticks to a person, so that you don’t just see their face when you look at them, you see some of what they’ve seen as well. In our case those memories are bolstered through an appreciation of a certain beverage, aged in wooden casks, and bottled only after some years in the cellar. It’s clear why he likes it — they have a lot in common!

It’s best not approach the Librarian with trivial requests — after all, the magic of our library is the unexpected things one finds when searching. But more than that, he must find the applicant worthy, or he’ll send you on a goose chase down a maze leading to a dead end. Or perhaps it’s just hazing — but we’ve found that it takes more than breezy persistence to crack the code — you have to know your stuff, and be willing to accept what you find — whether or not it’s what you are expecting. In these days of search engines, it’s important to remember that wisdom trumps knowledge is a living thing, and her keeper is not to be approached without caution.

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What’s New for the 20th of August: Some favorite mysteries; jazz, country, RT, and a musical grab bag; a hoedown, a big dragon, Hellboy, and of course ice cream!

If you confront anyone who has lied with the truth, he will usually admit it – often out of sheer surprise. It is only necessary to guess right to produce your effect. — Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

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Summer’s fully upon us here on this Scottish estate. We generally  get a summer much more pleasant than is commonplace in Scotland as we share a Border with what Yeats called the Celtic Twilight and the Fey really, really like warm summers. (And alas, cold winters as well, there being Summer and Winter Courts.) So I’m sitting under one of the Great Oaks planted a hundred and fifty-odd years ago by Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Head Gardener here for a very long time, who’s buried beneath them.

I’ve got a murder of crows overhead looking to see if they can steal anything from me as I’m eating lunch outside, but there’s naught that catches their interest, mercifully. Oh, eventually I’ll treat them to something from my repast but not right now.

I’ve got my iPad in hand, a most tasty Lady in The Wood IPA named in honour of that Estate Head Gardener to drink, and I just got a note texted to me that Chasing Fireflies are doing a contradance this evening with Gus, our Estate Gardener calling, so I need to get this done soon. Go ahead and get yourself one of those ales and I’ll have this Edition for you soon… Now where was I?

Raspberry dividerI like mysteries, so I’m selecting reviews of some of my favorite ones this time.

Cat has a look at two novellas in an interesting series: ‘As I write this review just before Election Day, there have been but two novellas released in the fascinating Sub-Inspector Ferron series “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns” and “A Blessing of Unicorns”. I’m not sure how I came upon the first novella but it was a superb story, both in terms of the setting and in the characters that Bear has created here, including a parrot-cat called Chairman Miaow.’

He also had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Balladsseries had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.

Craig has a look at three mystery novels by the venerable Ray Bradbury, as collected in an omnibus. See for yourself why Craig says, ‘Where Everything Ends is a trio of fine detective novels (together with the short story that provided the starting point) from Bradbury in his inimitable style. He plays with the conventions, but since he so obviously loves the genre, this is easily forgiven — embraced, even — because the end results are, simply put, fine additions to the canon. This series is also dear to fans because it is likely the closest thing to an autobiography we will receive from this man who has brought so much joy to so many people for so many years.’

Leona gives an incisive review of Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, an 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.’

Lis thoroughly enjoyed a reissued classic mystery novel, Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue, featuring LAPD Detective Lt. Terence Marshall. It has an SF tie-in, too: ‘… Marshall is investigating a locked-room attempted murder, questioning a selection of potential suspects from the Mañana Literary Society, the informal social circle of the science fiction writers living in and around Los Angeles at the time. For dedicated science fiction fans, this adds some extra fun, because these writers are mostly thinly disguised major sf writers of the period. However, if you’re only here for the mystery, you won’t notice, and it won’t distract from the story.’

Joel has a review of China Miéville’s intertwined cities as told in his Hugo winning The City & The City novel: ‘With acknowledgments to writers as diverse as Chandler, Kafka, and Kubin (to say nothing of Orwell), I don’t need to tell you this won’t be your typical detective story. But given this is Miéville, would you have really expected a typical anything?’

Next we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a look by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

A Britain that never was catches the interest of Lory: ‘Jo Walton has a knack for genre fiction with a twist. In the World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw, she gave us a Victorian family saga — complete with siblings squabbling over an inheritance, the woes of the unwed daughters of the house, and the very important question of What Hat to Wear — with a cast of dragons, literally red in tooth and claw. Now in Farthing, her material is the mid-century British country house murder mystery. The story is told in alternate chapters through the eyes of Lucy Kahn, a reluctant visitor to the family estate of Farthing, and over the shoulder of Inspector Carmichael, who has been sent from Scotland Yard to investigate the death of one of the other guests.’

Robert looks at Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy, which has been in his ‘peripheral vision for some time, and was brought front and center by Boiled in Lead’s CD Songs from The Gypsy. I’ve sort of put off Brust’s collaborations, of which this is one, although I can see that I’ve got to catch up on them.’ He goes on to say that he found this Hungarian folklore-tinged novel to be terrific, a comment I wholeheartedly agree with!

Raspberry dividerCat, a lover of TV mystery series, reviewed a recent re-release of a British series about a Dutch detective. ‘Van der Valk is set in and around Amsterdam, where Commissaris van der Valk is a senior detective with a wife and children who are literally heard but not seen. Drugs, sex, WWII collaborators, political scandals, and, of course, murder are the primary themes of the series. But just as important to the feel of the series are the Amsterdam locations where all the exterior shots were done.’

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Richard looks at a chapbook that covers a favored treat here at the Kinrowan Estate: ‘Ask anyone waving around a Drumstick cone or Klondike Bar where ice cream comes from, and you’re lucky if you get a smart-aleck response like “the freezer.” Ice cream may be near-universally loved (there’s an ice cream truck going down my block as we speak, and it’s not being shy about it), but it has an oddly shrouded history. Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’

Raspberry divider‘It’s really hard to do a companion to a long running series well, Cat says, citing a couple of rare examples before he continues: ‘What had not seen a companion text was Mike Mignola’s Hellboy / B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) stories, which have spawned graphic novels, prose novels, lots of short prose fiction, not one but two critically acclaimed live action films, and two rather well-done animated films. Oh, did I mention a cornucopia of action figures? All of which is why Hellboy: The Companion exists!’

Raspberry dividerWhat’s David talking about here? ‘Hey man, don’t bogart that joint! This is some far out stuff. Shiva Jones, ex of the “mystical rock band Quintessence” and his musical partner Swiss recording artist Rudra Beauvert have combined their efforts to create a new mystical, almost psychedelic album of transcendent atmospheric rock.’ Find out more in his way out review of Shiva Shakti‘s self-titled record, which includes a brief visit from Sp!ke.

Eric discovered that Richard Shulman didn’t quite deliver on the promise implicit in his two albums Keeper of the Holy Grail and Camelot Reawakened. ‘It’s a lot to ask from an album – summoning up the sense of a divine presence in 45 minutes or so of conscientious listening. Camelot Reawakened and Keeper of the Holy Grail don’t quite achieve this goal, but the albums still have some merit strictly in the earthly appeal of the music. The high points are worth seeking out on each album, but don’t expect a transformational or truly inspirational experience. Maybe those results are just more than one can expect from a couple of CDs.

Gary joyfully reviews a new album from a familiar name: ‘Teddy Thompson is one of the best living interpreters of classic country songs (not counting Willie Nelson, who’s in a class all his own), and he only further cements his status on his latest album My Love of Country. On this album he rolls out a bunch of classics, a couple of deep cuts, and one well-placed surprise, and he does it all with tears in your beer authenticity that reveal his own love of the music.’

Gary enjoyed a new large ensemble jazz recording, Chuck Owen and the WDR Big Band’s Renderings. ‘I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just crave some swinging music with creative solos and lovely melodies over big horn charts. Renderings perfectly fits the bill.’

Gary also spent some time with Norwegian guitarist Morten Georg Gismervik’s Dunes at Night, an album that uses a variety of styles to tell a musical tale of sorts: ‘The music on Dunes at Night comes in two different styles, one portraying the outgoing and adventurous Kimri, the other the more introverted Winter. Kimri’s tracks for the most part involve propulsive grooves that often explode forth from quieter introductory sections, while Winter’s music highlights Gismervik’s sensitive guitar work along with delicate piano lines.’

Judith offered qualified praise to Silvery Moon, which she noted is by Aoife Clancy, who she notes ‘is the daughter of Bobby of the Clancy Brothers, and has been lead vocalist with Cherish The Ladies. Silvery Moon is her third solo album and is an amalgam of Celtic and American folk. 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.

Lars had kind words for Never Despair, an album by Cincinnati’s premier Celtic band, Silver Arm. ‘But in spite of doing a great job with the many Celtic tunes, it is when they move away from that territory that they really shine. They do a fine Swedish set of polskas (not to be confused with polkas) learnt from the now defunct Filarfolket. The first tune of the set is Ale Møller’s “Solpolska,” an intricate and beautiful tune performed on the oboe. They then move into “Magdalenapolska,” a faster, danceable tune with some lovely rhythm work. It is one of the best and most exciting tunes on the album.’

Michael interviewed Richard Thompson on the occasion of his solo acoustic trip to WOMADelaide in 2001, when it had been 35 years since he left Fairport Convention and struck out on his own. Said RT: I feel very fortunate to have people listening still, and a few young’uns. Thirty-five years is a terrifying prospect, but I shall enjoy the reunion in 2002. Fairport has survived by being good, and it gets a lot of local support.’

‘The first thing I thought about this album was “Hell, there’s nothing to dislike about it,” Peter said with typical straightforwardness, of Shirae’s Tiger’s Island. ‘Shirae are Shireen Russel and Reidin O’Flynn, two young ladies who are belting singers, to say the least. Their music is strong Irish folk rock, tinged with a bit of country & western. When they duet in harmony they have that magical sound that usually only sisters can produce. So I wasn’t surprised to learn later from their website that they are actually mother and daughter – that’s why they sound so good together.’

Rebecca felt like she was an an open mic night at the local coffeehouse when she lisened to Laura Siersema’s When I Left Loss. ‘Siersema writes some of her songs totally or partially in the third person, distancing herself from the characters so that the album does not take on the attitude of a confessional work. She seems to be trying to imagine life as other people live it. Perhaps the mood or some of the experiences are hers, and maybe she knows people like the characters she creates, but the album has a refreshing air of not being totally self-centered.’

Scott found the music on the Shetland band Shoormal’s Migrant pleasant enough, but not much more. ‘While Migrant does not suffer from any obvious weakness, the album does not really distinguish itself as something special, either. The music is quite pleasant, but one could argue that it is too pleasant and not really challenging. Having said that, any fan of straightforward female harmonies will find this worth a listen, and Trevor Smith is a first-rate guitarist as well. People looking for something light and melodic, in a mainstream, non-traditional sort of way, could do much worse than Shoormal.’

Stephen definitely liked the rootsy, bluesy rock on Ramsay Midwood’s Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant: ‘This album was originally released a few years ago by the artist himself, who’s been busy carving out an awesome live reputation, particularly on the European circuit. Fortunately, Vanguard Records have stepped in to prevent Midwood toiling as a “prophet without honour” in his own land, and have granted this CD the distribution it deserves.’

Raspberry dividerWe’re not sure who wrote this Folkmanis review as our What Not this time, as that information does seem to have gone walkabout: Folkmanis has gained an excellent reputation in recent decades for its overwhelming array of puppets. The plushies range from eerily lifelike to utterly fantastical. Right now I’m holding the Sea Serpent Stage Puppet in my hand. Well, okay, I’m wearing it on my hand…is that so wrong?’

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So I’ve got some summery music for you that I think fits pretty much any season. It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’from Rodeo. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded (which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things), but it may have been around 2011.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Guest Lecturer

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Several Annies, do pay attention now as there will be a quiz afterwards!

Well, now. Mackenzie has asked me in as tonight’s guest lecturer. He likes to keep these seminars going through the summer months, you know, when otherwise the staff and denizens of  the Kinrowan Estate get too caught up in the long days and short nights in Oberon’s Wood. Remember, Masters and Mistresses, you are supposed to be writing about books here.

And what does it mean, to write ‘about’ books? Hey? Any of you bright-eyed boys and girls ever paused to think about it, in your rush between the reference stacks and Jack’s in barrel? I’ve seen that barrel, and a mighty void it is, too. What are you all about as you proffer your analyses of art to the waiting ether?

Some might consider it a self-referential waste of time, especially the business of review and literary critique. ‘Them as can, do,’ the saying goes. ‘Them as can’t do, teach. And them as can’t do neither, criticize.’ Of course, that old saw is usually trotted out by someone who has written a bad book and been caught at it. There is power and skill needed to review a tale properly, so as to catch the casual reader’s interest and send it on like a well-aimed sling stone to find the original work itself.

But you may need to ask yourselves — and a frightening question it is — are you committing metafiction? When you write about another’s world, are you outlining the borders for the uninformed, or extending them? Are you lighting the path or creating a detour? It’s not my business or concern to tell you that — no, it’s not, so you can put away your notes and that dismayed look, young woman — it’s merely my intent to make you think about it. To read deeply and then to talk about it is a serious thing.

We all walk into books hoping. We hope for joy or mere amusement; for fulfillment of a dream and the filling of an idle hour; for a clear look at something we have glimpsed in dreams, or the first look at what has been unimaginable. When we consent to read a tale, we’re consenting to a journey that we have to take on faith. We hope to be well and safely conveyed the whole way, and not left robbed of our time by some nameless highwayman. We trust the writers to know the way and show us all the best sights. At their best, all writers take us on the perfect road; at your best, you are sharing your experience on that road.

Consider yourselves cartographers, ladies and gentlemen. Every book opened is a new world discovered. Worlds are vast things. They harbor as much danger as delight; neither one is always easy to find, and maps are required. Not all worlds will sustain life — a warning to the explorer behind you on the road can give warning that ahead is a deadly insufficiency of oxygen, or warmth, or wit. A bright red ‘Here Be Dragons’ pulls in as many eager travellers as it warns off the timid ones: someone languishing for the company of dragons may never find their heart’s desire without your directions.

So sharpen your pens and calibrate your compasses. The folk on staff all brought out their brightest inks, and the maps displayed in the books are grand examples to emulate.

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What’s New for the 6th of August: Weird westerns and singing cowboys, Jane Lindskold and two from Patricia McKillip; ska, Spanish jazz, klezmer, and songs about fishing; Mary Poppins and lonely Vampires, Roman emperors and superheroes; and a couple of Oregon ales in a British style pub

Brown-eyed women and red grenadine,
The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean.
Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down,
And it looks like the old man’s getting on.

‘Brown-eyed Women’

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Summer’s fully upon us here on this Scottish estate. We generally  get a summer much more pleasant than is commonplace in Scotland as we share a Border with what Yeats called the Celtic Twilight – the Fey really, really like warm summers. (And alas, cold winters as well, there being Summer and Winter Courts.) So I’m sitting under one of the Great Oaks planted a hundred and fifty-odd years ago by Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Head Gardener here for a very long time, who’s buried beneath them.

I’ve got a murder of crows overhead looking to see if they can steal anything from me as I’m eating lunch outside, but there’s naught that catches their interest, mercifully. Oh, eventually I’ll treat them to something from my repast but not right now.

I’ve got my iPad in hand, a most tasty Lady in The Wood IPA named in honour of that Estate Head Gardener to drink, and I just got a note texted to me that Chasing Fireflies are doing a contradance this evening with Gus, our Estate Gardener calling, so I need to get this done soon. Go ahead and get yourself one of those ales and I’ll have this Edition for you soon… Now where was I?

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Craig was favorably impressed with Paul Green’s Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns. ‘It is very easy to get lost in the Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, so make sure to set aside a good deal of time when you pick it up to “just look something up.” There are plenty of discoveries awaiting, and some old favorites to revisit.’

David waxed nostalgic about Singing Cowboys by Douglas B. Green (a.k.a. Ranger Doug of Riders In the Sky) . ‘Douglas B. Green has compiled a beauty of a book here. If you have any interest in the era or subject at all Singing Cowboys is a treasure trove of trivia and memorabilia. And it has a CD too! So you can listen to 10 of the greats as you peruse the pages. Aah . . . memories!

Donna found Nicholas Griffin’s Dizzy City enjoyable but a bit disturbing. ‘As I was reading this book, I realized how much it reminded me of Theodore Dreiser’s rather bleak urban fiction, particularly The Titan, and of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which is certainly about a very skilled con artist. Griffin does a good job of capturing the grittiness of New York City and of revealing the motivations and tricks of people who live by their wits. I learned more about cons from reading this book than I ever wanted to know.’

Farah did an in-depth review of two books about the author of the Mary Poppins stories: Giorgia Grilli’s Myth, Symbol and Meaning in Mary Poppins: the Governess as Provacteur, and Valerie Lawson’s Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers. One she liked, the other she didn’t. ‘Although Lawson’s aim is not to illuminate the books, her account of Travers’ interests and obsessions offers a complex critique of Travers’ work, which helps to explain why they are as unnerving as they are fascinating. The same is not true of Giorgia Grilli’s account.’

Michael got a kick out of Chris Marie Green’s Night Rising, the first book in her Vampire Babylon series. ‘Night Rising is the first in a trilogy by Chris Marie Green, better known for her romances under the name Crystal Green, and it certainly seems as though she’s made the transition to urban fantasy without a hitch. Green plays with the Hollywood conceits perfectly, from the all-encompassing drive to “make it big” found in everyone from bartenders to gas station attendants, to the fear of falling into obscurity by those who have made it big. Hollywood’s tendency to chew up child actors and spit them out is brought up, as is the manner in which some celebrities die mysteriously, leaving behind legends.

Naomi found a lot to like in Single White Vampire Seeks Same, an anthology edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Brittany A. Koren. ‘It’s really hard to pick out a couple of tales to spotlight, as they were all so good! The first story in the book caught me completely off guard and had me chuckling, yet it also had me thinking very hard on the ramifications. “Personal Wishes” by Mickey Zucker Reichert has Cupid putting away his trusty bow and arrows, and trying something new. The Godling of love riding around on a subway is just too priceless a picture to let go of! Yet he is still doing his best to bring couples together with their ideal others.’

Robert has four reviews for, two from Jane Lindskold and two from Patricia McKillip.

The first is Changer: ‘Urban fanstasy is a subgenre with as many sets of criteria as there are practitioners. Ranging from the Celto-Amerindian universe of Charles de Lint’s urban Canada and Neil Gaiman’s eclectic universe of the Dreaming, with even hybrids such as Mark Anthony’s Last Rune paying tribute to fairies and hobgoblins, Lindskold has stepped neatly in and taken as her purview the myths and legends of all places, all peoples, and set them down in the contemporary American Southwest.’

He follows up with the sequel, Legends Walking: ‘Jane Lindskold has followed up Changer with Legends Walking, which opens a few weeks after Changer closes. The same characters appear, many in expanded roles, new athanor characters participate, and the story takes on added complexity as several plot lines develop.’

He next has a review of Winter Rose: ‘The story is told in McKillip’s characteristically elliptical style, kicked up an order of magnitude. Sometimes, in fact, it is almost too poetic, the narrative turning crystalline then shattering under the weight of visions, images, things left unsaid as Rois and Corbet are drawn into another world, or come and go, perhaps, at will or maybe at the behest of a mysterious woman of immense power who seems to have no fixed identity but who is, at the same time, all that is coldest and most pitiless of winter.’

He finishes up with Solstice Wood, a sequel of sorts to Winter Rose: ‘McKillip has always been a writer whose books can themselves be called ‘magical,’ and it’s even more interesting to realize that she seldom uses magic as a thing of incantations and dire workings, or as anything special in itself. It just is, a context rather than an event, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.’

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Craig reviewed the DVD edition of the BBC’s celebrated miniseries I, Claudius, and a documentary about a 1937 failed attempt to bring the story to film. ‘Based on two novels by Robert Graves, I, Claudius was a groundbreaking miniseries, and is still today considered by some to be the totem by which all other miniseries are measured. It stars Derek Jacobi as the titular emperor and autobiographer. As narrator, Claudius tells us his family history from his grandmother Livia’s marriage to the Emperor Augustus Caesar to the end of Claudius’ own life, at the hand of others.’

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Kelley submitted a review of a British style pub in Portland, Oregon, as well as a couple of beers he sampled there. One of them was Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar: ‘The Hazelnut Brown Nectar is a daytime beer, a lunchtime beer. We felt this was a beer meant to go with a sandwich, hearty enough to provide sustenance, but refreshing enough for the middle of the day. Not surprisingly, it was nutty, with a yeasty edge, and a bit malty in the finish. Its color happened to match the mahogany-colored broth in the Murphy’s Stew perfectly. If hops aren’t your thing, you should try this.’

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Craig revisits an old favorite in Jeff Smith’s SHAZAM!, the DC revival of the old original Captain Marvel character. ‘There was always a certain kind of “Gee whiz!” quality to the Captain Marvel stories I remember, and it’s this quality that Jeff Smith captures in spades. Captain Marvel isn’t the type of character who, in my view, lends himself to the kinds of darker existential angst that tends to dominate the superhero genre of today. If things like Peter Parker’s eternal guilt over his failure to save Uncle Ben, or Bruce Wayne’s constant toeing of the fine line between hero and criminal, or even Superman’s loneliness as the last survivor of a destroyed planet, are what you look for in a superhero tale, then Captain Marvel probably isn’t for you.’

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Big Earl reviewed From Paris With Love by the legendary Jamaican band Skatalites. ‘The Skatalites were the original house band for Jamaican musicians in the early ’60s, backing literally every artist on the island. A jazz band that stumbled across a new beat and attack, their ensemble playing gave the world ska, and later reggae. Comprised of very talented players, the band often chose cheeky songs to cover, like “The Pink Panther Theme” or “Baby Elephant Walk,” and managed to to make even the most trite material sound vital.’

Gary reviewed some Catalonian jazz on Èlia Lucas Quartet’s Introspecció. ‘The young Catalonian pianist and composer has a wealth of music education and experience already, and plays in various jazz, pop and indie groups. She lives in Barcelona, where she teaches music and is studying for a degree in classical music. That interest in classical is reflected in many of the compositions on Introspecció. The other three members of the quartet – Edu Pons on alto and soprano sax, Tomàs Pujol on double bass and Kike Pérez on drums – bring her compositions and ideas to life.’

Gary was also thrilled with the klezmer music he found on Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi’s The Wolf and the Lamb, which he said ‘is exactly the sort of high quality release I’ve come to expect from Arc. The choice of music, the performances, and the wealth of background information that come with this recording are exemplary. The detailed liner notes for each song and the album as a whole and the choice artwork and photography enhance the experience of listening to this vibrant, living music.’

John was supportive of the artists in his review of three albums by diverse singer songwriters: Marc Broussard’s Momentary Setback, Jens Hausmann’s Back on the Track, and Penny Nichols’s I’ll Never Be That Old Again. ‘Diversity is the name of the game, and with two American singer songwriters dealing in varied parts of the roots arena, and an American-born guitarist/singer now based in Germany, the recipe is made for an interesting musical journey.’

Patrick liked the music but not the faux-Irish singing on Glass In Hand by the Chicago band St. James Gate. Glass in Hand is fine pub – or bar – fare, but it does not rise above that level, though it has the potential. If these guys lose the accents and sing “Whiskey in the Jar” in the same style they tackle “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” their music would be much better off.

Peter was supportive of More Electric, an album by Canadian guitarist Shane Simpson. ‘Shane is very much a guitarist’s guitarist. His style and ability carry his songs. I found myself admiring and listening to the guitar work more than the actual song content. On this side of the water, if you are a fan of Albert Lee you are sure to pick up on Shane Simpson.’ His wife liked it too; read it to find out why!

Peter also gives a nice review to a CD so rare we couldn’t even find a photo of its cover art! ‘This is the sort of thing a lot of bands send out to prospective venues and festivals when looking for a booking,’ he says of The Skirlers’ Cutting the Bracken, but he liked it anyway for its authentic live feel. ‘True, some of the songs or tunes are not without the odd ‘nervous’ mistake, but this does not matter one jot. You’ll be hard placed to spot them anyway! And that’s part of the charm of the album. I have a feeling this album is just a taste of what the Skirlers are like live.

Sean brings word of an archival recording of music from a lengthy documentary series about the lives of working people that was on the BBC in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Singing the Fishing collects some of those songs, mostly written and arranged by Ewan MacColl, and performed by MacColl, Charles Parker, and Peggy Seeger. ‘In an age when much folk music has lost touch with its underlying narrative, Singing the Fishing is a reminder of the magnificent potential that is locked inside this art form.’

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What Not comes courtesy of Mia who looks at four of Folkmanis’s creations, to wit Blue Dragon, Green Dragon, Three Headed Dragon, and Phoenix and she says, ‘Oooooh, shiny! I have a box of dragons here! Folkmanis makes the best puppets ever, and their dragons are some of the finest of their puppets.’

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I rather like ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ quite a bit but my favorite version isn’t the one with Garcia singing that the Dead did, but rather is one someone here found some years back. The late Robert Hunter who wrote much of what they played including this song and my favourite version is done by him during a show at Biddy Mulligan’s in Chicago on the tenth of October some thirty years ago. So let’s now listen to him doing that song.

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What’s New for the 3rd of September:


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Opening notes

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