Welcome to GMR

If you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the weekly edition which is up every Sunday morning and which alternates with a Story every Wednesday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,   Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his sort of Library Apprentices.  And you’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

PSS: If you look to the far left of the standing menu, you’ll see Words. That’s where you can find the various pieces of fiction that authors have given us exclusive permission to reprint here. Some are excerpts such as from Charles de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart whigh is reviewed here or Deborah Grabien’s The Weaver and The Factory Maid with the review thisaway.

Other are full stories such as Solstice by Jennifer Stevenson, or poems such as ‘The Sturgeon’s Wife’ by Catherynne Valente. Some exist too as audio readings by authors of their work as you’ll note by the link at the bottom of the fiction piece where they exist. There’s quite pieces up now and more will follow. 

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Whats New for the 8th of December: Scarecrows, A Classic H.G.Wells’ Novel , Metallica in Antarctica, So-so chocolate, Improv Jazz, Steeleye sans Maddy and Other Interesting Matters

I cursed him in my heart. “Um, what day is it?” With the infinite patience of someone used to dealing with drunks, musicians, and techies, he replied, “Sunday.” — Sparrow in Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles (First chapter is here.)

Yes I’m covered with kibbles and bits of straw. It’s the time of year that we make new scarecrows, bodach ròcais in Scots Gaelic, to replace the ones created the previous Autumn as they only last a single growing season. No, they don’t go out until Spring but the straw’s available now and the Several Annies assist in the creation of them. There’s a minor magic placed upon them to keep the mice from eating them, plus the Estate cats are very good at keeping the mouse population way down.

Give me a few minutes to get clean clothes on and I’ll serve you. I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try, it’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain distillery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it, as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single drams ever done.

Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata according to Gary is ‘a book of equal parts jaw-dropping wonder and world-shattering violence, relief is offered by the Ships: their names themselves and the droll and witty dialog between and among them as they go about debating their course of action and concocting rationalizations for once again meddling in the affairs of another civilization.’

Marian looks at a trilogy by Jane Yolen that deserves to be a classic. First up is ‘The Books of Great Alta  which is the compilation of Yolen’s two books in the series,  Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. It is the story of the women of Dale, who worship Great Alta, the mother goddess and what happens to them for better or worse.’ If you’ve read these already, then do read Marian’s review of  the final volume, The One-Armed Queen, but otherwise do not as it has major spoilers about what happens in the first two novels.

Naomi has what could considered what’s called a cozy mystery for us: ‘In Cat on the Edge, the first novel in a delightful series of fast-paced mystery and whimsical fantasy by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, we find tomcat Joe Grey undergoing a strange metamorphosis. Not only is he able to understand human speech, he can actually speak! This is enough to shake a cat out of at least eight of his nine lives, but then Joe Grey witnesses a murder in the alley behind his favorite delicatessen, and it could very well cost him his final ninth life!’

Warner has the newest edition of a classic for us: ‘There is something to be said for the extremely fine additions being put out at small presses today. An example of such would be the new edition of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau  released by Beehive Books, featuring an introduction by Guillermo del Toro and illustrations by Bill Sienkiewicz.”

Jennifer Stevenson substitutes a fancy brand of all vegan, all gluten-free, all dairy- and nut-free, all singing, all-dancing chocolate mega chunks in her whisky-cherry brownie recipe and reports on the results.

Gary reviews an album of trance and drone by a group called Nous. ‘Nous is a New York-based experimental music project with a fluctuating group of artists “exploring ritual and spontaneity,” and Nous II is an album of improvised instrumental works that seamlessly blend acoustic and electronic instruments and percussion.’

Gary also liked the two-disc vinyl LP reissue of Mal Waldron Trio’s Free At Last: ‘This package is a perfect way to put a wrap on ECM’s 50th Anniversary celebrations and to introduce Waldron to a generation of jazz fans who may have forgotten his unprepossessive genius.’

Kim sees an Irish singer sans her usual band: ‘If you are a fan of Solas’s early work, or if you’ve heard Karan Casey in one of her guest spots on other albums, you know why you will love Songlines. She’s simply got an amazing voice that is unique among Irish singers. I suspect this somber album will also work for those of us who long for more and find tales of like-minded, discontented types soothing. It certainly works for me, and I look forward to hearing Casey’s more recent work.’

And Tony sees Steeleye Span sans Maddy: ‘True of all Steeleye members is a good sense of humour; and Gay is no exception, during the inevitable ‘Hat’ instead of singing ‘a small sprig of thyme,’ Gay changed it to ‘a small sprig of logic’ which I found most amusing. If I was going to make any criticism of the evening it would-be that I would have liked to have heard more of the new album, and maybe a few more really old classics from years gone by, but I am nitpicking really, It was an excellent gig and a relief to know that Steeleye Span, despite a major upheaval, have lived to tell the tale, and here’s wishing them every success for a good few years to come.’

Vonnie really likes this recording: ‘Eivør Pálsdóttir has an astounding voice. I was speaking with two of my folk-music heroes at a folk festival the first time I heard her sing, and I stopped mid-conversation to find out who had hit that range of notes with such a clear and pure sound. In fact, the entire album of Eivør is about clarity and purity of sound, tempered by human concerns.’

Tis the season to hit the theater!  From Rockettes to your local school’s holiday concert, there’s a whole lot to enjoy. (Or sometimes to be dragged to, if we’re talking your distant relation’s piano recital…) But there’s one show that you’re gonna wish you could get to; Signature Theater’s A Chorus Line. Why am I excited about a musical that’s been around since 1975? Well, because this musical is incredible – don’t take my word for it, Line earned a Pulitzer in ‘76 – and in this production, the choreography has been modernized.

That’s right; except for ‘homage paying’ at the introduction and that epic kick-line ending, Signature’s choreography gives a fresh spin on the musical numbers, fitting perfectly in the smaller-ish theater. It’s the very first production to gain approval for a dance makeover in this musical’s history. And it’s outstanding. The production could easily go straight to West End or Broadway with little more than re-setting a few marks here and there to adapt to a larger stage. This Line is that good. And it had this Grinch’s heart growing three times when I saw it. Sadly, the rest of the run is completely sold out, but here’s hoping an extended run is in the cards. Trust me; it’d be a lovely holiday gift to any theater lover.

Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ is a definitely dark take on the Sandman myth for which vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hetfield wrote the lyrics, as it deals with the concept of a child’s nightmares. The lyrics such as this stanza, ‘Hush little baby, don’t say a word/ And never mind that noise you heard / It’s just the beasts under your bed / In your closet, in your head’ are as dark as any tale was that the Brothers Grimm collected oh so long ago.

This hour long concert was played acoustic outside with the sound transmitted to the listeners on wireless headphones so as not to disturb the the residents who weren’t human. Here’s what their website had to say about it:

This was the most unique show Metallica has ever done. The band, contest winners, research station scientists (from Russia, South Korea, China, Poland, Chile, Brazil and Germany), and the ship crew, all crammed in this little dome out on the helipad of Carlini Station in ANTARCTICA! The energy in the little dome was amazing! Words can not describe how happy everyone was.

The band cranked out 10 songs for the small crowd including Creeping Death, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sad But True, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Master of Puppets, One, Blackened, Nothing Else Matters, Enter Sandman, and Seek & Destroy.

No word on if there were any penguins were attendance.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: On Maps

I overheard an interesting conversation that took place during High Tea in The Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room ‘ere in the Library on a rainy afternoon while our Librarian was taking a break from fussing over the edition of Green Man Review that he was assembling which is devoted to J. R. R. Tolkien and his splendid literary affairs. What follows is the condensed version of what was said as I took notes but didn’t write it all down. I found it to be fascinating, and I suspect so will you!

A Several Annie

Why maps? Isn’t the geographic descriptions in the text of work such as The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings enough to give the reader a grasp of where things are? I never had any trouble following narrative!

Sigh. . . . I see that you’re early in your apprenticeship here in my library; possibly even your first year, I gather.

(Mackenzie never remembers which of the Several Annies he’s talking with as there’s been dozens of them down the decades. Many aren’t even really named Annie!)

Have you not seen and appreciated the splendid map that Ursula Le Guin did for her Earthsea series? She’s said that it was for the children reading about Ged and his adventures so she gave them a map of Earthsea so they can orient themselves to the world. (Adults can benefit from this map as well.) Other notable maps include the one you’ll find in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Frank Herbert’s Arrakis map in Dune, China Mieville’s map of the city in Perdido Street Station (but not in the concluding volumes of this trilogy), Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy, and Philip Pullman’s Lyra’s Oxford to name but a few…

That Several Annie again

Ok, so they’re pretty. But are they useful? Other than for overweight, pimply boys into role playing games? I’ve never seen you actually looking at one of them while reading say The Hobbit. Are you simply being an advocatus diaboli?


Not strictly true. See the copy of The Hobbit over on my desk? Go get it. See the silk bookmark in the back? Open to those pages. That’s the map of Wilderland, which gives you an excellent look — literally! — of where Bilbo, our reluctantly wandering hobbit, and his band of compatriots go as the narrative in the story unfolds. A good map enhances the pleasure of a novel. And bad maps, which are fortunately rare, can just be ignored.

Another Several Annie

I’ve been cataloguing and shelving the new edition of Karen Wynn Fonstad’s The Atlas of Middle-Earth. Am I correct that maps to Tolkien were more than just an afterthought to the text? Certainly the sheer number of maps in this book suggest that the maps in his books were just as important to him as the narrative was.


Ahhhh, The Atlas of Middle-Earth. A book that belongs in the library of any serious fan of Tolkien’s work. This edition is the first one since Houghton Mifflin first published it in the States over a quarter of century ago. I was traveling in Amsterdam at that time and even the Dutch Tolkien fans were excited about this book. Granted, not as excited as they would be about John Howe and Brian Sibley’s The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, about which our reviewer noted, in a comment apt to our conversation:

There were two things that evolved in tandem as Tolkien came to write his fictional works: the language of his made-up world, and its topography. Indeed, his fictional languages were the inception of his great works of Middle-earth, while the maps he drew were ever considered a necessity. As you will find in the introduction Brian Sibley wrote to accompany John Howe’s maps, Tolkien would not hear tell of publishing The Lord of the Rings without an appropriate map.

Now I know that some academics weren’t very pleased as it wasn’t written the way they would have done it — go look at the so-called lead review on Amazon to see what I mean, but the rest of us will find it invaluable, as the author’s a qualified geographer and cartographer who first mapped Middle-Earth in her 1981 edition and has since added new details based on those endless reams of drafts, abandoned and much modified passages in published texts, alternative versions that were used in some editions, and laundry lists of places and situations published since Tolkien’s death. (Or at least what the holders of Tolkien’s papers have allowed researchers to see. Only they know what has not been made accessible: prolly as much as has been made available!)

The other Several Annie

But The Atlas of Middle-Earth is more than just maps. Isn’t it really about the process of creating a fiction that is grounded in a place which feels as real as this building and its grounds are? Maps for me are a way of saying that there really is something underfoot that I can feel. I think Professor Tolkien felt the same way as I remember you quoting him as saying that ‘I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit… The other way about lands one in confusions and impossibilities.’


Indeed it is. Glad to see that you’ve been paying attention during our afternoon seminar on Tolkien geography. Even in works without maps, most of us create our own idea of the geography, i.e., how far did the murderer in that not so quaint English mystery by your favourite writer travel in the middle of that dark, rainy night to kill her victim? We fill in details even when they aren’t offered up by the author.

But the genius of Fonstad’s work is that it is as if it was an actual atlas of a place as real as the Republic of Scotland is. The maps are discussed as if they were real landscapes, drawn according to the restraints a map maker would have in drawing the bonnie banks of Scotland. For each area of Middle-earth, the history of the land is taken into account, as well as geography as it related to the whole of Middle-earth. David Langford said in a review that ‘he fills in gaps and details in the familiar Third Age maps from The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, goes back in time to map Middle-Earth’s First and Second Ages, and reconstructs the route and timescale of every important journey in the stories.’ I wouldn’t suggest that reading this book is a must before reading The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings but I will be having all of you read it next month as part of the Tolkien seminar we’re doing.

Now don’t groan — learning’s good for you. And there’s more to becoming a Librarian than the technical aspects of the job. A good reference work like Fonstad’s will add immeasurably to the appreciation of a reader for the sheer breadth and depth of the ‘mythology for England’ that the good Professor created in all of his Middle-earth material. just pair it with the aforementioned Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and you have the core texts of a fine course on the geography of Middle-earth which is why I use them in your seminar. As soon as we get through reading The Hobbit and looking at Bilbo’s journey with attention to the geography described, we’ll turning to these texts.

Now I know a cup of tea and a tatty scone or two; there’s no finer room in the place for a bite and a gossip over High Tea than in the Library staff room that overlooks Oberon’s Wood. But I hope the real attraction is the books here. It had better be, so let’s get back to our seminar. Now which of you wants to describe Bilbo Baggins and his journey to the Lonely Mountain?

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What’s New for the 1st of December: Tattoos, The Tempest, Dr. Who (Again), Peanuts, Reggae, Beethoven, and more

Restless in life and seeking no end in death
For breath of the ages in the face of the air
Still ghosts to the vitality

Robin Williamson

We just got our first serious snow of the year here at this Scottish Estate, three weeks before the Winter season officially starts. Not that unusual really, but a foot was a lot of snow nonetheless.

Despite the snow, it’s still late Autumn here, which means we’re in a lull between our Summer visitors and the Winter visitors we’ll get for the Holidays. It makes for a pleasant quietude that I like — it’s allowed me the time earlier today to listen to the promotional packet we got from Puppets of An Autumnal Nature, a West Coast US band that’s interested in coming here. Rather good they are, I’d say. They’re quite new, perhaps not even actually a touring band yet in any meaningful sense, so it’d be interesting to hear them play live.

Now follow me to the Kitchen, as Mrs. Ware decided that she’s making a special treat for everyone of legal age — Guinness stout ice cream.

Carter looks at a classic found on many an SF book shelf: ‘The Illustrated Man was first published in 1951, so this is Bradbury the Grand Master of Science Fiction. The science in these stories is, of course, badly outdated, but then Ray Bradbury never emphasized the science. His stories are about people. People in search of truth. People in dire predicaments. The science has always been mere window decoration in Bradbury’s stories. We read him for the power of his insight and the beauty of his language. You will find both in The Illustrated Man.’

Cat was delighted with a new audiobook, Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire: ‘It’s a wonderful novel that’s a great start of a hopefully long series. The setting, the characters and even the story feel fresh, quite unlike the usual riff on interstellar empires. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are women and they are quite capable at what they do.’

Warner looks at a not-quite critical study of an American icon in Andrew Blauner’s The Peanuts Papers: ‘Peanuts was and arguably still is a key piece of the history of sequential art. Charles Schulz’ work of more than fifty years proved exceptional and is remembered to this day. The Peanuts Papers is editor Andrew Blauner’s attempt to coordinate as many thoughtful and interesting perspectives on the strip as possible into one volume, and it succeeds well. Over 30 contributors to this collection, varying from academics to comic artists, get a chance to say their piece, and prove most entertaining and informative in doing so.’

Warner also brings us a review of a collection of the more-or-less outre: ‘Themed anthologies are an excellent way for a reader to discover unexpected takes on an old idea. Editor John Miller’s Tales of the Tattooed is an excellent example of this, with stories and authors that are anywhere from household names to utterly forgotten.’

So Starbucks makes a reasonably good cup of coffee, don’t they? Well Leona says their chocolate isn’t nearly as great: ‘Final verdict: the milk chocolate is good. The dark is all right. But the dark with VIA was disappointing, to say the least. For the price, I expected much better across the board. Sorry, Starbucks fans; I’m not getting behind this set.’

Michelle has a tasty bit of Shakespeare for us: ‘The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s stranger plays; though it’s classified as a comedy or romance, it starts out very much like a revenger’s tragedy, and the happy ending depends on unexpected grace.’  Her review is frankly an amazing piece of writing by even the highest standards, so go read it here.

And Warner brings us something that’s not really television, but is focused on a very popular TV series: ‘A Doctor Who anthology typically involves multiple incarnations of the doctor, and multiple authors telling stories. In the case of The Target Storybook the reader is given a collection of 15 stories, each relating to one Doctor or another era, usually as a follow-up, side story, or prequel to an existing story. As with any anthology, the results are mixed. In this case one of the things that makes them so mixed is a subversion of expectations.’

Gary found lots of interesting music in Down in Jamaica, a sprawling new box set of reggae music covering 40 years of records from the VP label. ‘If you’re already a big reggae fan and follower, I bet you’ll still find a lot of sweet surprises here.’

Joselle offers us a retrospective look at the first decade of a well-regarded Celtic artist: ‘From her beginnings in the mid 1980s selling self-produced tapes from her car and by mail order, to international stardom — Loreena McKennitt has come a long way in her twenty-year career. For those just discovering her music with the release of An Ancient Muse, here follows a tour through this incredible singer’s previous recordings, all released on her independent recording label, Quinlan Road.’

Kim notes ‘This is the album that got the Hedningarna phenomenon going, a richly textured, darkly fascinating instrumental album by the “core” trio of Björn Tollin (frame drum, string drum, hurdy-gurdy, moraharpa), Anders Norudde (fiddle, hardanger fiddle, moraharpa, swedish bagpipe, bowed harp, jews harp, wooden and pvc bass flutes) and Hållbus Totte Mattsson (lute, baroque guitar, hurdy gurdy). On more recent albums, the group has expanded to include other players and some dynamite vocalists, most recently exploring the roots of Swedish folk traditions in Russia on Karelia Visa.’

Robert takes a look back at one of his favorite bands (yes, another favorite band): ‘Sometimes it takes a while to catch on, for me at least. On a whim, I purchased Foreigner’s all-time best album, The Very Best and Beyond. (It wasn’t really a whim – I had this song in my head and couldn’t get it out of there. How long had it been? It took me two or three days to remember who had done the song.) Listening to the album, I wonder that I could ever have forgotten Foreigner when thinking of my favorite things.’

And Robert goes even farther back, to another one of his favorites — not a band, but Beethoven, in a recording of four sonatas for piano, performed by the legendary Arthur Rubenstein: ‘The history of Western music is a history of exploration of forms. This statement is the end result of a chain of thought sparked by John Briggs’ comment, in his notes on Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23, the “Appassionata,” that Beethoven, at this point in his career, was self-confident enough to ignore “Haydnesque” traditions of form, noting that “he experimented tirelessly in all directions, as Haydn had done before him.”‘

Our What Not this week is another gem from Folkmanis, this one the Barn Swallow Finger Puppet. Says Robert: ‘Swallows seem to be everywhere in the summer, at least in this city. I see them on summer evenings soaring through the air over our parks hunting insects. (There’s a story here: there’s a bridge that divides the South Pond Nature Boardwalk in two. It arches over a narrow part of the pond, and the Zoo administration very thoughtfully left the banks without plantings — it’s a very solid bridge, supported by I-beams, and the Zoo thought it would be a perfect place for swallows to nest, with nice ledges and mud right there on the bank; they even slapped mud on the I-beams to get the birds started. The swallows, of course, decided that they like the pilings under the observation platforms better. I have, however, seen sparrows nesting under the bridge.)’

Our coda is Williamson performing ‘Five Denials on Merlins Grave’ which was recorded by him at The Brillig Arts Centre In Bath on a December night nearly forty years ago.  If you are interested in knowing more about this storyteller who’s also a musician and poet, Charles talks with him here about his days in the Incredible String Band to his interest in Scottish folktales as storytelling material. Tim  later also conversed with him and that interview has an interesting follow-up question to something said in the de Lint conversation.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Assembling A Contradance Band

Yeah we do this quite often as there’s more than enough musos here that have played at contradances that putting together a band at really short notice is not difficult. Remember that we have the apparently Neverending Session playing somewhere on the Estate at all times.

First person I asked was Bela, our Hungarian violinist who fortunately speaks French as do Gus and I. He of course agreed. And you’ve not experienced a contradance ’til you’ve heard Gus calling in two languages, sometimes three when a player who doesn’t speak English or French takes part.

We’ve experimented with hand drums as part of such a band so I knew a Scots player who didn’t want to be named here as he wasn’t supposed to be playing after injuring his wrist several months back but couldn’t resist the challenge. Janey, a smallpiper from the south of England, was the third player. She suggest Wicker, an Elvin wire  harpist, also be added and she did agree to play when I asked her.

With the band in hand, Gus met with them, planned out the tunes to be played, and even played through several of the less familiar tunes. Our contradances are a bit unusual as they usually are four to six hours long with a sort of potluck part way through and other breaks as need be. That gives the band an occasional respite before they get back to playing.

So join us later this evening in the Courtyard for a contradance quite unlike any you’ve been part of!

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What’s New for the 24th of November: Magic Realism, How Trolls See It, Chocolate, Hardanger Fiddles, Mammals, and More

She took everything I thought I’d learned about kindness from women, and she — she laid it on me like a curse. — Jennifer Stevenson’s Trash Sex Music

So Jen was telling me just now about her wonderful magic realism novel Trash Sex Magic and the weird distinction writers try to make which drive her nuts: Science fiction writers like to say that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishible from magic.’ I say, ‘Any internally-consistent magic is indistinguishible from technology.’  You can read her essay on this here. She’s way more coherent than Norman Spinrad was on the subject earlier this week when he was babbling that fantasy had shoved SF aside in bookstores.

Neuromancer is SF, right? Sure. The Loa are just AI.  And chocolate is just chocolate. My ass. It’s all in the assumptions which are never the same in us. Everything has magic in it if you know where to look for it. Keep that in mind as you read her essay and the rest of this edition. Now shall I pour you a drink? Though it’s pricey, I do recommend the ten-year-old Kinrowan Limited Reserve Cider. 

Cat has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart, which Reynard’s reading now. It says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’. The novel  has some astounding descriptions of Irish music sessions it, so do check it.

Kestrell has a very cool collection for us to read: ‘Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Troll’s Eye View also includes stories by such writers as Jane Yolen, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Ellen Kushner, and Joseph Stanton. The variety of the characters and the quality of the writing in these fifteen fairy tales should make this book appealing reading for everyone and, although an inner leaf of the book lists its intended audience as grades four and up or ages nine and up, fairy tale lovers of all ages should pick up a copy.’

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘Subtitled “The Sliabh Luachra story,” this book attempts to demythologize the heartland of Sliabh Luachra, a legendary area where Irish traditional music is concerned. To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’

Robert happily says ‘The late Kage Baker was one of those admirably unpredictable writers whose stories never seemed to fit into any sort of mold, whether they were part of a series or stood alone. There is, though, a kind of magic in her storytelling that ties them all together, fully in evidence in The Bird of the River, a new novel set in the universe of The Anvil of the World.’

Robert has a cautionary note: ‘You probably already know this, but reviewers do try to research the items offered for review, particularly if they’re from a source new to the reviewer. Sadly, researching confectioners Lolli & Pops was very difficult, possibly because they recently filed for bankruptcy. The company’s website is not terribly informative — for example, a search on the site for their Madagascar Sambirano chocolate bar turned up no results. I did find, on another site, that this is No. 1 in a series of single-origin chocolates, this one from the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar.’

Richard brings us Bend It Like Beckham,  a film about ‘…Indian cooking, cultural absurdity, family love, and an abiding desire to play what the English call ‘the beautiful game’…’ That game, of course, would be football; what we in the States call soccer. What happens when a young Indian girl dreams of playing football like English football star David Beckham? Culture clash, among other things — but Nathan says that ‘[t]he underlying theme of culture clash is better because it is underlying, rather than politicised and angry. Instead of favouring either the Indian or the English culture, the writer shows how the two manage their uneasy coexistence.’

Gary is quite pleased with a bit of Norwegian hardanger fiddle music of a very contemporary kind. It’s the second release by the fiddle-guitar-drums trio Lumen Drones: Umbra is an album that can be played on background for atmosphere, but it also rewards repeated close listening.’

‘Anyone who enjoys international folk and dance music, and definitely everyone who loves Bulgarian and other Balkan music, should hop on the Blato Zlato bandwagon,’ Gary says. Read his review of In The Wake to find out why.

Gary found something to like on this new album of holiday tunes from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, titled Big Band Holidays II. ‘For the most part this is a very enjoyable program of holiday music, even for a Scrooge like me.’

Lars has a choice piece of Scottish trad for us: ‘I never really took to the last album, May You Never Lack a Scone, but after hearing this I think it is time to go back and check again. Cause Rare is really something special. Maybe not quite another “The Lasses Fashion,” but almost. Had Jock Tamson’s Bairns been 25 years younger we would have hailed them as the new Messiahs of Scottish folk, now we just get proof that these lads know their craft and that they still can deliver the goods.’

Paul with a head possibly clear of real ale says of Fairport’s Cropredy Capers: 1979 – 2003: ‘Okay, musically, it’s all here. From stalwarts like ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ and ‘Matty Groves’ to an epic version of ‘Sloth’ running at an astounding 19 minutes, and of course the tune sets where Swarbs or Ric Sanders (or both, oh and let’s not forget Chris Leslie) run riot. But it’s the odds and sods that make this album.’

Our What Not this week has Robert on another trip to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and a survey of mammals: ‘When I was a small boy, my father would periodically take me up to the Field Museum. I was always eager to see the “stuffed animals”, which formed a large part of the Museum’s public displays. Well, they’re still there, in a somewhat different arrangement than I remember, but still interesting.’ Go here to get the full tour.

Though it be a month before Winter is officially upon us, it feels and looks like it’s already here. So let’s have the quiet beauty of ’White Snow’ by Nightnoise to see us out. This was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-six years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and it included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Man Who Wasn’t There

We indeed get some very queer customers in the Pub, particularly as the weather gets grimmer, but he was one of the oddest I’d ever seen for more years tending bar than I care to think of. Not that at first I could quite say what was odd about him, just that something wasn’t quite right.

Then I noticed that no one but me was seeing him, despite the fact that he had a choice table, and no one was even going near that table. Even those who had The Sight seemed not to be noticing him, which was very, very odd. So why was I seeing him?

I tried to put the question to him gently, next time he caught my eye for another Rowanheart. “First time I’ve seen you here, I believe. And . . . ”

He interrupted me. “But not the first time I’ve been here.” He chuckled. “Just the first time I’ve had the wherewithal to pay.” He slid a seven-sided coin across the table, a mate to three others already in my till.

Ah, that was the explanation! I’d wondered where the Rowanheart had been going, and suspected a very new Annie from the other side of the Border. No need to bother Iain now.

He took a long pull on the Rowanheart. I turned back toward my bar, feeling myself dismissed. When I turned to look again, he was gone.

Three nights later he was back. The same bushy red beard, the same sheepskin lined coat, the same tweed cap pulled low over his eyes. This time he stopped at the bar for his first Rowanheart. It was odd how the three fiddlers drinking Picaroons Red between sets all moved to their left when he arrived, even though they didn’t greet him or acknowledge his presence. Ever hear of a personal bubble? His was about two handbreadths deep all around him. When one of the fiddlers spilled his Red, the runnels stopped just short of the stranger’s drink.

He knew I was puzzled, he knew I was watching him. As I mopped up the bar and got the fiddler another Picaroons, he slipped away to his old table. The couple who had looked to be headed in that direction veered slightly and sat on one of the blonde oak benches against the wall on the far side of the east fireplace.

He came in a few times after that, not on any regular schedule. Grinned, drank several Rowanhearts, always paid with those seven-sided gold coins. A pleasant enough customer, though no one else but me ever seemed to know it.

The last time I saw him was Old Christmas night. The festivities had been mostly the previous evening, and many were still recovering. The Neverending Session was playing something melancholy, though how they made a Shanklin Road cover sound melancholy I don’t know. Apart from the musicians, and the couple who had made the blonde oak bench their favourite sparking spot ever since they discovered to it, there was no one else in the bar except us. He signaled me for another Rowanheart.

“I’m heading out at first light,” he said. “Time to go back North again. See if the other lads have made it.” He took a pull on the Rowanheart.

“Will you be back?” I ventured to ask.

“Eventually. I usually end up here every couple of centuries.” That big grin split the bushy beard. It was warm enough despite the lack of a crowd that he had undone his coat. I could see a purple shirt. It looked like heavy silk. “Yes, it will be good to see the lads again. Maybe time for another roadtrip, even. Those are the good times, you know. Just you and the road and the stars. I remember the first trip we took together. Hiding from the sun’s heat all day. Picking a star to follow at night. Good times.”

He drained the Rowanheart and stood up. “Maybe I shouldn’t wait for dawn. No stars left then.” He fastened his coat up tight around his neck and gave a drag on his cap. Out of his pockets he fished a little leather pouch and a pair of fairisle mittens.

“Here’s part payment on some of those Rowanhearts I took on credit.” He handed me another couple of those seven-sided coins. “Oh, and as for why you can see me and others can’t, it’s because you believe and they don’t.” Another big grin. “Or maybe that’s malarkey, and it’s because I need something from you and not from them. When the lads come looking for me, and one day they’ll come, tell them Cass has gone after the brightest star.”

Then he left.

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What’s New for the 17th of November: Charles de Lint, Robert’s Potato Soup, Folkmanis’ Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet, Rosanne Cash and Other Matters as Well

Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell. — Charles de Lint’s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’

I’m  listening to The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ while doing paperwork in the Library. It is superbly narrated by Kate Reading, who has narrated a number of de Lint’s works, including the Memory & Dream, Widdershins and The Onion Girl novels. I rather like this because it’s a short story and therefore easily listened to in a short span.  Not that I don’t mind getting lost in one of his novels such as Memory & Dream  which Jayme reviewed for us.

It’s our usual grey late Autumn here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most hardy of Estate staff aren’t outside unless their duties require to them to be. I myself are spending some of my time off duty in the Kitchen quite content to nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating, such as blackberry cobbler or the very last of the fresh fruits (save the ubiquitous apples).

Now let’s see what I’ve for you in this Edition…

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001: ‘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.’

Kestrell looks at The Grin of The Dark: ‘Ramsey Campbell demonstrates the power and eloquence of horror as a mode of highlighting the uncanniness of modern technology and the dark side of human monstrosity. Campbell is a master at developing strange menacing images, whether it is the creepiness of the silent laughter of actors in an old film or the eeriness of the flickering glow of a television screen transforming the faces of those we love into white-faced staring zombies.’

Robert brings us a look back at early — well, fairly early — Charles de Lint, with a review of one of his novels set in and around Tamson House. This one is Moonheart: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint.’

Warner ran across a slightly spooky collection of short stories for those long chilly evenings: ‘Algernon Blackwood is a  formative influence in the weird fiction genre, with his works “The Wendigo” and “The Willows” being staples. Editor Xavier Aldana Reyes collects not only those stories but two less well-known novellas by the author in Roarings From Further Out: Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood

It’s that time of year when nights are falling earlier and there’s a definite chill in the air — at least for those of us north of the Equator. Robert has a recipe for something guaranteed to be warm and filling on those nippy evenings — how does a nice bowl of hot potato soup sound? And for those of you heading into longer days and higher temperatures, it can make a nice summer dish. Get your kitchen in order and be ready to get creative.

Mia says of Frazetta: Painting With Fire that ‘Documentaries are like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: when they are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they are horrid. You might think that a production company formed initially by fans to create a documentary about their favorite artist would create something that would fall into the latter category. And, when the film is Frazetta: Painting With Fire, you’d be really, really wrong.’

Ahhh, Steeleye Span. Chris notes that ‘This is one of those situations that throw into sharp relief the difficulties of writing live reviews. Lahri, one of our US reviewers, went to one of the American dates on the current tour and found it a significantly less than satisfying experience. Just a few days later I went to one of the UK dates at the Daneside Theatre, Congleton and was knocked out by the gig.’

David looks at the output of Johnny Cash’s daughter between 1979 and 1996: ‘Rosanne branched out, writing books, taking a long time between albums. Her work is thoughtful and moving. You can see from the pictures included in the insert booklet, from the informative liner notes, and from the development of the music through the 21 tracks Raven has selected that she was searching for her voice. By the time this collection ends, she had found it. But it’s there throughout this collection. Sure Rosanne Cash has a new CD out this month, but if you aren’t familiar with where she’s been, Blue Moons and Broken Hearts is a good place to start.’

Meredith saw not one but but two great groups at the Town Crier: ‘After a delectable meal of impeccably prepared Southwestern fare, the main event begins: usually a contemporary folk or traditional music act, such as you’ll see at the Bottom Line in New York City or the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. It’s one of the best places to experience live music in the Northeast. And on Sunday, June 27 an intriguing double bill was on the menu: Susan McKeown and the Chanting House, and the up-and-coming “Irish-tribal” group Kíla.’

Robert once upon a time commented that ‘Well, as it happened, while checking out my mail cubby at the GMR offices, I ran across Oysterband’s Granite Years: Best of. . . 1986-97 with a scribbled note from the Chief that I eventually translated as “Check this out. Let us know what you think.” I took that to be a request for a review.’ Now read his review to see what he though of this compilation.

Well, looks like it’s the season to think about holiday gift giving. And Denise has an option for you; Folkmanis’ 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…

So we’re well past the time of year when there’s even the chance of the day holding a bit of warmth which means music becomes a needed matter of comfort for most of us here. And I for one turn to Celtic music.  So what shall we hear this time as we take our leave? Hmmm… So how about ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ by the legendary Bothy Band as recorded rather well at the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival some forty four  years ago.

Variants on Old Hag tunes are so common that they actually figure into the narrative of at least one Charles de Lint story,  ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’, which is collected in his Dreams Underfoot anthology and you can purchase the digital edition of your choice here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pumpkin Ale and Cheese

Dear Anna,

Did you know the Swedes make pumpkin ale? I’ve been researching the history of it and thought that it existed not ‘tall outside of Britain, Ireland, and North America where various small breweries such as ours are doing it every Fall. So I was delighted that Scandinavian brewers make it as well. We visited you too late to sample these ales this time but Katrina and I are planning to visit Stockholm next Fall for a week. I’ve got it planned into my work schedule as Katrina’s got a concert with her Leaf & Tree group at the same time.

My excuse for coming over (other than to drink pumpkin ales as ‘research’) is that our Steward is interested in getting a true cheesery going here, as the number of dairy cows would support one. Right now, we ship the milk over to Riverrun Farm for their use but Jean-Paul thinks it’d make a nice addition to the Estate revenues. So I’ll be looking at small cheese operations in the countryside.

Katrina’s also talking with a Swedish luthier who’s expressed keen interest in moving his operation to the Estate, as he’s got more English and Scottish clients these days than Scandinavian ones. And there’s a crofters cottage suitable for his shop and living space. Not surprisingly, he loves the idea of the Neverending Session!

Until next time, Gus

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What’s New for the 10th of November: Fairy Tale Feasts, Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ , Charles de Lint’s The Wild Wood. The Dubliners Live, A Worm in An Apple puppet and Other Tempting Things

She can sniff it as she can sniff the pungency of the earth where it hides little treasures for the table; or the remains of the long-dead. ― Tallis as described in Robert Holdstock’s Avilion

Yes, there’s hot cider, blissfully free of spicing, and still-warm apple cinnamon doughnuts on the top of the Bar for our Pub patrons to enjoy on this quite, quite nasty Autumnal day. The Pub has become rather busy and Finch, my associate manager, has called in extra help hours earlier than she usually has to this time of year.

I note with some delight that Charles de Lint just put out a digital edition of The Wild Wood novel. Our review is here, complete with a link to where you can purchase the digital edition of your preference. It’s a wonderful read, which I’ve been doing on this Autumn afternoon in quiet moments. Did I note that MaryAnn Harris, his ever so talented wife, did the cover art for it? When the Pub is much quieter, I’ll go back to reading it on my iPad.  Right now, help yourself  to those cider and apple doughnuts while I finish this edition off…Ahhh, the egos of authors! Craig has a study of one here: ‘Nowhere on her Web site does novelist Sharyn McCrumb mention her Edgar Allan Poe Award, the most coveted award in the mystery genre and something that most winners would be shouting from the rooftops. One can only assume that this is because the novel for which she won goes by the title Bimbos of the Death Sun. Perhaps she would simply prefer that we forgot all about it. But the fact is that she not only wrote Bimbos of the Death Sun, but also its sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool, both starring electrical-engineer/science-fiction-author Jay Omega. Both novels are terrific reads and, as a bonus, showcase something missing from McCrumb’s more literate Ballad novels is McCrumb’s quirky sense of humor.’ Read his somewhat silly review here.

Early in his career, Charles de Lint did a number of novels set in Ottawa which is where he and his lovely wife MaryAnn Harris live to this day. Robert has a review of two of those linked novels for us: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of KinrowanJack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’

A certain culinary guide has Warner noting that ‘In guide books there are typically the introductory and the exhaustive. Brett Cohen and Mark Luber’s Stuff Every Sushi Lover Should Know falls in the former category. It does so, however, by pressing an impressive amount of information into a small space. While part of QuickBooks series of “Stuff Every…Should Know” is serious, the nature of that series and its individual subject matters means that serves mission quite well on its own.’

Eric Saward’s Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks gets this wrap-up by Warner: ‘Overall this was an enjoyable, short, read. Having a third person point of view help did a great deal, as the internal logic many characters used allowed for strange behavior to make significantly more sense. The action is direct, the characters are consistent, and the book does not feel padded as one often worries they will find in novelizations. This is an enjoyable story featuring the Fifth Doctor, and easily recomendable to someone who enjoys Doctor Who, particularly of slightly older shade of it.’

Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’

The Return of The King, the very last of those Peter Jackson films ,says Grey, was emotional for her: ‘I’ve never laughed and cried so much in one movie. The thing is, I’m not a big movie crier. Those of you who read my Seabiscuit review are thinking, “Yeah, right!” It’s true, I swear. But I think I went into this one with the pump already primed. As I’ve said before, I love The Lord of the Rings, and I’ve spent my life since the first time I heard the story read aloud (by my dad, when I was seven) wishing for it to be made into a movie.’

Christopher has a sweet sounding album for us: ‘New Yorker Susan McKeown has been gradually establishing a reputation as a classy and innovative interpreter of Irish traditional song for some time, without ever gaining the breakthrough she deserves. On first appearances, Blackthorn appears to be a rather low key release in her oeuvre, the to-the-point subtitle Irish Love Songs suggesting a straight-up approach.’

David exclaims ‘Eliza Carthy is a fiddler, singer and folk babe extraordinaire. Rough Music is her latest album. Released in 2005, it’s taken a while for us to review it because…well…I guess I would rather listen to it than write about it! From the striking cover photo, to every note that is played, this is a gorgeous record of English folk music.’

Gary reviews a new compilation of “insurgent country” music from the Chicago label Bloodshot Records, released on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. He says, ‘I’ve reviewed countless compilation discs over the years, and Too Late to Pray is hands down one of the best.’

Gary also liked a disc called Psychedelic Disco Cumbia from the New York band Locobeach. ‘This is such a fun record! Based solidly in cumbia, it has elements of dub, chicha, disco, funk and more, including house, courtesy of those divine analog synthesizers.’

Gary has an album for us that he liked a lot: ‘Ever since they first sang together on the 2002 Vanguard album Evangeline Made, I’ve been waiting for Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy to put out another record. Here it is, and it was worth the wait. Adieu False Heart is one of the most touching, graceful and beautiful albums of 2006.’

Mike sees a legendary group: ‘The Dubliners are true legends of folk music, having now performed together as a group for 44 years. Many of the stories they tell of Dublin, are of a city that has all but disappeared in this day and age, and they are now as much a part of folklore as the songs and tunes that they perform.’

Our What Not this time is about a Folkmanis Puppet 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 one of these 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.’

Our coda is Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ which I think as Autumnal music is here performed by the Rolling Stones. Yes the Rolling Stones!  So here’s their decidedly offbeat version.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Korean Breakfast

Now that was tasty!

I was grumbling yesterday morning to Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook here at the Estate that houses us, that porridge is often boring even if many here like it as Winter breakfast fare. (OR Melling actuall found a way to make eating porridge sound cool.) She smiled and said to stop by the Kitchen ‘morrow morning as she had an idea.

So I came to the Kitchen the next morning early before it got too busy and discovered that I was being served thick soup made from rice and minced pork with interesting spicing, served along with green tea and a deep fried cruller. She said it was called Canjii in Korean and a visitor showed her how to prepare this hearty meal years ago.

Now I knew that Korea has a millennia old cuisine with food traditions from a number of sources but I hadn’t actually had this traditional breakfast staple from there, as I spent my time overseas in India and Sri Lanka, which have a decidedly different cuisine.

Indeed the staple food for Koreans is rice, and specifically a particular type of Korean short grain rice called sticky rice, because its grains stick together rather than falling apart. Mrs. Ware decided to use well-cooked brown rice as she likes the flavour better than the white rice used in Asia. It was a wonderfully tasty and quite filling breakfast.

Now I’m off to find her a copy of The Pooh Cook Book as she’s catering an all-day event for younger children from the School of The Imagination and she wants to do their meals as Pooh and company did them. I will of course review the book as well so you, our dear readers, can see how good the recipes are!

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What’s New for the 3rd of November: The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Homefires’, Mice, Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech, Mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes and Other Matters

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta 

As Christopher Fowler has bitterly complained, Guy Fawkes Day has fallen out of favour in Britain being called now Bonfire Night more often than not, and Halloween, that holiday started long ago by the Irish, has become way more popular than Guy Fawkes.  Of course The Kirk has more or less mostly fallen across all of Britain so it’s hardly surprising that an anti-Catholic holiday is fast waning in popularity.

Now we don’t do fireworks here on Guys Fawkes Day or any day as it spooks the companion animals, the livestock, and the wildlife all too much. The loudest ‘fireworks’ you’ll see here is a roaring bonfire. Now I know it’s quite nasty out there, so let’s get you a cider and you can hunker down by the Pub fireplace while I get this Edition ready for you…

Jack leads off our book reviews with a look at a novel he really didn’t like: ‘I’m a fiddler. I like Steven Brust. I love most any novel with folk music as a theme, particularly when musicians are the characters. So why the fuck did I find Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill to be not even worth finishing? Good question — and one that I will answer in some detail. Perhaps more detail than this badly written novel deserves.’

Robert brings us a book for curling up with the little ones on a chilly night, Helen Ward’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: ‘You’ve undoubtedly heard this story, or at the very least heard of it, probably under some variation of “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse,” or the reverse. It’s a well-loved children’s story that has received innumerable treatments throughout the years. Author/illustrator Helen Ward has brought us the latest version.’

Warner really liked this book: ‘A tribute to Golden Age mystery fiction is always welcomed, and a specific tribute to Peter Wimsey is a welcome surprise. What Would Wimsey Do? is Guy Fraser-Samson’s tribute to that great detectives, in the form of a more contemporary murder mystery. It is worth noting that the book had been previously published as Death in Profile in the United Kingdom, and that this new publication by Felony & Mayhem represents its first American publication.’

He also loved this novel: ‘Overall Always Coming Home is at an impressive achievement in storytelling, and World building. It is a staple of future history, and the work of obvious influence. And this is possibly the most thorough and dedicated interpretation of the texts assembled, included many related pieces throughout. I can highly recommend this volume, particularly it to those with any interest in the work of Ursula K. Le Guin.’

‘…Buckle up and I’ll tell you about pumpkin cupcakes so delicious my friend told me to never buy them again, because they were way too dangerously good. Yes, supermarket brand cupcakes so good my friends threaten my life.’ With an opening like that, Denise’s look at Aldi’s Village Bakery’s Mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes is definitely worth a look. Because Fall is just getting good, and you want to enjoy the best, don’t you?

Grey turns her attention to The Two Towers: ‘Yes, I had a press ticket. Yes, I went to the earliest possible showing yesterday, opening day (December 18), and refused to eat any popcorn or drink any soda, lest I be distracted even minutely from the film. Yes, I am an obsessed fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. Actually, I prefer “devoted.” (There are different sorts of obsessed, err, devoted fans. Cat, our Editor in Chief, collects all sorts of special editions of Tolkien’s work, and has reviewed the extended-release DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring for this issue. I, on the other hand, have among my most prized possessions the tattered paperback of The Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham that I first read as a child, and a copy of “The Red Book” in which some of my dearest friends have written their favorite passages or quotations on the fly leaves and end papers. I think of Tolkien as one of my grandfathers.) The point being that if you want an unbiased opinion from a viewer who came to the movie yesterday without any preconceived notions as to what it ought to be… well, I’m sure they’re out there.’

Gary says Historia Natural is the third release by the Colombian trio Los Pirañas, “which deftly and excitingly mixes South American rhythms of cumbia, tropicalia, salsa and more, with psychedelic rock, surf guitar, dub, and computer effects for a sound and style that’s all their own.”

Lars says of Western Wall and The Tucson Sessions: ‘For me, this is very much a case of old heroes returning. Who could help but be infatuated by the lovely Ms Ronstadt in the middle of the Seventies? She had it all: looks, voice and a clever choice of songs. Ronstadt was one of a wave of American female singers on the borders between rock, country and folk. Emmylou Harris was another of those singers. But she was definitely more country, carrying on Gram Parson’s vision of a marriage between rock and country.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

The concert season, for those who follow such things, is in full swing, and Robert has a look at an album of chamber works by Henryk Wieniawski: ‘Henryk Wieniawski, like his countryman Frédéric Chopin, was in great demand as a soloist — so much so that his performance schedule seems to have seriously impacted his work as a composer. Another prodigy, he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of eight, in spite of being underage and not French. By age thirteen, he had completed his course of study on the violin (with gold medal), written his first compositions, and met Chopin at his mother’s Paris salon.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

Winter is not far out,  so a Winter Queen of ours from some years back,  Josepha Sherman, talks of it and its folktales in her Winter Queen Speech: ‘What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. The trees know it: they don’t die each year. They merely sleep through the coldness and put out new leaves in the spring. The birds know it: they come and go by the seasons. The snow is merely a blanket that protects the earth, insulating it against the cold and providing it with moisture in the spring. The darkness doesn’t last throughout. It ends in the middle of the winter, with the solstice in December, and the light returns even in the deepest cold of winter. No, Winter is nothing to fear.’

Our music for you as our Coda is quite naturally is The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Homefires’, their look at Guy Fawkes Day and what it means to British culture. Where and when they recorded it seems to have been lost right now though I’ll add in if I find out that information. There’s a trove of live recordings they sent us, so expect more music from them.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Ghosts

His accent was thick, understandable if you listened carefully, English though it be, it sounded more Welsh in cadence than English. And he was a burly man, well over six feet tall and stocky to boot with grey eyes and a bread and hair as white as new fallen show. His name, he said, was Dyffd ap Owen.

I found a mug made of beaten silver, centuries old most likely, with sigils and other things best not discussed on it, and it held damn near a litre of liquid. I asked what his favour in drink was and he said metheglin, a mead his people made from time immemorial. Fortunately we had just tapped a cask of it made with honey from the High Meadow where clover, wild strawberries, and other plants make for a very good honey.

He sipped, nodded his head in appreciation, and sat back in the Falstaff Chair near the roaring fire on that cold winter night. And no, I’ve never figured out how travellers get here on foot in weather so bad that only those tending the Estate livestock venture outside, but they do. Some have an instrument with them be it pipes, fiddle or just their voice; some come like him to tell stories late into the night; and a few, a very few thank whatever Deities you believe in, seem to be lost and simply need shelter. Those usually stay here but a few weeks, but some Bela, our apparently Hungarian violinist, have stayed  for decades.

I asked as casually as I could given my curiosity, what was reason for being here was. He drank deeply of his mead and said he’d come to find a ghost. Now those of us who have The Sight, be that a blessing or a curse it is a matter of personal belief, know this Scottish Estate is lousy with ghosts ranging from wives strangled by their abusive husbands to an entire encampment of ancient soldiers long dad waiting for their commander who ran screaming away from the battle they were all slaughtered in. But this was the first time I knew of that I knew anyone had come here looking for a ghost.

He said that he be both Welsh and Highland Scots, and a Scots ancestor of his had fought and won a duel here against a mortal enemy of his clan, the MacAllisters. Or more properly both had died on a leyline, so they were now locked in battle, evermore hacking away at each other, mortally wounding each other, dying, and starting the duel over again ’til the end of time.

He was hoping to find a way to put his ancestor to rest after a thousand years of endless battle. I remember a story being told here by Iain who also has The Sight of Seeing those kings in a remote part of the Estate. It’s an unfortunate truism that violent deaths create ghosts tied to here they died. And these two are definitely too such ghosts.

Now I admit I’m torn if it was safe to tell him that we know where the cursed ghosts are as I admit I’m not sure that tampering with them is a good or a bad thing. It might be possible to end their endless circle of violence but equally possible it could unleashed them from their temporal prison and that would be a disaster! So I’ll need to think on this. For a long time. Over many drams of a good single malt.

So for now I’ll tell him that we’ll research the subject to see what we can find and get back to him. I hope that, for now, that will placate him.

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What’s New for the 27th of October: Our Halloween Edition

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Traditional Scottish prayer

I’ve also seen that prayer credited to Cornish, Welsh, and “Celtic” sources — nothing specific, but you get the idea.

Robert here, with some thoughts on the traditions of the holiday. Yes, as you might guess from our opening quote, Halloween is approaching, when all the neighborhood ghoulies and ghosties (and hobos and witches and Darth Vaders) are going door to door demanding treats as a sort of ransom. It wasn’t always like that: Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is what happened to the old Samhain holy day of the Celtic Pagan year, one of the two days in the year when the veils between our world and the Otherworld are thinnest and the spirits wander the earth — some say looking for the way home.

And that’s the origin of the Jack O’Lantern, from the old Irish custom of putting a candle in a hollowed-out turnip (they didn’t have pumpkins before Europeans discovered the New World) and ensconcing it in the window to guide the spirits on their way.

As for the rest of it — well, the early Church, as was its wont, appropriated that holiday as All Saints Day (actually the day after the Pagan holiday, which, like most Pagan holidays, was celebrated at night) and tried very hard to make it a Christian holiday, with varying degrees of success. (In Mexico, it became Dias de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, in which the Christian holiday got a strong infusion of traditional Indian customs.)

As for the “trick or treat” part, that also goes way back to Pagan times, when villagers would dress in scary costumes to drive the spirits away and would be rewarded for their efforts with a banquet. It may have also been conflated with the Wren Boys, an ancient Irish observation around Christmas, when children would dress in costume and go door to door collecting money. Its present incarnation is recent, as late as the mid-twentieth century — some even credit Walt Disney with popularizing it, but I’m not going to go there.

Oh, and speaking of appropriation — well. candy manufacturers have a vested interest in pushing the whole trick or treat thing, driving a final nail into the coffin of what was once one of the holiest days in the Pagan year.

Now, it’s almost upon us, and I’m going to hand this back over to Reynard, with a nod for the excellent job he’s done on putting together our Halloween edition. Enjoy.

Cat starts off our book reviews with Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues. Cat says of it that ‘In the very near future, the citizens of Los Angeles are preparing to celebrate Dead Daze, a bacchanalian rave of a holiday that’s an over-the-top merging of All Hallows Eve, the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Mardi Gras. The reawakened Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, riding the body of a human, is feeling quite well, thank you! And let’s not forget that the Day of the Dead, which forms part of Dead Daze, is at its heart a time when the barriers between the dead and the still-living are all but completely erased. So maybe the gods do walk again … And this holiday, not dissimilar to the one in the Strange Days movie, needs National Guard troops to prevent rioting!’

So how about a Day of The Dead set story that involves a small town mechanic called Grace who discovers the man she loves is dead? And that she can cross over when the veils are thin to see him? Such is the premise of Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace which Cat notes that ‘It is a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything else by him at all, but gives you a good feel for what he is like as a writer, as it has well-crafted characters, believable settings, and a story that will hold your interest. And it is a novel that you will read again to get some of the nuances that get missed in the first reading.’

Craig has a review of a horror novel set on a closely related holiday: ‘Brian A. Hopkins is an acclaimed writer and editor (he has won Bram Stoker Awards under both guises) who also operates an innovative publishing company (Lone Wolf Publications, which produced the multimedia anthology Tooth and Claw, Volume One and another Stoker winner, The Imagination Box), yet who still has time to crank out terrific work for other smaller houses like Earthling Publications. El Dia de los Muertos (“the Day of the Dead”) is his most recent Stoker recipient, winning the 2002 award for best novella.’

Halloween is the time for vampires, and so Denise takes a look at Gross and Altman’s Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy and Angel. She found an detailed “oral history” that is sure to please fans of both shows.  ‘I can feel the authors’ love for their subject, and their excitement is contagious.  … [A] fun read that’ll keep you in party anecdotes for this coming holiday season, and into the next one.’

One of our Garys has a look at Christopher Golden and James A. Moore’s Bloodstained  Oz: ‘If you like lots of violence and gore, and you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz, then you’ll like this book. The evil manifestations of Baum’s characters are one of the highlights of the book. If you like a book with an ending, prepare yourself to write your own, as the authors apparently intended.’

Neil Gaiman’s Day of the Dead: An Annotated Babylon 5 Script gets the lead-off note in Grey’s review: ‘Whenever two Babylon 5 fans meet, whether it’s at a used book store, a sci-fi speakeasy, or somewhere else that’s safe for our species, it doesn’t take long for conversation to turn to the required topics: “Who’s your favorite character?” “What’s your favorite season?” “What’s your favorite episode?” and so on. And whether your favorite character is Commander Sinclair (the real Commander) or G’Kar, whether your favorite season is the first or the third, it’s almost universally agreed that Season Five, Episode Eight, “Day of the Dead,” is one of the show’s top ten episodes.’

Jack looks at a Diane Wynne Jones novel that befits this holiday: ‘It’s a good solid book with memorable characters and an engrossing plot which got read in one rather long sitting on a cold, rainy afternoon late in October. Several pots of Earl Grey tea and a number of the the Kitchen’s excellent scones were devoured in the reading of Fire & Hemlock.’

Love, hate, or baffled by The Wicker Man, there’s no denying it’s a horror classic.  No, not the horrendous 2006 remake, but the original 1973 film starring Christopher Lee.  The original film has caught the eye of many, including many academics. Kestrell takes a look at Benjamin Franks’ The Quest for The Wicker Man: History, Folklore, and Pagan Perspectives, a collection of articles from a conference that focused on the film.  ‘The Quest for The Wicker Man is highly recommended for any dedicated Wicker Man fan and especially for academics writing about this classic cult film.’  Read more about this collection in her review!

Nellie looks at The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: ‘Through Jean Markale’s book we can find the real legitimacy for Halloween as a holiday. It is not simply about children traipsing from door to door looking for candy (or else! Trick or Treat!). It is not simply about a reverence for ancestors, or a time to let go of all inhibition. There is a reality to it that gives it a deeper presence, and which beckons us to seek its true meaning, in addition to its true history.’

A fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

We next look at Ray Bradbury’s quintessential Autumn novel and film which gets an appreciative review by the previous reviewer: ‘By right and nature, all October babies should love Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is a love letter to autumn, and to the Halloween season in particular, a gorgeous take on maturity and self-acceptance and all the dark temptations that come crawling ‘round when the calendar creeps close to October 31st.’

Just in time for the festivities a couple of nights from now, Robert has a look at Alex Irvine’s The “Supernatural” Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons, and Ghouls: ‘I seem to be faced with another one of those television spin-offs, this time from the series Supernatural, about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who hunt demons and other nasty customers not entirely of this world …. Alex Irvine has taken this basis, and the various creatures the brothers encounter, drawn from myths, urban legends, and folklore, and turned it into a “bestiary of the unnatural”.’

Thomas has a guide to this holiday for us: ‘Halloween, an unofficial holiday, is nonetheless celebrated by millions of people in North America and the British Isles, rivaling only Christmas in popularity. In the heavily illustrated Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, York University professor of history Nicholas Rogers traces the history of this holiday from its alleged beginnings as a Celtic festival, Samhain, marking the end of summer, to its many and various manifestations today. ’

And Warner wraps up our book reviews with a look at a collection from Steve Rasic Tem, The Night Doctor and Other Stories: ‘Centipede Press is known for putting out quality volumes, and The Night Doctor and Other Stories by Steve Rasnic Tem is no exception. A long-running, highly celebrated author, Rasnic here offers a collection of his more recent short stories, including two new tales previously unpublished. These run the gamut of dark subject matter, ranging from dark fantasy to horror and back again.’

Horror films have been part of the Halloween experience in the States for a very long time now. And we’ve had our share of wonderful seasonal treats, as well as time-wasting tricks.

Denise takes a look at a ‘trick’ of a tale with her review of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. She doesn’t hold back on her distaste: ‘If the folks responsible for this garbage really wanted to depart from the first two films and create something authentic, this basic story could have been an interesting movie …. Happy Halloween? Not with this clunker.’  Read her review for exactly why she’s nonplussed.

Another trick-y tale is The Haunted Mansion, a film based on a ride at the Disney resorts. Denise thinks that all the beautiful set design can’t make up for a film that can’t quite figure itself out.  ‘This is a lovely film to look at, but there’s not a lot of substance. Just double-check to make sure any young children you take are up for a pretty good scare.’

A choice bit of British horror is next.  Jekyll is ably reviewed for us by Kestrell who says that ‘this version is not so much a remake as a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story. The story is relocated from Victorian Edinburgh to contemporary London and follows one of Jekyll’s descendents, a research scientist named Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt).’ Kestrell concludes that ‘While I found this re-telling of a traditional story exciting and exceptionally well done, I would suggest that this series is not for everyone. Viewers looking for a remake of the original story will not find it here; those viewers who prefer American Hollywood effects may also be disappointed.’

Festive Samhain, everyone! Denise here, and I’ve stolen away the food and drink section this issue. Why? Because ghoulish delights abound! I’ve stuffed my face with all sorts of seasonal delights … though not everything was particularly delightful. Come along and see, won’t you?

First off, in a nod to the spirit of the season, Dunkin’ Donuts released a slew of themed donuts. I tried their Spider Donut, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. “It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.” Read on to learn more!

Still got a touch of a sweet tooth? Well, why not try a Cadbury Screme Egg? “…I prefer the protoplasm look of that gooey sugar goodness. I’ve always been a weird kid.” Check out this treat to see if it’s something you’d fancy!

Want something savory instead?  How about Transylvanian cheese?  Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese, to be exact. Let’s just say that if you’re able to get your hands on some, you should. There’s more to be had in the review, but for now let’s just leave it at this; ‘Thank you, Transylvania.’

And what better way to wash things down this spooky season with a Harry Potter themed drink? Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer is just the thing. ‘A nice quaff when you’re feeling Potterish. And this time of year, especially with #HarryPotter20, who isn’t?’

Cheetos’ Bag of Bones is a suitably spooky entry into the holiday snack aisle, and a perfect go-to for the season. And I’m pleased: ‘When you queue up a spooky movie this season, grab some of these to really get into the spirit.’

Robert looks at the Justice League Dark film: ‘Once I got started on the Justice League Dark comic, I had to go back and check out the 2017 animated film. If anyone is expecting a film version of the new comic series, guess again: the film was released before the new series was even announced, and while there are similarities, they are very different sorts of critters.’

Robert has a look at a suitably scary graphic novel from a story originally penned by Robert E. Howard: ‘Pigeons from Hell is an adaptation by Joe R. Lansdale of a story by Robert E. Howard, with art by Nathan Fox and color by Dave Stewart. Lansdale is at pains to point out, in his “Notes from the Writer,” that it is really an “adaptation” — updated, exploring some new facets of Howard’s story, and not to be confused with the original, all of which leads me to treat it as its own creature.’

And what would Halloween be without demons and ghosties and that sort of thing? Well, that’s what we get with the latest incarnation of John Constantine, in Hellblazer, Vol. 1: The Poison Truth. Says Robert: ‘I’ll be honest: John Constantine is not a comic book hero who has ever really grabbed me. I can’t think of any particular reason for that, unless it’s his rapid-fire delivery and glib personality. Maybe it’s because he’s a sociopath, and I’ve learned to be wary of those — even comics. (It’s a wonder how many of the characters in this collection really don’t like Constantine very much, but they go along with him.)’

Robert has a look at a fairly tale full of goblins, ghosts, and witches — it’s Philip Glass’ The Witches of Venice, based on the book by Beni Montresor: ‘The King and Queen of Venice are bemoaning the lack of an heir. Sure enough, two fairies appear from the Lagoon with a plant: if the King plants it in his garden, a child will be born. The King is not impressed and throws the plant out the window.’ You can guess what happens after that, but read the review anyway.

Gary tells us about an album of what’s called ‘dark polar ambient’ music by a Russian musician who performs under the name Ugansie: ‘If you like drone or ambient or dark experimental music, Border of Worlds is for you. If you just want something spooky to play in your haunted house at Halloween, ditto.’

Iain says ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree Opera. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.‘

Robert has a What Not for us in keeping with the holiday — after all, what would Halloween be without bats flying around? In this case, another cutie from Folkmanis. You can read about it here.

Very long after the band recorded Leige and Leif, which Deborah plays proper homage to in, “Trad Boys, Trad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do….?” Liege & Lief remembered, Fairport Convention played the entire album live at their own summer bash, the ‘07 Cropredy Festival. Everyone who was on the 1969 recording save Sandy Denny who had passed on was on stage so with Chris While doing the vocals for this epic experience. The soundboard recording is stellar, so here’s ‘Tam Lin’ as performed on a warm summer night.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Apple Brandy

A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to Tessa, her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex as she preferred to be called lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen.

Dear Tessa,

I must confess that I just got over a headache brought on by drinking more than a bit of a most excellent apple brandy that we laid down ten years ago. We were celebrating the birth of a daughter to a couple who works here, Ingrid and Jacob. It’s their first and she takes after her mother in both her blue eyes and flaxen hair.

Our idea for doing apple brandy came to us from a Several Annie whose family in Normandy in the northwest of France was fond of Calvados, their version of apple brandy that is produced as a rather coarse, rough brandy that must age for several years to acquire its flavor, amber color and the right amount of alcohol, which our Brewmaster, Sven, says is ideally between 40 and 43 percent. Sven got the distillery equipment that he needed to produce it from France, and didn’t The Steward complain about the cost as he approved the funds transfer to our agent in Normandy.

We sampled it after the preferred two years of aging, then at five years, and now at ten years. Sven figured long aging would make it more smooth, less biting, and he was right. Sipped cold, it’s simply wonderful. And all too easy to drink while sitting by the roaring fireplace in the rooms of The Steward on a nippy early spring night.

We were also celebrating Ingrid’s being promoted to Lead Publican in the Green Man Pub when her baby was past nursing, the first woman to hold that post. She’s been studying with the retiring Lead Publican, who’s moving back to Glasgow so he and his wife can be near their grandchildren.

Love Alex

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What’s New for the 20th of October: Norwegian singer and songwriter Jens Carelius , Ciarán Carson Passes On, Brownies! Music from Steeleye Span, Books of An Autumnal Nature and Other Such Matters

Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story.
Neil Gaiman’s Fables & Reflections

Québécois style pork pies, spiced with nutmeg, are the main entree for the eventide meal somewhat later on this Autumn day, along with roasted carrots, beets and onions, as the weather turned decidedly nippy over the past week, with even some nasty periods of freezing rain and sleet. Ironic, as I was putting together the invitations to Sixtieth Annual Estate Croquet Invitational which will be held here next Summer.

Before heading into the Pub for my evening shift, I was assisting Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and all around groundskeeper, with the gathering of the squashes, which had to be harvested before a hard frost harmed them beyond them being usable. And I do so look forward to the squash and smoked pork with pickled ginger soup that’ll be served for some cold Winter eventide meal!

Now shall I pour you a Conor McGregor’s Proper Irish Whiskey to enjoy while I put the finishing touches on this edition? And if you’re feel at all peckish, I recommend one of the apple and cheddar tarts that are still warm in the basket on the Pub bar. They’re quite excellent.

I’ve picked some fiction for you that I feel is perfectly Autumnal in nature. Even the Babylon 5 script is, though I’ll let you figure out how.

Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’

Neil Gaiman’s Day of the Dead: An Annotated Babylon 5 Script gets the lead-off note in Grey’s review: ‘Whenever two Babylon 5 fans meet, whether it’s at a used book store, a sci-fi speakeasy, or somewhere else that’s safe for our species, it doesn’t take long for conversation to turn to the required topics: “Who’s your favorite character?” “What’s your favorite season?” “What’s your favorite episode?” and so on. And whether your favorite character is Commander Sinclair (the real Commander) or G’Kar, whether your favorite season is the first or the third, it’s almost universally agreed that Season Five, Episode Eight, “Day of the Dead,” is one of the show’s top ten episodes.’

A fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

A review from William finishes off my picks: ‘In his typically enlightening and always entertaining style, Ray Bradbury puts his cold hand in ours and leads us through the darkness of a million wind-swept October nights in The Halloween Tree, a classic novel of dark fantasy. Recognized as a living legend of imaginative fiction, Bradbury is one of those few, precious authors who delivers the thrills he promises. Revered for such novels as Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, and Fahrenheit 451, the author breathes such life into his fictions that we can’t help but share the enthusiastic energy exploding from his pen.’

Brownies anyone? Jen makes her whiskey, yes whiskey, soaked cherry brownies in big batches so she give them out as she so desires. Are they good? Oh YES!: ‘Eat them warm for a terminal chocogasm, alone or with ice cream and a glass of red wine.’

Robert got something rather nice from Bissinger’s Chocolates, a company founded in 17th Century France: ‘The example of their products that crossed my desk (well, landed on it) is the Caramelized Blood Orange, covered in dark (60%) chocolate, with hazelnuts. Being somewhat of a chocolate purist, I’m often dubious about additives, but since orange and chocolate are one of the classic combinations, I decided to give it a try.’

April says of a Matt Wagner graphic novel that ‘As far as character re-imaginings go, Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted is a lively, lovely read and more is definitely something to look forward to!’

She goes on to tell us about that second volume, Matt Wagner And Michael Wm. Kaluta’s Madame Xanadu: Exodus Noir: ‘ This second collection in Matt Wagner’s back story of Madame Xanadu has a more intimate focus than the first, which spanned a number of centuries and exotic locales.‘ Read her review for all the details on this story.

A sad note to lead off our Music section. Ciarán Carson, author of Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music, has passed away just recently. Both a keen trad Irish musician and a writer of quite some note about that music and all things Irish in general, he was a native of Belfast who died at seventy of lung cancer. A brilliant poet by trade, which you can see in our review of  his translation of Táin Bó Cúailngne:The Cattle Raid of Cooley).

The Oysterband are certainly a folk rock band but Ed has a review of their very early years when they weren’t: ‘I stumbled onto the Oysterband several years back via a copy of Little Rock to Leipzig, received as a premium during a college radio station’s fund drive. This was blind good luck. The two CDs I had originally wanted were gone, so I picked this one based on its “folk-rock” label. I haven’t stopped listening to this band and now own ten of their CDs. As a devoted and possibly obsessed fan, when the chance came to review some of their earliest and long out-of-print albums, I jumped. I now feel blessed to have acquired this piece of their history. In short, these LPs prove that the Oysters were always good, but have nevertheless gotten much better.

Norwegian singer and songwriter Jens Carelius has turned a legendary figure in his ancestry into a unique album, Gary says. ‘Opsi is a song cycle based on the diaries of Carelius’s great-great-grandfather Fritz Doerries … a German naturalist who spent much of his young life collecting butterflies and other animal specimens in the sub-arctic lands of eastern Siberia.’

Istanbul psychedelic rockers BaBa ZuLa have a new recording out, their first new release in five years but following close on the heels of their 20th anniversary retrospective called XX. Gary says the new CD, Derin Derin has ‘plenty of transcendant sound packed into each song and tune.’

A Parcel of Steeleye Span — Their First Five Chrysalis Albums 1972-1975 contains Below the SaltParcel of RoguesNow We Are SixCommoner’s Crown, and All Around My Hat! which was released as a set. Iain, our Librarian, got to review that impressive set which is taken from some of their early albums. ‘So the bottom line is that this is a near perfect introduction to one of the finest folk rock groups ever to grace Albion. Hell, you even get to hear the original recording of the song which they end nearly every concert with — ‘All Around My Hat’, off (obviously) the album of the same name.’

Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

Steeleye Span is rather appropriately providing our taking leave song for this Edition. Not their ‘Tam Lin’ as that’d be more a Halloween thing, but rather their ‘One Misty Moisty Morning’ which seems so Autumnal in nature. It was recorded at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, NY on the twentieth of April forty six years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Harvesting

Dear Love,

I see from the papers that your tour with Leaf & Tree is getting glowing reviews across Canada. Hopefully this letter will reach in Halifax before your last performance there. (I know I can email you anytime but I like old-fashioned letters as do a fair number of the Kinrowan residents. I think it’s ingrained in the warp and weave of the Estate community.) I’m still surprised that medieval Swedish music is so popular among the older, more affluent Classical music audience.

Gus has been co-opting the Several Annies this past fortnight to help with the immense amount of late summer garden work (and grounds work as well) as the weather forecasts generally, according to his sources, agree with Tamsin, our hedgewitch in residence, that is going to be a brutally cold and rather snowy Winter. That means that everything must be checked and rechecked to make sure there are no nasty surprises, say slates coming loose in high winds or a barn door coming open because a hinge failed.

Tamsin indeed asked if there was a sheltered space that could be made ready for the many owls if need be. Gus said the big barn could be made so with just a bit of work by making entry spaces under the eaves. He noted that he didn’t know if the owls would take advantage off it so he will also add myriad shelter boxes in the woods around her cottage as well.

Mrs. Ware, despite the Estate now having reliable electricity thanks to the small hydro power station The Steward agreed to, still believes in root cellars and canning as much as possible. Pickles, relishes, fruits in honey, various vegetables, and even some meats get preserved for Winter use. And of course, lots of different sauerkrauts from the traditional cabbage ones to a decidedly quirky beet and carrot one.

Lastly there’s the matter of pumpkins and squashes. Either as part of a meal, in dessert forms say as pumpkin tarts, or in pumpkin ale, we use a lot of them and they must be harvested carefully so they’re not damaged. Gus has the Several Annies working with some of his lads on getting them harvested in the next two weeks which would be just after a light frost which helps mature them.

I must leave you now as a shipment of books awaits my attention. I’ll see you here in just over a week and I have a pleasant surprise for you!

With love, Iain

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What’s New for the 13th of October: Music from Aaron Copland, a Superstar, a Horrible Folk Tale, Tolkien (Again), a Cuddly Leopard, and Do Have an Apple and Cheese Tart

She is our moon. Our tidal pull. She is the rich deep beneath the sea, the buried treasure, the expression in the owl’s eye, the perfume in the wild rose. She is what the water says when it moves. ― Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood

They’re sort of linked, so may I recommend McKillip’s Winter Rose and Solstice Wood for your Autumnal reading pleasure on a rainy, cold afternoon? They’re elegant novels full of  very interesting characters involved in stories both fantastical and believable at the same time. The latter novel even has a lot of stitchers in it!

Needless to say they’re always on heavy circulation here at the Kinrowan Estate Library. The Library has been particularly busy this week as we’ve gotten that wet, wind and frankly cold weather which means outside chores are in abeyance. So I  asked for recommendations on what to read, a task I delight in doing.

The Kitchen staff under the watchful eye of Mrs Ware has been doing all things apple right now. Apple muffins, apple pie, chicken stuffed  with apples and bacon, apple ice cream… you get the idea. And of course we’re pressing cider as well, some of it destined to be what you Yanks call hard cider. If you’re interested in learning more about that process, I recommend Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide. Now let me finish off this Edition so you can read it…

April has a truly horrific folktale for us: ‘In Deerskin, Robin McKinley delves into a dark tale of royal incest, derived from Frenchman Charles Perrault’s “Donkeyskin”. At its simplest, this oft-neglected, disturbing tale revolves around a deathbed promise extracted from a King by his Queen, to marry no woman not at least her equal. The Queen may have had good intentions, or may simply have been petty; either way, the result is inevitably the same: the King dutifully promises, remains unmarried for a number of years, then notices the striking resemblance of his daughter to her late mother.’

We usually give you a blurb from the review that we’re linking to but Chuck’s look at Steven Brust & Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy, Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, and Boiled in Lead’s Songs From The Gypsy recording is quite resistent to being blurbed as it is a magnificent, sprawling review that is well worth you reading, so just go read it over a mug of hot cider with an apple and cheddar cheese tart to nibble on.

Robert has a trip back in time, sort of, to the days of Andy Warhol and The Factory, with a book that has more than a few surprises: ‘Imagine, for a moment, that it is the 1960s – the last half of them, actually – and that you are a small-town boy attending a major Midwestern university in a major Midwestern city, where you are majoring in theater and art. One thing that is very big in your circle is Andy Warhol’s movies. Michael Ferguson’s Little Joe Superstar: The Films of Joe Dallesandro is a little bit more than nostalgia, and a little bit more than dèja vu: it is a lot that you never knew at the time, that in a way you wish you had known then but, in a way, you’re glad you didn’t.’

Warner looks at a story about a story about a story — or something like that: ‘Stories about stories can be interesting, whether they fail or succeed in their own right.  Clay McLeod Chapman, in The Remaking, has given us a story about ghost stories which is itself a ghost story in which the tale of Ella Louise and her daughter Jessica is being relived over and over again through different eras of telling. The particular focuses are the classic campfire tale, the 1970s low budget horror film, the self-aware 90s remake, and the modern podcast.’

Robert’s always on the lookout for something easy and filling for dinner, and came across one that fits the bill: ‘I like Mexican food almost as much as I like Indian food. Well, I like food, especially if it’s easy to prepare and filling. It’s even better if it’s something I don’t have all the time — as in, I made a huge batch of it and now I have to eat it. One of the recent additions to my fast dinner repertoire is Jose Ole’s Steak and Cheese Chimichangas.’

Good thing Robert has us covered, because Denise gave Reese’s Wasabi Horseradish a try, and was none too impressed. ‘No. No no no no no. NO. This isn’t wasabi, it’s an abomination.’ Read her review to see exactly why you should give this a wide berth.

Grey starts off her review of The Fellowship of The Ring in this most proper manner: ‘When a reviewer makes specific comments about plot elements in a book or a movie, it is a common internet convention to say, “Spoilers ahead!” I cannot think of a single movie made in recent years for which that warning has been less necessary. J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings is the cornerstone of modern fantasy, the trilogy that most readers of fantasy under sixty either cut their teeth on or discovered as an already well-established and well-weathered feature on the landscape of fantasy fiction.’ Go read her ever so delightful review thisaway.

Ed says this is a weak excuse for a Greatest Hits compilation: ‘If you missed the Horslips the first time around — they disbanded in 1980 after 10 years together — here’s a chance to hear a small piece of their ground-breaking work. Horslips Greatest Hits is probably a good introduction to this Dublin roots-rock band, but at only 40 minutes and with a mere 12 tracks gleaned from just a few albums, it offers an awfully skimpy history. The liner notes are virtually nonexistent, an underwhelming three sentences. There is no indication of which albums these songs originally appeared on. The tunes aren’t laid out in any logical order — certainly not chronological or based on the band’s musical development. Indeed the song order seems random and disjointed, a mindless cut and paste job.’

Peter saw Steeleye Span on their Reunion Tour and he says ‘I know it is hard to put a band together with a lineup that creates that little bit of extra magic, but I have said it before and I will say it again: ‘This is the line up, they are the Steeleye Span that everyone remembers and loves.’ Long may they reign!’

Richard argues strongly that ‘Contrary to what the liner notes in the recent Pearls from the Oysters compilation suggest, the finest period in the Oysterband’s long and illustrious history was the three CD arc that began with Deserters and culminated in The Shouting End of Life. The Shouting End of Life, the last of the three, is the most bitter of the lot. Holy Bandits, its predecessor, is the angriest. And Deserters? It is, for lack of a better word, the bravest of the trio. It’s defiant without being vitriolic, proud without being arrogant and energetic without being enraged.’

Robert ran across something new from a favorite composer — a twofer, in fact: Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air and Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band: ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air is a hard piece of music to describe, in part, perhaps, because although easy to listen to (at this point in history, at least), it’s not really very easy to make sense of.’

After her horrible experience with ‘wasabi’ in this edition, Denise had a chance to snuggle up with her Emotional Support Puppet, Folkmanis’ Snow Leopard Cub. ‘I just stare into his big dark blue eyes and give him a pat. And another. And yet another. ‘I think I’m in love.’ As the days begin to grow darker earlier and earlier, and the weather has a nip i it, why not find comfort in a snuggle? Furred, faux or fleshed, doesn’t matter. Everyone needs a big of cheer as we dip into Fall.’

Where’s that music by Aaron Copland that feels perfectly Autumnal to me? Ahhh there it is! It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’ from his Rodeo album. 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.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bonfires

Nothing warms my heart and body as much as a bonfire does. Other than my wife that is. Oh I know that I could be inside with my wife Catherine enjoying the warmth of one of the many fireplaces in this old building, but I love, particularly as Fall gives way to Winter, being outside when a roaring bonfire’s been built.

We build bonfires often in the courtyard here at the Kinrowan Estate. Sometimes we have contradances deep into the night with bloody big mugs of hot chocolate, spiced cider or tea to aid in keeping everyone warm, and sometimes the Neverending Session treats those who care to come out in the cold to music by fire and moonlight. There’s something rather amazing to hear those musos play long into the night with the stars overhead.

Now building a proper bonfire is not something most folks know how to do. They think just throwing anything wooden into a pile and lighting is all there is to it. And we won’t even dwell on the idiots who use petrol to ignite their bonfires which is a sure way to get someone hurt badly.

A proper bonfire first of all needs a pit, preferably made out of stone. Ours is twelve feet across and three feet deep — need I say that it’s set a safe distance from anything that could catch fire? The wood for the bonfire should be a mix of softwoods like spruce and pine for both its quick burning and its lovely crackling sound; the hardwoods we use are maple and oak as they’ll burn a long time.

Our fire pit has a three foot wide flat lip — perfect for sitting on as the fire dies down. As the courtyard has a nice stone tile surface perfect for dancing (at least ’til it gets really cold), we often use the bonfire as a light source for those dances. And we’ve actually roasted whole pigs in the pit — really good eating that makes!

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What’s New for the 6th of October: A breakfast biscuit, Women in Genre Fiction, Princess Bride Times Two, Trad Plus, Robert Hunter RIP and Autumn has really arrived!

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

Robert Hunter’s Brown-Eyed Women

Remember I mentioned Ingrid, my wife, who’s the Steward for the Estate,  did an inventory of the woollen blankets that we got last October, as most staffers keep the heat cool enough in their sleeping areas not to be too warm, and woollen blankets are preferred covers by most every soul here? Well, these are really nice ones. Some blankets seem to get lost, some down the decades just wear out. And replacing them is bloody expensive! Well the ones we ordered from the Anatolian mills just came in. I sense much wonderful sleeping is upon us this Winter season!

I’ve had breakfast, well an early afternoon one of a really big biscuit brimming with smoked ham, well done egg as I like it to be, sliced onion and cheese along with lots of cardamon coffee, so I’m ready to finish this Edition off so you can go ahead and have a go of it. There’s music from the late Robert Hunter  and a look at The Princess Bride in both of its forms, along with lots of other neat stuff.

Up for a bloody good alternate steampunk adventure based in a Victorian London that wasn’t? Elizabeth has one for us: ‘Nevertheless, an unconvincing conclusion aside, S.M. Peters’ Whitechapel Gods is a gorgeously written, endlessly inventive steampunk novel and a truly entertaining read.’

Jayme has the Good Parts for us: ‘Some forms of fantasy are pure escapism. Other forms use magic and myth to promote social consciousness. And then there’s The Princess Bride, a book that exists in a class all its own. William Goldman’s tale of True Love, Harsh Revenge and Rodents of Unusual Size exhibits a gleeful audacity seldom seen in literature before or since.’

Kathleen has a bit of Southern magic for us: ‘Cherie Priest is a first time novelist. However, she writes with ease and a deceptive power, like the flow of the Tennessee River through her home city of Chattanooga. Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a Southern Gothic with a hint of hard boiled mystery: there’s grit in the magnolia honey and in the heroine as well.’

Warner says happily ‘Gauging the influence of women on genre fiction can be rather difficult due to years of gender bias in criticism and historical recording. As a result I was pleased to hear the announcement of Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson. I love histories and biographies, and this work combines the two rather effectively. Written in a colloquial, almost casual, style this book nonetheless is informative and clear. As a result it is not only useful, but could easily serve as a textbook in a class for beginners studying the subject matter.’Denise welcomes the new month by…reviewing a St. Patrick’s day brew? Well, it is stout season, so we’ll allow it. Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.’s Cookie O’Puss Limited Edition Stout had her happily draining her glass. ‘…a lovely cycle of mint, chocolate, raw cocoa, and roasted malt that’ll have you emptying your glass before you know it.’

Denise also took a bite of Billinger’s Coffee Toffee 75% Dark Chocolate, Almond Toffee & Rich Roasted Coffee bar. ‘Sometimes I feel as though I’m not cool enough for some of these uber-fancy chocolate bars. Such was the case with this one…’ Read her full review to find out what she thinks of this treat!

L.G. happily says ‘Envision a film with Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, and Peter Cook that is absolutely hilarious, yet none of them appear in the lead roles. “Inconceivable!,” you cry and I reply, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” Yes, indeed, we are talking about The Princess Bride — the wildly successful movie based on the wildly successful book of the same title. Both book and screenplay were written by William Goldman which explains two things; 1) why they match up so well, and 2) why they’re both so very, very good. Fast-paced adventure and laugh-out-loud humor are combined to wonderful effect.’

Brendan looks at Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons: ‘This is an amazing CD that manages not only to pay tribute to the rural style of life but the entire field of American traditional music as well. Ungar and Mason have created a unique blend of orchestral and folk music that manages to preserve the integrity of each style while enhancing each other.’

Jack looks at a band back together after a very long break: ‘Pastures of Plenty, named for one of the more famous Woodie Guthrie song, brings back togather all the original members of the JSD Band for only the second time in the recording studio since their breakup in 1974. The band have been compiling new material over the last couple of years which draws from the same original mix of traditional Irish, Scottish and American traditional music along with a new song penned by fiddler Chuck Fleming. ‘

Meredith has a two-for for us: ‘Irish singer, songwriter, and vocalist Susan McKeown, originally of Dublin but now emigrated to New York City, is widely considered to be one of the fastest rising stars in contemporary music. She has released several critically acclaimed albums, both on her own and with her New York-based Celtic/jazz/rock band The Chanting House. She has proven herself to be a very versatile artist, as two recent collaborations amply illustrate.’

Aly Bain’s Aly Bain & Friends says Pat is ‘Exuberant, rich, steeped in tradition and eclectic, this album is a snapshot of one of the great fiddle players of recent times having a bit of fun. At the end of the day though, despite his forays into other musical genres, Aly Bain remains the quintessential Shetland fiddler and his many fans around the world are glad of it.’

So this What Not is a review of the masked Spider-Gwen figure, out of the many figures in the Rock Candy line of Marvel characters. She was more than a bit difficult to find, as she was a Hot Topic exclusive but she had long since disappeared from those stores by the time I managed to track her down some months later. The non-masked version showing Gwen Stacy with blonde hair was available online just about everywhere — at the original price.

I just learned that Robert Hunter died on the 23rd of September. Fuck. Since 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 done by 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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A Kinrowan Estate story: Tatties

Have I shown you our tattie patch yet? I haven’t? Well let’s see it now. It’s a bit of a walk to it, as we’ve needed a lot of space down the centuries for this endeavour, as tatties get used for a lot of purposes, including several not so successful attempts by the more enthusiastic members of our staff to replicate their favorite vodkas! Oh they managed to make a passable vodka but (as the Brewmaster at the time recorded in his journal) they did couldn’t quite get the distillation process right. So after the regrettable accident in the Thirties with their still that went BOOM!, vodka making was banned.

Ahhh, we’re here now. Not much to look at now as most of the tubers have long since been harvested but there’s a few late season varieties in the ground which will get harvested this week before we get a hard frost as they are unfortunately sensitive to such frosts, which damage them in the ground. Even not terribly cold weather makes tatties far more susceptible to bruising and quite possibly later rotting, which can quickly ruin a large stored crop, and that we do not want to happen!

Tatties are a lot fussier than most non-gardeners, and a lot of gardeners as well, realize. This rather steep slope has been used for tatties for centuries now and carefully tended the whole time. It’s now a soil with lots of compost added in and even a bit of sand to facilitate draining . . . Note that it’s fully open to the sun and air flow here is excellent which keeps the damp away.

We’re harvesting tatties for two breads that Mrs. Ware and her kitchen staff want to make in a week or so . . . I’ll show you the recipes she’s using when we get back to the Kitchen, as they’re quite interesting and have been used here ever since they were published in Keesling’s 1890 Book Of Recipes And Household Hints. These are mostly Russets and Red Pontiac varieties, with the former probably better suited for using in bread than the latter. Of course tattie breads run the spectrum from Okrągły chleb kartoflany which is a light and airy Ukrainian tattie bread to the German Kartoffelbrot, which may contain spelt and rye flour.

OK, let’s take our harvest back to my workshop where we’ll gently clean them and set them on wire racks to cure for a week or so…

Mrs. F.M. Harwood’s Potato Ball Bread

Scald a tablespoonful of flour with a pint of water. Take a pint of fresh mashed potatoes, when cool, add a small potato ball (left from last baking), and one teaspoonful salt, two teaspoonfuls sugar, beat thoroughly. Take out half or three fourths of a cup of this mixture and save it to start bread next time. Mix the remainder of the potatoes with the scalded flour, and let rise overnight; next morning add a pint of tepid water to the yeast or sponge and enough flour to knead well: let rise, work down and rise again before putting in pan, when very light mould into a loaf and a pan of biscuit.

Mrs. PJ Studebaker’s Potato Beer Bread

One cup of dried yeast, soak twenty minutes, stir stiff with flour, and let rise; boil four potatoes, scald two spoonfuls of flour with beer from boiled potatoes, mash potatoes and mix with beer and flour. Stir in three quarts of water, then the yeast, let stand overnight; in the morning stir in flour to make thin batter, let rise, then knead stiff with flour, let rise, knead, then rise again, knead out in pans to bake, let rise, then bake in forty-five minutes.

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What’s New for the 29th of September: A Folkmanis Robot, Mug Cakes, Pogues Sans Shane McGowan, McKillip’s “Mystery” Story and Other Autumnal Matters

If the evidence says you’re wrong, you don’t have the right theory. You change the theory, not the evidence. — John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar

Oh those puppets. They’re the extra ones of an Autumnal nature that Folkmanis sent along, so I gave them a home on the shelves behind my desk here in our Estate Library. I particularly like the Mouse in the Pumpkin one, which Denise is reviewing for Autumnal Matters edition. Cute, isn’t she?

Now why don’t you give me a few minutes to finish up this Edition and we’ll head off to the Kitchen, as the season’s upon us when the staff’s making babka, that oh so exquisitely chocolate, rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with the just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools, especially  when served with warm cider in those oversized mugs that some of my Several Annies crafted quite a while back.

Jayme has a book he’s very pleased about for us: ‘What a fascinating book! I’ve long been a fan of the Henson-produced science fiction series Farscape, particularly the effort the program always put in to making the alien species that populated the Farscape universe seem, well, alien. In The Creatures of Farscape: Inside Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, author Joe Nazarro takes readers behind the scenes to show with informative, straightforward prose — along with the aid of lavish photographs, sketches and concept art — just what kind of effort was needed to pull off one of the ambitious creative works ever presented on television.’

Richard has a cautionary note for us: ‘To say that Summer Morning, Summer Night is minor Bradbury is, I think, to miss the point entirely. While it shares the same Green Town, Illinois setting as his legendary Something Wicked This Way Comes, the material collected here works on a smaller, more delicate scale. It’s chamber music, not a brass band or a full orchestra, affectionate and truth-telling and warm in a way that only Bradbury can manage.’

Robert has a novel that’s merely good by the standards of that writer: ‘Patricia A. McKillip seems to write two kinds of novels. On the one hand, she has produced what I can only call thoughtful adventure stories, such as Riddle-Master. On the other are what I call the “mystery” stories — not detective fiction, but those stories that involve a central mystery in the religious sense: a transcendent image that cannot be explained or really even described. The Tower at Stony Wood is one of the latter.’

Sara’s ecstatic about a sequel: ‘Yay sequels! Loved faces and familiar places! Well, okay, maybe not in the Abarat. This gorgeous and meaty second book, in Clive Barker’s four book series about the adventures of Candy Quackenbush through the Abarat’s many things rich and strange is certainly every bit as entertaining and mysterious as the last, but in the Abarat, nothing is familiar, or comfortable, or certain.’ Read her review of Days of Magic, Nights of War to see what got her excited.

West Coast Cat takes a foray into mug cakes. Mug cakes? you ask. Says Cat: ‘Food crazes come and go, and I noticed that a current one is for mug cakes of various sorts. I tried a few and have thoughts. Mug cake, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is cake made in a mug in the microwave. Look in the baking mix section of your supermarket, if you’re American, and you’ll notice a sudden abundance of the “cake for one” concept.’ As for her thoughts on this phenomenon, you can find them here.

Mia happily notes that ‘Ignore the requisite “cute” child actor playing Mike Benedict (oddly, “cute” in 1960’s movies was often portrayed by whining and acting both obnoxious and mentally slow) and concentrate on the amazing performances by Tony Randall and the harsh but satisfying lessons taught by Dr. Lao and his circus performers. Moral but never preachy, sentimental but never maudlin, The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is not to be missed.’

Craig happily notes that ‘Will Eisner’s The Best of The Spirit culls twenty-two stories from the dozen-year run of The Spirit, with two early selections (including the 1940 origin story). The vast majority, however, come from the postwar period, with 1946, 1948, and 1949 the most heavily represented. The introduction by Neil Gaiman (author of The Sandman series) acknowledges Eisner’s influence on him and otherwise reinforces Eisner’s importance to the medium (the community’s annual awards are named after him).’

Joe says ‘It’s not many bands that can claim to have invented a whole musical genre, but that’s what Horslips are credited with. Without them we wouldn’t have Celtic Rock. Of course Fairport Convention had been rocking up jigs and reels for a few years before the Irish band released their debut single “Johnny’s Wedding” in 1971, but with their first album Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part in ’72, the first real Celtic Rock album came into being.’

Peter wryly notes ‘The second album by the JSD Band was released in 1972 with declamatory sleeve notes by John Peel (the hippest man alive at the time). It included this account of a typical gig by this effervescent young band: “In a dark corner I danced with as much abandon as I ever allow myself and, for the umpteenth time blessed bands like the Faces and Lindisfarne who have brought joy and rowdiness back to our music.” He also went on to mention that “…no-one who goes on to buy this LP is ever going to flog it again…” How right he was.’

Robert has some comments on Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns: ‘Full disclosure: as much as I am ever a “fan” of anything, I am a Linkin Park junkie. I suspect that’s only partly because they do loud, obnoxious rock and roll; it’s also partly because they are very sophisticated musicians who use the same vocabulary that musicians have been using since at least the sixteenth century. There’s a nice sense of continuity there.’

And Robert has something from the other end of the musical spectrum — or is it? Decide for yourself after reading his review of Leopold Stokowski’s collection of Rhapsodies: ‘No one who ever saw Disney’s Fantasia can forget Leopold Stokowski, who in many ways was the star of the film, even though he shared conducting honors with Mickey Mouse. Stokowski’s reputation as one of classical music’s greats is still largely unassailable, even though our taste as turned towards “purer” renderings, those that are more about the composer than the interpreter. Stokowski was, first and foremost, an interpreter, known as much for his tendency to pull out all the stops as for his musical erudition. This collection of concert favorites is a showcase for his particular brand of conducting.’

West Coast Cat brings us this week’s What Not, a somewhat odd creation from Folkmanis: Are you ready for a robot hand puppet? Well, that’s what we’ve got for you. You can go here to read Cat’s reaction.

So you hear the band name The Pogues and quite naturally think that their vocalist is Shane McGowan. Well for  most of the time the band was around,  you’d be right. But they did have a number of other vocalists down the decades when that wasn’t so and I’ll introduce you to one tonight in the guise of Andrew Ranken who performed the lead vocals on the ‘Star of the County Down’ in Köln Sporthalle, Germany on the seventh of November twenty eight years ago. He was their drummer and harmonica player and he appeared on all their official releases in those capacities.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Fall Equinox Tale

I strongly urge that you do not join the teller of this tale later, nor should you drink too deeply of what he is offering you…

Come in. Yes, the party is here in the Pub tonight. There will be rituals in the hills and the Wood later, but I advise you to avoid them. Join me here, at least for the time being. I can’t stay for the evening — there are things I must do elsewhere tonight, but that will be later on. Oh, forgive me — I’m sure you recognize Reynard, and there’s Reynard’s cousin Kit, and I saw several Jacks around earlier. I am . . . well, I have many names, but you can call me Jake. Yes — Jake will do for tonight.

You’re just in time. People are starting to arrive from the press barn — yes, we do it the old-fashioned way here, and everyone pitches in. Fortunately, it’s still warm enough to use the pumps outside to clean up. That’s what I like to see — people are tired but happy. Look, even McKenzie is smiling, and the Annies are positively glowing. After all, it’s the Wine Harvest, the Merry Moon, when Summer’s work is done and the bloody business of colder days has yet to start. So, no meat for tonight’s feast, but we have fresh bread and a rich vegetable stew and good cheeses to share.

Grab a glass or a tankard — we still have the last of the old vintage, and good ale and beer. Come over to the corner, where the Neverending Session has set up. The music will be a little different tonight, I think. I’ve brought a couple of friends who will be playing — yes, those fellows there. Ah, I see you recognize the piper. Fitting him for boots was a problem, and we had to cut a hole in his pants for his tail. Oh, yes, we had to put him into pants, else the evening would have gotten much too lively much too soon. He lacks restraint, and I thought it best to keep him indoors tonight, and to keep him playing — there will be enough madness in the wild places. At any rate, there will be some fine music tonight — my friends have been playing together for time out of mind. And there will be tales later — I know the storyteller of old, and he’s a rare one.

What? The Equinox? Oh, no — that’s only part of it. Yes, tonight is a night when we observe time in balance, but it’s more than just day and night — it’s one of the days we can look back and forward, like Janus the Two-Faced. It’s nothing so simple as ‘balance,’ at least as your thinking of it — it’s a complex and delicate thing, an equilibrium that is already out of place, that only holds its shape for an instant, part of the long interplay between day and night, dark and light, the eternal dance of the Kings as each in turn takes his place as Lord of the Wheel. It’s the ends of the circle that count, do you understand? Tonight is just a pause to take a breath and rejoice before the serious business starts again.

And it’s the midpoint of the Harvests, which I rule with my brothers. You hold a mug of my brother John’s bounty in your hand, and my brother Kern will come in his turn with the harvest of the woods, that can only be bought with blood. They offer sustenance, as do I — I stand between them and bring joy. Remember, the Harvests mark a time of sacrifice — we offer our lives, and I my beloved as well, and tonight we celebrate my gift. No, don’t regret it. Accept it gladly, as it was given, lest you belittle them and me — no one lives without the sacrifice of others. Acknowledge it, and treasure it, and give us your blessing.

Ah, I see them slipping out. I suspected they would — fox-haired Kit and his cat-eyed companion. Ha! You didn’t even know he’d come in, did you? They’re good at being unnoticed, the both of them — I’ve seen them slipping through the Wood like smoke, and not even the sharp-eyed ravens marked their passing. They’ll be coursing the woodland paths tonight, offering shelter. That Wood belongs to Kit, though I can’t guess how much of it he’s gifted to his friend — and don’t be fooled by that one — they are subtle and devious, both of them — and they understand that sacrifice must be willing. Kit has declared that tonight is not the night for bloodshed in his domain, and I have agreed, out of respect — he is my elder, after all. I daresay any bands of my celebrants who wander into the Wood will find themselves wandering out again in short order.

For the rest, you’d best stay in tonight. Stay close to the fire. See, the storyteller is here, so there will be tales told, strange and wondrous, and, if I know anything about this place, many healths pledged.

No — sadly, I have other tasks ahead of me, other places I must be, and I must say adieu. Tomorrow? No, I can’t promise that, but next year — next year for certain.

For tonight, be merry!

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What’s New for the 22nd of September: Falstaff’s Fireplace, Superb Chocolate, Single Pot Irish Whiskey, Great Fiction and Sweet Music — Small Treats Indeed!

One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats, and if some of these can be inexpensive and quickly procured so much the better. — Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea

Would you like a taoscán of Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey? It’s not cheap but it’s considered the Pappy Van Winkle of Irish whiskies, as it’s both that good and that uncommon as well. We paid dearly for our bottle and I don’t expect that it’ll last very long. Good, I’ll get that for you. I’m sure you’ll find it quite amazing.

So Autumnal weather arrived today with a sharp tang in the air and rain as well. You’ll notice that it’s busy here in our Pub as both Estate staff and visitors are enjoying the fact that I’ve got Falstaff’s Fireplace well stoked this afternoon. And the Kitchen sent over several baskets of baked treats such as blackberry scones and their ever so popular dark chocolate chip cookies too.

Everything we review here could, by the measure established by Iris Murdoch, be considered a small pleasure. So read on to which ones you would  like to be your small pleasures.

Kestrell says ‘Rebecca Munford’s Re-visiting Angela Carter should be considered a necessary text for any scholar of Angela Carter’s work. Due to the density of the lit crit language, the this book is probably not for the general reader, although the dedicated Carter fan with a familiarity with literary criticism terms may wish to acquire a copy. It would also be wonderful to find this text being used in classes which focus on feminist approaches to film, radio, and other media.’

Kestrel in her second  review apprehensively says ‘when I sat down to view Lifeline Theatre’s live stage production of Neverwhere, I had my doubts. Works of fantasy offer a particular challenge for live theatre in that the fantastic often translates poorly to the limitations of the flesh and the material world, resulting in bad fur suits and the omission of many favorite passages.’ Now read her review to see why she was amazed by this performance!

Michael has a collection of short stories from a very prolific author: ‘Azazel is a collection of eighteen of his modern fantasy stories, all written during the 1980s. They originated in a story Issac Asimov wrote for a monthly mystery magazine, but, as the editor objected to the recurring fantasy elements, he soon found a home for an altered version of the concept at the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. After two such stories, the editor at Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine objected to the titular head of the magazine selling stories elsewhere, and thus, the next sixteen found a home at IASFM.’

Robert has the first volume of what could be an exceptional fantasy series, if this book is any indication: ‘Despite what the church claimed and the people believed, this was still a Kingdom born of younger sons, the land-hungry and the dispossessed. Thus begins one of the more fascinating books I’ve read in a while, Chaz Brenchley’s The Devil in the Dust.’

Robert has some very special chocolate for us: ‘Willie’s Cacao is the name of a chocolatier owned and operated by William Harcourt-Crooze, an Englishman with a passion for chocolate. Willie maintains that cacao from particular locations is like a fine wine, with its own flavor and character. Not surprisingly, given that approach, each of his chocolates is made from beans from a single estate.

David looks at the The Three Musketeers  and The Four Musketeers, both directed by Richard Lester: ‘The two films stand on their own merits individually but also form a wonderful whole when viewed together. The characters develop from the first to the second film. The relationships grow convincingly, and the action never lets up. There is sex, romance, and true love. There is action, and wit, and slapstick comedy. The scripts are glorious models of the screenwriter’s art, and there is not a bad performance to be seen. The sets are rich and faithful to the time, and the score (by Lalo Schifrin) underpins it all.’

Gary was moved by La misteriosa musica della Regina Loana, a tribute by two Italian jazz masters (Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia) to their late friend, author and philosopher Umberto Eco. ‘It’s a loving tribute to Eco and at the same time a masterful performance of music that evokes an era but lives utterly in the present.’

Jessica notes that ‘Though The Lonesome Crowded West deals with ugly subjects, it does so effectively, with honesty and understanding. Stylistically, it can at times be both coarse and difficult. And Brock’s wavering lisp is not for everyone. However, I consider Modest Mouse to be one of the most talented and original young groups currently making music, and the way in which they graft various roots-music styles into the stuttering alienation of post-punk gives me hope that their appeal is not as limited as the self-referential indie rock scene.’

Green Linnet went out of business quite some decades ago, but Patrick reminds us that they were quite important in the Celtic Music music scene once upon a time: ‘And through it all, we can always count on Green Linnet to assemble some of the finest groups and most wonderful music in the genre, thanks in no small part to founder Wendy Newton’s willingness to stop and marvel at the musicians and revel in their music. As for finding something to rejoice about, take your pick of any of the artists featured on Nua Teorainn, one of the label’s latest releases. Each is extraordinary.’

Tim disclaims ‘I’ll admit, I don’t care for electronics in traditional musical forms, so I didn’t expect to like this CD. I didn’t want to like it. In the end, though, the arrangements were so inventive, and Kerstin Blodig’s voice so compelling, that I found myself listening to Valivann over and over again.’

Our What Not this week is from Cat, who takes a look at a Rock Candy figure of Lady Thor. Rock Candy? That’s what it says.

Good music of course is always a welcome small treat and so I’ve got such a treat for you in the form of ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’  by the Irish group De Dannan Lee by Frankie Gavin as recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in  Dayton, Ohio thirty seven years ago. This version of De Dannan seems to have gone defunct as their website has been shuttered. Actually neither version of the group (don’t ask, it’s too long a story to tell now and it’s depressing to boot) appears to exist anymore.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Hard Rain is Falling

If you’ve visited us and been here when it was raining, you know why we put in a modern heating system. Heating with wood was cold, really cold in the winter, and miserably damp when it rained. I mentioned that as we’re in the middle of what is forecast to be a week of heavy rain.

Even I, who love all things outdoors in some pretty miserable weather, have curtailed all outdoor activities as much as possible. I’ve gratefully let my staff, many much younger than me, do the duties needed to keep Estate livestock safe while I and my wife stay in our modernised crafter cottage reading, listening to music, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Mind you, that much rain impacts everything. It’s far worse in its own way than a blizzard as folks know that’s really dangerous, but forget that a torrential rain storm can both cause hypothermia and cause anyone to get lost under the best possible conditions. It’s certainly possible to die within a handful of minutes. And the livestock has to be kept inside (save the ducks and geese who really like getting wet) in order to be safe.

Not to mention that I and my staff will have very long work days as soon as it stops raining, as there’ll be paths to rebuild, gardens to check for damage (good practices help minimise damage), forests to survey for dangerous hanging branches, and such and so forth.

But for now, we’ve got the Penguin Cafe Orchestra playing, I’m writing this post up, my wife is reading some mystery novel, one by Tony Hillerman I think, and we’re nice and toasty. That’s enough to make us as content as our cats are right now.

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Whats New for the 15th of September: Patrick Street, Ethan Iverson Quartet, Ashley Hutchings, Patricia McKillip, The Band, Issac Asimov and Other Matters as We See Fit

Good times don’t last long sometimes. — Levon Helm

We’ve had our first not so light frost last night, which was a few days early but not unusual for us. Gus, our Estate Gardener, protected what needed protecting and ruefully acknowledged that it meant that for many things the growing season was indeed at an end. So now his crew will be harvesting and processing a lot of produce that we’ll be gratefully using this coming off season.

So it’s likely we’ll have a garlic heavy squash soup with smoked pork sausage in it for supper sometime in this coming fortnight. Tonight we’re having a lasagna made with pork, tomatoes and peppers from our gardens with the oh so tasty cheese from Running Hill Estate.

Hmmm… I’ll tell you the fascinating story of Kedgeree before you turn to our reviews  as it’s considered a traditional British breakfast dish but its origins are rooted in Indian cooking having started its life as khichari, a simple dish of rice and lentils. Due to the British Raj and the colonization of the sub-continent the dish was taken, adapted and turned into something more suited to those serving in India, and it came to Britain during the Victorian era.

Cat leads us off with alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, where the British Empire decamps to India: ‘The much more Indian that English culture is a brilliant re-visioning of British history that reads like vintage Poul Anderson, particularly his Dominic Flandry series. It features rugged heroes — male and female — vivid combat scenes, exotic locales, and truly evil villains. Hell, it even has Babbage machines, the great analytical engines that Sir Charles Babbage never built but which also play an important role in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine.’

Grey has one of her favourite books for us: ‘Some of the GMR staff were having a conversation about books that are beautifully written, books whose authors obviously love the English language and use it skillfully, extravagantly, profligately, even orgiastically. Patricia McKillip’s The Book of Atrix Wolfe is on my list of such books. It’s a book I return to at least twice a year, to linger once again in the richness of its language.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two 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.’

It turns out that we don’t know who did this review as we had the wrong reviewer credited  but it is a splendid one nonetheless: ‘When faced with a work of the stature of I, Robot, one is pretty much at a loss. This is the collection of Isaac Asimov’s stories about robots that originally appeared between 1940 and 1950, collected and provided with a frame: Dr. Susan Calvin, the chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., is being interviewed; this collection is her reminiscences of her career and some of the more interesting personalities — human and otherwise — she has known.’

This issue, Denise digs into Specially Selected Mango Chili Flavored Tortilla Strips with Chia Seeds. ‘Aldi is quickly becoming my go-to place for finding new things to try. They have a knack for creating items that make me do a double-take, and then put said things into my cart. Like these chips.’

Fairport Convention has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’

Gary was quite pleased with Common Practice, a new jazz album by the Ethan Iverson Quartet with trumpeter Tom Harrell. ‘This is a beautiful recording of standards from the swing and bop eras (and a couple of Iverson compositions in that spirit), played in a modern way but with respect to their history.’

Gary reports on Dori Freeman’s third Americana release: ‘Dori Freeman is amassing an impressive catalog of work as she grows into her professional career as a songwriter, recording artist and performer, as well as a mature adult navigating her way through the world. Every Single Star is yet another solid demonstration of how to turn the particulars of a life into songs with universal appeal.’

Lars has a very fine album for us: ‘Live from Patrick Street was recorded in 1998 during a tour of Great Britain and Ireland. It is an unusual live album due to the fact that more than half of the tracks are previously unreleased. In that respect, it should be treated as a new album, not as a greatest hits-collection performed live. As usual, there is a mixture of songs (five) and instrumental tracks (seven); and, as usual, it is played with all the expertise you would expect from these gentlemen. We are talking the creme de la creme here.’

Patrick says that Lowlands, Susan McKeown’s sixth album, is ‘one of the most fascinating works I have listened to in what seems ages. There isn’t a bad song — not even a mediocre one — on this 12-track CD. Her practice of combining traditional works with non-traditional instrumentation gives each piece a very unearthly feel, while keeping their roots quite grounded in the fertile Celtic soil.’

Did you have a lovely Friday the 13th? Yes, lovely. No one here suffers from Friggatriskaidekaphobia, and neither should you. In fact, we relish the day. Why not? Frigg is a great goddess! Wisdom, prescience, and not to forget she’s the very entity we get Friday from! What’s not to like about that? (In this instance I’ll skip the Frigg/Freja discussion. We can have that at another time.)

So the next time you hear people freaking out about Friday the 13th, just smile. It’s gonna be a good day. A Frigg-in’ great day, in fact.

So let’s have some rock and roll. I’ve been thinking of The Band which is more or less a Canadian group despite doing ‘The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down’ which is one of the great anti-war protest songs ever. But I’m thinking of something a lot less heavy by them, to wit ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ in which lead vocalist Levon Helm recites the story Robbie Robertson wrote of a not so epic but highly entertaining day that an average joe has.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Theatre in the Round (A Letter to Annbjørg)

Greetings Annbjørg,

About that theatre I mentioned — we’ve had a theatre in the round for nearly forty years now, ever since the a particular Steward developed a deep affection for theatre. He noticed that the very old stone livestock auction barn either had to be repaired or torn down before it fell down. And the last auction held there was generations ago, as that activity moved to Riverrun Farm, as it was more convenient for all the farmers.

It’s about forty feet across and two stories high — apparently there was no way to heat it, so all the theatre done there was done in the summer and early fall, though there was one Estate muso who convinced the Neverending Session to do a concert there on Winter Solstice just after it was renovated. It is said by those there that it was an interesting event as Border smallpipes and fiddles sound superb there!

So we cleaned out the space, fixed the slate roof and pointed up the stone exterior, and added a stage. And then it got interesting, as the Steward noticed it was a tall enough interior that we could have three levels of staging and seating. He readily agreed to spending the funds to do so, as Jackie, a musician resident here then, said it’d make a dandy summer and fall concert venue. And so it has been ever since.

The Welsh folk punk band, Ymyl Danheddog (Serrated Edge), always plays there when it’s warm enough to do so, and one of the Several Annies who’s Welsh plans on doing A Child’s Christmas in Wales there this Winter, as we just added a Russian stove system there which was a costly affair indeed.

At any rate, I’m hoping you and your hardingfele fiddle make it here for the tune swap planned for the fortnight around Candlemas.

Warmest regards, Reynard

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What’s New for the 8th of September: Celtic Music, Making Cider, Folkmanis dragons, Sherlock Holmes films, Pub Renovations, Music by the Old Blind Dogs and There’s a Touch of Frost in The Air

Like legend and myth, magic fades when it is unused. — Charles de Lint’s The Little Country

The Pub’s closed for a fortnight for its once a decade cleaning, as it gets a complete overhaul with everything from the slate floor removed and thoroughly cleaned to a complete paint job, which is a pain in the ass, given the size of the Pub. Of course, everything has to removed from it and stored away, which takes time as well. I’ve moved my office into an adjacent space to oversee the renovations. It’s worth it, but oh, the look on patrons when they see the We’re close for cleaning sign is somewhat heartbreaking.

So I’m pretty much free to do what I want as we’ve hired a outside firm to do the work needed. And Iain’s busy this week so I got the Sunday edition. Right now I’m sitting in the Kitchen having a late lunch, which is a plate of smoked turkey, cheese and hard rolls while listening to the kitchen crew talk about what’s going on about the Estate. I learned there’s two new pregnancies, one marriage coming up and we’ve got a Latvian Several Annie arriving next week.

Thinking about the coming colder weather got you down? Well Deborah has a reading recommendation: ‘While I recommend this book whole-heartedly for reading any time of day or night, on a plane, on a train, or simply on the couch at home, here is my specific prescription for Patricia McKillip’s The Bell at Sealey Head: buy it, place it upon your bookshelf, and wait. Wait until a day when you feel blue, or when the world is blue around you, with stormy heavens and endless rain. Make a cup of tea, settle yourself among soft pillows and fabrics, and then enter The Bell at Sealey Head. Savor it. You’ll feel better immediately.’

Kate ponders  Cats Have No Lord: ‘It was not immediately clear when I began to read this book exactly how the title fit with the story. However, the characters brilliantly pull a reader in, until the question is revealed, “Why do Cats Have No Lord?” I believe that is the first comical twist Will Shetterly gives this very busy plot.’

Robert says that ‘A good argument can be made for calling Emma Bull’s Bone Dance an urban fantasy. There is a great deal to do with the spirit world, events that are only explainable in terms of magic of some sort, and there are visitations from supernatural beings. However, the fact that it is set in a post-Apocalyptic dystopia, technology plays a pivotal role (although that is more because of its scarcity than because of its reliability), and the magic comes from “hoodoo” (Voudou is part of modern reality, for some of us at least) make me place it firmly in science fiction (which does, after all, leave room for beings with advanced mental powers).’ After you read his review, go read the first chapter here, courtesy of Emma.

Warner wasn’t too happy with the first volume of a new trilogy: ‘So sometimes, you just cannot connect with a book. Lies of Descent is the first book in a new trilogy by Troy Carrol Bucher. It is also a volume that fails in many ways to connect with the reader. The start is promising, if cliche, of a young man in a hard life discovering he has a very special destiny, and a girl making a similar discovery.’

It being nigh unto Autumn, let’s look at Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide which comes with a warning from Gereg: ‘Let’s get the down side out of the way first. This is not a book you’ll pick up for light entertainment. It’s not a particularly a lively read, nor is it often witty (though the wit, where it comes out, is as dry as a good cider).’ If however you want to make hard cider as the Yanks call it, you really should read his review!

Craig has his Holmes for us: ‘The Sherlock Feature Film Collection gathers together the five feature-length installments of the Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke series, giving the viewer an opportunity to see these two actors together over a more leisurely period of time. Some are better than others, of course, but all of them allow us to further get to know this Holmes and Watson, without being rushed by the necessity of getting the story told in an hour’s time.’

We’re deep in Celtic this edition covering the Cornish, Manx, Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditions. So let’s get started…

Our lead-in review isn’t precisely Celtic but it is based on the music that Charles de Lint wrote for The Little Country, his novel  featuring Cornish small piper Janey Little, so it has its roots in Cornish music. Thus Cat has some comments on somewhat non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’

Debbie has a great Scottish recording for us in Brian McNeill’s The Busker And The Devil’s Only Daughter: ‘As with all other albums I’ve heard by Brian McNeill, there is much to delight the listener. His creativity and eclectic approach to his music, laced with his honest passion for what he’s doing, make this worth seeking out despite some minor unevenness here and there.’

Barrule’s Manannan’s Cloak gets praised by Gary: ‘The Isle of Man is a small island in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, with a lot of history and an ancient Celtic culture. Barrule is a trio that is celebrating that culture and bring the island’s jigs, reels and old Manx songs to the world. The group consists of fiddler Tomas Callister, guitarist and bouzouki player Adam Rhodes, both Manx natives and leading lights in the current revival of the music scene, and Welsh accordionist Jamie Smith (who also has a Welsh band called Mabon). This is their second album, and it’s a wonderfully lively collection of tunes and songs.’

Calennig’s A Gower Garland says Lars ‘may not be everyone´s cup of tea, but it should be interesting to anyone with the slightest interest in Welsh music or Welsh culture, even though everything here is sung in English. I know what I will be playing in the car stereo the next time I get the opportunity to visit Rhossili Bay.’

Patrick has an equally superb Irish album for us: ‘The ease with which they deliver these pieces on Street Life is an abject lesson to every young band looking to achieve longevity in a very fickle marketplace. There was a time when each new Patrick Street album defined the session content of every Irish-music-type person in North America. Those days may have passed given the availability of other recordings but their new albums are always welcome and given some of the directions “Celtic music” is taking these days I think I’ll stick with the tried and true.’

Mia has a bonnie brunch of fantastical dragons and one gryphon for us: ‘These four puppets are lovely examples of why Folkmanis is the single premier fantasy puppetmaker. This is just a small sampling of their dragons and other fantastic creatures; they have several other dragons, a sea serpent, a pegasus, a unicorn . . . and boy do I have my eye on the griffin. Folkmanis puppets are great for kids who want to use their imagination in play — but I really think they’re better for adults like me who never really plan to grow up.’

The weather’s already starting to get cooler here, so let’s see if we’ve got some  music to match … so how about ‘Come a’ Ye Kincardine Lads’ by the Old Blind Dogs, a Scottish trad band that’s very, very popular around here? It was recorded at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre located somewhere in Ohio back in March sixteen years ago. The fine sound tells me it was a soundboard recording.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Discographies ( A Letter to Jackson)

G’Day Jackson,

Iain asked me to teach the Several Annies, Iain’s Library Apprentices, the proper way of constructing a discography. It’s trickier than it looks as it requires a lot of research in obscure corners of the internet and an willingness to ignore what the band thinks is the history of the band.

A discography is the study and cataloging of published sound recordings, often by specified artists or within identified musical genres. The exact information varies depending on the manner of the discography, but one for a recording will often list such details as the names of the artists involved, the time and place of the recording, the titles of the pieces performed, release dates, chart positions, and sales figures. What we’re doing is less about that sort of detail than where and when the recording was done, and who’s on the recording.

I started them off an easy project, that of Chasing Fireflies, the very local contradance band that plays here and in the region. They’ve got three recordings out, all on their own label, Falling Down Dancing Recordings. We had all of the recordings in the Music Library so they could go there for the actual recordings. And all of the musos themselves were all here, so they could ask them questions if need be.

(I suggested that for the purposes of this project that constructing a history of the band would also be good. A very nice oral history of Chasing Fireflies was done, good enough that Iain was very impressed.)

We also tackled the delicate question of EPs from bands that fell apart after releasing a one-off EP such as one from Cuillin, a Cape Breton group, that was sent to us as a favour. I insisted upon a cataloging note that the band never actually toured and that this EP was the only recording they did. Same holds true, or perhaps even truer, for a Celtic band by the name of The Windbags who cut an EP but never even existed outside of that one-off in the studio. 

I made it much more complicated for the final project by choosing the Oysterband, a very long-running band. I told them that I want a full discography including any promotional releases and bootlegs of significance. Oh, that was fun.

When the band was the Oyster Band, they released a recording called Freedom And Rain with June Tabor as a guest artist. Officially that was the only recording released to the public. Dig a little deeper and you find a Ryko disc called Freedom and Rain Tour ’91 Sampler which includes splendid covers of ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Both are quite superb but the best recording is a bootleg catching them in full glory in Minneapolis during their American tour!

That exercise led the Annies to learn how a bootleg is cataloged, a tricky task as ofttimes the releasing party takes no credit for their frequently splendid work. Garry Freeman’s The Bootleg Guide (Scarecrow Press, 2005) is the gold standard for what a bootleg is and how to catalog it.

I think they learned a lot about both the difficulty of making a complete discography and the fun of discovering the hidden history of a long-running band. All in all, it was a entertaining week for them.

Cheers, Reynard

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What’s New for The 1st of September: Italian flugelhorn music, a Zelazny collection, Pogues fronted by Strummer, a Miles Morales Spider-Man and Summer is Fading Away

To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due. — Hob Gadling, toasting upon Dream’s journey as told in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists

Autumn is yet to arrive here with its promise of bonfires, fresh pressed cider, of blackberries fat and tart on their prickly bushes  and pumpkins still ripening on the vine, but it’s also the time of year that we get fully in gear about getting ourselves ready for the coming Winter.  So if you visit us on the Kinrowan Estate, someone will ask you to pitch in on some task or other that does need doing. So dress appropriately, have a good attitude, sturdy footware and you’ll be appreciated here rather nicely.

It’s rather quiet in the Pub on this warm afternoon, as almost everyone who can be is outside is either doing needed chores or just enjoying the unseasonably warm weather as it’s twenty three out right now, with not a breeze to be felt. I’ve the windows open here airing the place out, which is something I rarely get to do this time of year. I do have a group of German tourists sampling ciders and chatting with me about northern German favourite foods we share in common.

Denise has a fantasy that makes her long for the next book in the series: ‘What do you get when you take an assassin sick of killing, a petulant half-demon and his hubba-hubba aide “Nursie,” a barely pubescent girl who would leave a marathoner in the dust, and a cook so amazing she could make gruel taste like foie gras? The beginnings of Kage Baker’s The Anvil of the World, one of the most enjoyable romps I’ve had between the pages in a very long time.’

Robert looks at The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories: ‘This is one of those instances where I have to stop myself or go on for pages and pages. Let it suffice that, as I was dipping into the stories once more in preparation for this review, I found myself caught again and again by images bizarre, frightening and wonderful, less than willing to put the book down until I had finished whatever tale had caught my eye. As much of Roger Zelazny’s work as I’ve read (and at this point, I think it’s almost everything), I can’t offhand think of any better introduction.

Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s Point Of Dreams says Sarah ‘is basically a murder mystery. The city of Astreiant may be in a world where magic works and ghosts walk, but it’s still a mystery. That magic only serves to complicate things for the law enforcers, the Pointsmen, so called because their stations, and perhaps their beats, are known as Points. A point is also what a Pointsman makes where a policeman would say a charge. The people of Astreiant make their words do heavy duty.’

Warner says ‘The stand-alone fantasy novel is something of a rarity in this day and age, and Julie E. Czerneda as produced an excellent example of it. Czerneda is already an experienced hand in the fantasy genre, with 20 novels under her belt including award-winning books like A Turn of Light, but The Gossamer Mage is something truly special.’

Denise pops the top on a box of Dent Duett pastilles. ‘For those days when you can’t seem to make up your mind on what kind of taste you’re craving – which for me is just about every single day of my life – Duet has an equal amount of sweet and sweetly savory.’ But are they any good? Well, read her review!

Aurora looks at two versions of The Lion in Winter, James Goldman’s story of the Christmas Court of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor that wasn’t. One version has the pair played by Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn, the other by Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close. Read her review to see why she was surprised that she liked both versions.

Gary reviews a jazz recording by the Israeli-born duo Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai called Playing The Room. He was quite taken with the album, in particular one piece, South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Kofifi Blue,” of which he says, ‘if this doesn’t have you flaneuring up and down the boulevard with your walking stick as you hum this tune, I don’t know what it’ll take.’

Gary also reviews a live recording called Roma by Italian flugelhornist Enrico Rava and American tenorist Joe Lovano, backed by a lively young rhythm section. ‘The program features only five pieces, all long works with lots of room for the players to stretch their ample improvisatory muscles.’

Gary’s not done with jazz yet. He has one more called Jazz and Art by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with 10 songs dedicated to and inspired by modern American visual artists and their work. ‘Although it’s played by a large ensemble that some may think of as old-fashioned, this music is as richly varied as the artworks that inspired it and the backgrounds of its composers.’

Dorothea, says Richard, is from Lais, who are ‘a unique group that has no equivalent, to my knowledge, anywhere in the world of music. This seven-piece band from the Flemish region of Belgium is fronted by three alluring young women, Jorunn Bauweraerts, Annelies Brosens and Nathalie Delcroix, who sing, move and gesture in a highly dramatic manner while singing beautiful harmonies, occasionally a cappella, but more often to an eclectic accompaniment that ranges from the downright folky to something closer to electropop.’

Scott notes ‘The members of Mozaik all have reputations which precede them, and the musicianship on Live from the Powerhouse lives up to expectations. Long-time fans of any of the individual performers will want to have this CD. Newcomers looking for quality Irish or world music will find much to like about this as well, although they might want to catch up on Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny’s histories while they’re at it. It will be interesting to see if Mozaik becomes a fairly permanent outfit, with multiple albums and tours, or if all the performers return to their regular career.’

Our What Not this week is a Mile Morales Spider-Man figure. Cat says ‘So I went hunting on the internet for a good Miles Morales Spider-Man figure. I liked that particular Spider-Man after seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse while I was in-hospital being treated for a staph infection that required not only that I have bone surgery but that I spend forty two days there having antibiotics three times a day. So I was looking for something entertaining to watch and I heard very good things about this film. It turned out that it is a fantastic film that if a Spider-Man fan you should see now as Miles Morales is an amazing Spider-Man and the rest of the Spider-Beings are equally amazing.’

Joe Strummer, May He Rest In Peace, had a much better voice that Shane MacGowan ever had on his very best day which I swear never happened. So I’ll show you that by letting you hear him when he fronted the Pogues in Köln, Sporthalle, Germany on the seventh of November twenty eight years ago to sing ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’. What an amazing voice!

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A Kinrowan Estate story: An Oak King

We’ve had honourary human Oak Kings down the years such as Arthur Rackham, and in more recent years, Charles de Lint comes to mind, but this one was most decidedly was not human though his glamour would be a proper guise for most humans not to know that when looking at him.

He was made of roots, leaves and a skeletal structure not of bone, but of living oak. Without his guise, he resembled a tree trying to be human in appearance and not coming even close as his proportions were simply wrong — way too many joints in the limbs, shoulders too wide and a skull that even I found painful to look at. He had no eyes but could obviously sense the world around him; no ears nor mouth either. He reminded me of a riddle I’d been told by an insane mortal centuries ago.

When I looked more closer at him, I could see that everything on the surface of him was moving visibly — leaves rustling though there was no breeze in the Pub, branches and roots questing for something, and his whole being pulsing with eldritch energies. Damn, he was unsettling. When he entered, even my ravens were discomfitted, and deserted my shoulders for a perch in the rafters.

(I’ve never told the mortals who live on the Estate that the Pub itself stands on a crossroads between here and somewhere else as some of them have enough trouble sleeping as it is.)

My luck must have been slightly cursed that late evening as he shambled towards me. I sighed deeply, put away the Ravens in The Library anthology I was reading and turned towards the intruder. I inclined my head slightly towards him as I bow to no one, human or otherwise. He, not being human, didn’t notice my intended rebuff.

A voice entered my head, deep and somehow akin to dry oak leaves rustling in a Winter wind. A voice I’d rather not have heard ever. It asked me a question that I could not answer, nor really wanted to know that the question existed. Even my ravens were visibly quite agitated by the question.

Emotions flushed rapidly — irritation, anger, puzzlement, even sadness. With that, he turned and left the Pub. I for my part signalled for another whiskey and planned on telling my ravens to forget this ever happened …

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What’s New for the 25th of August:Yolen on Writing, Beatles in Portland, Costume Design on Doctor Who, Music from Kathryn Tickell and Other Late Summer Matters

I watched the people passing below, each of them a story, each story part of somebody else’s, all of it connected to the big story of the world. People weren’t islands, so far as I was concerned. How could they be, when their stories kept getting tangled up in everybody else’s? ― Charles de Lint’s Spirits in the Wires

Summer, meteorologically speaking, has a ways to go, but Tamsin, the hedge witch resident on this Scottish Estate, notes that late August really is the turning of the year from Summer to Autumn in all the ways that really count. The days have become noticeably shorter, the nights are definitely cooling off and the vegetable gardens are beginning their slow fade into being fallow.

So indeed Autumn will be soon upon us — Summer’s already waning as the plants in our gardens are just now showing their form of botanical entropy, which puts them on their last legs before first frost kills them off entirely. So Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, and his staff has been drying beans and apples, preparing root cellars for carrots and the like, braiding strings of onions and garlic, sending cornucopias of produce to the Kitchen for Mrs. Ware and her staff to pickle, can or freeze as they see proper.

The Changeling Sea sort of pleased Grey: ‘This is a pocket-sized paperback book of one hundred and thirty seven pages. The story inside is small, but potent, like a well-crafted spell. It makes perfect sense, but it’s fairy tale sense, not reasonable sense. To use a poetry metaphor, Patricia McKillip’s style isn’t like iambic quadrameter or pentameter, but rather like Gerard Manley Hopkin’s sprung rhythm. The story ebbs and flows naturally around the shapes and sounds of words and images. The ending feels right. I sense that there’s no other way for this story to end. Yet it leaves me, not deeply content and satisfied, but restless. Which is a good way for a story about the sea to feel.’

So Kelly realises something and he shares with us: ‘Confession time: as a working writer, albeit one who is as yet unpublished in the fiction realm, I have a weakness for books about writing by successful writers. I have quite the collection of them, sitting atop my desk — volumes by Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Cory Doctorow, and others. I used to wonder why I like this kind of book so much, since quite frankly, a lot of the advice you’ll find is similar from one book to the next. (“Write a lot, write every day, read a lot, read every day, avoid adverbs, avoid passive constructions, lather, rinse, repeat.”) It occurred to me, while reading Jane Yolen’s new book, Take Joy, that in these books I’m not really looking for advice or pointers for publishing at all. I’m not looking for “how-to” anymore. What I’m looking for is inspiration, a “pep-talk” of sorts.’

Patrick says ‘When Roger Zelazny died in 1995, his was one of the few “celebrity” deaths that actually saddened me on a deeply personal level. In some way I always identified with him and his characters. He was a role model for writers; a fountain of creativity whose waters could be bottled up and shared with others. I was saddened, too, by what I saw as the death of his characters: There would be no sequels to take me back to my beloved Changeling and Madwand worlds; no new Ambers.’ So now read his review of Lord Demon to see what he thinks of the work Jane Lindskold did in fleshing it out.

Robert brings us Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, a collection that’s actually fun: ‘Frank O’Hara is one of those American poets who hovers on the edge of what we are pleased to call “greatness.” Perhaps he hovers there because there is something tongue-in cheek about O’Hara’s work — and, one suspects, about his attitude toward life — which means that we can’t possibly take him as seriously as that. I suspect there is some logical fallacy there. As O’Hara himself wrote, “Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.”’

West Coast Cat strays to the sweet side as she tastes three different chocolate bars from Seattle Chocolate, finding two noteworthy and the third not so much. Read her tasty notes to see if they pleased her.

This past week marked the 54th anniversary of The Beatles’ only visit to Gary’s home state of Oregon. He has a review of a documentary that chronicles that visit where they played two shows at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum, which he says is a bit of a mixed bag.

Debbie says of  Steeleye Span In Concert that ‘No matter how many times you’ve listened to your old Steeleye Span recordings, you’ve never heard these songs like this before unless you were lucky enough to see the performances from which the songs on this CD were taken. If you love this band and especially if you were not able to see them perform live, go out and get a copy!’

Gary reviews Pharmakon the debut album by indie folk band Humbird featuring singer-songwriter Siri Undlin. ‘This is such a brave album. Undlin puts her words and voice on the line, daring her audience to enter into her poetic explorations with song after song on themes that recur in our culture’s literature, tales, films, music.’

A band that includes cello, droning synthesizers and jazzy alto sax solos? That’s what Gary says of How to Live by Modern Nature, an English indie-folk group led by Jack Cooper. ‘The enigmatic songs themselves and repeated ideas and sounds both instrumental and lyrical, give this album a rich sense of layering and depth,’ he says.

Ranarop, Call of the Sea Witch in English, is a recording Iain really liked: ‘Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.’

Kim exclaims ‘Kila’s Lemonade and Buns, their latest offering, continues the wild instrumentals and hypnotic vocals that made Tog e Go Bog e such as delight. Melodies on the uilleann pipe sound as if they were lifted from a session, lured away from the safety of indoors into the night by a fairy lover with djembe and a rain stick. Then the saxophone takes over, and the music conveys the ease and warmth of the tropics, where we can really surrender to the need to dance. Vocal numbers are frenzied, with simple melodies that become a part of the texture of bass, percussion, and wailing middle eastern influences that blend with Irish tunes and insist on dancing — or why else would this music exist?’

Cat has a look at an aspect of Dr. Who (all of them) that you probably noticed but didn’t think about much: ‘Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is an amazing undertaking as it covers pretty much the entire history of the series from its inception some fifty years ago during the black and white era, when CGI didn’t exist, so costuming was how everything was created, to the modern era when a lot of what was costuming is now rendered as CGI.’

August has come to the end, so let’s have some fitting music to see it out. I’ve chosen ‘Herd on the Hill’ and ‘Elsie Marley’ by Northumbrian fiddler and smallpiper Kathryn Tickell as performed her at the Shoreditch Church down London way on the fifteen of June nine years ago. Sweet music indeed to see the month out.


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A Kinrowan Estate story: Clue

Remember the Clue film with Tim Curry? Well one of Iain’s Library Apprentices did remember it fondly and she decided to organize a similar game recently as she thought it’d make a splendid diversion in the Winter here.

She limited the game to the main Estate Building as it’s far too cold and dark to be outside in the evening after Eventide meal which was the proper time to do so. Certainly everyone here who expressed interest thought it’d be an interesting evening entertainment!

Some of the players dressed in period costumes, many from the extensive collection we’ve built up doing theatre for, oh, centuries now. So Iain came as Professor Plum, a sight truly worth seeing, and Tamsin, our hedge witch, made an exquisite flapper! Some of the staff got to be NPCs (Non-Character Players) which meant they added character to the game and provided dialogue that aided the players in solving the mystery.

Our authoress was ingenious as she didn’t start the story going after the Eventide meal as agreed upon but rather made the meal part of the story by murdering the first victim with poison in the chocolate ice cream. That NPC died after just after saying  ‘I should have known it was my…’ and before slumping down in her chair. Dramatic license was allowed in this game as she should’ve died at once given strychnine kills instantly.

From there, the gamers were sent in a merry chase across the Building being given myriad clues (true, false and Macguffins alike) being engaged with the other players and the NPCs. In addition, our authoress decided that she’d enlist random willing Estate residents to do things, say things, that might or might not be part of her game. I think all of the residents  were involved in one manner or another.

Now adding to the game was that we didn’t know definitely know who the game authoress and runner was. Oh some of us suspected who it was as we’d been consulted by one of the Library Appreciates and Iain even thought he knew who it was as one of the Apprentices presented the idea to him. He and the rest of us were faked out as she used an NPC to present the idea and run the meetings needed to get it going. She only revealed her role after the game was completed.

The game ran a total of almost five hours with several breaks built in as both rest breaks and times the players could share what they’d learned and what others thought they knew. Of course she used one of those breaks to have the lights go out and one of the players (who didn’t know she was going to die) to be knifed in the chest. We later learned that a voice whispered in her ear that she’d be the next murder victim.

She would not be the last murder victim as there would be two more over the course of this heavily modified Clue game. One victim in particular was only revealed as a victim when an NPC revealed that he had been told that the victim was a former Estate Librarian named Grubb who went missing some decades ago on a dark and stormy night. Yes, that’s a literary reference. From Peanuts I think.

Everyone involved agreed it that it was a successful and entertaining game that they’d all certainly enjoy doing it another time. So you ask who the authoress was? Good question. We still don’t know as she never revealed herself as, yes, the apparent authoress was an NPC herself! So, many of us think we think we know you she was, but she never revealed herself. Iain’s guess, which makes a lot of sense is it was all of the Several Annies which is what we call his Library Apprentices.


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What’s New for the 18th of August: An Alternate Cairo, Craft Cider, Angela Carter’s Writings, Live Breton Music and Other Autumn Is Coming Matters

People talk about mainstream fiction and sf as though they were two quite different kinds of writing, and fantasy as well, as though it was quite different. But I think this a false distinction, that it is a labelling that helps librarians, and people who know the kind of thing they like and don’t want their prejudices to be disturbed.” ― Angela Carter’s Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings

We get really interesting things in for review. This past week saw Folkmanis send us what our Editor has labelled the Autumnal Puppets: a Worm in An Apple, a Chipmunk in Watermelon and a Mouse in Pumpkin. I’ve seen all three and the latter I think is my favourite. It’s adorable enough that I’ve ordered one for placement here in the Library amidst the books just because it is, well, quite folklorish I think. They’re all getting their due review in our special Autumn Edition sometime in October.

OK. I’m off to the Kitchen as I’m feeling a bit peckish and I’ve heard they’ve made sausage, tomato and cheddar cheese tarts that are being kept warm along with the first pressed cider, a favoured drink on this Estate. So here’s this Edition for your reading pleasure…

Cat has a look at another mystery set in an alternate Cairo, P. Djèlí Clark‘s A Dead Djinn in Cairo: ‘This story precedes The Haunting of Tram Car 015 and lays down some of the backstory that’s not quite explained in that book. It, like that other story, makes me hope Clark will actually write a novel set in the alternate twentieth century Cairo, as it’d be a fascinating place to explore at length.’

Speaking of folklorish matters, I’ve got a look at Angela Carter’s The Curious Room: Plays, Film Scripts and an Opera. As I said in my review, Sometimes the Reaper is just too damn unfair. Angela Olive Stalker Carter died of lung cancer in 1992 at the far too young age of 52. Writer, feminist theorist, folklorist, opera buff, playwright, poet — she was these things and much, much more.’

Not quite Autumn yet, but Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’

Some novels arise from The smallest of seeds, other have an extensive family tree. Richard looks at one of the latter from Ray Bradbury: ‘A Pleasure to Burn is best summed up as literary living history, and as a pile of paradoxes. It’s a book dedicated to the joys of reading that’s best read in bits and pieces, a collection of wonderful works that when places in close proximity threaten to crowd one another, and a collection of short stories that’s perhaps more important for what isn’t included — the actual novel of Fahrenheit 451 — than what is. None of that, however, subtracts from the magic, or the importance, of A Pleasure to Burn.’

Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide comes with a warning from Gereg: ‘Let’s get the down side out of the way first. This is not a book you’ll pick up for light entertainment. It’s not a particularly a lively read, nor is it often witty (though the wit, where it comes out, is as dry as a good cider).’ If however you want to make hard cider as the Yanks call it, you really should read his review!

Rachel looks at a Hong Kong film: ‘2002 is the purest example of style without substance that I’ve ever come across. The title is never explained; motly, the plot makes little sense; and seekers of deep meaning will search in vain. The movie doesn’t just feature coolness, it’s about coolness: slow-motion shoot-outs and rain-slicked streets and looking chic in black leather. For sheer delirious style, 2002 is hard to beat.’

April has a treat for us: ‘Visually stunning, and a host of intriguing things to say about perception and memory, Violent Cases was definitely an impressive debut for the duo of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean duo.’

Gary reviews the latest release from The Rails, their third, titled Cancel The Sun. He says it has a bit more rock to it than their previous album, but it’s still recognizably English folk-rock. ‘The arrangements and production have just enough sophistication to them to set them above simple folk fare, but the words always stand out as timely, thoughtful and important.’

Jack says of The White Horse Sessions by Nightnoise that ‘I spent years looking for this album after Reynard, a bandmate of mine in Mouse in the Cupboard, said it was an album that I should hear. (He heard it on some late-night Celtic radio programme, but couldn’t find a copy either! Nor could he remember who the DJ was.) But literally nowhere was there a copy to be had at any price or in any format. We both began to suspect that perhaps this was one of those fey albums that only existed across the Border, but a copy showed up in the post here a few months ago at Green Man with a scribbled unsigned note and a smudged postmark that might have said ‘Bordertown’ but I can’t be sure. It simply said that the sender had heard that I was looking for The White Horse Sessions, and here was a copy of the CD! Whoever you are, thank you!’

Lars says ‘If you want a fine piece of Scottish music I would recommend Synergy. If you like it, then get Ae Spark of Nature´s Fire as well. And, if they ever play at a place near you, do not miss Deaf Shepherd. From what they present on these CDs they must be a great live band.’

Scott notes ‘Frigg’s delightful self-titled debut album in 2004, it marked the emergence of a new generation of musicians from a pair of prominent fiddling families from Finland and Norway. Now Alina (fiddle), Esko (fiddle and keyboards), and Antti (bass and fiddle) Järvelä; Gjermund and Einar Olav Larsen (fiddle and Hardanger fiddle); Tuomas Logrén (guitar and dobro); and Petri Prauda (mandolin, cittern, Estonian bagpipes) have returned with a new CD Oasis. Happily, Frigg’s sophomore effort exceeds its predecessor by quite a bit, with tighter playing, a more diverse sound, and some ambitious arrangements and original compositions.’

Denise decided to indulge her love of all things dragon for this edition, with a review of Folkmanis’ Winged Dragon Puppet. ‘…[W]hen I saw the Folkmanis Winged Dragon Puppet, my thoughts immediately went to Pern. And okay, Toho.’ Sound discordant? Not so – read her review to find out why she thinks this puppet harks back to two such disparate genres!

Now let’s see what’s been listed  for Breton music on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, for music. Ahhhh that’ll do. ‘An Dro’ and ‘Hunter Dro’ aka ‘The Breton Set’ is from John Skelton,  Jerry O’Sullivan, Pat O’Gorman and Tony Cuffe who might have been know as The Windbags if  they’d actually ever become a band which they did not do as Cuffe died not long after this was recorded. They had recorded this set of tunes in preparation of doing an album but that was it.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Autumn was her name (A Letter to Ekentrina)

Dear Ekentrina,

I’ve been reading the older Pub journals this past week in the afternoon as I’ve taken a week off to be the caller for the series of contradances this week organized by Shut Up and Dance!, a meeting of dance enthusiasts who are staying in the yurts and having a grand time dancing, gossiping, eating, drinking, and skinny dipping in the river.

So I’d been reading a long comment from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, about a visitor from over The Border which separates here from the Faerie realm. She had been telling Sara, the Pub manager a century and half ago, that she’d had a visitor named Autumn, no other name that she’d  would admit to, dressed in bright reds, yellows, and oranges even.

She came bearing an invitation to an event across The Border of an unknown nature that “We’d be delighted to put any member of your choosing — be it fiddling jack, Sidhe archivist, changeling, or whoever you choose, on the guest list plus one.” (Not sure they knew we had a changeling here as that individual has no desire to go across The Border ever again, as her journals said so. Repeatedly.) It was decided that the best being to represent us was none of the ones named but rather Lady Alexandra herself as she had just started growing Border strawberries here — the ones that start out red and turn white when they ripen.

So she went and arranged to meet her counterpart over The Border, a fey being who was, she said, what we call an apple tree man, and he loved tea, thick with honey, and could converse for hours on all matters botanical. When they weren’t off somewhere together, they were deep in conversation in the Conservatory that Lady Alexandra had convinced The Steward to build at no small cost.

According to her Journal, she was deeply, madly fascinated by him. And she never gave his name saying it was a True Name which held Great Power over him. After that first meeting, they met constantly for the next fifty years ending only when she died at well over a hundred. It is said in another Journal, that of the Librarian at that time, that he came to her burial under the Oaks she loved and wept green tears that later sprouted seedlings that the next Estate Gardener grew into Apple trees. 

Until next time, your friend, Gus

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What’s New for the 11th of August: Scottish Sort of Trad Music, A Fiendish Bean Dip, Africa, The Muppets and other Summer Things

‘Order me some of that delicious-looking lager those people are drinking and I’ll reveal everything,’ said Angela. ― Ngaio Marsh’s A Man Lay Dead

It’s been unusually hot and humid here, so Mrs. Ware and her ever so talented Kitchen staff have been doing cold food all week such as smoked chicken, American style ham-and-cheese breakfast biscuits, salmon and new pea pasta salad, mustard and vinaigrette dressed new potato salad and of course strawberry ice cream for dessert. Lots of iced tea and the like to keep folks hydrated has been on tap as well. She has had the oven on in the cooler hours to make up chocolate chip cookies and even brownies as those never go out of demand around this Estate.

I’ve been farming off the Festival work we do this time of year to the younger Pub staff who don’t mind the long hours of being elsewhere on the Estate, so I can stay here in the cool environs of basement Pub. It’s also quieter here as the musically and literary inclined are elsewhere. So I’ve been enjoying a re-read of the original four issues of Charles Vess’ The Book Of Ballads And Sagas which he released on his own press decades back. They’re hard to find today, but Tor did a revised edition called The Book of Ballads which is readily available.

We’ve got a nice fat edition full of new material and some carefully curated material from deep in our Archives. And I do mean deep. Read on to see not one, but two first  recordings from bands we like a lot here.

Jennifer leads off our literary reviews this edition with a wonderful commentary on some  of the great  audio dramas from ZBS Media that she listen to. Read on for her delightful commentary.

Robert has a look at two classic books about Africa, Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass: ‘Isak Dinesen is the pseudonym of Karen Blixen, who was, when all is said and done, quite a remarkable woman. Born in Denmark in 1885, she arrived in Africa in 1913, where she married Baron Bror Blixen, a Swedish cousin; they owned a coffee plantation in Kenya until 1921, when they were divorced, after which Baroness Blixen ran it herself until 1931, when the collapse of coffee prices forced her to sell the farm and return to Europe. Out of Africa, thanks to Hollywood, is probably her best-known book.’

Next, Robert has a travel book: ‘It occurs to me, reading John Gimlette’s Theatre of Fish, that there are certain prerequisites for being an effective travel writer. One must be, obviously, fairly peripatetic in nature, and interested in the exotic and new. One must also be very accepting, non-judgmental, and open to a wide range of differing attitudes. It also seems to help if one has an unrestrained, completely irreverent, and somewhat bizarre sense of humor. Mmm . . . and a heavy dose of fearlessness. That helps.’

Warner brings us his thoughts on a new entry in the Military SF field: ‘Military SF has a long history and more than one tradition, complicated by the issues of patriotism and war. Some are in the business of glorifying one or both of these, others are dismissing one or both as folly. Joel Dane’s Cry Pilot overall takes the latter approach, and yet attempts to keep battle morally justifiable through use of enemies that are not political, but more in the way of natural disasters.’

Gary waxes all nostalgic about crunchy tacos. ‘Now, I know seasoned ground beef with lettuce and cheese in a shell made of a crunchy, pre-shaped tortilla is about the least authentic bit of faux-Mexican food that’s ever graced a plate.’

Jennifer revisits the typing pool at that consulting firm for a fiendish bean dip served up by a creature out of fable. How does a Southerner kill a dinner guest? Does flimflam make the world go ’round? And what exactly was in the Pound Cake that Killed Elvis?

Denise starts her review of Season One of The Muppet Show by quoting the opening song: ‘It’s time to get things started/ On the most sensational, inspirational,/ celebrational, Muppetational/ This is what we call the Muppet Show!’ For her enthusiastic review, you’ll need to hop over here.

Adam has a Summer suitable recording for us: ‘Mellowosity, the debut CD from the Scottish band the Peatbog Faeries, is wonderfully misleading in its packaging. A quick glance at the credits on the back reveals a synthesizer alongside all the usual traditional instruments (bodhran, fiddle, whistles, pipes, etc.). So this is another Corrs-type band, blending traditional Celtic songs with pop beats, right? Wrong.’

Gary brings us news of an album by Che Apalache, a bluegrass band with members from North Carolina, Mexico and Argentina. ‘Rearrange My Heart just brims with hope and joy and humanity, beautifully sung with great verve and played in more styles than you can count by musicians who are virtuosos on their instruments.’

Háliidan is recommended by Scott: ‘The contemporary folk music emanating from Scandinavia in general, and Finland in particular, has branched out from home-grown traditions to incorporate a great variety of musical styles across the globe, from Western pop and rock to Balkan and Middle Eastern folk music. The Finnish band Vilddas goes even further than most of their compatriot folk performers in this regard. Their lead singer Annuka Hirvasvuopio is a native of Utsjoki, the northernmost city of Finland, in the heart of Lapland. Hirvasvuopio writes and sings in Sámi, the language of the indigenous people of the far north of Scandinavia.’

Vonnie looks at Blue Horse, the first album from a trio of women: ‘These are lovely voices, but maybe not the ones that you’re used to! The three women who are the Be Good Tanyas create a distinctive sound that includes the sort of rawness that’s been completely expunged from contemporary pop music.’

Our What Not is as stated in my review of them: ‘My favorite two characters on The Muppet Show were the audience members high up in the box seats that served as the Greek Chorus for many of the acts, particularly those that they considered particularly bad. Statler and Waldorf are two generally disagreeable old men and heckled the rest of the cast from those balcony seats. They appeared in all but one episode of the show. Like Bryant & May in Christopher Fowler’s mystery series of the same name, they apparently are very old and I’d guess always been. And these are the Macys Limited Edition figures.’

Something cooling like the lager Angela craved would be apt on this hot, humid day, so how about ‘Croftwork’ from the Peatbog Faeries, a Scottish neo-trad band, recorded at the Arches, Glasgow on the nineteenth of January thirteen years ago. They play for a lot of ceilidhs in their Scottish region which makes them unique among their sort of band.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Céilidh music (A Letter to Anna)

Dear friend,

Knowing your love of Scottish traditional music, I wanted to tell you about the Ceilidh House evening we had here recently. Normally we just have the Neverending Session playing in the Pub which more than enough for good, lively music, or a contradance band formed out of whoever’s willing to play, such as Solstice, which has your sister on violin, Finch on border pipes, and Elizabeth setting aside her cello for a sweet set of hand drums.

But Iain had decided some months back that a journey through the history of the Highlands and Islands with the music and song of the same with an emphasis on the Highland bagpipe, fiddle and Gaelic song would make for an interesting evening. That would be followed by a dance using the older Scottish dances, which meant just about everyone got instruction in them.

Needless to say the Kitchen staff and the Several Annies decided that a traditional summer Scottish eventide meal was in order: grouse, hare and salmon were the meats along with new potatoes and steamed greens. A strawberry shortbread was served for dessert. And Bjørn decided a traditional Scottish ale would be in order.

Need I say that your brother made more than several toasts with one of the better single malts I’ve had? After dinner, he quoted at length from the writing of Burns. It was a good thing that the dance came next as I think a number of us were, errrr, nodding off during his lengthy ramblings. Succinct he isn’t. 

All in all it was an interesting evening though I must admit that I really prefer a quiet evening at home with my wife and our cats, or a pint in the Pub while engaging in conversation and listening to the music for a few hours.

tills nästa gång, Gus

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What’s New for the 4th of August: Alternative Egypts, American Indian Literature, The Final BronyCon, Irish trad music, Alan Moore’s Mind, Hunter’s smoky egg dip and Other Matters

The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances. ― Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Yes, that’s a bagpiper, a smallpiper to be precise, that you can hear playing outside in the evening mists. Finch, my associate Pub Manager, decided she’d see the sunrise out this evening so she’s playing a set of tunes she thinks are apt. Right now, she’s playing ‘Sunset on the Somme’ by Pipe Major George S. McLennan. It commemorates the first day of the battle of the Somme in which the British suffered nearly sixty thousand casualties.

Right now I’m  reading a collection of short stories by Naomi Kritzer, Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories. If you read nothing but the title story, do read that as it’s absolutely charming, with a completely believable scenario. If more than a bit scary. Of course the other stories are first rate as well.

Now let’s see what I’ve got for you this time.

Cat brings us The Haunting of Tram Car 015, a mystery set in an Egypt that never was — or maybe it might have been: ‘This is a remarkably detailed story for something a mere three and a half hours in length. It was in the Recorded Books folder that I have ongoing access to and which has any number of Really Great Books in it; the name intrigued me, so I downloaded it to my iPad. I’d never heard of P. Djèlí Clark, no surprise there as he’s written a scant three works to date, two set in this steampunk, djinn infested Egypt and one in a New Orleans where things are quite different as well.’

Reamde, the title of a Neal Stephenson cyber-thriller from a few years back, is a corruption of “ReadMe,” those text files that often come with software discs or downloads. Gary took it as a command and tackled the 1,100-page book, which he found hard to put down. ‘It was the first time in quite a while that I’d read such a big book that got me so involved, and it was a welcome change from the usual absorption with screens and social media.’

Robert takes us somewhat out of our ordinary territory with a review of Kathleen Tigerman’s Wisconsin Indian Literature: Anthology of Native Voices: ‘What makes this collection particularly rewarding is that in addition to the more or less standard roster of creation stories and tales of mythic heroes, Tigerman has included a series of orations, polemics, poetry and drama by Native writers which serves to bring the narrative into the present and also gives an indication of how diverse the Native voice is.’

Warner has a look at Jim C. Hines’ Terminal Uprising, which might be a take=-off on Douglas Adams. Or maybe not: ‘As a successor to Douglas Adams, I cannot say that Hines succeeds, matching neither the tone nor style of the original. Fortunately, Hines makes no attempt to imitate the Adams, instead forging his own worlds and dealing in his own brand of distinctively less-than-classical British humor. In its place is a somewhat more American style. . . .’

Remember when you were in school and you couldn’t, for whatever reason, make it home for a major holiday? With a recipe for Hunter’s smoky egg dip, Jennifer recalls the kind soul who kept Yale Drama School students from starvation and loneliness on a bygone Fourth of July.

April has a look at The Mindscape of Alan Moore: ‘Filmed in 2003, this 78 minute long film consists of a one-on-one interview with comic creator Alan Moore, best known for works like From Hell, Watchmen and V for Vendetta. Although Moore does touch on his past and his comic career, Mindscape isn’t so much a straightforward autobiographical film as an exploration of his more philosophical musings. Moore posits himself a modern-day shaman, and much of the latter part of the film is a discussion about magic.’

Brendan says in his review of the first four Chieftains recordings that ‘For an excellent assortment of really great Irish music, this set of CDs really cannot be beat. Each clocks in at about 40 minutes, which means that the Chieftains packed their LPs as much as possible, and which also means that there are many other gems on these CDs that I’ve left out in this review.

The Alt’s The Alt garners this from Lars: ‘Irish music comes in many forms, from the loud and boisterous to the soft and soothing, from the long slow ballads to the fast furious instrumentals. The Alt is a trio focusing on songs, only three of the eleven tracks are instrumental sets, and traditional material. No pipes, no fiddle, but plenty of guitar, bouzouki, that special wooden Irish flute and vocal harmonies. Their sound is much closer to the style set by groups like Sweeney’s Men, Planxty and Patrick Street, than the Dubliner-side of Irish folk.

Naomi says of Beginish, the first album by an Irish group of that name, that they’re ‘a potent Irish traditional group which was born from four musicians who are successful in their own right, and have a long history of collaborating with one another. This history of collaboration is what brought about the birth of this talented group, and I can only hope that they’re here to stay.’

Stephen looks at three of Lunasa recordings (LúnasaOtherworld and The Merry Sisters of Fate) in a long and thoughtful essay that touches upon the changes in Irish music they created: ‘Sitting here in my house in Cornwall, on a balmy spring evening in 2003, the 1990’s feel like a long time ago. Back then I was living near Slough, one of those modern, overcrowded railway towns that form a steel and concrete archipelago along the West London fringe. Not, in many ways, the most salubrious of locations, but a paradise for anyone who frequented the numerous Irish music venues of the area. Why? Because, and here comes the bold assertion, the 1990’s, those faraway days of less than a decade ago, were a GOLDEN AGE for Irish music!’

It is with a heavy heart that I witness the end of an era. That’s right folks; this weekend marks the final BronyCon. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. I love ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ and I’m a grown-ass woman. Is it the anime-esque animation? The lovely voice actors? Or the stories that have a moral that’s just obvious enough for kids to grasp, yet couched in enough fun and cheeky humor to keep adults from gagging on treacle? All of the above y’all.

With more: the fandom is amazing. From the little girl who shyly offered me a ‘bro-hoof’ (aka fist-bump) and then absolutely beamed when I responded – I could see her self-confidence grow as our fists made contact – to actual military service members who thank MLPFiM for keeping them sane during tours of duty. And every type of person in-between, including fans who grew up with poni and now share it with their kids. It’s a wild, woolly (furry? Yeah, those folks are awesome too #freehugs) and I’ll miss the hell out of every single person I’ve had the pleasure to see each year.

This year, to commemorate all the staff has done over the years, a local bakery made cakes for staff and crew that had a different BronyCon logo. Nine logos, nine cakes. The looked delicious, but I’m betting they’re bittersweet. I’ll miss you, BronyCon, but I’ll be a fan forever. FOREVER.

So let’s have some music from Planxty, the great Irish group, to see us off. ‘Chattering Magpie’ and ‘Lord MacDonald’s’ was recorded at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin nearly forty years ago. It’s a sweet set of music.

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A Global News Service story: Istanbul, 1926

Istanbul, Turkey
23rd of November, 1926
Global News Service

It’s a cold morning here as I sip my Turkish coffee outside a small smoked-filled cafe near the Grand Bazaar. It’s been just three years since Ataturk and his military allies overthrew the old Ottoman Empire and created this nation by granting independence to an Empire they could no longer hold together at any cost. Despite that fact, it feel likes any other times I’ve been here over the decades: an odd culture neither Muslim (which officially it no longer is) nor Christian (which it definitely isn’t). And all of the old tension between the Turkish citizens, be they towards Greeks, Armenians, or Jews still exist.

My Editor at GNS was interested in my take on the changes in Turkey a few years after the end of the Ottoman Empire. I think he’s going to be disappointed as I’m not seeing it. As T.S. Eliot said in Murder in The Cathedral, ‘We have suffered various oppression, But mostly we are left to our own devices, And we are content if we are left alone.’

The politics might be different but life for almost all who live here hasn’t really changed that much in many generations such as Ismet, the owner of this cafe, who I chatted with in Arabic even though officially that language had been replaced by Turkish. He has run this establishment for forty years now and his great-great-grandfather bought it from the previous owner close to one hundred and twenty years ago. For his perspective, nothing had changed — the bribes were still expected, the police were all surly and prone to violence, and the military still ran everything. And don’t get him started about how bad the post was!

The Grand Bazaar is even more impervious to change — within its walls, the goods, the traders, and even the patterns of commerce most likely even haven’t significantly changed in many centuries. Spices and rugs and jewellery and coffee beans and books, sacred and profane, even been traded there for that long and still are. Fortunately the trade in slaves is ceased though the trade in weaponry still persists.

Newspapers abound — all with their political bent and most along ethnic lines as well — the Greeks have their Apoyevmatini and the Armeniums and Jews have ones as well. The number of Turkish ones is amazing. Reading the Greek and Turkish ones is alarming as the rift between those two groups is very much headed towards something quite unpleasant!

So dear readers, I’m left with the feeling that, for better and worse, nothing has really changed in what is now Turkey beyond the changing of borders. And those borders are potentially pregnant with the probability of trouble.

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What’s New for the 28th of July: Lord Dunsany, The Mother Tongue, Chocolate Cake, Anime, Cajun Music, and more

I don’t trust memory, anyway. Why should I? Memories, however undependable, ought to be the stuff on the sand when the tides of experience recedes. As long as they’re part of that process, there’s something valid about them, something that ties them to real life. — Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles

It’s not only the hottest time of the year on this Scottish Estate but also the busiest, as we host a number of music and cultural events here, with the attendees staying in the clusters of yurts we’ve built starting back in the Sixties. They’re low-impact and easy to maintain,  and we’ve even got a cluster just for summer gardening and event staff.

I’m Nicholas Winter filling in this week as both Iain and Reynard were too busy with those events. I’m here working on an article on a possible second Scottish independence vote for the Global News Service so I volunteered to fill in. So let’s get started and see what I’ve  got for you.

But first, I’ve got the first chapter of Bone Dance for you to read. It’s a wonderfully weird work by her set in a future Minneapolis after civilisation has largely collapsed and concerns, well, go read the first chapter to meet Sparrow and the world of that time. The book itself is available in print and digital formats.

Laurie leads off our book reviews with with a novel by Lord Dunsany: ‘This is a magical, lyrical novel, not at all like the run of the mill, Tolkien-clone quest novels to be seen on shelves these days (witness the hunting of the unicorn, for instance), which is to be expected, since it was published thirty years before The Lord of the Rings. Del Rey should be congratulated for presenting The King of Elfland’s Daughter to a new generation of readers.’

Robert starts his insightful look at a John Brunner novel in this manner: ‘Stand on Zanzibar  is a novel that any student of science fiction has to know. It’s not a pleasant book — not one I would recommend for a cold gloomy evening, cheerful fire or no. But it’s good. It’s really good.’

For you language buffs, Robert has a real treat: “Being the purist that I am, I wince when people talk about the evolution of this, the evolution of that – evolution has nothing to do with automobile design or cell phones or political systems. It is, however, a legitimate concept when discussing language: language does change over time, languages do descend from common ancestors, and there are exchanges and mutations of “genetic material” – words. Merritt Ruhlen, a prominent linguist, has, in The Origin of Language, given us a fascinating, hands-on investigation of that evolution. He also gives us a history of linguistics and in particular, brings us up to date on developments in historical linguistics over the past fifty years.”

Sometimes a book gets the attention of more than one reviewer, which is how we get Warner looking at a novel that Cat R. reviewed last week: ‘Richard Kadreys’ The Grand Dark is an interesting combination of alternate history and the strange genre that is often called steampunk but more suitably termed “gaslamp fantasy”.’ Read his review to see his take on this novel.

Jennifer flashes back to a consulting firm’s typing pool, where every birthday was celebrated with all that was good and fattening. This sour cream chocolate cake lives on long after its creator, alas, has left the red dust of earth.

Robert dips into his library of anime to bring us a delightful romantic comedy/drama from Japanese TV, Sukisyo!: ‘You may notice that the title of this DVD is spelled “Sukisho” on the cover: these are alternate transliterations of the title, which is actually pronounced somewhere in between the two spellings: it’s another one of those sounds that Japanese has and English doesn’t. And there’s an alternate title, Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shōganai!, that translates roughly as “I like what I like, so deal with it”, which should give you a good idea of the tone of this Japanese TV series.’

David Doucet’s 1957: Solo Cajun Guitar, says Gary, is ‘a sterling collection of songs, made even stronger by the dynamic tension Doucet has wrought between melody and rhythm. He has not only transformed these fiddle and accordion pieces into minor masterpieces of guitar picking, but he has lifted them out of the realm of dance tunes and placed them squarely in the realm of folk art.’

John has a solo album from the lead vocalist of Steeleye Span: ‘Maddy Prior has become synonymous with the voice behind Steeleye Span. It was as much to escape the ghost of Steeleye as to make her own mark that she embarked on a solo career in 1978. That move caused both a sensation and consternation within the UK folk press and folk community. While Maddy as a writer had been involved in re-writing and editing epic traditional ballads as part of the Steeleye Span repertoire, her own progress as a songwriter in the singer/songwriter framework had not been documented. It was with this in mind that Woman in the Wings was conceived and recorded.’

Dead Can Dance’s Toward the Within says Kate is ‘From the very first eerie opening bells, percussion and crystalline notes of the yang ch’in of “Rakim,” it becomes clear that this is music unlike any you’ve ever heard. Amend that: it’s certainly unlike any I had previously heard.’ H’h. Sounds, errr, interesting.

Michael has a recording from a band many of you of are very familiar with: ‘The Wood & The Wire is unmistakably an album that fits well into the Fairport Convention discography. In fact, if you include compilations, official live tapes and the like, this is actually their 51st release, so that’s quite a back catalogue! The spirit of the band is still evident. Although the album is not groundbreaking, it will certainly please the band’s legion of fans to at least a healthy degree.’

This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience…)

Now let’s what I’ll leave you with this time for music. Ahhhh, this will do very nicely — ‘Safety Dance’ by The Men Without Hats which was recorded in Toronto in December thirty seven years ago. No idea what venue it was recorded at as no other details were given. This was one of a few hits by this band and it was ubiquitous in the early Eighties as I heard it in the States, in the U.K., everywhere in Europe it seemed and of course in Canada as the band was from Montreal.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Strawberry Ice Cream

During the early Victorian Era, the Head Gardener at the time, Jacob Niles, persuaded the Steward to invest in a conservatory. According to the journals kept by him and the Steward, the deciding factor was that it could be used for growing fruit in the long winter, including oranges and bananas. It wasn’t cheap and was costly to heat as it needed lots of seasoned wood to make it warm. Fortunately, triple glazed glass was used (at no small expense), and that helped. Certainly the fresh tropical fruit was a hit during our long Scottish winter. We still use it for that purpose but now we use solar power to heat it more efficiently than the original builders could have possibly have imagined.

So what does that have to do with strawberry ice cream? Well, that was my idea. You see, we exist on The Border with The Faerielands. Several decades back, I made friends with the Head Gardener for the Red Dragon House, who had no luck growing their version of strawberries — the ones that start red and turn white when fully ripe — when it turned cold there. So he asked me to see if I could make them flourish.

It took several years before I figured that it needed a symbiotic bacterium that didn’t like being cold, so I started growing them for the Red Dragon House with the proviso that we could also use them. Would you believe that took a contract signed by all parties? Elves are big on formality! Three pages of contract to be precise. And that’s how we came to have strawberry ice cream in the winter. The whole milk comes from High Meadow Farm, the vanilla from Madagascar, and it’s sweetened, just a bit, with honey from our hives. It’s quite delicious! Mind you we do use some traditional strawberry preserves to give it a proper colour.

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What’s New for the 21st of July: Welsh Mythology in Fiction, Gazpacho, Bounty Hunters in Outer Space, a New take On Spider-Man, Lots of English Music, and more,

Branches grew from his hands, his hair. His thoughts tangled like roots in the ground. He strained upward. Pitch ran like tears down his back. His name formed his core; ring upon ring of silence built around it. His face rose high above the forests. Gripped to earth, bending to the wind’s fury, he disappeared within himself, behind the hard, wind-scrolled shield of his experiences. ― Patricia McKillip’s The Riddle-Master trilogy 

Thunderstorms are awesome to experience provided you aren’t outside in their path. Mind you the Estate felines passionately hate them but there’s nothing we been ever able to do about that, as you can’t even put a spell on any of them to make them ignore the storms, since our cats are completely spell resistant. Tamsin, our current hedgewitch, says that the Estate Journals say it’s been thus for centuries.

So I’m sitting in my private office, a large mug of Sumatran coffee with a splash of cream in hand, working on this Edition on my iPad as the storm’s getting even worse out. That last lightning strike was, judging from the interval between the flash and the boom, less than half a mile out. Gus, our Estate Groundskeeper, will definitely be assessing damage come tomorrow.

Now let’s see what I’ve got for you. I even found a review of a Gabriel Yacoub, found of Malicorne, recording for you to tempted by!  Jennifer’s got a most tasty gazpacho recipe as well, and get ready to get introduced to Spider-Gwen.

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by Iain: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two 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.’

West Coast Cat (Rambo) is done being the SFWA President and has enough time for a bit of reviewing again! Here’s her thoughts on Richard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark, which she describes as ‘…a pessimistic book, whose tone and texture are well-wrought, like turning the pages of the portfolio of a photographer who’s caught in black and white and endless shades of grey the decay of a city, perhaps a civilization.’

Sweltering in finally-summery Chicago weather, Jennifer found a recipe for a creamy, savory, cold gazpacho that beautifully augments cheese, crackers, wine, and fruit on one of those too-hot-to-cook days.

Robert takes us on an extended adventure — or a series of adventures — in outer space, with the crew of Cowboy Bebop Remix: ‘Given my delight with Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, it’s probably no surprise that I decided to go whole-hog and plump down for the complete TV series. As it turns out, Cowboy Bebop Remix is something of a mixed bag.’

Mister Cat who’s trying to avoid the summer heat if he can has a review of Jason Latour’s Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted which he thought was most entertaining: ‘Both DC and Marvel some decades ago decided that they’d expand their universes from just this one to a multiverse in which almost anything could happen. And that’s how we came to have the quite excellent animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse film, of which I said that ‘I eagerly await the the Spider-Man Multiverse sequel, as there’s unlimited possibilities for them to play around with.’ Well one of the secondary but very important characters in that film is Spider-Gwen.’

Debbie says of Steeleye Span in Concert that ‘No matter how many times you’ve listened to your old Steeleye Span recordings, you’ve never heard these songs like this before unless you were lucky enough to see the performances from which the songs on this CD were taken. If you love this band and especially if you were not able to see them perform live, go out and get a copy!’

Gary here. We’re not usually into electronic music here, but this new video for British composer and musician Anna Meredith’s single ‘Paramour’ is one of the most creative videos we’ve seen in a long while. (And to be fair, she’s also integrating analog and acoustic instruments into her upcoming album Fibs.) It was shot in one take with the camera mounted on a model train as the musicians play the skittery piece with its 176-beats-per-minute tempo.

Irene has a look at four albums from the Albion Band, a band created by this artist: ‘The tangled vine that is the family tree of English folk-rock music has several long stems which wind through it, touching many other stems and branching wildly. One of these is Ashley Hutchings. ’

Michael looks at What We Did On Our Saturday, the latest from a venerable English band: ‘Saturday, August 12 2017 to be precise. The final evening of Fairport’s Cropredy festival in their 50th year. It was always going to be a special occasion, and the likelihood of a recording was strong, after releases of similar previous anniversaries. The pun of the title, referring back to the band’s 1969 ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’ album, is carried over to the design of this new set, echoing the blackboard drawing of a now different and older grouping of band and friends.’

Scott has a look at a recording from the founder of Malicorne: ‘Gabriel Yacoub began his career singing and playing guitar in Alan Stivell’s band, before going on to form the legendary French Renaissance rock band Malicorne. Malicorne’s compilation CD Légende: Deuxieme Epoque exceeds the quality of any of the similar compilations from their English contemporaries Steeleye Span, and is on a comparable level with the best output from Fairport Convention. Malicorne split up twenty years ago, and I hadn’t heard any of Yacoub’s subsequent solo material until I recently got the chance to listen to 2002’s The Simple Things We Said. This album combines new songs with reworked versions of some older songs, with the specific intent of cracking the American world music market.’

And, if you’ve been paying attention, our What Not for this week should come as no surprise: It’s Spider-Gwen, in the flesh (so to speak): ‘Once in a while, I get a deep craving for a specific character. The latest I’ve gotten interested in is Spider-Gwen, the spider-being in an alternate universe where Peter Parker didn’t get bitten by that radioactive spider and she did. Spider-Gwen is Gwen Stacy, a high schooler as the narrative starts out and frankly a lot less angst ridden than the classic Petter Parker is.’

Every folk and rock band since the early Sixties has been for the most part has willingly been allowing the recording of their music at their live performances. The savvy ones allowed for taping off the sound board. Our music this edition to take your leave by is ‘Girl from the North Country’ by the Waterboys in Lund, Sweden recorded  on the eleventh of December thirty years ago. It’s a sweet piece of music I’d say.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Twa Corbies

Oh, come on in and join us. Mackenzie and I were admiring the repair job our resident bookseller and binder did on one of the older Estate journals as I had need of the information on the proper apples for making a good cyder that is in it. Yes, that’s an illustration of a raven sitting in the rafters in the Pub. Good one, ain’t it? And indeed the gentleman talking to the raven looks all too familiar.

We’ve had written records ‘ere of ravens, hooded rooks, and other corvids around the Estate offices as long as this ancient pile of stone, wood, and brick has been standing. No doubt in me mind they were here soon after the first highwayman was hanged here so many centuries ago. Yes indeed, from the kind of make-shift gallows all too commonly found in the oaks that are still in our courtyard. That the ravens were feasting on the corpses is quite certain.

Certainly there’s no doubt that they were making their raucous sounds when the very first Jack was here: or so he claims, in the Archives as told there by someone who calls himself simply The Old Man. As The Old Man in the journal entries tells it, Jack escaped the sure grasp of Death Herself and Her Ravens. (Never mind the poor bugger whom that same Jack tricked into taking into taking his place on the gallows! I never said the Jacks were nice fellows, did I?)

What’s changed since those times is that somehow the ravens came to be inside the building instead of outside. But then, the pickings in the oak trees have dwindled to acorns in these modern times, and a raven’s got to eat, don’t he? They don’t seem to mind the pub lunches here. After all, they’re birds of wisdom!

As The Old Man tells it, he himself brought the first pair of ravens with him when he decided this was a more than adequate place to sit out the harsh Winter. Some of the musicians here thought he had stolen them from The Tower and that Albion Itself was now in dire threat. After a few tense days, he convinced them that these ravens were Nordic in origin and Albion was in no danger. At least not from him. Or at least not right now. Or at least it was no one’s business while the snow flew and he wanted a quiet drink. Convincing old gent, and the ravens themselves staring from his shoulders didn’t hurt the argument none.

Big bloody birds they were too! Have you heard a storyteller tell the story of Odin and His Ravens? How they sit on his shoulders cawing something into his ears? How they know everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen? These birds, according to an entry by our Librarian of the time, could well have been them. It sure as ‘ell spooked the bleedin’ fiddlers from the Shetland Islands, who knew both the tunes and stories of their Nordic ancestors. I certainly ‘ave found them spooky enough late at night as they gaze down at you from the rafters overhead … it’s right unnerving to stare into a raven’s eyes. You can’t help wondering why they’re staring at yours, like.

Though someone who looks like The Old Man has been ‘ere off and on down the centuries (and no, I do not know it’s the same gentlemen), the ravens are always here. One pair, watching us, and occasionally stealing food and other things as they see fit. Who’s to tell them they can’t? Not me!

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What’s New for 14th of July: Writings Based on Music, A New Mythology, Japanese Photography, Cider, Supervillains, Nordic Music from the Midwest, Aaron Copland, and other goodies

Whenever one does extraordinary things, someone is bound to try to repeat them for themselves. It’s the way of the world. ― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale: In The Night Garden

I’m listening to The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark, a supernatural mystery set in an alternate early twentieth century Cairo where the djinn are very much real. It’s a novella and it’ll take but a few hours to finish, perfect as I’ve the Library to myself on this fine summer day as I put the final touches on this Edition as nearly everyone not working elsewhere on the Estate is outside enjoying themselves.

I’ve been enjoying a light meal of iced chai, Indonesian spiced cold noodles with diced veggies and cheese. It made for a yummy summer feast on this hot summer day. After that I’m  turning to my iPad where I’ve got WordPress loaded with this Edition ready for the reviews up in draft ready to be edited and blurbed. H’h, I see placeholders for a number of Folkmanis puppet reviews for future editions, and is that, yes, damn it is. So let’s see what I’m using this Edition…

Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to take out from the Library here at Kinrowan Estate: ‘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.’

Gary has a truly epic novel for us: ‘The world is groping for a new mythology, one that makes sense in a world that has seen nuclear devastation and sent humans to the moon; a world that encompasses both communications satellites and children starving to death in the midst of plenty. Perhaps the new mythology will be found in the multiple collisions of cultures, histories, arts and religions; maybe it will be birthed through the agency of pop culture, which has supplanted classical music and art. Or so Salman Rushdie seems to be saying in his sprawling, entertaining and challenging novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.’

Robert brings us something out of the ordinary, an anthology of the work of Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe: ‘“Take art as your weapon and use it to destroy the present and create the future.” This was the motto of a group of artists in post-War Japan who called themselves the Democrats, working in various mediums and allied in their search for new subject matter and new approaches as artists in the new Japan.’

Denise decided to go all-in with the post-Solstice season and dive into a can of Wyndridge Farm’s Crafty Cider. ‘I had my first sip right out of the can, then poured it into a glass and tried it, and then plopped an ice cube in because I am an animal.’ What’d she think? Only one way to find out…

She then decided to munch on some Noble Jerky. The Chipotle flavor got a thumbs up from our friendly neighborhood Hufflepuff: ‘…this jerky just may fool your more carnivorous friends.’ If you’re still trying to wrap your head around plant-based jerky, best to head over to read what Denise has to say. Better than waiting in line for an Impossible Burger.

Robert was fairly enthusiastic about a Spider-Man ‘reboot’: ‘So I had this coupon from Best Buy that allowed me to pick up a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man for half price. Another one of those films I’d heard of but didn’t really know much about, except that 1) it’s about Spider-Man, a character who has started to intrigue me, and 2) superhero.’

A superhero (supervillain?) series that’s well worth the time: Robert starts it off with a look as two collections of Gail Simone’s Secret Six: ‘Gail Simone, with her crew of D-list villains turned super-sort-of-heroes, has hit on a winning series — she’s turning out some of the best multi-layered, post-Dark Knight adventure stories going, with enough plot twists and quirky — and sometimes downright twisted — psychology to keep anyone happy.’

And Robert did go back to the beginning of this series, with a look at Secret Six: Villains United: ‘I mentioned at the end of my review of two of Gail Simone’s Secret Six collections that I was “going to lay hands on a copy of Villains United — I want the back story on this bunch.” Well, I did it.’

Mister Kitty, errr, Cat looks at Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part.  Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’

Cat also looks at Live from Here, the show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Chris Thile: ‘Having sort of followed A Prairie Home Companion and the dreadful and frankly disgusting behaviour of Garrison Keillor, the very long time host and creator of APHC  before Chris Thile, Americana musician par excellence, took over. I listened to him in the early months of his hosting but it didn’t impress me as it felt too much that Kellior was haunting it from offstage.’ Now go read his review to see why he’ll be listening to this show!

Some composers invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Jennifer looks at a recording from a member of De Dannan: ‘Fierce Traditional is the long anticipated new solo album from Frankie Gavin, and it sees him paring the sound right down, getting back to the essence of the music. With the usual stalwart suspects in the studio, long term partner Alec Finn, piano/banjo extraordinaire Brian McGrath and brother Sean Gavin, this album is all about the tunes, pure and simple.

For our What Not this week, Robert pulls a review out of the past and puts it on his hand. What? you say. Well, just take a look: ‘Well, I finally got my first Folkmanis puppet to review, and appropriately enough, it’s the Little Hedgehog — and let me tell you, he’s a real charmer.’ So pop on over to get the details on Folkmanis’ Little Hedgehog.

So what fits a sunny day when no one wants to anything more strenuous than gossiping, drinking a fine ale,  eating whatever is offered up to them, and telling stories? Let’s see what I can find in our sound and video archives that might be suitable…

So about a Story? ‘The Girl in the Garden’ is from the Sirens album by S.J. Tucker and it’s her telling of the girl at the centre of the Story being told by Catherynne Valente in The Orphan’s Tale which is is told in the the rest volumes of In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice. These are not the male dominated stories of olden fantasy but much more balanced in their telling.

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What’s New for the 7th of July: A Magical Family, Historical SF, Chocolate, The Cat In the Hat, Music, Traditional and Not, and other neat stuff

“Look,” said Janet, irritated, “if the thing you liked best to do in the world was read, and somebody offered to pay you room and board and give you a liberal arts degree if you would just read for four years, wouldn’t you do it?” ― Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin

It’s been raining quite nastily over all of Britain for nearly a week now so everyone who doesn’t need to venture outside has avoided doing so. Indeed it’s been cold enough that we’ve turned the heating system back on in Kinrowan Hall and even been keeping the fireplaces in the Pub and elsewhere banked nicely. Some folks are antsy but most are taking it as a welcome break as they know the rest of this warm weather season will be busy enough.

Oh those hand pies in the warming tray on the Pub bar? In our hearts, we all want to hear those three little words: ‘pie for breakfast’. Well hand pies, anyways. Mrs. Ware and our ever-so-skilled Kitchen staff are keenly aware that a working Estate doesn’t mean staff can always take the time out of their busy schedules to sit down and eat a meal, hence breakfast hand pies. Ham, egg and cheddar; apple and yet more cheddar; sausage, egg and cheese — something to please any hearty appetite, no matter what time of day. So she prepared those for the Pub staff to munch on all day long.

This edition has some interesting things for your to consider reading or listening to, or, well, you’ll find out. Might even me something worth drinking…

Our Publisher Cat says that Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of  Graceis a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything by him at all, but gives you a good feel for what he is like as a writer, as it has well-crafted characters, believable settings, and a story that will hold your interest. And it is a novel that you will read again to get some of the nuances that get missed in the first reading.’

Krestrell looks at a something very special, the stories of a family imbued with magic: ‘Aiken wrote the Armitage family stories over the entire span of her career, but The Serial Garden, published by Big Mouth House (Small Beer Press’s new imprint for readers of all ages), is the first time all the stories have been collected into one volume. There are twenty-four stories, including four stories never published before. ’

Mia looks at another Charles de Lint novel: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’

Warner says ’The Violent Century is a historical sci fi novel by Israeli author Lavie Tidhar. Featuring a wide array of preexisting kudos from the likes of Charles Stross and James Ellroy, this is a volume that will make a reader take note. That said, it is a near-superhero tale, which will make some readers raise an eyebrow, and the overall storytelling is in a style not often used, which might help or harm it depending upon a reader’s tastes.’

Die-hard dark chocolate lover Denise tries Marabou’s Schweizer Nöt milk chocolate, and enjoyed it. Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria! ‘This chocolate is flavorful and packs a lot of enjoyment in each wee square.’ Next thing you know, she’ll be praising white chocolate…well, perhaps not. But read her review of this bar to see why she’s making an exception to her usual nosh!

Denise also dives into a packet of Lakritsfabriken Swedish Premium Sweet Liquorice, and these little tidbits won her over. (No surprise there; she’s our resident black licorice ‘expert’…) ‘Tiny bits of heaven is what this is.’ Her review lays out why she’s a fan, so check it out.

Rebecca mildly laments in this review from some years past that ‘I actually promised this review to Maria and Grey for last week, you know. Oh, don’t look at me like that. I did have it in on time… sort of. You see, when I volunteered to review the movie The Cat in the Hat, I realized that I didn’t actually have a copy of the book. Oh, horrors! Well, thought I, this is a perfect excuse to pick it up, and to pick up Cattus Petasatus as well. So I hopped on to Amazon and ordered them up. Unfortunately, Finagle’s Law holds sway here at the Green Man offices as much as anywhere else in the Universe, and the rush-delivery package took an extra three days to arrive. By the time it got here, I had already shrugged and turned in an actually rather pleased review of the movie. However, when I finally read the book, I threw my hands up in the air, cursed in Latin for several minutes (Mater glis erat et olens sabucis pater! Foetorem extremae latrinae!), and ran for Mia, to ask her if I could possibly have that review back, thanks very much…’

Gary was delighted with this feast of music: ‘What started as a three-day music and art festival in the farmlands of upstate New York in July 1969 became one of the touchstones of a generation and an era. This 25th Anniversary “director’s cut” edition of the movie that documented the phenomenon that was Woodstock captures the event in all its sprawling chaos and unlikelihood.’

Lars looks at a recording from the Kathryn Tickell Band: ‘Air Dancing is an album full of great playing, both from the individuals and from the group as a whole. Its well produced, while at the same time the music on it has kept it freshness and shows a little roughness in its attitude. There is a nice balance between the traditional way of playing and a more modern approach to the music. It is firmly rooted in tradition, the way that tradition was portrayed on the very early Tickell albums from the 1980s, but it does not stay entirely within that tradition, but takes it further and widens the possibilities.’

Robert takes a look at what many have called Capercaillie’s ‘crossover’ album: ‘To the Moon was my first exposure to Capercaillie, so of course, it was what’s generally considered their ‘crossover’ album. This is by no means a negative, or even something that’s very obvious: it’s more apparent in the rhythm patterns, the instrumentation (sorry, but no one is going to persuade me that the bouzouki is a traditional Scottish instrument), and the general treatment.’

Robert then takes a turn to territory outside our usual haunts with an unabashedly New Age offering: ‘If you’re going to tackle romance in art — any art, but especially, I think, music — you have to be good at it, or else you wind up with something fit only for hormonal teenagers. Cusco is good at it, and in Apurimac II they are not only good, they are spectacular. A German group who draw on the Inca pan-pipes for their basic sound, they have, according to the CD label, “returned to Ancient America.”‘

Jen’s doing research for a new spy novel series by watching tons of spy-lite movies. This week is the estrogen version as she reports on Ocean’s 8, Spy, and The Spy Who Dumped Me. Drop by and comment if you know any great funny spy movies she may have missed!

So what shall we listen to on this rainy day? Let’s see what the Infinite Jukebox has to offer… Oh that’s nice, it’s ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ by Skerryvore from the Shetland Folk Festival in 2013. And yes I’ve used this music before but it’s worth hearing again as it’s quite delightful indeed.

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A Travels Abroad story: A Theatre Company

Overheard in the Green Room one night…

There, my friend. I am not good company tonight, but if you can stand the long face, I’ll buy the rounds, all right? Here, Reynard — a pint for this compassionate one, the poor bastard…

No, sure it will be all right. Surely. It is just that…you know they say that the world is a stage, yes? Vesti la giubba, vesti la giubba! The sad fruit of hate, the agonies of grief, the cries of rage, the bitter laughter. We breathe the air of this lonely world along with everyone else, and we hold up a mirror — but which is the reflection?

The stage and the world. As Signor Shakespeare said — are they not the same thing? We think, no! they are not, surely they cannot be . . . yet disaster strikes in a mockery of our mockeries, like mirrors reflecting mirrors over and over again, until you cannot tell where life starts and then art continues on, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Which is art? Which is life? Reynard, give me another? No, it’s all right, you know I can hold my drink, I’ve been drinking since before you were whelped! Another for you, my friend?

Ah, don’t look so worried, you. Surely it will be all right. Our company…we follow the grand tradition, the great art, yes . . . we are one of the few companies left of the Commedia dell’Arte, we are! Each performance different, the story the same, but everything fresh, each night new . . . We each have our roles, our specialty, each of us has studied long and hard.

Yes, I am Arlecchino, sometimes I am Truffeldino. Someday when I am a bit older I will master Pedrolino as well, or perhaps he will master me — but Arlecchino, he is my favorite and always has been. Troublemaker, servant, go-between, clever boots . . . that’s me! Your servant, my master!

Ah, my master. Well, he is our director, he is a great clown, a subtle actor, a genius of improvisation! And a good businessman as well; he owns our company. Ah, my friend, I am worried. We came to this great city, was it years ago now? Surely not . . . but now, they shout for us as the kings and queens of the stage!

Tragedy and comedy, both the mirror image of the other… He has a terrible temper, but he is honest, my master is, you can trust him.

She is beautiful, you know, my master’s wife. She is much admired. Much admired. She is sometimes my Columbina, sometimes she is Isabella. She is very clever as Columbina, her improvisations are very good.

Look at the time. I will have to be at the theatre soon. Reynard, one last one for the night. Perhaps just a bit of that whiskey. A sniff of water.

Yes, I am worried. It is this damned city, it turns everything around. Do we become our roles, or do they become us?

But surely it will be all right.

Come down later to see the performance tonight, the? For some reason, I’m actually dreading tonight, I don’t know why. I will feel better if you are there in the audience, my friend. I must go, for, as they say, the show must go on, no matter how we feel, the?

Ridi, Pagliaccio!

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What’s New for the 30th of June: Composer and Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, A Bonnie Bunch of Steeleye Span, Another Spider-Man Film, Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven bar, Online Crafters Ban Trump as a Conversation Subject, A Lúnasa Recording, A Yolen Fantasy and Other Delights

No one is making me say this. No one is making me tell this story. Nobody’s ever been much good at making me say anything I hadn’t already made up my mind to say.  — Elizabeth Bear

I’ve returned from the short concert tour that I and my wife Catherine took in the Nordic countries. It was but five dates, which made it pleasant indeed, and all were small venue concerts, barely fifty attendees each,which made it even more more pleasant, as we knew most who attended from our previous concerts in those cities. We spent three to five days in a city so it was a leisurely time we had there.

If you want a really good look at a certain well-known conductor of the concert scene in the nineteenth century Paris, go read Evenings with Orchestra by Hector Berlioz. It’s an highly amusing look at that scene and he certainly is brutally blunt at times too. I took it with me this trip for my reading material.

Now let’s see what we’ve got this Edition…

Cat has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart. It says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’. The novel  has some astounding descriptions of Irish music sessions it, so do check it. The novel itself is about far more than Irish music and his review tell you why you should be reading it.

Deborah says ‘ (Jane) Yolen initially compiled Not One Damsel in Distress for her daughter and three granddaughters, as she wished to provide for her girls that which she had not been able to access — stories where girls are the heroes. Not heroines or sheroes but true heroes, in every sense of the word. Stories where it is the girls who are the knights and the serpent slayers and the pirates. As Yolen writes in the open letter to her girls at the beginning of the collection, “This book is for you because in it are folktales about heroes — regular sword-wielding, spear-throwing, villain-stomping, rescuing-type heroes who also happen to be females.”‘

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968 – 2001: ‘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.’

Warner says happily: ‘The Last Tsar’s Dragons is an interesting little historical fantasy written by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple. Dealing with revolutionary Russia, this little volume represents a delightful amd multilayered example of the historical fantasy.’

Denise dives into Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven bar, and she’s a fan. ‘ The website says this bar is perfect for sharing, but screw that. It’s too yummy; before you know it, it’s gone.’ Read her review to see exactly why she’s eager to devour this chocolate!

Elizabeth didn’t like the Spider-Man film which we reviewed here but she loved Spider-Man 2: ‘Just about every aspect of this movie is a step-up from the original. First off, the acting is top-notch. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, James Franco as villain-in-training Harry Osborn, and Rosemary Harris as moral compass Aunt May are all back in fine form, and with meatier roles, too. J.K. Simmons had me rolling in the aisles as J. Jonah Jameson, who now has more opportunities to gripe, cheat, and chew on his cigar with ruthless vigor. And — finally! — the filmmakers have seen fit to actually recognize that Kirsten Dunst possesses a remarkable acting talent.’

Cat (the Cat also known as ‘The Chief’) has a look at Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, a comic series that starts to seem frighteningly real: ‘Global Frequency is a organisation devoted to combating those incidents that are too extreme, too weird, or just too dangerous for the usual first responders to handle. Funded by the mysterious Amanda Zero, it consists of exactly one thousand and one agents, all of whom are specialists in something, say, for example, bioweapons or taking out snipers.’

The Oysterband are certainly a folk rock band but Ed has a review of their very early years when they weren’t: ‘I stumbled onto the Oysterband several years back via a copy of Little Rock to Leipzig, received as a premium during a college radio station’s fund drive. This was blind good luck. The two CDs I had originally wanted were gone, so I picked this one based on its “folk-rock” label. I haven’t stopped listening to this band and now own ten of their CDs. As a devoted and possibly obsessed fan, when the chance came to review some of their earliest and long out-of-print albums, I jumped. I now feel blessed to have acquired this piece of their history. In short, these LPs prove that the Oysters were always good, but have nevertheless gotten much better.

Gary reviews a new release from the living legend, South African composer and pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. Of The Balance, his first new album in four years, Gary says, ‘It’s a treat from top to bottom’.

I’ve got a look at  A Parcel of Steeleye Span: ‘This triple disc set contains the entirety of their first five albums for Chrysalis, from 1972’s Below The Salt to 1975’s All Around My Hat with Parcel of RoguesCommoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.’

Paul, who’s got a new baby as of a few days ago,  has a review of a Lúnasa recording : , (pronounced Shay), is Gaelic for ‘six’, and as well as the obvious meaning, is a lovely great mouthful of a title. For those of you who may be new to Lúnasa, this is a four-piece (Cillian Vallely joined a number of years back on pipes and low whistles) traditional Irish band. Just tunes. Great, great tunes. Fiddle, whistles, flutes, upright bass, pipes, guitar, bodhran, a little piano and trumpet even… The variety is wide but never overwhelming. It’s one of the things that have made Lúnasa what they are today: the ability to undertstand just exactly what a tune needs, without ever overcomplicating matters.’

Our What Not today deals with crafts, social media, and freedom of speech. Or, to be more specific, what one can refuse to allow on a website. The social crafting site Ravelry just banned pro-Trump posts; ‘We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.’ They’re not banning supporters, nor are the endorsing any political party. They’re just dis-allowing hate.

But crafting is so soft and fluffy, right? Hah. Fiber-y types have always been more than a little revolutionary. There’s yarn-bombing, irreverent and subversive cross-stitch, ‘stitch and bitch’ events, and the ‘Pussy Hat’ movement, to name a few current bits of craftiness. Why? Because as with all other forms of art, fiber artists deal with their own forms of censorship, most notably with regards to what can and can’t be shown, according to whatever pearl-clutcher gets bent out of shape. So why not shout out using what you’ve got on hand? In taking a stand, Ravelry uses what they’ve got on hand to deliver a message against hate and racism. And I’m damn proud to be one of their members.

Our music to take our leave this time is some Rock and Roll as I’m in the mood for it. Yes I like that music — of a certain vintage that is.  It’s by Credence Clearwater Revival and it’s their ’Bad Moon Rising’ from their Madison Square Garden show on the thirteenth of May forty nine years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Did You Notice…?

Just past Midsummer, and life around the Kinrowan Estate offices has started getting a little weird. Oh, all right, a little weirder. I’m reporting in from the Estate building on a beautiful warm day. I’ve been noticing that the young plants in the gardens and window boxes have started hitting their stride and the baskets outside the doors are approaching full speed on the floral display. But there’s other stuff going on. The Midsummer Solstice is our namesake’s time, sure, mischievous nature and all, but this is ridiculous.

Things have been going missing a little more often; one puts something down and it disappears — a week later, one finds it in a totally different room than the room from which it went missing. Poltergeists? The early onset of senile dementia? One of The Cats has developed opposable thumbs? Hmmmm.

Inanimate objects — computers, sound equipment, bicycles, you name it — have started developing what might be called personalities, or perhaps a migration path. Surely that computer desktop was different yesterday when you put it to sleep, but you can’t quite think how. One of Reynard’s taps has gotten cranky (okay, so that’s not all that unusual, but throw it in anyway) down in the Green Man Pub, and the musicians in the Neverending Session have recently started complaining of strings that won’t stay in tune, cracks in previously entirely stable reeds (all right, pipers’ complaints can’t be called unusual either), and rosin going missing.

And don’t get me started on the kitchen staff complaints.

Significantly, there’ve been some magnificent displays put on by lightning bugs in the gardens the last few evenings, and the cats have been very alert indeed.

I suppose you could make a case for overflow of life-force, or biorhythms going off kilter, or just that the midsummer energy has gotten into us all (and the building). But I’m plumping for a slight rash of fairies.

Mind you, not the tall, Seelie noble-looking fairy or elf of literary and celluloid fame, but the average, household, put-the-milk-out-in-a-saucer-so-we-don’t-end-up-cursed-Mildred kind of fairy, common as measles.

I can’t be the only one who has suspicions. Someone has risked the wrath of old Augustus, our concertina-playing gardener, by taking clippings off the young morning glory vines on the brick wall outside the kitchen garden. I even noticed a new horseshoe hanging up over the door of Gus’s shed near the old stables the other day; I expect not so much for its luck, but for its iron.

And now I’m wondering if it wasn’t Gus who’s been cleaning up the twigs under the rowan copse on the east side of the grounds.

Mind, one wouldn’t want to rid oneself totally of fairies. Besides the fact that they can be just as capriciously generous and benign as they can be suddenly irritable and malign, there’s the wonder factor; life without them might be a bit too grey and predictable. Anyway, when odds and sods go missing, they make excellent scapegoats.

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What’s New for the 23rd of June: The Very First Spider-Man Film, Four Fantasies, Bees, Mouse Guard short stories, A Spanish Christmas sweet fit for year round, Dr. John Live and Some Other Matters

You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you. ― Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway

Come in … let me turn down the music. Yes that’s Dr. John, the New Orleans musician. He’s been a favourite of mind for some forty years now. We’ll close with some music by him this time.

You’re looking for Iain, our Librarian? Well he’s off again on a vacation trip, errr, I mean another short concert tour with his wife, violinist and vocalist Catherine, in the Nordic nations this time. While he’s gone, Gus is having the Library Apprentices, the Several Annies, help him with much needed gardening work, so I’m writing up this edition without their usual assistance. That also means The Library is looking after Itself in his absence, something it’s quite capable of doing.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this Edition. The novels I picked are all ones that I’ve read many a time and are favourites of staffers and visitors alike; the music is choices that most likely you’ve not encountered before but which are well worth hearing. And Cat R.  has something sweet for you. Now let’s get started.

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

I know it’s not Autumn but a fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

He also has a look at a difficult but rewarding fantasy: ‘Lavondyss is perhaps the most problematic of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood books, the least accessible and at the same time the richest. It also plays the most games with time, narrative flow and character identity, and as such is either going to delight or frustrate the reader far more than an ordinary tale of a young girl lost in the wood has any right to.’

Robert has a treat for us: ‘Ellen Kushner’s first novel was Swordspoint, a romantic fantasy set in a universe strongly reminiscent of Jacobean and Restoration London, with admixtures of the Elizabethan and Georgian eras – life is bigger than life, intrigue is rampant, the City, which is the main locus of the action, is a lively, vital part of a story that ranges from the crime-ridden Riverside to the artistocratic estates on the Hill. The only magic involved is Kushner’s storytelling. The Fall of the Kings is set sixty years after the events in the first novel, and with Delia Sherman as collaborator Kushner has broadened and enriched the context and created a story that still rings with the bustle of a vibrant city and adds an element of darker, more mysterious past to a time bathed in reason.’

It’s hot weather, so let’s have something sweet to cool our taste buds. Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is as a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’

Long before the current Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence, there were Marvel films and so therefore we have the very first Spider-Man film nearly a generation ago. Michael ended his review in this manner: ‘Overall, I loved Spider Man. Where it’s good, it’s very very good. Where it falls down, it doesn’t so much disappoint as it fails to match the rest of the movie. As far as pure story goes, it’s primal Spider-Man, essence of character boiled down for a new audience, and that’s what matters. Go see this and have some good old-fashioned superheroic fun.’ Now go read his detailed review to see how he got to that conclusion.

Robert comments that ‘Given the popularity and critical acclaim of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard series (as witness our own very positive review of the first book, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152), it was almost inevitable that there would be spin-offs. And indeed, Peterson has brought us one himself, with the aid of a number of collaborators: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. So will you like it? Ahhh you’ll need to read his review to see if that might be so!

Our Editor Cat found a concert recording, John Fogerty’s The Long Road Home, to be a keeper:Though Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the best bands of the Sixties, I’m more fond of the recordings of the post-CCR career of vocalist John Fogerty. And his best recordings are by far the concert recordings, both the legit ones like this release and of course the many bootlegs done as soundboard recordings.’

Gary has a recording for us that sounds like a lot of fun: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home. Amarillis is a Pennsylvania-based trio: Maro Avakian on piano, Donna Isaac on fiddle and Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina. They play a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish, English and North American jigs, reels and slip-jigs in medleys or sets. Of course, no contra dance is complete without a few waltzes now and then, and this collection has several good examples.

Gary also reviews a new release. The Low and Low is by Locust Honey, and it’s their third. ‘Their first two were under a longer monicker, Locust Honey String Band, and the name change is instructive,’ he says.

Creole Moon gets an enthusiastic review by Patrick: ‘If somebody tells you to pick up the latest album by Malcolm John Rebennack, you’ll probably say, “Huh? Who dat?” But if somebody says, “Dr. John,” then it’s a pretty sure bet you’ll know just what’s being prescribed: a dose of good ole Creole medicine for the soul.’

Our What Not concerns bees. We have a lot of bee hives here, several hundred at least, and there’ve most likely been hives here for a thousand years. Every culture has its folklore about bees and the Irish are no exception. Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and our primary beekeeper, passed on this article to me, Eimear Chaomhánach’s ‘The Bee, its Keeper and Produce, in Irish and Other Folk Traditions’. If you’re interested in folklore of these fascinating creatures, this is a must read for you.

I saw Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. better known as Dr. John some fifteen years ago in New Orleans when Ingrid and I took a vacation there. A New Orleans native, his music combined combined the blues, a dash of pop, quite a bit of jazz, more than some boogie-woogie and even rock and roll, all in a theatrical voodoo flavoured show which was reflected in the larger than life personality of the Night Tripper. He was already in somewhat ill health when we saw him, and he passed recently at the age of seventy seven.

So let’s honour him and his considerable talent with ‘Walk on Gilded Splinters’ recorded at JVC Capital Radio Jazz Parade in 1990. It first appeared as the closing track of his debut album Gris-Gris  back in 1968, credited to Dr. John the Night Tripper.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Firewood

Though we have long since adopted new technologies here at the Kinrowan Estate for providing heat, including electric radiators from low head hydro on the river that runs through our lands, and deep thermal power pumps (expensive but worth it), nothing beats a roaring fire for cheering up us during the long winter here.

So I and the Estate lads, using cross-cut saws and axes, harvest roughly twenty cords of wood every year. Some is from limbs and whole trees that winter winds and snow bring down. Those are mostly conifers which have brittle branches and shallow roots. They smell good and crackle quite lovely when burning.

We’ve been growing trees specifically for firewood for centuries now, so there’s always plenty of oak, maple, ash, and (culled from the orchards) apple. Most of it gets harvested during the winter when the ground is frozen hard and the stuff keeps the horse drawn sleighs from damaging the fields and woods that we transverse in bringing the wood back to the curing buildings.

Curing the wood is required as all freshly cut wood has a high moisture content which must be reduced by stacking it in a dry but well ventilated space. One year is good, two years is ideal. And of course, we must plant new trees to replace those we harvested, which many decades from now will be harvested by the Head Estate Gardener of that time.

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What’s New for the 16th of June: Folkmanis’ Rat in a Tin Can, Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood, Sam Adams Seasonal Ale, A Dance & Concert by Blato Zlato, A Futuristic Riff off Holmes, Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and Other Neat Matters

Remember what they said? Some of it was true. — Clash’s ‘London Calling’

I’ve been madly, deeply this past fortnight into the various permutations of Clash, which in turn became Big Audio Dynamite and the Carbon/Silicon duo spin-off, not to mention the solo act of Joe Strummer, not to overlook his brilliant work with The Mescaleros. It’s fascinating to listening to the musical evolution of a group of musicians. The Infinite Jukebox, our media server, contains a lot of their music and it certainly was fascinating to see how these musicians handled diverse forms of music.

Now lets turn to this edition…

David has a few words to say about a book on his favourite band: ‘In the year 2000, a series of books was published under the imprint “Kill Your Idols.” They were published in a neat little format, black covers with a b&w photo of the subject and his name as the title. Neil YoungTom WaitsElvis CostelloLeonard Cohen and The Clash. The only band that matters is the only band that got a book! David Quantick, a writer whose work has appeared in SpinNME and Q magazines, is a good choice for authoring a book about the Clash. He is a fan, but he understands their weaknesses, as well as their strengths.’

Kelly looks at a fascinating work of obsession, err, love called The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: ‘To the casual reader or observer, it sometimes may seem that the twentieth century was the time of real blossoming in terms of the Fantastic in literature: after all, that’s when science fiction really came into its own, and when a certain Don of Oxford penned a tale about hobbits and gold rings. But the more rigorous student of the Fantastic knows that Fantasy, as well as those tropes that eventually spun away to become science fiction, are far older than just a hundred years. The literature of the fantastic stretches back as far as Homer, after all, and likely even before that.’

Robert looks at a favorite novel of mine: ‘It seems somewhat odd, on reflection, to realize that in a genre that so often uses magic as a metaphor and/or device, so few writers actually evoke the qualities of magic in their writing. That observation is prompted by Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood. 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.’

Warner has a novel for us that’s not quite what it appears to be: ‘The Hound of Justice by Claire O’dell has little to do with Sherlock Holmes, and nothing to do with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Truth be told, it has more in common with the BBC series Sherlock than the literary source. The leads are called friends. But Watson shows no real positive emotion for Holmes, and the familiar investigator shows little sign of caring for their friends in turn.’

Richard has a look at yet another band that fused trad music and a rockier music: ‘No tale of Shane McGowan and the Pogues would be complete without mention of the man’s teeth — just like the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo, the Pogues were exemplified by the rotting and misshapen tangle of teeth that exploded in every direction out of Shane McGowan’s mouth. From their first appearance on the cover of the Pogues’ debut EP, “Poguetry in Motion,” the fortunes of those teeth mirrored those of the man himself, and the decline and fall of both are amply documented in the Sundance Channel’s documentary, If I Should Fall from Grace – the Shane McGowan Story.’

Denise is jumping the gun by reviewing a summer brew before Solstice. But we’ll give her a pass just this once. Especially since the new recipe for Samuel Adams Seasonal Summer Ale sounds like a good ‘un. ‘To be honest, I never cared for SA’s usual take on this brew; it felt too spicy and robust for a warm weather brew. But this? This is groovy, baby.’

Cat has some comments on a very non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’

Blind Faith were an English blues band made up of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. The band released their only studio album, Blind Faith, in August 1969. (There’s also Live Cream & Live Cream, Volume II.) Craig says about the deluxe version of Blind Faith that: ‘For collectors and rabid fans of the artists, this deluxe edition is probably worth the extra cash, given the expanded and informative liner notes and the extra 90 minutes of music.’

The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper and fiddler, that her live show features ‘… tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving.’  Ed  certainly agrees, as his review of her Debateable Lands is quite glowing.

‘Whenever I hear live Balkan music, I find myself wondering, “Why do I ever listen to anything else?” ‘ says Gary. He got an earful of it at a dance/concert by Blato Zlato, the New Orleans-based Bulgarian group that’s about to release their second full-length CD.

Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

Our musical coda quite naturally is ’London Calling’ which was recorded off the soundboard at Edenhall, Amsterdam on the ninth of July thirty eight years ago. Damn, I’m suddenly feeling old.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 16th of June: Folkmanis’ Rat in a Tin Can, Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood, Sam Adams Seasonal Ale, A Dance & Concert by Blato Zlato, A Futuristic Riff off Holmes, Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and Other Neat Matters