Behind every traditional hardanger fiddle tune, there is always a story, is always a fairy tale, and you actually tell the stories when you play the fiddle. — Annbjørg Lien, one of the artists featured on the Nordic Roots set of recordings.
We’ve got our first snow here at the Kinrowan Estate — not that much but enough to turn everything properly white. It was interesting to watch our sheep dogs, Irish wolfhounds all, play in the snow as they’re wont to do. And there was several attempts to make snow beings of various sorts but the snow wasn’t quite right for that. As for myself, I was content to watch from the Pub here while enjoying an Irish coffee.
Bjorn, our Estate Brewmaster, five years ago laid down for ageing elderberry liqueur he’d distilled. If you’d like to join us in the tasting room after you read these notes, I’m sure you’ll find it to your liking!
Gary starts off our reviews this time with a loving look at Reid Mitenbuler’s Bourbon Empire which bears the subtitle of The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. A history of bourbon lovingly told? Need I say more to get you to read his review? I think not!
Amy Stewart’s book might be a novel from its title but as Gary notes ‘No, it’s not a murder mystery or a light romantic comedy. The Drunken Botanist is a botanical exploration of “The plants that create the world’s great drinks,” as its subtitle says.’
Your Guitarist May Vary – Mine’s Pete Townshend is an essay by Deb that details why she thinks he’s greatest guitarist of all time. Even if you disagree, read her highly entertaining essay.
She follows that up with …And Maddy Dances, a most unusual look at Maddy Prior: ‘Maddy’s is the voice of England’s green and pleasant land. There are no ambiguities there, nothing ethereal. It’s an anchor of warmth and reality. Of course Maddy dances: hers is the voice of the girl who knows all the moves to the morris.’
Moving over to reviews of recorded music, Gary has a review of Shujaat Husain Khan and Katayoun Goudarzi’s Ruby, which he says is a departure from their previous releases on which Goudarzi recited Persian “ghazals” by Rumi, set to sitarist Khan’s compositions. ‘The main difference is that Goudarzi turned the poetry into songs this time, so she sings them to the accompaniment of sitarist Khan and the others.’
He follows with a self titled recording from Arto Järvel of which he notes, ‘Järvelä, for those who don’t recognize the name, is the “J” of the well-known and critically acclaimed Finnish folk trio JPP.’Think Finnish trad music merged with their own compositions making it very, very tasty indeed!
Gary is an NRBQ aficionado so it’s not surprising that he liked a side-project by NRBQ member Terry Adams, Talk Thelonious: ‘I’ve been a casual fan of NRBQ since about 1992, when I happened to see them when Richard Thompson opened for them. I remember three things about them: 1) Their guitarist Al Anderson was fantastic. 2) Their pianist Terry Anderson was a maniac who at one point was pounding on the keyboard with his dilapidated piano stool. 3) They were loud as FUCK!’
Gary finishes reviewing this time with Calexico’s Edge of the Sun which he notes ‘is packed full of the kind of music that made me a longtime fan of the Tucson band. To me it’s one of Calexico’s more successful albums in quite a while. The songs have strong melodies – both on the catchy upbeat numbers and the more pensive ones – and deeply felt lyrics that lean frequently toward the melancholy, with glimmers here and there of hopefulness. In the time that I’ve been listening to this album, just about every one of its songs has at one time or another been my favorite.’
Iain leads off our fiction reviews this time with a look at Rex Stout’s Fer-de-lance. Iain says of Nero Wolfe, the brains here, that he ‘is an eighth-of-a-ton recluse who rarely leaves the Manhattan brownstone he owns, so he raises rare orchids, enjoys gourmet meals prepared by Fritz, reads a lot of books, and solves mysteries.’ Archie Goodwin, his dogsbody, is the first-person narrator for the series.
We finish off the book reviews with a look by Gary at two Culture novels by the late Iain M. Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata and Surface Detail. Read his reviews to get the breadth and depth of a series featuring a ten-thousand-year-old galaxy-wide society where humans, aliens and machine intelligences exist together in harmony (mostly) and just enough disharmony to make the stories set here interesting.
We finish off Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête, a film that gets praised by Robert: ‘We hear a lot about the “magic of the silver screen” (although I confess we seem to have left magic behind for a kind of gritty realism — the “magic” has turned dark and somewhat morbid). It’s nice to haul out a classic that really is magical.’
Ahh I see that you can smell the stockpots simmering on the big wood stove in our Kitchen all the way from here. I think one has got a curried rice, checked and vegetables in it, the other a hearty venison stew.
I’m going to leave you with the late Kage Baker reading one of her own works, that being her Empress of Mars novella. It was supposed to be included on a CD in the limited edition version of the story that was going to be published by Nightshade Books but that never happened, so she gave us permission to publish it digitally. So find a quiet place to listen and settle in to hear a most excellent sf story told by a master storyteller!
Kathleen, her sister and a damn fine writer as well, notes that ‘she was an old-fashioned storyteller. She loved adding dimensions, and felt that all her stories should be either copiously illustrated or read out to an audience.’