What’s New for the 3rd of January: Music from the Chieftains and the Bothy Band, German chocolate redux, a guide to mysteries and much more

She looks like the wizened old crone in that painting Jilly did for Geordie when he got into this kick of learning fiddle tunes with the word ‘hag’ in the title: ‘the Hag in the Kiln,’ ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me,’ ‘The Hag With the Money,’ and god knows how many more. Just like in the painting, she’s wizened and small and bent over and … dry. Like kindling, like the pages of an old book. Like she’s almost all used up. Hair thin, body thinner. but then you look into her eyes and they’re so alive it makes you feel a little dizzy. — Charles de Lint‘s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ story, which is collected in Dreams Underfoot.

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Reynard pointed out one evening to me that Old Hag tunes were as common as musicians caching something to eat from the Kitchen staff early in the morning after a session that went deep into the midnight which is why the crew there always have a basket of bacon rolls and another basket of Swedish style cinnamon buns sit warm on one of the stoves as you never know when someone will want breakfast. Or least a quick snack.

I in turn pointed that pointed out that the Bothy Band, an Irish band of great distinction, that only lasted four years roughly forty years ago, did what I consider the best version ever — ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ as performed by them at the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival alnost forty years ago. He didn’t disagree and poured me a generous measure of poitín.

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John Connolly and Declan Burke’s Burke’s Books To Die For is the answer for me to this question: ‘Now how do I, like other lovers of this genre, find series and/or solo novels when we don’t know about ones we haven’t read.’

An anthology gets a once-over by one of our Michaels: ‘In Ellen Datlow’s Supernatural Noir, the gritty realism of noir embraces the nightmare imaginings of supernatural horror in order to offer up sixteen stories rich in style, shadows, and psychological complexity.’

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Now that Winter is setting in in earnest, and thanks to the marvels of modern technology, what better way to weather the storms outside than by curling up with a good movie? Robert has a couple you might want to try — sort of a mini film series: First, from director Kenneth Branagh (with an assist from Joss Whedon), Thor: ‘I haven’t seen anything by Branagh since his Henry V, and strangely enough, I find the same themes threading their way through both, largely in the relationship between warriors and kings and how the first becomes the second. It’s really Thor’s coming of age story.’

And of course, you’ll want to follow up with the second installment, Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World: ‘In spite of what you may have heard, sequels aren’t always bad. Indeed, sometimes they are better than the originals. Case in point: Alan Taylor’s take on the Thor franchise for Marvel, Thor: The Dark World.’

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As long as we’re in superhero mode (yes, we are), how about one of the innumerable Batman spin-offs that have made their appearance in recent years? This one is Batman Beyond, from Adam Beechen, Ryan Benjamin and John Stansici, in its first installment, Hush Beyond. Follow that up with Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution from the same team and — well, as Robert puts it: ‘OK — it’s fun, shades of the old-style, pre-Dark Knight Batman, even though Bruce Wayne is certainly about as dyspeptic as he can be. The only thing missing is the POW! and the WHAM!’

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Robert looked at three more chocolate squares from Ritter, the German chocolate company. (Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts; Rum, Trauben, Nuss (Rum, Raisins, Nuts); And Dark Chocolate with Marzipan). His answer to why he has less satisfied this outing than when he reviewed the first three Ritter squares is detailed by him.

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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. ‘

Lars says he was surprised by Himmerland’s The Spider in the Fiddle even though he shouldn’t be. And that should be reason enough for you to read his review, don’t you think?

He also looked at two albums by the Gothard Sisters, Mountain Rose and Story Girl.  He notes in the latter review that ‘The other week I had the pleasure of reviewing the Gothard Sisters’ Christmas album and I wondered at the time what else they were capable of in their own comfort zone, and now I know. The three sisters, Greta, Willow and Solana, exhibit a talent way beyond their years. The music, the ambiance, and flair is very professional and brilliant to say the least.’

He finished off his reviewing with Niamh Boadle’s Maid on the Shore: ‘Niamh’s main focus is her vocals, but she is also an accomplished guitarist, a fine fiddler and she also performs on bodhran, whistle and mandolin on this album, though mostly to accompany her singing.’

Our Australian Michael notes that 4Play 76/79 came from a band which once had constant turnover: ‘A not uncommon response when Fairport Convention is mentioned is to think of a band with regular line-up changes. However, that was really only the case in the first couple of decades of their existence. The remaining two and a half decades have been quite consistent, with the current band being the longest lasting at 14 years. However, back in the late 1970s, for a Fairport line-up to last 3 years and even produce two albums with the same members was considered quite remarkable.’

Gary says Stick in the Wheel’s From Here is one of his favorite releases of 2015. Who is Stick in the Wheel? If you’re in the U.K. you’ve probably heard of them, but in the U.S., not so much. They’re “Cockney East London folk musicians with more than a whiff of the punk about them,” Gary says. “And by ‘punk’ I mean the DIY spirit and spit-in-your-eye attitude behind punk.” This full-length debut is full of raw renditions of English folk songs and a few originals on modern themes.

An Americana singer won his favour: ‘Singer, songwriter, banjo player and songster Kaia Kater‘s debut release Sorrow Bound is a fine program of Americana. It leans particularly toward old-time Appalachian-style music — not surprising given her talent and obvious love for claw-hammer-style playing. But this is no album for purists. Instead it’s a mostly successful attempt to bring old-time into the present day.’

Bottle, from Eliza Carthy and Tim Eriksen, really, really pleased him: ‘So here we are about 20 years later, and Eriksen and Carthy have recorded an album together. Something I’m told they’ve been wanting to do for about 20 years themselves. It’s a natural fit. Eriksen’s craggy, in-your-face mid-range voice blends delightfully with Carthy’s earthy alto, and his eclectic range of skills with stringed instruments complements her drop-dead, inimitable fiddling.’

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Reynard’s asked me to include a cut he spotted on the Infinite Jukebox, our digital server of music and other media as well, of an extended tune set by the Chieftains of ‘Planxty McGuire/Charles O’Connor/Farewell to Music/Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór/Bumper Squire Jones/Planxty Johnston’ as performed in Bremen, Germany some thirty-six years ago.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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