Toss the pot, toss the pot: let us be merry, And drink till our cheeks be as red as a cherry. We take no thought, we have no care, Still we spend and never spare ’til all of money our purse is bare. We ever toss the pot. — start of a drinking song by Thomas Ravenscroft
Do you remember that composer? If you’re not a follower of post-Commonwealth English popular music, probably no more than you know John Playford, another English composer who lived just a bit later than some playwright from Stafford on Avon that you do know. But I’ll bet that many of you know the ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ tune that has been covered by the Baltimore Consort, Loreena McKennit, Les Witches, Ensemble Galilei. And here is ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ by the Horslips at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, thirty-seven years ago. Yes Playford composed it. Or possibly just collected it.
I’ve had the Several Annies, my Library Apprentices, asking members of the Neverending Session, if they know who wrote a tune when they play it for them. (All of them play or sing — it’s a required skill.) The answers are illuminating as it’s rare that even something as recent as ‘The Philadelphia Reel’ written by Phillipe Varlet have a true history know to them. Fascinating to say the least.
David once wrote a short story, entitled ‘Me & the Devil Blues’, inspired by blues legend Robert Johnson. So it’s not surprising that he was eager to review Robert Johnson: Lost and Found, written by Barry Lee Pearson, a professor at the University of Maryland, and Bill McCulloch, a career journalist and one-time blues musician. ‘Together they have set out to debunk the myths which have surrounded Johnson like a thick vine, to trim off the suckers, and to look directly at Johnson’s accomplishments as a blues musician.’
When Lory says ‘Most people’s knowledge of Canadian children’s literature runs the gamut from Anne of Green Gables to . . . well, Anne of Green Gables,’ I think many of us can concur. But don’t let that deter you from checking out Windows and Words: A Look at Canadian Children’s Literature in English. While the book does focus predominantly on Montgomery’s Anne and Emily of Full Moon, there’s other authors to discover, like Tim Wynne-Jones and Patricia Galloway, Lory assures us.
Richard looks at the first of three METAtropolis anthologies, with this one called, errrr, METAtropolis being edited by John Scalzi, which is, he says ‘the latest attempt at a shared-universe anthology, and it’s one of the most ambitious to date. Rather than being based off a particular setting, it’s predicated on the notion of the future of the city itself. The concept drives the evolution of the continuity between stories, rather than the world bible dictating what concepts make sense at play here. It’s an interesting approach and a daunting one. The bar is set high, and the five authors fling themselves at it with varying degrees of success.’
Robert brings us a look at a couple of books by Joseph W. Campbell, starting with The Hero With A Thousand Faces: ‘Where to start a discussion of a book on mythology that is itself nearly a legend? Joseph W. Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces is one of those landmark works of twentieth-century thought that have opened up new territory for exploration. I’m not sure I’ll go so far as to claim, as does one of the jacket comments, that it could be the most influential book of the century, but I wouldn’t rule it out.’
He then continues with Campbell’s Myths of Light: ‘In Myths of Light . . . he turns his attention to what he calls the “Orient” — those civilizations and mythic traditions east of a line through Persia that, as Campbell notes, separates the East — India, China and Japan — from the West — the Levant and Europe. He not only notes the essential differences in world view between these civilizations, but also their areas of similarity — once again finding the commonality that underlies all of our various religious traditions.’
And for a look at the “man behind the myth,” so to speak, see Robert’s take on The Hero’s Journey.
Robert has some thoughts on a rather unusual superhero collection: ‘The Authority: Rule Britannia is the second part of Wildstorm’s World’s End series. By this time, the world is pretty much of a mess: the Carrier is grounded in the city of London — now “Unlondon” — to which its lower sections have fused. Jenny Quantum and the Doctor are missing, leaving Angela Spica, the Engineer; Jack Hawksmoor, the spirit of cities; Swift, a winged woman; Apollo, a bio-engineered “Superman”; and Midnighter, Apollo’s husband and a mean fighter who can see his opponents’ next moves, to try to make some order out of the chaos.’
As long as we’re looking at dystopian futures, Robert has another one for us: ‘There is something to be said for walking into things without foreknowledge. I readily admit that a background in any area will help you to enjoy something more fully, but when it comes to specifics, it’s often better to have no expectations. I had heard a little bit of buzz, most of it favorable, about Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men; I don’t know if I would have been better off without it or not.’
Whirligig’s Spin gets a look-see from Ed: ‘While it would be fair to categorize Whirligig as primarily Celtic, that’s really too narrow a label for this multi-faceted and talented septet. They clearly shine as a “rad-trad” band, playing tight, punchy high-octane versions of traditional Celtic tunes mixed with their own compositions in the same genre. But there are bits of tasty improvisation here along with carefully crafted songs, both traditional and new, a touch of the Balkans, a 12th century Gregorian Chant — rendered surprisingly effectively on solo soprano saxophone — and a cover of the B-52’s “Revolution Earth.” For those looking for comparisons, John Whelan, Dervish, Moving Hearts and Paul Winter come to mind.’
The trio from Prince Edward Island called Ten Strings and a Goat Skin (think guitar, fiddle and bodhràn) has a new recording, with a lively mix of traditional and contemporary tunes and songs from the Quebecois, Cape Breton, Scottish and Irish traditions. Gary says of the CD Auprès du Poêle, ‘this bunch of Canadians is the best kind of traditional ensemble, one that takes the music very seriously but has a heck of a lot of fun playing it.’
Although the Eivind Austad Trio hails from Norway, Gary says they hew pretty closely to straight-ahead American-style jazz on their debut disc Moving. Their American influences are explicit on tracks such as a cover of Cole Porter’s “All Of You,” as well as on Austad’s tune ‘Homeland,’ which Gary thinks reveals a touch of Vince Guaraldi’s style. Read his review here.
Gary says the Seattle-based group Western Centuries makes classic honky-tonk country music. The music on their debut recording Weight of the World is also, he says, ‘quite a bit like the music made in the early years of country rock, the late ’60s and early ’70s, (New Riders of the Purple Sage, Poco, Pure Prairie League and their ilk) with a rock sensibility and lyrics that, once you give a close listen, verge on the psychedelic and hallucinatory.’
Mikko Joensuu is a Finn who makes, of all things, Americana-tinged folk rock, Gary says. His solo debut album Amen 1, he says, is ‘not at all overtly Scandinavian, except perhaps in its sense of sardonic pessimism, but its dark minor keys and chordal structures are more American than Finnish.’
Patrick says of the Solas concert he saw that ‘I went to bed with their music in my head, and when I woke up the next morning, it was still there. That’s just how good Solas’ March 21 show at Rosebud in Pittsburgh was. Strains of “Black Annis,” “Darkness Darkness” and “Dignity” ran through my dreams all night, haunting me with melodies I could clearly hear but not quite grasp in the darkness of sleep.’
Our What Not this time is again a theatre piece. Kestrell had some worries about a stage production before she saw it: ‘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.’
Gary here. I’m working on a review of a new album by Spanish-born accordionist Victor Prieto. His new release The Three Voices puts a jazz ensemble to work reimagining Galician folk tunes, plus a samba, a Piazzolla tango, some Tuvan-style overtone singing, and more. The album is due on June 21, and Prieto will perform at Symphony Space in New York on June 21 as well. Here’s ‘Muiñeira for Cristina‘ from the album, featuring the great Cristina Pato on the gaita or Galician pipes.