The soldier came knocking upon the queen’s door
He said, “I am not fighting for you any more”
And the queen knew she’d seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside
Suzanne Vega’s ‘The Queen and the Soldier’
Care to have a pint of our new All Hallows Eve Ale? It’s quite good. I’ll get Finch to draw you a pint. I’ve been getting stellar comments about it from those who’ve had a few pints. Bjorn, our Brewmaster, always seems to enjoy creating new Autumn libations more than those he does for the other seasons. And he’s hinting that he’ll be doing an authentic Octoberfest beer very soon but he’s kept everything a secret from even me.
In the meantime, I’m writing up this edition as Iain, your usual host, is running through the tunes that Red Robin will be playing later this evening in the Sanctuary as he’s the caller. Two violinists, one smallpiper plus a mountain dulcimer player — all from Ashville, North Carolina — and it should be quite tasty to dance to.
I’ve got a full edition for you with no particular theme this time as you’ll find a look at The Clash, a folk music infused mystery, Irish lore, Kage Baker on barm brack, a new Handsome Family album and my favourite Suzanne Vega song to mention other things here this time as well. So enjoy your ale whilst I get this edition together…
David looks at a choice band bio: ‘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 Young, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Leonard 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 Spin, NME 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 theirs strengths.’
So how about a major reading experience. Let me offer you The History of Middle Earth which is the extensive background Tolkien wrote for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I suggest you get comfortable before reading Liz’s look at it as it is a very detail essay on this massive work: ‘The History of Middle-earth offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine a great writer’s creative development over a period of 60 years. At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’
Leona gives an incisive review of Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, ‘this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’
Robert got lost in a work by Daithi Ó hÓgáin:’ The Lore of Ireland is subtitled ‘An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance.’ That somewhat terse description hides a wealth of information in entries ranging from a short commentary on the mythical king Tighearnmhas (in whose reign gold was first discovered in Ireland, and who came to bad end) to an exhaustive discussion of the origins, permutations and meanings of the Fianna Cycle. It’s a treasure house of names, places, stories and ideas — everything from a short biography of Ní Mháille (Grace O’Malley, a sixteenth-century pirate queen who once visited Queen Elizabeth) to St. Patrick, and from pigs to fairies (not as far apart as you might think.) I admit it — I spent hours wandering from cross-reference to cross-reference.’
The late and much missed Kage Baker, a woman who loved all things culinary such as the Two Fat Ladies series, once upon a time taught the bakers in our kitchen to make a most excellent soul cake according to what she says is a traditional Scots recipe. Let’s listen in as she tells them how she makes these nibblies…
Robert has a look at a whole bunch of comics collections centered on the heroes of Robert E. Howard, starting with The Chronicles of Kull: ‘Before there was Conan, there was Kull! At least, so we were reminded on any number of covers of comics featuring stories about Robert E. Howard’s Kull, the spiritual forerunner of Conan.’
The sagas continue with The Saga of Solomon Kane and The Chronicles of Solomon Kane: ‘Kane himself is somewhat unusual for a sword-and-sorcery hero, particularly when we consider Howard’s later creations: not a barbarian, but a civilized Englishman of the time of Edward VI and Elizabeth, and, necessarily, Mary, whom Kane would have regarded ambivalently, at best: she was Catholic, he a staunch Puritan.’
And of course, you can’t talk about Howard’s heroes without mentioning Conan, and boy, have we got Conan: See what Robert has to say about Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith’s The Chronicles of Conan, Vol. 1: The Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories and The Barry Windsor-Smith Archive: Conan, Volume 1.
Gary says The Handsome Family’s new release Unseen is one of their strongest. ‘I’ve been a serious fan of The Handsome Family for so long – nearly 20 years now – that it’s hard to be objective.’ The album, he says, ‘continues their trademark blend of traditional country-western instrumentation and lyrics that range from the hyper-realistic to decidedly surreal, sometimes from one line to the next.’
Cajun fiddler Courtney Granger has a new solo album out, but it’s not what you might think, Gary says. On Beneath Still Waters Granger sings classic country songs by George Jones, Waylon Jennings and others. ‘A member of the Balfa clan, he’s a top-notch fiddler and for nearly a decade has been playing in Cajun groups the Pine Leaf Boys and Balfa Toujours,’ Gary says. ‘But he obviously has a deep love for and knowledge of classic country music, and man, does he have a voice that just won’t quit!’
Gary found a gem for us: ‘American singer-songwriters Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer have taken something of a middle tack in their superb little album Child Ballads. They do take a strictly acoustic and folk approach, but with arrangements and production that somehow have a modern feel to them. Mitchell, who hails from Vermont, has two critically acclaimed albums under her belt, 2010’s Hadestown and 2012’s Young Man in America. Hamer, a Colorado native now based in New York, played on Mitchell’s latter album and was a member of her touring band, which is when the two discovered their shared love of Celtic and British traditional music and folk-rock, and decided to record some Child Ballads.’
Robert has some thoughts on a release from a uniquely named group: ‘The group And Did Those Feet was founded in 1992 by composer/performer Richard Ellin to showcase his own compositions. He was joined by vocalists Ina Williams, who has won many awards in singing contests in Wales and abroad, and Celia Jones, born in Canada but active on the music scene in Britain for over twenty years. Forgetting the Shadows of History is their third release.’
For something slightly less contemporary, Robert has Anonymous 4’s The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen: ‘There is a large period between the fall of Rome and the late Middle Ages from which the names of artists, musicians and many other thinkers of note are lost to us. Thus it is of great interest when we have works that can be ascribed to a particular personality, and of further interest when that individual’s history is well documented. Such is the case with Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century German abbess who wrote extensively on medicine and natural history, counseled kings, popes, and emperors, composed music, and had visions.’
Our What Not this time is a favorite reading place of Stephen who says it’s the under-cellar of Kinrowan Hall for him: ‘It’s actually a very wonderful place to be. There’s a particular quality to subterranean spaces that focuses the psyche on the ‘inner’ rather than the outer planes. I’ve always got a big kick out of being underground, whether that be in the myriad potholes of Derbyshire’s Peak District (stalactites and stalagmites a go-go!) or in the ancient ‘Foggues’ of West Cornwall. Being way down in the ‘very bowels of the earth’ focuses the human mind like nothing else in my experience. Taking a book ‘down there’ with you somehow almost makes the experience of reading more ‘intimate’. It’s as if reading below ground level makes the author complicit in some delicious, shared, secret rite, the acquired knowledge more ‘arcane.’ If nothing else, you get the most fantastic echoes when you laugh out loud at a supremely crafted passage of prose!’
If you’re truly fortunate, you’ll encounter a song that truly makes your heart ache for the raw emotion that it contains. For me, it was the song I heard sung by Suzanne Vega in some club down London way oh so many years ago: ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ which is breathtakingly mythic in scope and so damn personal that it hurts. All I know about the provence of this song is that it was performed in London on the twenty fourth of October, thirty one years ago.