I will not go as long as the room / keeps swaying to and fro
as long as the band can play / here is where I’m gonna stay
I’m gonna stay at the shouting end / the shouting end of life
Oysterband’s ‘The Shouting End of Life’
It’s really warm enough to safely declare that Summer will be upon us in a matter of weeks at this remote Scottish estate. Yes, the nights still have a decided nip to them, but the days are warm enough that the staff of Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, are wearing shorts and just t-shirts for the most part.
We’ve closed the Pub for a fortnight to give it a proper cleaning and painting, which it decidedly needs — such matters as The Falstaff Chair that needed reupholstering must be attended to, and the tap system’s definitely ready for a complete overhaul. Reynard, our Barkeep, and his wife Ingrid, Estate Steward, are off to Amsterdam for a very well deserved break, which means he won’t be here to bother the contractors we hired for pub renovations. He trusted Finch, his Assistant Barkeep, enough to leave her to oversee the renovations. Mind you, she got to tell the Norns that they had to relocate for awhile.
Now I’m here in the Kitchen, iPad in hand, sipping a a glass of whole milk that came this morning from Riverrun Farm and munching on some chocolate rugelach while I put this edition together…
Cat has a look at the first novel in a now long-running, thirteen books deep so far mystery series: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read.’
Grey finds much to like in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm: ‘Even before the advance reviewers’ copy of this book arrived in the mail, I remarked in the staff break room, “Of course, I already know what I’m going to say in my review. ‘This new anthology from the inimitable editing team of Datlow & Windling is fantastic, and everyone should darn well buy it and read the entire thing as soon as it hits the stores.'” Rather rash, sight unseen, no?’
Metatropolis, edited by John Scalzi, is, according to Richard, ‘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.’
Sometimes a book is around here longer than one might wish before it gets reviewed. That’s what happened to Beautiful Angiola: The Great Treasury of Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales Collected by Laura Gonzenbach, a nineteenth-century collection of Sicilian folktales edited by Jack Zipes. It’s sort of worth your checking out, as Robert notes in his review: ‘I have to consider the book of more value as source material for the folklorist than as general reading, although the tales themselves are well told and the translation is fluent and engaging.’
Anything we consume, no matter where we live, generally has a long history behind its present incarnation, as is demonstrated in ‘Boudin: A Story Of Sausage, Slavery And Rebellion In The Caribbean’ which leads off this way: ‘The making of boudin is a visceral, bloody and time-consuming process in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe. Boudin — a name that comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sausage” — was first recorded in ancient Greece by a cook named Aphtonite. A variation of it was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey as a stomach filled with blood and fat roasted over a fire.’ You can read the entertaining if somewhat bloody story here.
Jo says ‘those interested in the Welsh tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’ Read her review of Telyn for all the details.
Richard looks at an album that moves a band beyond its folk roots: ‘With The Shouting End of Life, the Oysterband has put its collective foot down firmly on the rock side of the folk-rock equation. This isn’t a bad thing, though purists may wonder where the trad covers like “Rambling Irishman” have gone. TSEOL is all Oyster originals, with the exception of a scorching cover of Leon Rosselson’s “World Turned Upside Down” and Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” Several tracks seem to teeter on the edge of chucking the folk idiom altogether. Furthermore, the Oysters’ political agenda has never been more exposed, and they’re not suggesting sit-ins. No more goofy pseudo-Celtic images on this one; the picture on the inside cover of the CD booklet shows a pierced and mohawked punk spitting beer on a cop at an anti-Criminal Justice Bill demonstration.’
Robert takes a look at yet another album by Clannad, whom we’ve reviewed often, namely Landmarks: ‘I always think of Clannad as an Irish traditional group, which they aren’t — at least, not any more. Traditionally grounded, yes, as one can see from their early recordings, but what has become their signature style incorporates bits of everything from jazz to rock to pop and wanders rather easily into the “New Age” category.’
Tim saw Chulra at The Golden Ace Inn in Indianapolis: ‘There couldn’t have been much more than thirty people in the audience when I saw Chulrua, but then the room couldn’t have held many more. Though crowded, the small venue had its positive features. The view of the performers was very good, as there was little distance between them and the audience. Pat Egan (guitar, vocals), Tim Britton (uillean pipes, whistle, flute, mandolin), and Paddy O’Brien (button accordion) sat in a row along the wall, in handshake distance of the listeners. The sound, too, was terrific with minimal amplification…’
So let’s finish off this edition with ‘The Shouting End of Life’, which is from the Oysterband concert in Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996. Thatcher was in office and John Jones, lead vocalist, freely admitted the entire band wholeheartedly hated The Iron Bitch, as many that opposed her government called her, so this is very much a heated diatribe against her and her policies.