What’s New for the 9th of July: Reviews of novels by Terri Windling and Charles de Lint, Music from the Clumsy Lovers, seasonal beer, dance historian Alison Thompson and other summery matters

Chicken Scratch music is Mexican-spiced Native American polka. It sounds like a wild, very happy, and slightly drunken wedding party, and it moves you up and down; you can’t keep still.Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams

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Music permeates Kinrowan Hall. There’s of course the Neverending Session which pops up as whim takes it, be it the Kitchen or the Pub, with anywhere from just two musos or more playing. Sometimes the Endless Jam can be heard playing Rock and Roll, mostly from the Fifties or Sixties in the Great Hall. Then there’s our petit orchestra which has been here since before Victoria wore black or, as salaciously rumoured, nothing that might’ve hindered her during her, errr, playfulness.

There’re several professional musos here including myself (I’m the Librarian here but the Library can look after itself when need be) and my wife Catherine. We do a huge concert style in the Nordic nations once a year. And once a year, the Huddled Masses Orchestra is here for about three weeks, usually in late November into December.

Of  course there’s usually a contradance once a week when the weather gets cold enough to make indoors preferred over outside activities. That’s a different manner of music. Chasing Fireflies is one of the current Estate contradance bands.

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Grey says of Medicine Road that ‘I suppose it’s fitting, for a story about twos, that the creators are two Charleses. Charles Vess’s illustrations make this not-so-simple fable deeper and richer. Vess combines line drawing and painting in a way that makes his pictures simultaneously vividly life-like and fairy tale-remote.’

There’s a bar in the above novel where the Dillard sisters play called A Hole in The Wall which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood WifeIt’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first novel  to take full advantage of the myths of Southwest USA and Mexican region. And Grey notes that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Robert takes us to a different realm with a look at Peter S. Beagle’s story collection Giant Bones: ‘Peter S. Beagle does not do sequels. He says. He is also one of the two fantasy writers I know who quite blithely admits that his universe-building is more than a little haphazard, just enough to hang the story on. So of course he wrote a group of stories set in the universe of The Innkeeper’s Song.’

He takes a look as well at another ‘non-sequel’ from Beagle, Return: ‘As you’ve no doubt heard many times here at GMR, there is something unique about the writing of Peter S. Beagle. There’s a “can’t quite put your finger on it” quality that is, perhaps, equal parts simple, uninflected narration, universes in which anything can happen and probably will, and that sense of wonder that few writers these days possess, all qualities present in full measure in his latest offering, Return.’

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Denise decided that since the Summer Solstice has come and gone, now is the time to try out some summery brews.  To celebrate warmer weather, she tries two from the Flying Dog brewery, Family Tree Belgian Pale Ale and a rare nitro pour of their blood orange IPA, Bloodline.  For fans of brews with a sour kick, Council Béatitude Cherry Tart Saison may strike your fancy, but she warns Saison fans, “Folks looking for a pour that’s more Saison than Sour? Probably should look elsewhere. People willing to walk on the wild (cherry) side? C’mon over.”  She promises this will be the first in an ongoing series of summer brew overviews, as she attempts to find a beer, ale or cider that will hold her until her beloved porters and stouts re-emerge in the fall.

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Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife is a prolific, controversial and well-known composer, singer and player of the oud. Gary takes a look at his latest work, Andalusia of Love, which draws on the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. He’s joined by his sons, pianist Rami and percussionist Bachar, and Jilbert Yamine on the hammered dulcimer called the kanoun. ‘Throughout this work there is virtuosic playing, some of a solo nature but mostly by the ensemble,’ Gary says. ‘It’s a moving performance of music that is complex yet welcoming.’

Gary also reviews Living in the Shadows Part 2, On the Edge of a Dream, a box set that collects British folk-rock legend Bert Jansch’s studio output from the 2000s. It follows by just a few months a similar set of his 1990s recordings. ‘There’s so much deeply compelling music here, a reminder of what a towering presence Jansch was,’ Gary says.

The Mollys, a now defunct Arizona band that merged Celtic music with music from that region gets their this is my round reviewed by Richard: ‘It’s that kind of CD, pure and simple, where all listening to it does is make you start scanning the paper to see if they’re in town at a place that has good beer on tap. There’s a kick to the music that doesn’t quite translate off the disk, and that’s what keeps this is my round from getting beyond just good.’

One of our Richards starts off his review of Smoke and Strong Whisky this way: ‘Everyone knows Christy Moore, a central figure in the Irish folk revival of the 1960s and indirectly a significant contributor to the English folk revival that paralleled it. We know of his work with Moving Hearts and we are familiar with his earlier role in the highly influential Planxty, in both of which his path crossed with those of several other leading traditionally-inclined Irish musicians. The cross-fertilization of the Planxty years produced a series of solo and collective ventures by Moore that have built on and developed Irish folk and folk-derived music down to the present day.’ Now read his review to why this is not the Christy Moore you’d expect to be performing!

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Our What Not this time is sort of about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer. Extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions, Winter 2000. Persuasions’s the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

We’ve got these reviews of other works by her, Dancing Through Time subtitled Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances which is set  to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.

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No, I didn’t find any Chicken Scratch music on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server,  so how about instead some choice Americana music to see us out? That’s what I’ve got in the  ‘Chicken Reel’ as performed on the 11th of November 2001 at the McGonigel’s Mucky Duck by the Clumsy Lovers. The oddly named McGonigel’s Mucky Duck is a club in Houston that does a lot of roots music. The name reflects its origin as an Irish club.

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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