Every good fiddler has a distinctive sound. No matter how many play the same tune, each can’t help but play it differently. Some might use an up stroke where another would a down. One might bow a series of quick single notes where another would play them all with one long draw of the bow. Some might play a double stop where others would a single string. If the listener’s ear was good enough, she could tell the difference. But you had to know the tunes, and the players, for the differences were minute. — Fiaina in Charles de Lint’s Drink Down the Moon
The end of Summer is nigh upon us as the Autumnal Equinox is but a few days out and we here on this Scottish Estate have begun the only partly conscious shift into Autumn as a given thing. Everything — from the behaviour of the lynxes as they hunt their prey to the food served up by Mrs. Ware who’s our Head Cook and her staff — starts the shift to serving the heartier foods what the increasingly cold, too frequently wet weather causes us to crave.
By October, even the Neverending Session starts folding in on itself as the ancient boon of food, drink and a place to sleep is outweighed by our remoteness. So that group is largely comprised of the mmusicians here, a number somewhere around a third of the Estate staff such as myself (violin), my wife Catherine (voice and wire strung Welsh violin), Béla (violin), Finch (smallpipes) and Reynard (concertina). It’s always interesting to see who’s playing in it at any given moment. Nor is it by any means always present, a myth started by the musicians a long time ago.
Early in his career, Charles de Lint did a number of novels set in the real city of Ottawa where he and his wife, artist MaryAnn Harris, live and have made their home for many decades. We’ve reviewed these works so we decided to feature some of those reviews in this edition. At the end of each review, you’ll find the URL for purchasing the digital Triskell Press edition of the novels or novels in that review.
His Yarrow: An Autumn Tale gets a loving look by Grey: ‘Cat Midhir has stopped dreaming. People assure her that it isn’t possible, that she just doesn’t remember her dreams, but Cat knows they’re wrong. Where her dreams have been, there is only heaviness and loss. For Cat, this loss means more than it would to most of us, because she is that rarest of all dreamers, a person who returns to the same dream every time she sleeps. In her dream world live her truest friends and her only source of inspiration for the books and stories that have won her acclaim in her waking life…’
Robert has two Autumnal fantasies by de Lint: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of Kinrowan — Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’
He also looks at Moonheart, perhaps de Lint’s best loved novel: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint. (And be reminded that Charles de Lint may very well be the creator of what we call “urban fantasy” — he was certainly one of the first to combine contemporary life and the stuff of myth.)’
Spritwalk our reviewer says ‘is a loose sequel to Moonheart, a series of related tales, again centering around Tamson House and including many of the same characters. In fact, the House is even more important as a Place in this group of stories. It begins with a brief discussion of Tamson House from a book by Christy Riddell, whom we will meet again in The Onion Girl and Widdershins, followed by a delightful vignette, “Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood,” of Sarah Kendell, age seventeen, remembering her childhood “imaginary” playmate, a red-haired boy named Merlin who lived in the oak tree at the center of the garden. It’s a sweet, sad tale of the price of love.’
In another vein entirely, Robert has some thoughts on Joe R. Lansdale’s Pigeons from Hell: ‘Pigeons from Hell is an adaptation by Joe R. Lansdale of a story by Robert E. Howard, with art by Nathan Fox and color by Dave Stewart. Lansdale is at pains to point out, in his “Notes from the Writer,” that it is really an “adaptation” — updated, exploring some new facets of Howard’s story, and not to be confused with the original, all of which leads me to treat it as its own creature.’ Just click on the link to see how this creature fared in Robert’s opinion.
Speaking of cooler weather, Gary brings a review of a recording by the jazz quartet helmed by Norwegian saxophonist Karl Seglem. ‘Don’t fear that Nordic Balm is an album of smooth jazz destined to become aural wallpaper. Far from it. Even in those places where it’s obviously intended to sooth, it always maintains its integrity, and there’s always something quite interesting going on, if you’re paying attention.’
‘Portland’s Anna Tivel is that rare songwriter who can put together a song like an award-winning short story writer,’ Gary says. He finds plenty of that kind of song on Tivel’s new album Small Believer.
Gary says you should check out Turmoil & Tinfoil, the new album from Billy Strings, a hot young bluegrass player and singer. He says ‘the Michigan native is making a name for himself as one of the most incendiary bluegrass guitarists on the scene.’
Louisiana’s Lost Bayou Ramblers haven’t released a new record since 2012, but they have a new one due out any day now called Kalenda. Gary says they ‘still sound like nothing else you’ve ever heard. Those vocals by founding member Louis Michot could’ve been recorded in somebody’s backyard by Alan Lomax 50 years ago, but they’re backed by what sounds like an ensemble auditioning for a gig as house band in the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tattooine!’
Gus, who many of you already know is our longstanding Estate Head Gardener, is one of our excellent storytellers. He has an Autumnal gardening tale for our What Not this time as we approach that season. He leads off his story in this manner: ‘Oh, hello. It’s you again. How is it that every time we meet up, I’m clomping around in muddy boots? Come out to get some fresh air, have you? Give me your name again? I’m Gus, if you remember, the gardener around these parts. Here, I need to head out to the kitchen gardens, come walk with me a bit. They’re behind that wall over there.’
Autumn for me is when I start craving the sound of certain performers, one of which is Kathryn Tickell. She to me is one of the more interesting sounding of the Northumberland performers that risen up in the past thirty years in the years since Billy Pigg was active. So let’s listen in to her performing ‘The Magpie’, ‘Rothbury Road’ and ‘The Cold Shoulder’ which is from an outstanding soundboard recording of a performance at the Washington D.C. Irish Folk Fest from the 2nd of September, fifteen years ago.