There are few joys to compare with the telling of a well-told tale. — Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale
What am I playing? That’s June Tabor & Oysterband’s Ragged Kingdom which Vonnie saye Very Good Things about: ‘Tabor has reunited with the Oysterband for a second album, Ragged Kingdom and the two suit each other better now than when the first album, Freedom and Rain, made in o1991. Considering that the first album was magnificent, many of us had high expectations for this album. It a very different creature, and very good.’
The album mirriors the weather in being decidedly not chipper. Some October days are sunny and warm here on this Scottish Estate — today’s not one of them. So the Fireplace here in the Angela Carter Reading Room is stoked properly and I’ve got my iPad and a pot of Sri Lankan Rilhena Estate Gently Cinnamon Smoked Ceylon Pekoe tea ready for drinking.
But before we turn to this edition, let me recommend another Autumnal reading which is Yarrow which as noted above is subtitled ‘An Autumn Tale’. It’s one of his Ottawa set novels and shows his great affection for the city that he and MaryAnn Harris, his wife, have made their home. Brief enough for reading in an evening, it shows how good a writer he was even early on in his career.
Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’
What’s October without a little horror? Denise looks at little horrors – a book full of them in fact – with her review of Ronald Kelly’s short story collection Midnight Grinding. But it’s not just the spooky that hooked her, it’s his way with a tale. ‘Ronald Kelly is a storyteller, plain and simple, and with Midnight Grinding, he proves that plain and simple is just plain old good.’
Running back and forth on Fall errands isn’t conducive to reading a book, so Denise gave a listen to Anansi Boys on the Playaway. And she was smitten. ‘The icing on the cake was their selection of Lenny Henry as narrator. I’ve been a huge fan of his ever since I stumbled on an episode of Chef many years back. … The ten hours of audio sailed by, thanks to Gaiman’s and Henry’s storytelling skills.’ Read her review to see what she thinks of the story and the audiobook.
Somehow the work of Tolkien for me is something decidedly Autumnal, and Kathleen has a look at two works by she’s treasured since her childhood which I like as well, to wit Tolkien’s Smith of Wooten Major & Farmer Giles of Ham. She says, ‘Smith and Farmer Giles have the advantage of being completed by Tolkien himself, and are lovely, polished tales. . . . They are the work of a very modern and well-educated scholar — but like all Professor Tolkien’s work, they feel like an echo of the sunlit fields and shadowed woods of the British mythic landscape that he so loved.’
Scared Fire is a short story by Charles de Lint that got adapted by Showtime, the American cable network for The Hunger, a horror series that ran two seasons and featured David Bowie as The Host for the second season. Michael says in the conclusion to his review that ‘While there are so many more de Lint stories I’d love to see adapted for television or film, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Sacred Fire is a highly satisfactory translation from book to film, and recommended.’ Now go read his review to see how he got to this statement.
If ever there was a series that felt like it was Autumn all the rime, it is the one Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up, Two Fat Ladies, whose series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked whenever they pleased and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t ‘tall good for you. And funny as all Hell as well which indeed the review is as well.
Robert has a look at a couple of boys’ love manga that, while not exactly “autumnal”, are pretty tough. Of the first, Satoru Ishihara’s Kimi Shiruya, he says: ‘Satoru Ishihara is an artist whose work has come to interest me a great deal. I think that interest is justified by what I’ve found in Kimi Shiruya: it’s a work of many levels, as much a product of reticence and implication as of overt portrayals, perhaps more so.’
Next is Momoko Tenzen’s Seven: ‘Momoko Tenzen’s Seven is another one of those boys’ love manga that, like Kimi Shiruya, moves the genre boundaries outward, although unlike the latter — and most popular examples of the type — it is rather bleak, at least at the beginning.’
‘Freedom Highway may be the first perfect album of the year. And it’s definitely one of the most important,’ Gary wrote in his review back in February. We’re re-upping his review in light of the announcement that Giddens was among those who received a ‘Genius Grant’ from the MacArthur Foundation for 2017.
In his review of the new album by Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem, Gary says ‘There’s a moment a couple of minutes in to the title track of Anouar Brahem’s exquisite new album Blue Maqams that is the kind of moment I long for, like a thirsty person in the desert longs for a cool drink.’
Gary thoroughly enjoyed Dori Freeman’s self-titled debut in 2016, and he also likes her new album: ‘Letters Never Read is a solid follow-up that bodes well for her staying power as an Americana star.’
Storm + Calm gets Peter’s approval: ‘Described on their website as ‘a swirling reverie of Scots and Irish song; flute; whistles; fiddles; guitar; bouzouki; bodhran; and Irish dance, HAWP is a Celtic ensemble that combines ancient traditions with modern musical approaches to create a sound truly representative of Celtic culture in the 21st century. This album does just what it says on the tin.
Scott looks at a retrospective album from a Swedish folk rock (it) band: ‘Instead of releasing a full-length album of new material with the current lineup, though, Hedningarna chose 2003 to release a retrospective CD, with two new songs and sixteen additional recordings spanning their history. 1989-2003 captures many of the band’s finest moments, although there were a handful of glaring omissions as well. Then again, one mark of a truly great band is that when the inevitable “best of” CD is compiled, there is ample room for disagreement over which recordings are truly the best. Such is the case with Hedningarna.’
As the autumnal air crisps and sweaters become the rule of the day, thoughts tend to drift to a lovely mug of apple cider. Which always leads me to the making of it, and then to Vita Sackville-West’s poem, “Making Cider”. The pulling of the crank, the rending of the pulp, and of course that glorious end product! Perhaps I should head over to the Kitchen and see if Cook has anything apple-cinnamon warming on the stove…
I hadn’t any particular artist in mine this edition, so I asked the Infinite Jukebox app to suggest cuts for me based on my usual listening patterns this time of year. ‘Red Barn Stomp’ recorded by the Oysterband during their Minneapolis ’91 concert with June Tabor is a good choice as is ‘The Dancing Bear’, a spiritedly tune by Dervish performed at Brodick Hall, Isle of Arran, Sept 25 of ’93 as was ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’, a Altan tune recorded at a Folkadelphia Session, March 7th of ’15.
I eventually decided that something of an story nature was what I wanted, so ‘The Girl in the Garden’ from Sirens by SJ Tucker does nicely. It tells the tale of the orphan in Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden. If you like what Tucker does here, you’ll love this work by Valente, the first of two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales.