And now we welcome the new year. Full of
things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke
From Winter Solstice to the end of January, only guests that have been invited by staff, usually no more than a half dozen in total at any given time, are allowed to stay here as we like the quietude of Kinrowan Hall and the Estate at this time of year. There’s more than enough room here to host that many souls without it feeling uncomfortable, but the extra folk do add a sense of liveliness to our small community that’s rather nice.
It’s amusing for me as Head Publican to watch the shift that Winter brings to our Pub. With many fewer visitors, it once again becomes a more low-key affair, with even the music played by visiting bands kinder and more restrained, and the Neverending Session being noticeably smaller and leaning towards the quieter end of the Nordic, Breton and Celtic traditions, which is something staff and those visitors here are quite fond of. Now let’s see what I’ve selected for this time …
It’s Winter and we all dream of Spring I think, so Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life is naturallly a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’
Iain has a look this time at Rex Stout’s Fer-de-lance. Iain says of Nero Wolfe, the brains here, that he ‘is an eighth-of-a-ton recluse who rarely leaves the Manhattan brownstone he owns, so he raises rare orchids, enjoys gourmet meals prepared by Fritz, reads a lot of books, and solves mysteries.’ Archie Goodwin, his dogsbody, is the first-person narrator for the series.
Kathleen looks at an academic work with a rather long title, to wit, Charles Butler’s Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones & Susan Cooper. Her superbly written in-depth review looks at both the strengths and weaknesses of this work.
Kathleen also has a look at a book she’s treasured since her childhood, 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.’ Read her charming review here.
Denise continues her Feast of the Seven Fishes theme with a review of DeLallo Flat Fillets of Anchovies. She’s a fan of the much maligned fish, and these seem to have her pleased indeed. “…for pizza-fish lovers like me, opening this tin was like heaven.” Read her review for more info, and for a few ways to try anchovies if you’ve never taken the plunge (or are looking for more ways to enjoy them if you’ve already dived in.)
After a few weeks of fish, Denise cleansed her palate by indulging in Carletti’s Jakobsen Coffee Time chocolate collection. ‘Coffee time? Yes please! And while these chocolates would go great with coffee, I had mine with a stout, and then a mug of green tea.’ But what’d she think? On to her review!
April has a choice recording for us: ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willemark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s. Windogur, a set of ten original compositions commissioned by the city of Stockholm (in its role of Cultural Capital of Europe ’98), was first performed live as part of a series of concerts entitled “Ladies Next,” and only later translated to CD.’
For a sampler, nothing beats the three CDs in the Nordic Roots series put out by Northside. Kim says ‘There’s a pleasing dissonance in Nordic traditions, often a restraint that hints of something without ever going there, that’s found much more in Nordic music than is often the case with music from the Irish and Celtic traditions.’ We recommend you read her review for why this set is a must listen for anyone interested in this music!
Lars has what we at GMR consider to be the definitive look at the definitive collection of folk music in Sweden ever done. — ‘During the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of field recording taking place in Sweden and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland. A generation of source singers and musicians were growing very old and the effort was directed at preserving as much of their music as possible. Many of the recordings are hidden away in the vaults of Svenskt Visarkiv (a society dedicated to preserving songs), the Swedish Radio and other establishments, where they can be accessed for singers and musicians. But quite a few have resurfaced on various LPs and in radio programmes. In the middle of the 1990s the Swedish National Radio together with Caprice, a record company owned by Rikskonserter, a government agency aimed at supporting live music, started a project with the aims to present a broad selection of these recordings, arranged thematically, on CD. Up to date 28 CDs have been released, sometimes in boxes with two or three CDs in each. The box with Yoiks is no longer available but the rest are reviewed briefly here.’ His very detailed review of the aptly named Folk Music in Sweden is well worth your time to read in full.
Robert has a review for us of a live recording from the String Sisters: ‘There seems to be something magical about the number “6” when you’re talking about fiddles. Maybe that many fiddlers reaches a kind of critical mass that sets off a chain reaction of some sort. At any rate, when the six fiddlers in question are six star-caliber women from across the Britanno-Nordic musical realm, what you wind up with is some really, really good music.’ As a delightful bonus, You can hear them perform The Champagne Jig Goes To Columbia/ Pat & Al’s Jig.
Thinking of adding new items to your household for the coming year? Denise tried Liv With Roz Lemongrass Soap, and that’s now something she may add to her resolutions. ‘It’s not often a body wash and hand gel gal like myself gets stoked over bar soap. But stoked I am.’ See why she’s writing like Yoda in her review!
So let’s end this Edition and see the Year out with ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ as performed by the Horslips at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on the 24th of March 1979. It’s an old tune, written by London composer John Playford and published in The English Dancing Master he first published in 1651. Yes most musos now think it’s Irish trad.