Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers. ― Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine
It’s warm enough out that we’re having a contradance this evening on the terrace outside the Green Man Pub. And the band here is rather special I think. They named themselves Snow on the Mountain after a plant that has green and white leaves that’s up as soon as the first Spring warmth arrives. They hail, they say, from Big Foot County though I can’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we had, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments which makes for a very sweet sound.
Their music is a happy merging of Celtic and Bluegrass, something that might’ve been Appalachian Trad, oh, and more than a bit of Tex-Mex, so if you’ve heard and enjoyed The Mollys or Calexico, you’ll definitely like them. We’ve got them here for contradances and a performance as well.
Of course we have lots of interesting reviews this time, including with a look at a most unusual space opera from Elizabeth Bear, an album of great American folk songs, a recipe for dirty rice that sounds ymmmy, music from Iron Horse and I see an interesting What Not as well. So let’s get started…
Cat has a look at a new novel by Elizabeth Bear, Ancestral Night: ‘ Haina, Singer and Connla, plus the cats Mephistopheles and Bushyasta, are the inhabitants of the boat without a name. Oh, it has a registration number but not a name. Haina considers them a family. Not sure what the cats think the five of them are, and since Bushyasta is named after the Zoroastrian demon of Sloth I’m not sure she’s awake long enough to care.’
Gary reviews All Systems Red, the first book in Martha Wells’ series “The Murderbot Diaries.” ‘It’s a highly entertaining series of novellas set in a distant semi-dystopian future in which bots and borgs and other kinds of artificially intelligent constructs do the dirty work for humans.’
Warner starts off his look at a decade old novel this way: ‘Running With the Demon is an urban fantasy or dark fantasy novel by Terry Brooks. It also represents an example of the start of a series for him as it would go on to be the first in the short Word and the Void series.’ Now go read his insightful review for the details on this novel.
Jen gets nostalgic again, this time for dirty rice, that ishy-squishy mélange of sweet rice, savory spices, earthy chicken livers, and lots and lots of butter. As usual, this is not food for the cholesterol-conscious. If the butter and livers don’t getcha, the carby rice will. But what a way to go!
Robert brings us the first collection in a series that looks very interesting, Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger: ‘Peter Stanchek is gifted, and not necessarily in a good way: he’s able to make people do what he tells them, among other things, but there’s a downside to that: he’s a kid, one who has good impulses — as witness the energy he expends on caring for his best friend, Joe Irons, who’s a borderline schizophrenic, usually on the other side of the border — but being a kid, Peter’s judgment isn’t always rock solid, so he winds up using his powers to hold up pharmacies for meds for Joe.’
Some composers invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’
Gary reviews an unusual release called Lost River from a trio comprising trombone, guitar and drums plus electronica. ‘The album’s 10 tracks, mostly in the five- to six-minute range, explore watery themes through mostly spontaneous improvisation,’ he says. ‘I find it for the most part utterly fascinating, alternately calming and joy-inducing through its wildly creative exploration of sounds and textures.’
Of the new CD Out of Sight by Jake Xerxes Fussell, Gary says, ‘This is a finely wrought album of great American folk songs of the sort that might be lost if not for the likes of Mr. Fussell.’
Robert has a real treat for us: ‘Philip Glass is not only arguably the best-known contemporary American composer, and one of the most prolific, he is also one of the most versatile. He’s done operas, film soundtracks, orchestral works for the Philip Glass Ensemble, and chamber music. Wendy Sutter is one of those musical wonders (she made her solo debut with the Seattle Symphony at age 16) who has a wide background and a strong connection with contemporary music: she’s worked with Tan Dun, the White Oak Ensemble, is a member of Bang on a Can, and premiered Glass’ Cello Concerto in the U.S. Songs and Poems for Solo Cello were composed for Sutter and represent a collaborative effort: they were premiered after a year of the two working on them together.’
Cat has our What Not for this week — they’re not exactly action figures, but close enough: Quantum Mechanix’s Pinky & The Brain Q-Fig Toons Figures: ‘Pinky and The Brain are two laboratory mice that were enhanced to be smart but only one ended up being a genius and one ended up, well, not insane as the intro to the show puts it, but definitely odd and hyperkinetic to boot.’
Now let’s see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox for some summery music to see us off. Ahhh that’ll do: ‘The 8-Step Waltz’ by the Scottish band Iron Horse is a spiritedly piece of music guaranteed to just make you feel good. And I’m certain that I’ve heard Snow on the Mountain perform it.