Good times don’t last long sometimes. — Levon Helm
We’ve had our first not so light frost last night, which was a few days early but not unusual for us. Gus, our Estate Gardener, protected what needed protecting and ruefully acknowledged that it meant that for many things the growing season was indeed at an end. So now his crew will be harvesting and processing a lot of produce that we’ll be gratefully using this coming off season.
So it’s likely we’ll have a garlic heavy squash soup with smoked pork sausage in it for supper sometime in this coming fortnight. Tonight we’re having a lasagna made with pork, tomatoes and peppers from our gardens with the oh so tasty cheese from Running Hill Estate.
Hmmm… I’ll tell you the fascinating story of Kedgeree before you turn to our reviews as it’s considered a traditional British breakfast dish but its origins are rooted in Indian cooking having started its life as khichari, a simple dish of rice and lentils. Due to the British Raj and the colonization of the sub-continent the dish was taken, adapted and turned into something more suited to those serving in India, and it came to Britain during the Victorian era.
Cat leads us off with alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, where the British Empire decamps to India: ‘The much more Indian that English culture is a brilliant re-visioning of British history that reads like vintage Poul Anderson, particularly his Dominic Flandry series. It features rugged heroes — male and female — vivid combat scenes, exotic locales, and truly evil villains. Hell, it even has Babbage machines, the great analytical engines that Sir Charles Babbage never built but which also play an important role in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine.’
Grey has one of her favourite books for us: ‘Some of the GMR staff were having a conversation about books that are beautifully written, books whose authors obviously love the English language and use it skillfully, extravagantly, profligately, even orgiastically. Patricia McKillip’s The Book of Atrix Wolfe is on my list of such books. It’s a book I return to at least twice a year, to linger once again in the richness of its language.’
Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’
It turns out that we don’t know who did this review as we had the wrong reviewer credited but it is a splendid one nonetheless: ‘When faced with a work of the stature of I, Robot, one is pretty much at a loss. This is the collection of Isaac Asimov’s stories about robots that originally appeared between 1940 and 1950, collected and provided with a frame: Dr. Susan Calvin, the chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., is being interviewed; this collection is her reminiscences of her career and some of the more interesting personalities — human and otherwise — she has known.’
This issue, Denise digs into Specially Selected Mango Chili Flavored Tortilla Strips with Chia Seeds. ‘Aldi is quickly becoming my go-to place for finding new things to try. They have a knack for creating items that make me do a double-take, and then put said things into my cart. Like these chips.’
Fairport Convention has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’
Gary was quite pleased with Common Practice, a new jazz album by the Ethan Iverson Quartet with trumpeter Tom Harrell. ‘This is a beautiful recording of standards from the swing and bop eras (and a couple of Iverson compositions in that spirit), played in a modern way but with respect to their history.’
Gary reports on Dori Freeman’s third Americana release: ‘Dori Freeman is amassing an impressive catalog of work as she grows into her professional career as a songwriter, recording artist and performer, as well as a mature adult navigating her way through the world. Every Single Star is yet another solid demonstration of how to turn the particulars of a life into songs with universal appeal.’
Lars has a very fine album for us: ‘Live from Patrick Street was recorded in 1998 during a tour of Great Britain and Ireland. It is an unusual live album due to the fact that more than half of the tracks are previously unreleased. In that respect, it should be treated as a new album, not as a greatest hits-collection performed live. As usual, there is a mixture of songs (five) and instrumental tracks (seven); and, as usual, it is played with all the expertise you would expect from these gentlemen. We are talking the creme de la creme here.’
Patrick says that Lowlands, Susan McKeown’s sixth album, is ‘one of the most fascinating works I have listened to in what seems ages. There isn’t a bad song — not even a mediocre one — on this 12-track CD. Her practice of combining traditional works with non-traditional instrumentation gives each piece a very unearthly feel, while keeping their roots quite grounded in the fertile Celtic soil.’
Did you have a lovely Friday the 13th? Yes, lovely. No one here suffers from Friggatriskaidekaphobia, and neither should you. In fact, we relish the day. Why not? Frigg is a great goddess! Wisdom, prescience, and not to forget she’s the very entity we get Friday from! What’s not to like about that? (In this instance I’ll skip the Frigg/Freja discussion. We can have that at another time.)
So the next time you hear people freaking out about Friday the 13th, just smile. It’s gonna be a good day. A Frigg-in’ great day, in fact.
So let’s have some rock and roll. I’ve been thinking of The Band which is more or less a Canadian group despite doing ‘The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down’ which is one of the great anti-war protest songs ever. But I’m thinking of something a lot less heavy by them, to wit ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ in which lead vocalist Levon Helm recites the story Robbie Robertson wrote of a not so epic but highly entertaining day that an average joe has.