Category Archives: Commentary

What’s New for the 24th of September: Traffic’s version of ‘John Barleycorn’, Dissing neo-paganism, Vess’ Book of Ballads and Sagas and other matters

If I told you the whole story, your head would burst. There is no one story, there are branches, rooms… corridors, dead ends. — The Storyteller as played by a John Hurt in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller It’s definitely not Summer here … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 17th of September: Louisiana’s Lost Bayou Ramblers, live music by Kathryn Tickell, Ottawa based urban fantasies by Charles de Lint, Norwegian saxophonist Karl Seglem, Gus on the Estate Kitchen garden and other Autumnal matters

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 … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 3rd of September

Not of father, nor of mother
 Was my blood, was my body.
 I was spellbound by Gwydion,
 Prime enchanter of the Britons, 
 When he formed me from nine blossoms. From the Robert Graves translation of ‘Hanes Blodeuwedd’ Who am … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 27th of August: Kage Baker on Peter Beagle, dark fantasy, Brahms-a-rama, other somewhat Autumnal matters

I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or … Continue reading

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A KInrowan Estate story: Blackberry Wine (A Letter to Catherine)

Dear Catherine,  Our gardens are full of the good things one finds there as summer wanes: small and large pumpkins, the last of the ripe cucumbers, chili peppers ready for drying, plump tomatoes for canning and drying, blackberries, and an infinity … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 30th of July: an update on Peter S. Beagle v. a certain rat bastard, A sort of trad Nordic recording from Den Fule, A puppet performance, Scottish & Border Battles & Ballads, a novella by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, Music from The Dead and other Summery things

Say, it might have been a fiddle, Or it could have been the wind. But there seems to be a beat, now. I can feel it in my feet, now. Listen, here it comes again! Grateful Dead’s ‘The Music Never … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 23rd of July: a SF Day of Dead, baseball related books, some Tolkien works, Fantasia No. 34 performed, more early music, and other matters

 To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.– Hob Gadling, toasting upon Dream’s journey as told in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 16th of July: Elizabeth Hand’s favourite libation, Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ and other matters

Saturday in the park,  I think it was the Fourth of July — Chicago Care to sample our newest Summer ale? It’s called White Chalk Horse IPA and has a nice, light taste. It’s been very popular. It’ll go well with the … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 9th of July: Reviews of novels by Terri Windling and Charles de Lint, Music from the Clumsy Lovers, seasonal beer, dance historian Alison Thompson and other summery matters

Chicken Scratch music is Mexican-spiced Native American polka. It sounds like a wild, very happy, and slightly drunken wedding party, and it moves you up and down; you can’t keep still. — Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams Music permeates Kinrowan Hall. … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 2nd of July: a very special bookstore, some scholarly works reviewed, ‘The House of The Rising Sun’ and other matters

I hate this fucking song. (See coda for the story of this quote.) O Sorry ’bout the delay in getting your Queen’s Lament IPA to you, it’s been a very busy day as we’ve got a hand fastening on the … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 11th of June: Canadian roots music from Whitehorse, the story of our troll, The Neverending Session and other matters

Since the other members of Fall Down Dancing weren’t available for tonight, Miki had fallen back on the Wednesday night sessions at The Harp to find a couple of other players, enlisting Amy Scanlon on pipes, whistle, and vocals, and … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 4th of June: Some Things India

Memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 28th of May: Italian folklore, music by the Oysterband, Well you get the idea…

I will not go as long as the room / keeps swaying to and fro as long as the band can play / here is where I’m gonna stay I’m gonna stay at the shouting end / the shouting end of life … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 21st of May: a Gothic novel, Sayers on Holmes and other matters

The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what we are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial … Continue reading

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On Reviewing

I periodically find myself confronting the question of exactly what it is I’m doing here as a reviewer. I don’t want to call myself a critic because that means, to me at least, that there is some theory involved, and … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 23rd of April: Psychedelic Turkish music And Cuban Jazz, E.B. White biography, Tricksters, Music of a Heavenly Nature, On Tap in Our Pub, and other cool matters

For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 16th of April: “Classical” music: In the beginning. . . .

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak. William Congreve, The Mourning Bride If music be the food of love, play on. . . . William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night There are many … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 9th of April: choice SF from Elizabeth Bear, live music from Midnight Oil, Ottoman tulips, a history of breakfast and buckdancers choice on other matters

Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits  of our brains where the common sense should have been. — Angela Carter’s Wise Children The tulips such as the one in the vase on my desk here in the … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 2nd of April: Beethoven music from the Alban Berg Quartet, Kinrowan Estate bees, Beatrix Potter, Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and other goodies are here this edition

I’ve always wanted the string quartet to be vital, and energetic, and alive, and cool, and not afraid to kick ass and be absolutely beautiful and ugly if it has to be. But it has to be expressive of life. … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 26th of March: an Afghanistan music collection, music from Altan, a future Europe and India as well, Tarzan, ‘African traditions’ and other matters as well

I authorised that a model be made of Kinrowan Hall complete with the new Library addition, so that all could see how it would look when built. It will be more than just a bog standard architectural model as it’ll be … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 19th of March: Spring festivals, wise fools, outlaw heroes, an English country house mystery, chocolate!, and more

“I really didn’t mean to steal it.” Mr. Williams shook his head. He scratched at his chin nervously. “Why not? That’s what they’re there for. Tunes belong to everybody. So do stories.” ― Tallis and Mr Williams in Robert Holdstock’s … Continue reading

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Transatlantic Sessions to perform at 2017 MerleFest

The Transatlantic Sessions tour will be part of the 30th anniversary MerleFest in April. The Transatlantic Sessions is a series of musical productions that brings together innovative and iconic U.K. artists with the best American roots artists, under the musical … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 26th of February: a concert on steel wheels, fiction Tanya Huff, Hershey chocolate, music by Skara Brae, women horror movie hosts and other neat things as well…

The Endless Rave happens at the edge of Soho proper. Some people say the first humans to return to Bordertown decided to celebrate by dancing there, and the dancing has never stopped. The dancers come and go, of course, and … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 19th of February: music from Nick Burbridge, a Fairport Convention review from twenty years ago, live music from McDermott’s 2 Hours, essays on children’s lit, chocolate bars, A Cold War thriller and other matters

 Some stories are literally true; some of them are figuratively true; some of them are wrong. That’s the nature of stories, isn’t it? They show us all the highlights of the world, but they never leave us certain we can … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 12th of February: Denise’s favourite reading space, a science-fiction classic, the real Dracula, music from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, more gamelan, Patrick’s breakfast and other matters

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago. — Christina Rossetti Ahhh there you are. Have … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 5th of February: Catherynne Valente’s Winter Pleasures, an essay on Breton music, Terri Windling on hearth and home, spies, behind-the-scenes movers and shakers, some other classical traditions, and other matters

Recently I packed up and sold the house where I’d lived for many years: a 16th century, thatch–roof cottage in a small English village on Dartmoor. The cottage was hugely significant to me, for I’d lived there much of my adult … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 29th of January: fantastic fiction set in London, music from Nightnoise, an audio songbook for Utah Phillips, Deborah Grabien’s comfort food and other cool things

It’s hardly a wonder that they call London the most elusive city in the world. Its character changes from one street to the next. There’s no rhyme or reason, no pattern to the place. You could take six people at … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 22nd of January: music from De Danann, Nordic new age, Jazz music, cleaning the Kinrowan Hall under-eaves, a super-antihero, and other matters…

All things are known, but most things are forgotten. It takes a special magic to remember them. — Grandfather of Tallis in his Journal, from Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss We’re really in the harshest part of Winter on this Scottish Estate, so the residents … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 15th of January: A Nordic Music edition

Behind every traditional hardanger fiddle tune, there is always a story, always a fairy tale, and you actually tell the stories when you play the fiddle. — Annbjørg Lien There is a sharp edge in the air when you venture outside that … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 8th of January: Pamela Dean’s favourite ballad, art from Meinrad Craighead, music from Kathryn Tickell and Jackson Browne & David Lindley, a toast by Hob Glading and other matters

To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due. — Hob Gadling, toasting upon Dream’s journey as told in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 1st of January: music from Sunas, banana French toast, music in fiction and other matters…

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne? — Robert Burns Shhh… We need to be more than just a wee bit quieter than usual as a lot of the residents of this … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 25th of December: A new novel from Peter S. Beagle, Kage Baker’s fav Tolkien work, geographies, roots of the Oysterband and other possibly seasonal matters…

Wassail! wassail! all over the town, Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown; Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree; With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink unto thee. First stanza of the ‘Gloucestershire … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 18th of December: Holiday Ales, An Acadian-Cajun and Irish Christmas Revels, Siberia explored, seasonal music, A Crow Girls Christmas and other seasonal matters

There is one story and one story only That will prove worth your telling, Whether as learned bard or gifted child; To it all lines or lesser gauds belong That startle with their shining Such common stories as they stray … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 11th of December: Gwyneth Jones on chestnuts, biographies of a musical nature, some tunes from Horslips, Lúnasa and Rambling House, ‘A House in Bali’ and other matters…

It was Christmas and Kinlocochbervie had a festive atmosphere about it. Decorations and fir trees decked out with tinsel stood in windows, lighting the dull afternoon with flashes of cheerful Technicolor brilliance, and the door to the Compass was adorned … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 4th of December: Ursula Le Guin fiction, Ragnarok and beyond, Jack’s favorite reading place, Nordic traditions, chocolate and other matters

English autumn mornings are often like mornings nowhere else in the world. The air is cold. The floorboards are cold. It is perhaps this coldness which sharpens the tang of the hot cup of tea. Outside, steps on the gravel … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 27th of November: Arthurian matters

‘You must remember, there’s always something cleverer than yourself.’ — Merlin to Arthur in the Excalibur film I’m sitting in our Pub with my iPad open to our WordPress site, a pint of Autumn Ale at hand, a cold sleety wing … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 20th of November: Sayers on Holmes, after the Apocalypse, David Bowie, choral music, hot chocolate, ravens in the library and other matters

There is always a moment when stories end, a moment when everything is blue and black and silent, and the teller does not want to believe it is over, and the listener does not, and so they both hold their … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 13th of November: The Hobbit considered, Emma Bull’s fav libation, breakfast at Kinrowan Hall, music from Leonard Cohen, the Irish pub considered, stories that need warning labels, and other matters…

Here’s tae us! Wha’s like us? Damn few, and their all deid! Maire’s the pity. –– traditional Scots toast used by Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, our Librarian, when he hosts whisky tastings I can hear the wind driven sleet hitting on the … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 6th of November: a Guy Fawkes song from The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Irish trad music, Guy Fawkes Day, urban grit, pirates, and other matters…

On November the Fifth people gather on the heath Point their Roman candles at the sky Out of broken branch and leaf they construct a fiery wreath Ready for the burning of the Guy The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Home Fires’ … Continue reading

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Venison Stew (A Letter to Tessa)

A letter from the journal of Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to her friend, who was staying in Constantinople as of this letter. Alex, as she was known, copied her personal … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 30th of October: Boston fiddler Katie McNally’s new album, Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock, The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween, ‘Tam Lin’ as performed by Fairport Convention, Ancient Celtic Festivals, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, two essays on Maddy Prior, Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief revisited and other matters…

O I forbid you, maidens a’, That wear gowd on your hair, To ameome or gae by Carterhaugh, For young Tam Lin is there. Child Ballad 39A It got sharply colder on this Scottish estate over the past week so … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 23rd of October: an Autumnal song from Pentangle, a bevy of ghost stories, All Hallows’ Eve dance tunes, Serial Minimalism, a Japanese historical fantasy, and well, a look at an Irish song and you’ll just have to see what else is here!

Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg: consider this — there’s some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts. No children’s laughter round the fire, no family left to know. So lend a … Continue reading

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Guy Fawkes Day (A Letter to Anna)

Dear Anna, It’s nigh unto Guy Fawkes Day and Iain’s Library apprentices got the jones to put on a full-blown celebration, which The Steward agreed to fund, provided that Iain gave them a full lesson on what Guy Fawkes Day really means in … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 16th of October: An Ellis Peters mystery, a favourite reading place in Kinrowan Hall, Suzanne Vega’s ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ live, Robert E. Howard’s heroes, Hildegard von Bingen and other matters as I see fit…

The soldier came knocking upon the queen’s door He said, “I am not fighting for you any more” And the queen knew she’d seen his face someplace before And slowly she let him inside   Suzanne Vega’s ‘The Queen and … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 9th of October: Befitting Autumn, A Folkloric Edition

“But stories are fragile. Like people’s lives. It only takes a word out of place to change them forever. If you hear a lovely tune, and then you change it, the new tune might be lovely too, but you’ve lost … Continue reading

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On Writing

Welcome! This is Grey. Summer has passed today. Autumn has arrived. Along with the trees turning and the cooler nights, autumn brings school days back again. A boy who lives in my neighborhood called me yesterday to interview me. Seems … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 2nd of October: June Tabor does grim ballads, a Latina rocker named Cecilia Villar Eljuri, Lucky Peach’s guide to cider, a Breton peasant’s memoir, music by Guy Clark, a film from Guillermo del Toro, a noir comic, and other matters…

Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, you know, which you can find if you look. — Diana Wynne Jones in Fire and Hemloc Now it is by some storytellers said … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 25th of September: A Glen Cook series, a novel that comes with its own soundtrack, people with ‘special powers,’ … and Maddy Dances, Danish jazz, the folklore of bees, and other bits and bobs as well

The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff. — Steven Brust in this Strange Horizons interview The Huddled Masses Ensemble just sent us several cases of Pendle Witches Brew, an ale with a thick, malty, … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 18th of September: a story from Kage Baker, new music from Bua and Iron Horse, a new novel from Peter Beagle, a new collection from Patricia McKillip, a “cowboy” movie, Welsh sort of trad music, Indonesian sort of trad music, American pop and several other things as well

At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, … Continue reading

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What’s New for the 11th of September: Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory, an Oysterband retrospective collection, contemporary Estonian music, a Swedish porridge restaurant, a Tam Lin novel, card catalogues and other matters…

I can remember the title, author, and location of every book in this library, Matthew. Every book that’s ever been dreamed. Every book that’s ever been imagined. Every book that’s ever been lost. Millions upon millions of them. That’s what … Continue reading

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