Welcome to The Green Man Review!

gmr-blackandwhiteIf you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the weekly edition which is up every Sunday morning and alternates with a Story every Wednesday..

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Irish music or perhaps a tasty jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfantasy inspired by folklore, beloved filmsegg nog recipes,  street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Pub Manager, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies.  And you’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in our Library.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week. Right now, I’ll offer you up Nick Burbridge’s ‘Fox on the Run’, a take on a theme as ancient as fox hunting once was in the British Isles. This is from the Live At Ferneham Hall recording by McDermott’s 2 Hours, for which Nick is the vocalist.

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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

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The Huddled Masses Ensemble just sent us several cases of Pendle Witches Brew, an ale with a thick, malty, and quite earthy taste. It was an unexpected payment for Jack arranging a Nordic tour for them. Now this brew isn’t quite as good as my all-time favourite ale, Thomas Hardy’s Ale, but it’s quite tasty.

It’s amusing to watch some of the musicians of the Neverending Session compare notes with Bêla, our Ottoman Empire refugee and long-time resident violinist, who become their ‘adopted’ grandpere many years ago, about this spectacular brew.

Oh, I did just spy Mistress Zina asking FInch, the Afternoon Barkeep, to tuck away a several bottles for later drinking? Or did she have it put away in her office? No matter — there’s ‘nough for everyone!  And if you’re looking for a good read for these increasingly cold evenings, or some music to listen to, we’ve those covered with other interesting bits and bobs as well!

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A novel by Emma Bull and Steven Brust gets this comment from Richard: ‘Thankfully for readers of Freedom & Necessity, the two authors’ collaboration, the safe money is right this time. The book, while completely unexpected in its content, delivers on all the implied promises its authors have made with careers of sustained excellence. It’s just that Freedom & Necessity, perhaps inevitably, does so on its own, very demanding terms.’

Robert has a look at one of Glen Cook’s earlier series, the Dread Empire, with some comments on prequels: ‘A Fortress in Shadow is an omnibus edition collecting Glen Cook’s two ‘prequel’ novels to The Dread Empire trilogies. (Yes, there are two of them. . . .)’ To get the whole story, click through.

He says about Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy that it ‘has been in my peripheral vision for some time, and was brought front and center by Boiled in Lead’s CD Songs from The Gypsy. I’ve sort of put off Brust’s collaborations, of which this is one, although I can see that I’ve got to catch up on them.’ He goes on to say that he found this Hungarian folklore-tinged novel to be terrific, a comment I wholeheartedly agree with!

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Robert has some comments on a TV series that was a binge-watching favorite: ‘I should point out right off the bat that I don’t watch regular TV. Among other reasons, I’m a binge-watcher, and I can’t stand to wait a week for the next episode of anything – somehow, a single thirty- or forty-minute dose just isn’t enough to maintain my interest. . . . However, thanks to Netflix, I get to indulge my binge-watching tendencies. I also get to shop around for what looks interesting, which is how I ran across Haven.’

Speaking of people with special powers and prequels — and we were, believe me — Robert takes a look at Sam Raimi’s prequel to a classic, Oz The Great and Powerful: ‘Creating a prequel to anything can be, as they say, fraught. Such an undertaking requires care, sensitivity to the original, and a thorough understanding of where this project is headed. Prequels by the creators of the original works are on somewhat safer ground — after all, they know the subject thoroughly. Making a prequel to a much-loved classic seventy years after the fact carries a certain amount of risk. You might imagine that deciding to see director Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful was not without some reservations.’

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We have a lot of bee hives here, several hundred at least, and there’ve most likely been hives here for a thousand years. Every culture has its folklore about bees and the Irish are no exception. Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and our primary beekeeper, passed on this article to me, Eimear Chaomhánach’s ‘The Bee, its Keeper and Produce, in Irish and Other Folk Traditions’. If you’re interested in folklore of these fascinating creatures, this is a must read for you.

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We’re taking a somewhat broader interpretation of ‘graphic lit’ this week, with look at an anthology of art, namely, Gothic Art Now. However, lest you think this is about cathedrals: ‘We seem to spawn subcultures at a dizzying rate these days, and those subcultures, as cultures tend to do, create art, music, fashion and lifestyles in their own image. As far as the goth culture goes, we’ve all seen the teenagers dressed in black doing their best to look gaunt, we’ve heard music groups such as Dead Can Dance (a number of which, by the way, have created some excellent music — I’m a Dead Can Dance fan from way back), but I don’t recall having seen a systematic look at the art produced in this milieu, a lack that Jasmine Becket-Griffith has attempted to rectify in Gothic Art Now.’

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Saturday brought the sad news of the passing of Stanley Dural Jr., at the age of 68. Dural was the leader of the world-renowned zydeco band Buckwheat Zydeco, which played all over the world and collaborated with mainstream musicians like Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant and many more. By way of tribute, here’s Gary’s review of Buckwheat Zydeco’s Grammy-winning 2009 album Lay Your Burden Down.

Gary continues our music reviews with a look at Streams, which is by a jazz trio led by Danish guitarist Jakob Bro. ‘Three instruments improvising around flowing melodies add up to an apparently endless series of gentle surprises,’ he says. ‘Streams is a record to return to again and again to appreciate its lovely sounds and inspiring ensemble creativity.’

Gary also reviews a recording from another guitarist, although in a much different genre. William Tyler’s Modern Country is in the Americana vein, he says, and has influences that range from the Carter Family to John Fahey, The Beatles to Richard Thompson.

3hattrio’s new release Solitaire caught Gary’s fancy as well: ‘It’s named for Desert Solitaire, the classic 1968 book about dryland ecosystems by Edward Abbey,’ he says. ‘This stringband trio from the red-rock desert of southern Utah is intimately familiar with that landscape, and they continue to translate its stark beauty into haunting melodies and lyrics.’

Deliverance, the second release by The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, brims with life, energy, a lot of joy and a little bit of sorrow,’ Gary says,  ‘all poured out in the delightful strains of fiddle music from three different but related traditions.’

Deb has an essay about Maddy Prior that she’s titled …And Maddy Dances: ‘Warning, up front, in advance: if you’re expecting a scholarly historical restrospective of Steeleye Span, you’re doomed to disappointment. (You also don’t know me very well, but that’s a different issue.) I’ve been a fan of theirs for over three decades, and I’m going to write about the way I’ve always listened to them, perceived them, felt them: prismatically, split into streams of sound and light over a central rock at the heart of the prism.’

And for all you fans of serial minimalism, we have a heads-up. From ECM Records: ‘Steve Reich will be 80 on October 3rd and celebratory concerts are being programmed all over the world. Reich’s first home as a recording artist was with ECM, beginning in 1978 with the seminal album Music for 18 Musicians followed by Octet / Music for a Large Ensemble / Violin Phase (1980) and Tehillim (1982). These works will be reissued in a 3-CD box set that contains Reich’s original liner notes, archival photos and, a fascinating new booklet essay by Paul Griffiths.

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Our What Not this time was another common one for us which is to ask folks what their favorite Tolkien work was. Neal Asher saysthat it’s: ‘Lord of the Rings, quite simply because I loved it. I remember The Hobbit being read to me when I was a young school kid, and when I first walked into a library my mother asked me what I liked, I said I liked The Hobbit and when directed to the relevant shelf picked up a copy of The Two Towers. I read them out of order first, but have since read them in order many times.’image

Americana artists Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings (performing as ‘Gillian Welch’) rarely record other people’s songs, but they have a large repertoir of classic country and classic rock covers from which to draw in concert. They range from Jimmie Rodgers to the Grateful Dead, Townes Van Zandt to Bob Dylan, Eddie Arnold to Eric Andersen, and this little gem by one Grace Slick. Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ became the anthem of Haight-Ashbury and the 1960s psychedelic movement. With imagery cribbed from Lewis Carroll and a bolero-like structure from Ravel and Miles Davis, it celebrates curiosity and openness to new experiences, following that muse wherever it leads.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Night of Wine and Madness

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Come in. Yes, the party is here in the Pub tonight. There will be rituals in the hills and the Wood later, but I advise you to avoid them. Join me here, at least for the time being. I can’t stay for the evening — there are things I must do elsewhere tonight, but that will be later on. Oh, forgive me — I’m sure you recognize Reynard, and there’s Reynard’s cousin Kit, and I saw several Jacks around earlier. I am . . . well, I have many names, but you can call me Jake. Yes — Jake will do for tonight.

You’re just in time. People are starting to arrive from the press barn — yes, we do it the old-fashioned way here, and everyone pitches in. It’s still warm enough to use the pumps outside to clean up. That’s what I like to see — people are tired but happy. Look, even McKenzie is smiling, and the Annies are positively glowing. After all, it’s the Wine Harvest, the Merry Moon, when Summer’s work is done and the bloody business of colder days has yet to start. So, no meat for tonight’s feast, but we have fresh bread and a rich vegetable stew and good cheeses to share.

Grab a glass or a tankard — we still have the last of the old vintage, and good ale and beer. Come over to the corner, where the Neverending Session has set up. The music will be a little different tonight, I think. I’ve brought a couple of friends who will be playing — yes, those fellows there. Ah, I see you recognize the piper. Fitting him for boots was a problem, and we had to cut a hole in his pants for his tail. Oh, yes, we had to put him into pants, else the evening would have gotten much too lively much too soon. He lacks restraint, and I thought it best to keep him indoors tonight, and to keep him playing — there will be enough madness in the wild places. At any rate, there will be some fine music tonight — my friends have been playing together for time out of mind. And there will be tales later — I know the storyteller of old, and he’s a rare one.

What? The Equinox? Oh, no — that’s only part of it. Yes, tonight is a night when we observe time in balance, but it’s more than just day and night — it’s one of the days we can look back and forward, like Janus the Two-Faced. It’s nothing so simple as “balance,” at least as you’re thinking of it — it’s a complex and delicate thing, an equilibrium that has already passed, that only holds its shape for an instant, part of the long interplay between day and night, dark and light, the eternal dance of the Kings as each in turn takes his place as Lord of the Wheel. It’s the ends of the circle that count, do you understand? Tonight is just a pause to take a breath and rejoice before the serious business starts again.

And it’s the midpoint of the Harvests, which I rule with my brothers. You hold a mug of my brother John’s bounty in your hand, and my brother Kern will come in his turn with the harvest of the woods, that can only be bought with blood. They offer sustenance, as do I: I stand between them and bring joy. Remember, the Harvests mark a time of sacrifice: we offer our lives, and tonight we celebrate my gift. No, don’t regret it. Accept it gladly, as it was given, lest you belittle them and me: no one lives without the sacrifice of others. Acknowledge it, and treasure it, and give us your blessing as you receive ours.

Ah, I see them slipping out. I suspected they would — fox-haired Kit and his cat-eyed companion. Ha! You didn’t even know he’d come in, did you? They’re good at being unnoticed, the both of them — I’ve seen them slipping through the Wood like smoke, and not even the sharp-eyed ravens marked their passing. They’ll be coursing the woodland paths tonight, offering shelter. That Wood belongs to Kit, though I can’t guess how much of it he’s gifted to his friend — and don’t be fooled by that one: they are subtle and devious, both of them — and they understand that sacrifice must be willing. Kit has declared that tonight is not the night for bloodshed in his domain, and I have agreed, out of respect — he is my elder, after all. I daresay any bands of my celebrants who wander into the Wood will find themselves wandering out again in short order.

For the rest, you’d best stay in tonight. Stay close to the fire. See, the storyteller is here, so there will be tales told, strange and wonderful, and, if I know anything about this place, many healths pledged tonight.

No — sadly, I have other tasks ahead of me tonight, other places I must be, and I must say adieu. Tomorrow? No, I can’t promise that, but next year — next year for certain.

For tonight, be merry!

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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, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost. ― Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters on Cézanne

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The season we call Autumn starts in a scant few days, even though British Summer Time doesn’t ’til the end of October, but the meteorological Autumn season’s been here for several weeks now and the cooling weather with a bite in the evening air makes it apparent that Summer’s really over.

Gus, our Estate Gardener and Groundskeeper par excellence, has been checking if the fire wood (cut, stored and dried for three years before burning) is sufficient for the coming Winter;  Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff are processing peppers, string beans and other tasty fruits and veggies; and Reynard’s assisting our brewer Bjorn in the cider pressings.

However I’m in my hidden office with a pot of Darjeeling tea and some chocolate biscuits (that’s cookies to you Yanks) to nibble on along with music playing on my earbuds (Irish trad group Bua’s ‘Within a Mile of Dublin’, ‘Leslie’s Reel’ and ‘John Broslin’ is currently playing — it’s from their concert at the Lowell Folk Festival, Massachusetts, July 24, 2010) as I put this edition together, so let’s get started…

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Brendan found a fascinating book: ‘Reading Allen Lowe’s book American Pop from Minstrel to Mojo: On Record 1893 to 1957, I found myself agreeing with the late Tupac Shakur’s vision of the afterlife. Heaven would simply be a large night club filled with all of the late, great musicians of yesteryear. For eternity, all you need to do is stroll through and listen to the fine music… Ironically, if someone told me some years back that this vision consisted entirely of American pop music, my younger self would have concluded that they were describing Hell, but this book — among other influences — has convinced me of my folly. Early American pop music in any of its known forms — jazz, blues, ragtime, vaudeville, country or rock — is truly one of the highest achievements of the American culture.’

Cat looks at The Mystery of Grace, a novel by Charles de Lint, the second ghost story Cat believes that that author has written. Set in a small city somewhere in the Southwestern USA, or perhaps California, the story of Grace, the woman who can cross back and forth, gets a sterling review from Cat. (I’ve been informed by de Lint that Cat’s wrong as he’s written many ghost stories.)

Down the decades, we’ve reviewed most everything Patricia McKillip has published, so it’s only fitting that we finish off this time with a review by Richard of her latest book: ‘With Dreams of Distant Shores, Patricia A. McKillip delivers something that is not quite your typical short story collection. While the point of entry is a series of shorter pieces, the collection builds to and is anchored by the lengthy novella “Something Rich and Strange”, with an essay on writing high fantasy orthogonal to the usual tropes. The book then ends with appreciation of McKillip’s work (and the stories in the collection) by Peter S. Beagle, an elegant coda to a warm, thought-provoking collection.’

Richard rounds out our book reviews with the first new novel in a long time from a beloved writer: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s latest, Summerlong is an exercise in masterful, hopeful heartbreak. Deeply steeped in mythology yet relentlessly modern (if a bit sentimental), it tackles the big questions of love, compromise, dreams, and what you might do – or forgive – in the face of the sublime.’

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Robert takes a look at a film that shook audiences up when it came out, for good reason: Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain: ‘I remember seeing Brokeback Mountain at its first showing in Chicago. I sat through it, along with a fairly substantial audience, which surprised me a little — it was an 11 a.m. showing on a Friday morning, but the house was nearly full. No one was talking much as we filed out. I walked around for about an hour in the snow and the wind. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.’

As an indicator of what a break-through film Brokeback Mountain was, Robert has an observation on Jonah Markowitz’ Shelter: ‘Before I get to the film itself, one observation: I don’t think this movie would have been made five years before it was. It could have been, but it wouldn’t have been – we are without doubt in a post Brokeback world. The reason I say this is because the film is virtually free of stereotypes. More on that later.’

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Terri Windling has moved Endicott Studio to a new home, so that’s where I found ‘The Lore of Simple Things: Milk, Honey, and Bread In Myth And Legends’ by Ari Berk, of which he says ‘here is the lore of The Basics’, three foods that remain effective indicators of the land’s condition. If these are unspoiled, and readily available, all with the land and the people living on it is well. Here are three foods ancient and primal: one given, one found, one formed. Milk, honey and bread. Bon appetit.’

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Our resident Summer Queen says ‘Melinda is Neil Gaiman and Polish artist Dagmara Matuzak’s first collaboration, and the resulting illustrated poem is a unique literary work. According to the press notes accompanying this release, Gaiman wrote the text specifically for Matuzak to illustrate, hoping for a few drawings and perhaps a painting or two, and she responded with forty-eight stunning black and white drawings and eight colour plates that delineate the harsh world Gaiman’s seven year old Melinda inhabits.’

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Alan Lowe’s amazing American Pop book obviously needs a companion musical offering, which is what it gets in American Pop: An Audio History. Brendan reviews it for us and notes that ‘Music and Arts of America released this companion 9-CD collection. Containing almost all of the singles described by Lowe in his book (the set ends at 1946), this gargantuan group of CDs (almost 11 hours of music) turns out to be just as important a musical document as Lowe’s original book. Some of these tracks are unbelievably rare; and more importantly, one would be hard pressed to find another document that presents the accomplishments of the American musical culture of the early Twentieth Century as well, as thoroughly, and as enjoyably as this collection.’

We noted sadly last week that the last member of The Weavers, Fred Hellerman, had passed on. Well, Gary has a look for you at one of their many recordings, The Best of the Vanguard Years. He says that they ‘helped wake Americans up to the wonderful folk music that was all around them, and helped get America singing. Perhaps we could all use a reminder of those times that maybe weren’t so much more simple after all, and a refresher course on the power of three chords, four-part harmony, acoustic instruments, and a few verses and choruses about common folks and their concerns.’

Joe K. Walsh, a talented mandolinist, singer and songwriter in the progressive stringband vein, has released his debut solo CD. ‘Borderland is full of excellent ensemble music all around, with solid contributions from all involved,’ Gary says.

British folk singer Billy Bragg and American singer-songwriter (and producer) Joe Henry have teamed up on a field recording of sorts, Gary reports. Shine a Light features the two playing and singing American folk songs on the theme of trains, recorded on trains and in stations as they rode the rails from Chicago to Los Angeles. Like the alternative Great American Songbook it is drawn from, he says, ‘It’s about trains and the people who traveled on them and the reasons they traveled.’

Robert brings us another installment in John Noise Manis’ series of Central Javanese gamelan, a volume of musical treasures from the court music tradition of Surakarta, and a volume of songs that transform some traditional modes in amazing ways.

A Welsh band live caught the ear of Vonnie: ‘Crasdant plays music to warm your heart and tells tales to tickle your funnybone. This Welsh band played on a wet windy night that, they said, reminded them of home. The two sets of instrumental music for flute, harp, fiddle, and guitar, with an impressive bit of clog dancing thrown in were varied and fascinating, and the evening was over too soon. The concert was part of the excellent Celtic music calendar put together by Music-For-Robin, in the same venue as Pipeline.’

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Our What Not is from Kage Baker who was a  storyteller beyond compare, be it in emails as Cat can well attest, at Ren Faires with her sister Kathleen serving up ale, lovingly critiquing quite old films, writing stories of chocolate quaffing cyborgs, whores who decidedly didn’t have hearts of gold,  or space raptors who are actually parrots now. So it won’t surprise you that was a master narrator of her own stories as you hear as when she reads for us ‘The Empress of Mars’, a novella she wrote.

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Now let’s see what we’ve got got a performance recording for you his time… Hmmm… That’ll do nicely. Here’s Iron Horse, the great Scottish sort of trad group, performing ‘The Sleeping Warrior’ at the  Gosport Easter Festival in  April of ’96.

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A Travels Abroad story: Truly Shitty Celtic Metal

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They called themselves a Celtic metal band — they weren’t exactly metal, but I couldn’t in all honesty call it folk in spite of the fiddler, and they did certainly know how to mangle a jig or a reel all too well. Not that the crowd, after midnight on a warm summer evening, who thought they were of Irish extraction even if it was so diluted that it was more than a splash of water in a jigger of bad blended Irish whiskey, cared a flying fuck.

I was down London way on that evening as Ingrid, my wife who’s the Estate Purchasing Agent and our Steward, had business with a company doing extremely low impact river based hydro power that we hoped would give us more electricity at an affordable cost. (It was promising but they were five years out from selling the units, though we did end up as one of the test sites.) Neither of us is Irish but the Pub was near our hotel and it raining too steadily to venture far that night.

I lied earlier — they were truly shitty. And as drunk as the crowd was to boot, which was no mean feat. We stayed for a few minutes, got back to our hotel before the rain really came down, and traded stories for several hours with the Dublin-born and raised barkeep, who made a rather excellent Irish coffee.

Now it is possible to combine Celtic and metal successfully, though it rarely gets done. If you care to hear two bands taking a piss while doing so, go find Thin Lizzy, the Irish rockers from the Seventies, playing ‘Whiskey in a Jar’ — not bad at all despite Phil Lynott’s truly shitty voice, but far better is Metallica’s cover, which features the ballsy voice of James Hetfield. And the best blending of rock music with Irish traditional music is most everything done by the Irish group Horslips.

Now I must leave you, as I want to listen as the Neverending Session play the John Playford composition, ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’, which was done by Horslips here.

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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 I remember. It’s my job. Other things… I forget sometimes. — Lucien in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman’s ‘The Kindly Ones’

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If you look down to the bottom floor of the central well of the Library, you’ll see our card catalog on the wall nearest the circular staircase. Yes, a physical card catalog, as I feel it’s important for the Several Annies, my sort of Library Apprentices, to understand the relation of books to each other and nothing does that better than a physical tracking system. The card catalog represents one hundred and seventy years of the constant evolution of this Library and the entire Kinrowan Estate by extension.

Got a subject you’re interested in? Oh, cider making? Our card catalog has a précis of each book on that subject, the year published, the author(s) and of course where it’s located, as the Library has myriad locations, from the cookbook collection housed just outside the Kitchen to the botanical books that Gutmansdottir, the naturalist studying The Wild Wood, has in her work space, and the extensive fiction collection on the wall behind us.

A good review works like that as well. It, when done right, not only helps you in telling if you’ll be interested in seeking it out (and some of our reviewed books take a bit of effort to find as many are long out of print, or are of works done on presses long gone) but also places it within the greater landscape of literature itself.  And our music reviews also do this, so that you know where Dexy’s Midnight Runners falls in the history of the 70s Birmingham, England, music scene and why Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Come On Eileen’ caught on with the MTV listening public.

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David looks at a long-running series: ‘If Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Robicheaux (from the film of Heaven’s Prisoners in 1996) is your only introduction to Dave’s career, then forget everything you know and start at the beginning and work your way through one book at a time. You will be immersed in a world as exotic and as violent as your imagination can create; you will meet characters as real and fully drawn as your next door neighbor; you will never forget the world created by James Lee Burke.’

Jayme reviews a novel that had dire consequences: ‘Flanders is, simply put, a marvelous work filled with bleak imagery and raw emotion that garnered wide acclaim and landed on many best-of-the-year lists when it came out. It also killed Patricia Anthony’s career as a novelist. Ace, her publisher, specialized in straightforward science fiction and struggled with the marketing of Anthony’s previous novel, God’s FiresFlanders was, if anything, an even worse fit for that publisher, and things, as they say, went rapidly downhill from there’

Richard says ‘The key to Lauren Beukes’ fiction can be found in the non-fiction short pieces at the back end of her new collection, Slipping: Stories, Essays and Other Writing. Beukes’ background is in journalism, and these shorts – some of them little more than brief gut-shots – she takes the reader where her profession took her, into places that are dangerous or forgotten or abandoned by the powers that be, often at the same time. And once there, she zeroes in on that notion of observation, of reporting – on the sheer necessity of the portrayals in the media of incidents and places, in order to get the public to pay some attention and not to ignore, or to swallow easy pre-fab narratives that bear little to no relation to the truth.’

He notes that  ‘The blurb on the back cover of John L. Lansdale’s Zombie Gold comes from a movie personality, and it’s easy to see why. Stripped to its bare bones, this story of a couple of well-meaning Pennsylvania cowboys – Will and Chris, largely interchangeable – who accidentally stumble through time to the Battle of Gettysburg and get mixed up with some gold-stealing zombies along the way sounds like a fun high-concept pitch. Give it visuals, add some cinematic panache, and it could be a great popcorn flick if handled right.’ Read his review to see why it really didn’t work for him.

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Firefly, an sf series with a strong Western motif, created a lot of criticism about the cultural assumptions underlying it, as you can see here in a review by Will in the guise of Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and  Space Hookers: ‘Because Firefly mixes traditional western and science fiction elements to tell an adventure story, the essays collected in Finding Serenity are an examination of the nature of genre storytelling. But the writers appear to have been told to write whatever they wanted, so that examination is accidental. It comes from confusion: Is Firefly more science fiction or more western? Is it sexist? What is freedom, and how do power structures work? The collection is not a scholarly examination of a piece of art. It’s a group of fans praising and griping about a show that they clearly love as much as I do. And therefore the examination of genre is often superficial, but occasionally brilliant.’’

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GRØD is a Copenhagen restaurant that only serves porridge. Yes, a porridge only restaurant. We eat a lot of porridge here on this Scottish Estate, particularly during the Winter, as it’s a filling, comforting meal for breakfast. Reynard and his wife Ingrid, our Estate Steward, found this restaurant when they were in Copenhagen the past January. GRØD, Swedish for porridge, does serve rossito in the evening but otherwise just has porridge. Lots of porridge.

They had the signature porridge, havregrød, which is topped with dulce de leche they make in-house , apple slices and roasted almonds, which has been cooked in half water and half whole milk. (Our Kitchen only cooks it in whole milk.) Reynard said it was most decidedly comfort food of the highest order and got them in the mood for walking in the chill Winter air and shopping.

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The Faeries of Spring Cottage, a  delightful collaboration between Brian Froud and Terri Windling, is reviewed by Matthew: ‘Regular readers of Green Man Review probably have already figured out, simply by the authors listed above, that we have before us yet another adventure of Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh (known as Sneezle for short), tree faery of an old hawthorn clan, and a relative youngster, being only 201 years old. For this third outing with Sneezle (the first two were chronicled in A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale and The Winter Child), we are treated to a tale of Sneezle’s encounter with the world of humans. The story begins with Sneezle out collecting sticks for a friend when he is suddenly set upon by mysterious creatures made of sticks and mud. Sneezle holds his own against the stick monsters, but is not able to overcome them until it starts to rain and the monsters dissolve.’

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Howlin’ Wuelf Media passed on this sad news: ‘Fred Hellerman, the last surviving member of The Weavers has passed away. The NY Times ran a lovely and informative account of his and the band’s career mentioning the role Alan Lomax played in their ascent from playing at left wing rallies to headlining Carnegie Hall.’ You can read the rest of his message here.

Richard looks at This House Will Stand: The Best Of Oysterband 1998-2015: ‘I begged GMR to let me review this 2-CD compilation by Oysterband because I’ve been a committed Oysters’ fan for many years and possess almost all their recordings.“Who better,” I asked myself, “to review this collection of their songs than someone who has known and loved the band’s work for decades?” At the same time, of course, I was determined to listen critically and throw brickbats if required.’

Gary reports from one of the far frontiers of popular music, where he found a new record by sonic experimenter Daniel Lanois. ‘Goodbye to Language is made entirely of sounds produced by steel guitars – his own pedal steel and the lap steel of collaborator Rocco Deluca, both of them at times processed and manipulated nearly beyond recognition.’

Ojos del Sol is the latest offering from the Portland, Oregon artist Luz Elena Mendoza and her ensemble called Y La Bamba. Gary says it is ‘an arresting album,’ combining singer-songwriter folk music with Latin rhythms and personal lyrics that explore complex issues of spirituality, love, mortality and family. ‘Mendoza’s insistent delivery of her lyrics, which are at once personal and broadly universal, pulls you into her world where songs and mysterious spiritual connections have the power to heal.’

Robert brings us a look at a new recording from ECM, Arvo Pärt’s The Deer’s Cry: ‘I find it more than a little ironic that, in an age marked by secularism and materialism, among the most compelling music to come out of Europe and America is what I call, in general, “church music”: it can be works as monumental as Krysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion or Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, as outrageously unorthodox as Terry Riley’s Requiem for Adam, or as focused and sometimes as intimate as the music of Arvo Pärt.’

And, after digging around a little, Robert came up with this review of Pärt’s Passio: ‘Arvo Pärt’s Passio was the first recording of his music that I owned. It may very well have been the first available in the U.S. For one entire summer it was my beach music — I tended to go to the lake shore early — the combination of Pärt’s magnificent oratorio and the early morning sun is very hard to describe.’

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Our What Not this time is a place, and Robert tells us about it: ‘Lincoln Park Conservatory is another one of those nineteenth-century treasures still to be found in Chicago. It’s a glass house built between 1890 and ’95, located just east of Stockton Drive about a block south of Fullerton Parkway, off the northwest corner of Lincoln Park Zoo. The west side of the Conservatory proper and its support buildings is graced by a series of small gardens featuring pines, spruces, junipers and other conifers from around the world, interspersed with deciduous shrubs and trees. These gardens continue around to flank the entrance.’

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The traditional song ‘Moonshiner’ is one of those that’s been done by lots of folks, from Bob Dylan to the Clancy Brothers to Roscoe Holcomb, The Punch Brothers, Uncle Tupelo and more. Here’s a version of it by the on-again off-again Denton, Texas, band called Slobberbone, recorded at The Barley House in Dallas on 25th of November, 2001. Frontman Brent Best sings ‘Moonshiner.’

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A Kinrowan Estate story: You’re Invited to A Pig Roast

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You’re invited to our first pig roast of the year which is coming up this weekend.

Needless to say, you need a pig. Figure two pounds of meat per person. More if you’re feeding them all day long, as properly cooked pig — I swear — creates ravenous appetites, even with lots of sides on hand. I saw at the pig roast last year a hundred-pound-dripping-wet female (not a metaphor — she was wet from skinny-dipping in the Mill Pond) eat three pounds of pork over the course of the afternoon, according to one of the servers who dished out the pig straight off the roasting pit.

It didn’t slow her down — she danced in all three of the contradances that day. And she and one of the gardening lads went off late that night to one of the yurts for some private exercise. Must have been a good time — she got pregnant, they got handfasted at the next full moon, and moved to a farm in New Zealand a year later with another bairn on the way.

And German-style potato salad. And oodles of cole slaw, again German style. And yeast rolls with butter. And strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream. Oh of course ale and cider. The summer ale was a German-style wheat that Bjorn, our Brewmaster of long standing, had brewed in consultation with Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and pig roast planner extraordinaire.

Not just any pig but one suitable for roasting over an open fire or buried in coals for essentially steam cooking. We favour the latter, as everyone thinks it tastes better even though it’s far less impressive as it’s a process that largely invisible.

First you start with the right breed of pig. Some are good for roasting, some less so. We use the Red Wattle, the Rolls Royce of breeds for this purpose. It’s an expensive, really expensive, breed but oh when slow cooked with lots of cider drizzled over it to keep it moist as its tended, it’s easily the best pork you’ll ever eat!

Add in some great music — we hire several Appalachian bands that play bluegrass, Celtic and such, hold the party on the greensward which is an easy walk to the Mill Pond which is perfect for skinny dipping, and make sure there’s enough to feed both the serving crew and your guests. We end up having to use a fairly large pig as there’s never enough meat when we use a smaller one such as most pig roasts use.

I’ll bet that you’re hungry, aren’t you?

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What’s New for the 4th of September: the newest from Norwegian accordionist Frode Haltli, Kage Baker’s fav trad song, John McEuen, Spaghetti Westerns, Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’, a trunk novel from de Lint among other matters…

Brown eyed women and red grenadine
the bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean
Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down
and it looks like the old man’s getting on

Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’

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Come in… Let me pour you a pint of Dark Hollow Ale, one of our Autumn offerings here in the Green Man Pub —  I think you’ll like it. A Brewer from Big Foot County in the States who visited us collaborated with Bjorn, our Brewer, on it. He said that it reminds him of wood smoke, brightly coloured falling leaves and of the promise of an Autumn just starting.

Yes I’m playing music by the Grateful Dead and the various associated bands and solo performers as I like most of what they did and the Neverending Session’s off elsewhere this afternoon helping and Iain, your usual host here, is doing a hands-on music lesson for the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices, of learning the grimmer side of Scottish ballads such as ‘The Cruel Sister’ as performed here by the Aberdeen based Old Blind Dogs at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on the 11th of November, 1994.

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Cat will openly admit that he found the televised Torchwood to be quite dodgy at times, but he has an excellent full cast audio Torchwood adventure for you: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series. Please note that it was BBC and not Big Finish that produced these despite the fact that latter produces most of the Doctor Who and spinoff dramas. This is so because the new Doctor Who audio dramas was kept in-house and these productions were kept there as well.’

According to Denise, ‘Peter Dickinson takes the salamander of myth and gives it a new spin in The Tears of the Salamander. In 18th century Italy, young Alfredo is a promising singer in the church choir, and sings with the true love of one born to it. Soon though, he reaches the age where he must make a decision: to become a castrati and continue with the choir for his whole life, or to take his chances and hope his singing voice after puberty is as good as it had been before. As he weighs his decision, tragedy strikes. He is soon introduced to his Uncle Giorgio, a man whom he has never known and whom his father hated. Alfredo is whisked away to Sicily, where his uncle is the Master of the Mountain, a powerful man with the fire and fury of the mountain at his control.’

Martin Stokes and Phillip V. Bohlman’s Celtic Modern Music at the Global Fringe gets looked at by, appropriately enough, Irish music journalist John:  ‘While general readers looking for fact files on the varied strands of Celtic music would be best served elsewhere, some persistence is required for the contents of Celtic Modern to reveal themselves to passing ears. For those who want to debate the hows and whys and look at the interior conflicts that inhabit Irish and Celtic music as a whole this collection comes recommended.’

A trunk novel is a work written early in a career and not published until much later as was the case with Eyes Like Leaves which was written in the days of Charles de Lint’s high fantasy novels such as The Harp of the Grey Rose and The Riddle of the Wren. Michael says of this novel that  it ‘ is very much a historical artifact, a ‘lost novel’ from the earliest days of de Lint’s career….With the recent interest in his older works, as collected in previous Subterranean volumes, he decided that now was as good a time as any to unearth this long-lost work and let it see the light of day. But have the better part of thirty years been kind to this particular book?’

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Though we by no means do as many video reviews as we do either book or music reviews, we’ve none-the-less done a few. And we’ve also looked at quite a few books on this subject including this one that David reviews for you: ‘The Spaghetti western was far bigger than one actor though, and Christopher Frayling (who is Rector of the Royal College of Art and Professor of Cultural History there) was one of the first writers to look at the genre as a whole, and to write about it intelligently and seriously. His book Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone was first published in 1981 and is now available in a revised, trade paperback. It is a solid, dense book, which seeks to trace the social, political, cultural and artistic background to these films and provide a framework by which we can understand their importance. More than that, it’s a fascinating study of a group of films which took a dying genre, and breathed new life into it,’

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William Sitwell’s A History of Food in 100 Recipes is an entertaining take on culinary history.  Gus says  of it that ‘Some books are so obvious that I wonder why it hasn’t been done before. Indeed I suspect it is, but this take on it is certainly a very good one. Iain ordered it for the Estate Library and passed it along to me knowing my great love of culinary books, particularly the ones with a historical perspective. It’s a simple concept stated clearly in the title: tell the history of food through the recipes that reflect that history. OK, I just restated the titles in different words.’

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We’re very fond of the music, food, drink and, of course, the literature of the Appalachian Mountains. Charles de Lint wrote a children’s book, A Circle of Cats, that was set there which was marvellously illustrated by Charles Vess, an artist extraordinaire. Years later they took this and created from it The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a full-blown children’s book rich in the folklore of that region that has even more astonishing illustrations by Vess. Though marketed to a younger audience, I’d recommend to anyone looking for a excellent read.

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Gary sees Rosanne Cash at the  Monteith Riverpark: ‘As free concerts-in-the-park go, Rosanne Cash’s appearance on the third weekly installment of the 2003 River Rhythms concert series started out as about normal. It was a fairly large crowd, estimated at about 8,000, and moderately attentive. Albany is the hub and county seat of rural, agricultural Linn County, a bastion of “modern country” fans — but Cash isn’t exactly mainstream country any more.’

Gary also reviews a new album by John McEuen, whom he says ‘is one of the unheralded giants of American roots music. He was a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, one of the first to blend rock and country in a new way that didn’t even have a name yet in the late 1960s.’ This record Made in Brooklyn draws on musical friends McEuen has made in his many years as a banjo player, including David Bromberg, Jay Ungar, John Cowan and others.

Elias Alexander, a young singer and piper from Oregon by way of Vermont, Boston, New Orleans and Scotland, has a new recording out called Bywater, by his band of the same name. ‘Alexander plays an unusual type of bagpies called border pipes, also known as lowland pipes or half-long pipes,’ Gary notes.

Joselle offers us a retrospective look at the first decade of a well-regarded Celtic artist artist: ‘From her beginnings in the mid 1980s selling self-produced tapes from her car and by mail order, to international stardom — Loreena McKennitt has come a long way in her twenty-year career. For those just discovering her music with the release of An Ancient Muse, here follows a tour through this incredible singer’s previous recordings, all released on her independent recording label, Quinlan Road.’

Robert has some thoughts on contemporary Nordic music, specifically, a new album from Norwegian accordionist Frode Haltli, Air: ‘I discovered fairly recently that, when you get into the contemporary music of Northern Europe, “accordion music” is not at all what we think it’s going to be.’

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Our What Not is one that we like to use often here…  We’ve asked  some well-respected writers as to what was their favourite folk song and why. The answers were illuminating to say the least! The very much missed Kage Baker gave us a Grateful Dead-ish answer:

Probably ‘The Rambling Sailor’. The lyrics are sort of heartless, but it makes a helluva dance tune, especially a morris dance. I was once at a morris-ale held in an oak forest one summer night in northern California. Kate and I were providing the ale. The conditions were perfect — a full moon, thunder rumbling around the sky, there was a big turnout of dancers, we had a fairly full band– two fiddlers, a concertina, a standing bass, a couple of pennywhistles and a shawm.

There was a lantern strung up in the branches of this one big oak tree that must have been about 400 years old, and the dancing was done in the open space underneath. The different sides did the usual tunes, with the sword dances and the sticks, but then everyone got out the white handkerchiefs and the band struck up ‘Rambling Sailor’. There must have been fifty or sixty dancers moving in perfect time, and my memory insists the boys were all as beautiful as young satyrs and the girls all looked like wood nymphs. The white cloths flashed like seagull wings. The little gold bells rang. The ground shook. It was one of the most perfect moments of my life.

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I rather like ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ quite a bit but my favorite version isn’t the one with Garcia singing that the Dead did, but rather is one I found many years back. When Garcia died or was in ill health from time to time in latter years, life went on as it does for the members of most bands so including  Hunter who wrote much of what they played and my favourite version is done by him during the late show at Biddy Mulligan’s in Chicago on the 10th of October thirty years ago. So let’s now listen to him doing that song.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Porridge

Raspberry dividerEnglishman Dr. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary once slammed porridge, defining oats as ‘a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.’ Obviously he never had a good bowl of hot porridge with applesauce mixed in as I have it quite often once the weather turns cold here at this Scottish Estate.

Porridge is quintessentially Scottish, with its roots in the simple fare of crofters, the tenant farmers of the remote Highlands. Since those beginnings centuries ago, it has spread as a result of Scottish emigration to kitchens way beyond the Highlands. And in the past years, it has become a cool thing to eat among the culinary taste makers always looking for something old made new once again.

Now most of you might think of porridge as something relatively plain that’s served hot with milk. Well, it can be, but there are ways to make it quite interesting. And so I wondered what our porridge fans did to jazz it up. Not that all of them did so — Mackenzie liked his every time just with some unsweetened applesauce and warm milk.

So what did I find for interesting porridges? How about finely chopped smoked bacon and cheddar added in? Or perhaps with strawberries and cream? I’m fond of just warm milk and honey, but my wife, Ingrid, likes hers with blueberry preserves.

Iain says he once ate it with smoked salmon and Gouda as a four a.m. meal while helping Gus, our Estate Gardener, watching the ewes during spring lambing. He said was quite filling and went nicely with strongly brewed Darjeeling tea.

So what’s your favourite way to have porridge?

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What’s New for the 28th of August: Cape Verdean music, an Ian McDonald story, Wild Things, infantcide and Scottish ballads, live music by Karine Polwart and other matters

Coffee is a drink for grownups. No kid ever likes coffee. It’s psychoactive. Coffee is the drug of memory. Ian McDonald in ‘The Fifth Dragon’ story which you can read here.

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The end of August can mean either nicely warm weather at this Scottish Estate, though if we’re less than fortunate, quite chilly evenings. This year’s the latter with the result that I’m writing this up with the fireplace crackling in our third floor quarters in Kinrowan Hall as it’s much too early for the central heating here to be turned on. Our cats, Kail and Fianna, are curled up before it, both purring loudly with Malicorne doing ‘Pierre De Grenoble’ on the sound system…

Gallowglass, a fellow Librarian, has been telling me in an email that the Library he manages for a travelling theatre company has acquired a series of broadsides advertising performances of plays in the post-Commonwealth era. Charles the Second was certainly good for the theatre trade! We’ve covered more than a bit of theatre here including looks at a Punch and Judy show, John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and even a production of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

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David leads us off with an appreciative look at Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman: ‘Taj Mahal is a national treasure. His record labels have all celebrated his legacy in recent months, offering a variety of anthologies and reissues. He continues to release new and varied music. This year he won a Grammy for his live album Shoutin’ In Key; he put out the second of his Hawaiian-influenced recordings on a small European label, and finally issued this book, Autobiography of a Bluesman. It isn’t perfect but it’s a darn good read, and a tribute to a major talent.’

Gary is charmed by Kevin McDermott’s Elephant House or, the Home of Edward Gorey: ‘One feels like a voyeur, peering at these photographs of the artist’s home, but emerges with, if not an understanding of his mind, at least an idea of what a wide-ranging and quirky soul he had. Complete with a Foreword by John Updike, Elephant House is a loving final chapter in the life of a popular yet enigmatic artist.’

An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

Michael tackles a book with a very difficult subject: ‘This has not been an easy book to review, for several reasons. First of all, we must consider the full title, and the subject matter: Weep Not For Me: Women, Ballads, and Infanticide in Early Modern Scotland. That’s right, Deborah Symonds, an Assistant Professor of History at Drake University, wrote a book detailing the intricate, often morbid relationships between the social situations of seventeenth through nineteenth-century Scotland, the way women were affected, how that led — all too often — to infanticide, and how such things were ultimately immortalized in ballads.’

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The live action Jonah Hex  was, to put it charitably, quite awful. Cat has a much better choice for in the animated Jonah Hex released by DC Showcase. A mere handful of minutes, the Joe Lansdale, a master of horror, it is, Cat says, everything one wants in a story about this scarred bounty hunter.

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Reynard has travelled a lot, so trust him on this book: ‘Overall The World’s Best Street Food is an excellent full of yummy food, great recipes ( I’m not a cook by a long stretch so I cannot say how good they are, but I’ll report back later as the Estate Kitchen now has it and I’m sure they’ll test out many of these recipes.) The writing style is consistent over the many sections, a neat trick with multiple writers which I’ll attribute to superb editing, and the photos are most mouth watering. Highly recommended.’

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We’re going to do something a little different with our Graphic Lit reviews today: we’re going to examine a classic illustrated children’s book that has made its way across media. We’ll start with Robert’s comments on the original, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are: ‘It happens every so often that I find myself asked to write a “review” of something that is so deeply imbedded in our culture and such an integral part of our collective experience that my first impulse is to run off and find a place to hide. In the case of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (another of those children’s classics that I somehow escaped reading when I was a child), it was daunting, at least a little, but it was also a lot of fun.’

It seems inevitable that any book with that degree of popularity will wind up as a movie. Richard takes a look at how that panned out: ‘First things first. The movie version of Where The Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonze from a script by Jonze and “staggering genius” Dave Eggers and soundtracked by hipster goddess Karen O, is not an exact, faithful translation of the beloved children’s book to the screen.’

And, as often as not, if there’s a film script, someone will come up with a novelization. Robert has some thoughts on Dave Eggers’ version: ‘The Wild Things is Dave Eggers’ foray into the universe of Maurice Sendak, a novelization based on Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and Eggers’ own collaboration with Spike Jonze on the screenplay for the film of the same title. It’s a mixed bag.’

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Brendan looks at The Blue Lamp: ‘Jonny Hardie and Gavin Marwick are best known as the fiddlers for Old Blind Dogs and Iron Horse, respectively. On this CD, the follow-up to another KRL release, Up in the Air, they join forces with a handful of guest musicians to showcase an excellent array of Celtic and Celtic-influenced music, not to mention a few stray pieces here and there.’

An album brings back fond memories for Gary: ‘It’s hard to believe that, as I write this, it’s been just over 10 years since I experienced the music of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island in its own environment, at the International Celtic Colours Festival in 2002. I wasn’t then and I’m not now any kind of authority on Celtic music, but I know what moves my soul and my feet. This gorgeous album Seinn by Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac transported me back to the community halls and concert venues, the vibrant autumn landscape, the tart maritime air and the hospitality of Cape Breton.’

Cesaria Évora was the most beloved singer from Cape Verde when she died in 2011 at the age of 70. Mae Carinhosa came out in 2013. Gary says, ‘This posthumous release gathers a baker’s dozen tracks she recorded over her career but which never ended up on any of her 11 studio albums. It serves as a perfect summation of that career and her seemingly effortless ability to illuminate these soft and bittersweet songs in Portuguese.’

Gary also liked Sam Amidon’s Bright Sunny South, a collection of traditional and contemporary folk and folk-rock songs. ‘It’s simply a top-notch recording in all respects: highly original but respectful of tradition, creative and personal without being pretentious or precious.’

The album Court the Storm by the intriguingly named Portland, Oregon, band Y La Bamba, is ‘rhythmically, melodically and lyrically rich,’ Gary says. ‘Its songs, whether in English or Spanish, are immediately entertaining in all of those ways, and also offer intriguing depth that rewards the patient and demanding listener.’

Robert continues his exploration of the Gamelan of Central Java with a look at some of the classical traditions in Indonesian music: ‘This part of the series surveying Central Javanese gamelan released by Felmay focuses on court music, the karawitan produced by the resident ensembles of the royal courts, the kraton.’

And, what may seem to be a very different kind of music, Robert brings us a look at a recording of Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel and Why Patterns?: ‘The spiritual as an impulse for art is an idea that is at once obvious and, in these times, often so tenuous as to be misssed completely, although even in our materialistic, expansionist, “growth-oriented” contemporary culture, our greatest efforts seem rooted in communion with something we can’t quite describe.’

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What Not this time is about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer, and extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions , Winter 2000. Persuasions is the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

We’ve got these reviews of works by her, Dancing Through Time: Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey  Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances set to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.

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Our music this week is from Karine Polwart, a musician from Edinburgh who’s comfortable in a number of genres ranging from Scots trad to pop. ‘Where the Smoke Blows’ and ‘Resolution Road’ are sones from her concert in Bremen, Germany on the 16th of July 2006.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Dolmens

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I was passing by the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room when Iain was lecturing the Several Annies on a subject that was dear to his heart:  ‘There are a number of  dolmens — ceremonial standing stones — scattered about the Kinrowan Estate. And these are not Victorian follies built to look like the real things, but are all very real dolmens situated where a number of ley lines come together, forming a nexus of supernatural energy.’

He went on to say that ‘The Victorian follies were new constructs, dolmens and water wheels to use two examples, made to look very old. So the water wheel would be broken, or the dolmens falling down. I think there were Greco-Roman temples built on some of the Estates. Fortunately it was something the prim and proper Edwardians disdained, so it ended as fast as it began.’

A Several Annie asked a question: ‘Do we know the purpose of the dolmens?’ Iain said, ‘No, not really. They’re far too old to have either oral or written histories that could be considered reliable. Sacrificial sites to what ever bloody gods the culture believed in is entirely possible, given many dolmens have a flat centre stone in them. Leyden’s ‘Ballad of Lord Soulis’ describes one such sacrifice at Skelf Hill — it was a horrid affair by any standards!’

I asked from the doorway where I was listening in, ‘So were the ley lines there before the dolmens were constructed? Or did the sacrifices bend them to where the dolmens had been raised?’ Iain looked at me and said, ‘Absolutely no idea. Archaeologists admit they have not a clue, though lots of New Agers think they know. Me, I know that those here on the Estate who’ve The Sight including myself know that some of them are safe to be around and some of them feel bad.’

He went on to say, ‘If you’re uncertain ask me, Tamsin, or Finch, as we can advise you. And never visit any of them without taking one of the Russian Wolfhounds with you as they’ll give you warning if a safe dolmen has changed its nature, as they ofttimes do. Someday I’ll tell you the story of Bloody Bones, who appeared as a shade out of one of the dolmens that had been quiet for years…’

With that, he broke off the lesson as it was afternoon tea time.

Oh, and here’s the tale in ballad form as recounted in Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain.

In a circle of stones they placed the pot,
In a circle of stones, but barely nine
They heated it red and fiery hot
‘Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.

They rolled him up in a sheet of lead
A sheet of lead for a funeral pall.
They plunged him in the cauldron red,
Melted him, lead and bones and all.

At the Skelf Hill the cauldron still
The men of Liddesdale can show
And on the spot where they placed the pot
The grasses they will never grow.

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