Welcome to GMR

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

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,   Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy 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 Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, 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, his Library Apprentices.  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 such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our very small art exhibition space

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Well it is. Very small that is. And it’s been located here at the Estate for at least several centuries as the endowment that created it goes back that far. One piece of art, be it painting, sculpture or banzai tree — it didn’t matter just as long as it fit within the four foot high by three foot wide display case just outside the entry to the Library.

Some artists you’ll recognize — Arthur Rackham, Jilly Coppercorn to mention two that have widespread fame these days. Others that I could mention wouldn’t mean anything but to you such as one whose dissertations were on an artist so obscure that her career as a scholar employed at a Uni was over before it began, but she’s a stunning designer of jewelry using silver and amber.

My favourite pieces are either ceramic or fiber in nature. The artist who designed the ceramic troll under the bridge for us did a stunning model for us of the troll and the stone bridge; our luthier did a deconstructed hurdy gurdy with descriptions rendered in Middle French as the original drawing had; the stitching circle here decided to also recreate something, a Swedish tapestry from the Fourteen Hundreds using only tools from that time; and a Several Annie from Japan designed labels and fired prototype bottle models for Kinrowan Special Reserve Fruit Wines.

There’s a generous stipend that comes with is from our bank in Glasgow with visiting artists getting room and board while they stay here. Each piece is purchased by us and added to the collection here.

So let’s see what went up this morning. I knew nought about it as the artist, a ceramicist, has been very coy about her final design.

ivy

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What’s New for the 22nd of April: Disposable fountain pens, Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu, two chocolate goodies, Space Opera and other matters

I sipped my own coffee, heavy on the sugar and cream, trying to make up for the late work the night before. Caffeine and sugar, the two basic food groups. — Laurell K. Hamilton’s Cerulean Sins

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Ahhh that heavenly aroma is coming from the Kitchen, which is making the coffee this fine late Spring morning with Komodo Dragon coffee beans that they roast themselves. It’s an Indonesia bean that Ingrid, my wife who kept her job of being the Estate Buying Agent when she become our Steward,  found several years back when we were in that country. It’s been a favourite around here ever since.

It’s  entirely possible that you’ve noted our fascination with all things consumable. Be it a British TV series such as Two Fat Ladies, an exploration of Scottish whisky distilleries, the perfect Scottish fry-up, a cracking good chocolate bar, preferably dark, or perhaps a look at bourbon, America’s whisky as it’s been called, we never pass up an opportunity to do a review wherever possible. So look for more such reviews here.

Lambing season is wrapping up here on the Kinrowan Estate, but I remember that Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter, had an article on the care and feeding of the tenders of the ewes. Let me see if I can find it while you read this edition…

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Cat looks at Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven’s The Mote in God’s Eye which he say of that ‘Until the likes of Iain M. Banks with The Culture series and Neal Asher with the Polity series came along, quite possibly the best Space Opera of all time was this forty year-old novel that took the Space Opera novels of the 1930s and 1940s and very, very nicely updated them.’

Gary reviews a book of literary criticism about Iain M. Banks Culture series. He says Simone Caroti’s The Culture Series ‘is valuable reading for anyone who wants to move into a deeper understanding of what that series is really about, where it stands in the history of SF and literature, and why it’s important.’

Gary also reviewed a recent SF anthology called The New Space Opera: ‘Of course, “space opera” is what all science fiction used to be, up until about the 1970s or so. Thrilling tales of adventure in outer space, usually featuring huge starships, weird aliens, strange planets and battles, either physical or of wits.’

Joel looks at Neal Asher’s Gridlinked, a space opera of sorts that’s a novel in The Polity series which has been running a lot longer than The Culture series did: ‘I’ve never been one for long series, and certainly the greater part of my reading time is spent on authors I’m encountering for the first time, rather than always going with the same old stand-bys, but what can I say? I get something new in the Polity universe and I know it will always be good. When it comes to escapist fiction, Neal Asher has become my most dependable travel guide. No surprise then I moved him to the top of my reading pile.’

Robert came up with a series that is quintessential space opera, with a twist: C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga, including Chanur’s Homecoming, and the sequel, Chanur’s Legacy: ‘C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga is an almost-omnibus edition of her tetralogy about Pyanfar Chanur and her ship, the interstellar trader The Pride of Chanur. Because of length, the “omnibus” volume contains the first three in the series . . . , and one would be well-advised to be sure that Chanur’s Homecoming, issued separately, is within easy reach, lest one be left hanging off a cliff.’

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It’s not a film but this novel is what happens when a series, no matter how short-lived, becomes beloved by legions of viewers. Firefly was a one-season space opera created by Joss Whedon that was brilliant. Unfortunately the network didn’t think the ratings were good enough, so they killed it after a single season, though they wrapped it up in a movie called Serenity. Stephen Brust, a writer many of you will know, wrote My Own Kind of Freedom and Cat says it’s quite true to the series.

And Robert, having been a Star Trek fan in his younger days, has a look at one of the reboot films, Star Trek: Into Darkness: ‘I’ve sort of lost track of Star Trek, after being glued to the TV every week in my younger days, as Gene Rodenberry’s original series was airing. Strangely enough, the last Star Trek movie I saw was The Wrath of Khan. (If that’s a spoiler, well, life is like that.) Let me say right off the bat that Star Trek: Into Darkness is not that.’

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Cat R. got the chance to sample a whole bunch of chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier: ‘Here in America we like our add-ins, ice cream and candy full of other candy, nuts, random sweets, and sometimes savories. Chuao (pronounced Chew-WOW) has a shelf-load of such, chocolate bars with all the goodies, created by Venezuelan chef Michael Antonorsi.’

Denise digs into a chocolate bar for this edition; someone’s got to do the dirty work, she explains. Her look at Godiva’s Dark Chocolate Almond bar may have you looking elsewhere though. ‘Good chocolate is good chocolate. Unfortunately for Godiva, this bar is only fair to middling.’

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Warren Ellis & J. H. Williams III’s Desolation Jones has, says Richard, ‘The long shadow of John Constantine lingers over the figure of Desolation Jones. But whereas Constantine is a spiky-haired Brit occult operative who abuses his odd network of friends while intimidating people into giving him answers by sheer force of personality, Jones is a spiky-haired Brit ex-spook who abuses his odd network of friends while intimidating people into giving him answers by sheer force of personality.’

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Gary reviews Absence by a jazz trio led by Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu. ‘The son of two classical pianists, born in Estonia but raised in Germany, [Randalu] grew up playing classical piano himself until he heard Chick Corea’s Inside Out when he was 13 years old.’

Gary had a lot of fun listening to the debut recording of The Turbans, a multi-cultural group whose music is a heady mix of European and Levantine styles and much more. ‘The Turbans bring a passionate spirit of adventure and an infectious liveliness to their music. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics – which are in up to a half-dozen languages – it’s impossible to not be captured by their joy.’

Ranarop — Call of the Sea Witch is a recording Iain really liked — ‘Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.’

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result is that the music has all the punch and immediacy of a live performance, with none of the drawbacks that the raw sound of live shows often suffer from.’

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Our What Not this week is one that should be dear to the heart of anyone who writes — or at least, anyone who is not tied to a keyboard. Cat R. brings us a look at a line of disposable fountain pens. Yes, that’s right: fountain pens.

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I’ll take your leave now with some music and  ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ is my choice for your listening pleasure as that was what Iain was playing in the Library when I psssed by earlier this afternoon. This was taken from a Altman performance listed as a Folkadelphia Session on the seventh of March just three years ago.

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What’s New for the 15th of April: Furry fiction, Live music from Danú, Pamela Dean’s favourite ballad, Welsh music, a Stonewall Kitchen chocolate bar and other tasty matters

My feeling says there is history here. But sometimes a thing might feel true to me, not because it is, but because the writer believes it is. — Pamela Dean’s The Dubious Hills

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Iain, our Librarian, has the Several Annies, our Library Apprentices who are actually Estate Apprentices as they learn butchering, carpentry and other hands on skills, is off with Guðmundsdóttir, a botanist who’s our expert on The Wild Wood, for a lesson on spring foraging. And because the weather is splendid on this afternoon with both warm temperatures and sunny skies, the Pub’s more than quiet enough for me to work up this edition.

I’ve dipped into the Archives for most of our book reviews this time, a repository of myriad reviews, most not yet imcluded here on this version of GMR. China Miéville is one of favourites so we look at Kraken, one of at lest there London sort urban fantasies that he did; we’ve also reviewed a lot of work by the late Diana Wynne Jones and an awesome look at her work gets reviewed by us: and I also single out the Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary novel by Pam Dean that is also figures into our What Not this edition.

Shall I pour you some of our freshly tapped Spring Ale for you to sip while reading this edition? I think it’ll go well with the Irish trad music by Danú that is our Coda this time…

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But first, for something new — and more than a little out of the ordinary:  Cat R. takes a look at, not a book but a genre, in her survey titled An Armload of Fur and Leaves: ‘In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.’

Kestrell has a look at a novel that  mixes magic and science and a bloody big squid as well: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature also gets a look by Kestrel: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.‘

Rachael has a cool sounding novel for us: ‘In her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean offers a story inspired by a traditional ballad, a familiar and fascinating blend of lyrical writing spiced with literary references and a perceptive glimpse into everyday life touched with mystery and magic.’

Richard looks at the last, or perhaps that’s not the correct framing, novel in Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood series: ‘So why Avilion now as my reading material? As you well know, late November is a cold, rainy, and often simply nasty time as regards the weather ‘ere in the place where the Green Man offices are located. This being the case I decided to read the Green Man Library copy of Avilion, the latest novel in the Ryhope Wood series. These tales seem born of the colder time of year even when the story is set in warmer months, and fiction with a strong seasonal feel to it — such as Emma Bull’s midsummer-set War for The Oaks — is something I always enjoy. This series handles seasonal changes in its corner of Albion very well indeed.’

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Robert brings us a look at another nature documentary, Wild North, that he thinks is in every way superior: ‘Wild North is another treasure I found on Netflix. It’s a nature/wildlife series but not from the BBC or the Discovery Channel — this one’s an independent film from Norway. There are three episodes, “The Coast,” “The Forest,” and “The Mountains.” And, although the series talks about the wildlife of Scandinavia, it seems that it was filmed almost entirely in Norway.’

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Cat, one of our our West Coast based reviewers, reviews a surprisingly spicy chocolate bar from Stonewall Kitchen: ‘It is dark as a stormy night, but carries a surprising amount of heat (of the various chili-augmented chocolate bars I’ve tried, it is the most fiery.)’

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Lars has a look at the latest release that Arc Music sent us, The Ultimate Guide to Welsh Music: ‘Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame, and also an author and a readio presenter, has tackled the task of giving us an overviewof Welsh folk music and I must say she has done a brilliant job. Two CDs packed with music, in total 48 tracks with 48 different acts, clocking in at two hours and 36 minutes, complete with extensive liner notes presenting every artist or group taking part. The oldest recording are from the 1940s, the newest from 2015.’

Gary takes note of the second release of Balkan songs by American singer Eva Salina. This one, Sudbina, is a duet with accordionist Peter Stan, presenting the music of Serbian Roma singer Vida Pavlović. ‘These two musicians have amazing chemistry between them, and bring great passion and joy to the music.’

Gary also reviews an album by various artists called Hummingbirds & Helicopters, a benefit for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston, Texas, area last year, spearheaded by folk singer Jolie Holland. ‘It opens with an intriguing cover by Holland of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” with the avant-garde percussion ensemble Thor and Friends backing Holland’s vocals and piano.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have just released their second CD, titled Years. It’s a rip-roaring collection of punk-influenced country. Gary says Shook’s ‘refusal to be heartbroken even when she has a broken heart runs through most of this album’s 10 songs.’

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Our What Not comes courtesy of  Pamela Dean: ‘As I went through all the Child ballads when I was trying to think of a frame for Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary, and the only other remotely feminist ballad I could find was ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded,’ which is not nearly as active for the young woman as ‘Tam Lin’ is. Well, there is the one where a young woman ransoms her guy and says, ‘The blood had flowed upon the green afore I lost my laddie,’ which is nice, but all she does is take all her money and hand it over.’

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So how about some Irish music for our Coda this time? ‘Old Ruined Cottage In The Glen’ and ‘Think Before You Think’ is on found on the Think Before You Think album as well by Danú, a somewhat newish group by the standards of some groups we’ve reviewed. This recording is from their performance at  Johnny D’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the eighth of March sixteen years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Busking (A Letter to Tamsin)

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Greetings Tamsin,

We’re in Stockholm right now, as Ingrid’s working on the tea and related foodstuffs that Jean-Pierre requested she procure. And yes, she’s got a lead on the botanical material you want.

I took a fortnight off from the Pub to go with her, so I’ve been out busking most afternoons when the weather’s decent. I take my English concertina, which is credited to Sir Charles Wheatstone, which means it’s nearly two centuries old. It’s small enough that it fits in my rucksack and different enough in appearance and sound from the mostly fiddle playing buskers that it gives me an edge at attracting listeners. And my language skills are helpful as I speak Swedish, Norwegian, German, and French, having spent a decade working in pubs in Europe when I was much younger.

(I keep my language skills intact largely because our Estate draws many conference attendees from Europe; it also helps that Iain’s Library apprentices, the Several Annies, often come from those polities.)

So I’m on Drottninggatan (Queen Street), which is a major pedestrian street. It’s warm, sunny and there’s a lot of people here, all out shopping, eating and drinking, and enjoying themselves. I’m dressed neatly in all green which offsets nicely my red hair and beard, so I stand out in this culture.

What did I play? I start off with ‘Sommarvals’ (The Summer Waltz) then I move onto ‘Waltz From Boda’ named after a town in the Dalarna region of Western Sweden, and next up is a set of tunes, ‘Da Day Dawn’ / ‘The Jos Mill Tune’ / ‘Da Aald Foula Reel’ / ‘Winyadepla’, that I picked up from Aly Bain & Ale Möller’s Fully Rigged recording.

(Jack’s hoping to book them for an Estate concert them the next time they play together in Scotland.)

So I went on for the next hour or so, which made for a nice time for me, and so it seemed, the listeners. Did I mention I put no place for money out? I noticed that several Polisen apparently appreciated that I wasn’t asking for money as I got hassled not ‘tall by them. And being older probably helped as well.

After thanking the listeners (in Swedish of course), I went off to the cafe where I’d arranged to meet my wife and ordered myself tea and pastries. I must admit I never even liked tea until Jean-Luc, our current Estate Steward, started offering classes in proper tea making some twenty years ago. Now I prefer it to coffee!

With regards, Reynard

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What’s New for the 8th of April: Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations, Irish whisky, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, life on Earth, and other neat stuff

You know what English is? The result of the efforts of Norman men-at-arms to make dates with Saxon barmaids.― H. Beam Piper’s  Fuzzy Sapiens

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That’s ‘Number 37’ which is  James Keelaghan’s homage to a female horse racer playing here in the Green Pub this lovely Spring day. It’s off one of the myriad samplers that we get, Festive to Go, An All Canadian Sampler that came in some years ago. I’m looking for a live recording of  it so I can share it but no luck so far.

I remember seeing him play this quite some years back at a concert somewhere in Canada where I was managing the door as a favour to a friend. He pulled a flask out of his jeans that held some of the finest Irish whisky that I’d ever had. Don’t recall who distilled it but fuck it was good! If you’re in the mood for some Irish this afternoon, I’ll recommend the Powers John’s Lane. It’s pricy but worth it.

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April looks appreciatively at Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations: ‘Published as a hardcover edition in 1990, Hamilton’s illustrated biography of English painter Arthur Rackham has been gorgeously reproduced here as an oversized softcover edition. Rackham is perhaps best known for his exquisitely detailed paintings of whimsical fairies, gnarled and tangled tree folk, and other such flights of fancy. His work has been used as illustrations for such diverse publications as Rip Van Winkle, Peter Pan, A Midsummers Night’s Dream and Alice in Wonderland. Hamilton’s book is an excellent glimpse into the painter’s life for both fans and those unfamiliar with Rackham’s own special brand of whimsy.’

A novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans  by Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden is definitely rated adult by Richard: ‘Readers who come to The Map of Moments looking for something similar to Mind the Gap are in for a rude shock. Where the first novel of the Hidden Cities was essentially YA, The Map of Moments is steeped in sex and death, a whirlwind ride through centuries of secret history marked by murder, cannibalism, and lust.’

Mike has a choice fantasy work for us: ‘Patricia McKillip, a World Fantasy Award winner, writes with a sparse style that evokes great magic with the barest of words. She possesses a fine knowledge of funky musical instruments and the endearing qualities of musicians. Her power is that of place; it defines and motivates her characters. Song for the Basilisk explores how the expression of that power is shaped by the predilections and history of those who wield it.’

Robert rounds out our book reviews with a look at Garth Dahl’s Masks from Around the World: A Personal Collection which he says has something well nowing here: ‘The wealth found here is in the illustrations and descriptions of the masks themselves. Each is illustrated in color, and while the images are not all large, they are very clear, with a good rendering of detail. Dahl’s descriptions and anecdotes add context, and as one goes through the various sections (arranged by geographic areas), one gets a feeling for a deep “ur-tradition” underlying the variety of examples he shows.’

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Robert got a treat this week — Chocolat Frey’s Chocobloc Dark 72% with Honey-Almond Nougat: ‘Chocolat Frey AG was founded in 1887, and is presently the number one chocolate in the Swiss retail market. Like all good chocolatiers these days, Frey is environmentally and socially conscious, which extends not only to its procurement of raw materials, but to its conservation-minded manufacturing and shipping.’

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Ensemble Alcatraz’s Cantigas de Amigo is an album Brendan‘s raving about: ‘I’m beginning to suspect that eventually Dorian will have released a version of every single piece of Iberian medieval music still extant. This is by all means a good thing: although the current booms in Celtic and English traditions are nice, there are plenty of older and just as appealing musical traditions from the Continent that need our attention — particularly from the Iberian peninsula.’

Gary reviews the new album from the Seattle country band Western Centuries. ‘Songs From the Deluge is their sophomore full-length release, and with it Western Centuries continues to up the ante on just how good a country band can be in this day and age.’

Huw wasn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic: ‘[G]rouchy as I was when I put the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There’s no getting away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful music!’

Speaking of medieval Iberian music, Robert was quite taken with the Dufay Collective’s Music for Alfonso the Wise: ‘Alfonso X, “el Sabio” (“the Wise”), was king of Castile and Leon from 1252 to 1284, a time when those realms were an outpost of European culture on a peninsula under the domination of the Muslim Moors. . . . This collection, which includes the first known song cycle, ascribed to Martin Codax, gives a glimpse of a time and place which is deliciously foreign while at the same time hauntingly familiar.’

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This week’s What Not is a little unusual, but, as Robert says, “You want roots and branches? I’ll give you roots and branches!” Bring comfortable shoes for a tour of “Evolving Planet” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

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‘Hallelujah’ is what the Infinite Jukebox is now playing which is a live recording of Leonard Cohen performing that song which he wrote. It was recorded at the Beacon Theater in NYC on the 19th of February nine years ago. Rather moving, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Pub

It was a fairly typical evening in our Green Man Pub. The weather had turned sharply colder and that meant a steady flow of custom her which kept Finch, my lead barkeep, busy along with one of the Several Annie’s, Iain’s Library apprentices, who was working the floor got us tonight.

So listen as I give you a tour of the Green Man Pub.

The Pub got expanded and modernized when we started hosting music festivals, community gatherings and even the occasional wedding here. The location of it is actually underground as it’s on the first of three levels of cellars under the Estate Main Building. You get it from the greensward side of the building where it has a door out to a stone patio that overlooks the greensward. That wall consists almost entirely of very energy efficient windows which make for a spectacular view, especially during Winter storms.

The other way in is a circular staircase near the check-in area for guests here.  It’s interesting to watch first time visitors emerge from the Stars there as they more often than not expect a Ye Olde Pub and get something that looks like a Scandinavian coffeehouse.

Ale, bourbon, cider, mead and whiskey, both Irish and Scottish, are the mainstays here,with us making the first three here. We also stock bourbon, brandy and vodka.  Don’t ask for a cocktail as we don’t do them ever though I’ll make you what I consider the best Irish coffee anywhere.

The fireplace is reputed to be a thousand years old but I doubt it. It’s big enough to stand me to stand in and I’m nearly six feet tall. We made it energy efficient several back, so it gets used from early Fall to late Spring. We have roasted a whole hog in there and the smell permeated much of the Estate Building.

We can seat upwards of sixty punters here but it’s best when there’s a smaller crowd here. I like it best when there’s thirty or so here with the Neverending Session here playing tunes as the punters talk quietly among themselves and we serve them as need be. No TVs here, but there’s a dart board that gets a lot of use.

There’s an area in left corner that’s always dark and cold. I’ve seen the ghosts that haunt that area and I’ll spare you the nightmares that the ghosts engender. If you’re lucky, you’ll never see them. Just don’t sit near that spot.

Come sit at the bar and I’ll pour you an Autumn Ale for you to enjoy. It’s got a touch of our honey in, the raspberry honey to be exact.

 

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What’s New for the 1st of April: music from Clannad, Cat Rambo joins our staff, Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast, Reckoning 2: Creative Writing on Environmental Justice, the latest from Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Cocaine & Rhinestones website, another dark chocolate review and other tasty things as well

Irish folk is probably the biggest influence musically that I’ve ever had. My mother’s Irish. And when I was very young, both my brothers were very into traditional music, English and Irish. They were always playing music, so I was always brought up with it. — attributed to Enya (Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin), source uncertain

  , .  ivy

It appears that the truly shite winter weather we’ve been having here in Scotland has finally ended. There’s been a restive feel to the Estate for some time now as we got more snow, more bitter weather than we’ve gotten in many, many years. I’ve got the windows here in the Library open to give the place a good airing out and I’m pleased to say that there’s not a soul here this afternoon, so I’m playing through the live recordings that the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, has of Clannad in their early years when they were pretty much a trad Irish band.

Oh and we’ve been remiss not to welcome Cat Rambo, noted sf writer and SFWA President whose site is here, to our staff as our newest reviewer. You’ll see her latest review for us in the book reviews section below, and she’s even got chocolate from us to consume and review.

We’ve got a fat edition chock full of tasty reviews and live music for you too, so let’s get started. If you’ve got any questions, I’ll be in my office, where I’m working on the soon-to-be-available-for-reading Sleeping Hedgehog website.

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That Cat has something for us that’s more than ordinarily timely: Reckoning 2: Creative Writing on Environmental Justice is solid in weight and content. The stories, poetry, essays, and art deal with the world around us and our ethics in dealing with it. This refined focus sharpens the magazine’s impact, I think, and makes it something that tries to evoke change through its art rather than the shallow comfort afforded by something whose theme was simply “Nature”.’

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files got this note from Richard: ‘Generally speaking, the supernatural western rests roughly at the heart of Joe Lansdale’s run on Jonah Hex. You can shift it a little toward Briscoe County here, a little toward the Deadlands RPG there, but really, the metaphor’s pretty solidly set. Until, of course, something comes along like Gemma Files’ A Book of Tongues, which takes the traditional supernatural western, sizes it up, and then calmly shoots it in the back of the head.’

Robert has a look at an extraordinary novel that might — or might not — be ‘cyberpunk’ — Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End: ‘I’m not sure that Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End counts as cyberpunk, although it might seem like it at first glance. The “cyber” part is there in full measure. Vinge envisions a world in the not-so-distant future in which clothes are the means of Internet access and most of “reality” is virtual. The “punk” part is somewhat lacking, however: this is, by and large, a supremely middle-class novel, without the dark-edge, seamy underbelly feeling one gets from a William Gibson.’

Next, Robert’s take on two poetry collections by Catherynne M. Valente, Apocrypha and A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects: ‘I remind myself that Valente is still a young writer. That is not a dismissal, but an expectation: she certainly has talent, no doubt on that score, but it’s rather like hearing Mozart’s early symphonies –- there’s no way of knowing that young musician will eventually compose something as overwhelming as the Requiem, and in the meantime you’ve heard Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Haydn’s Creation. Moving into that territory, already occupied by some formidable people, requires not only power but finesse.’

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Robert has another tasty treat from Lindt chocolatiers: Lindt’s Excellence Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt: ‘We are no strangers here to Lindt chocolates, and it’s generally a happy association — on our part, at least. The latest example of Lindt’s chocolates to cross my desk is a new flavor in their “Excellence” line — dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt.’

ivyGary takes an extensive look at three publications that marked the 25th anniversary of Maus, Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking graphic novel about his family’s experiences in the Holocaust. They included the original books, Vol. 1, My Father Bleeds History and Vol. 2, And Here My Troubles Began; and a hardcover volume called MetaMaus, about the making of the original works.

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Our Editor Cat finds balm for the soul in The Quiet Room, a new release from Americana duo Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. The album, which came out of a time of personal hardship, contains both new material and some of the best of their extensive back-catalog. ‘Everything here, new and old, I hope will delight you as much as it does me,’ Cat says.

Gary reviews Time is Everything, the debut recording by Vivian Leva. ‘The young country-folk singer-songwriter is rapidly becoming someone you need to know about, so you can say “Heck, I’ve liked her since her first album way back in 2018!” ‘

‘This band really swings,’ Gary says of Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints. He’ll tell you all about their new album, Western Soul, in his review.

ivyOur What Not this time is one of the best new music podcasts of the past year. ‘Cocaine & Rhinestones’ bills itself as ‘a podcast about the history of country music made in the 20th century, and the people who gave it to us.’ The first season of 14 episodes recently concluded with a superb look at the highly influential pedal steel guitarist Ralph Mooney. But we’re also partial to the three separate episodes inspired by ‘Harper Valley PTA,’ and the one about ‘Ode To Billy Joe,’ one of the greatest American ballads of the past 50 years. The Cocaine & Rhinestones website has links to all of the stories and a host of other resources.

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Once upon a time and place, Enya was a founding member of Clannad and there are live recordings of the band from that period. She has never toured as a solo artist so, alas, there are no live recordings of her doing her own work.

So here are two of Clannad’s early pieces, with first up being ‘The Two Sisters’  from a performance in Köln, Germany, in 1977. This is a variant of the better known ‘Cruel Sister’ which is a Child Ballad covered by myriad bands. Pay attention to the lyrics at the end as they tell the gruesome ending the murderous sister comes to. It’s an ending worthy of the original Grimm Tales!

The second piece by them is ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, which was performed in Bremen, Germany, in 1980 in what might have well have been one of Enya’s last performances with the band. The lyrics to the latter come from that well-known Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate gossip (A Letter to Tessa)

A letter from the journal of Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to her friend who was in Constantinople as of this letter. Alex, as she was known, copied her personal correspondence into her Journal. She noted in her will that her letters were to be part of the Estate Library upon her death. She would live to well over one hundred, even longer than her Queen would! She is buried on the Estate beneath her beloved oaks.

Dearest Tessa,

Thank you for your wonderful gift of spices and herbs for the kitchen here! Blackie said that they would certainly be well used here. I, for one, am looking forward to cardamom-infused coffee with cream as your description of it sounds wonderful.

I have shipped the botanical society bulletins you requested this past week. The Royal Post said the ship should reach you within the month if the weather holds. I’ve also included professional correspondence from your fellow botanists, as they had far too many questions and requests for you for me to list here. I think they’re just envious of your receiving sponsorship for your travels and I had to fend off questions about how you got such backing. My, they’re like cats looking at another cat with a new toy!

Speaking of cats, the orange tabby you named Gefjun has lived up to her name as she gave birth this past month to four terribly cute kittens, all of which had very short stump tails. Their colour was quite odd too — a black so deep it looked as though they were made out of the midnight sky at lunar eclipse — with intense green eyes. No idea who their father was as no male cat about here looks like that. And all of the kittens are males, which is very strange.

They’re being raised near to the furnace in the sub-cellar, which is warm enough. More than one of the Several Annies has been derelict in their duties as they’re spending a lot of time down there but Isabella has been understanding. I’ve put in a claim on one of them, as has Isabella.

Isabella was delighted by The One Thousand and One Nights that you found in the Grand Bazaar and sent her. Fortunately, you knew that she read Turkish, so she’s being pestered by almost all of the Several Annies to read tales to them, which she is delighted to do.

Oh, you’ll be delighted to know that the grape vine stock from Bordeaux is doing well. I think we may be able to do a reasonable champagne within a few years. You were indeed right about the climate being good enough to grow them here. We’ll need help with the pressing and casking, as neither of us knows enough to do it properly!

Lastly Isabella’s futile quest to discover to the identity of Our Patron showed how badly the Journals needed annotating and indexing. Even my beloved Estate Garden Journals need this!

Still missing you, Alex

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What’s New for the 25th of March: The Cultured Cook, Frouds, Joseph Campbell, Complaint Choirs, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons and other matters

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. — Margaret Atwood

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Yes the doors into the Green Man Pub from the stone patio outside Kinrowan Hall have been open since mid morning as it’s both warm and sunny out, a refreshing change from the stormy weather we’ve been having. And the inhabitants here have been all lending their help to the annual task of cleaning out the Winter debris from the flower beds that surround this building.

We’re also doing the annual repotting of all the house plants that are resident here — hundreds of pots holding everything from bromeliads that need bigger pots to the ivy that hangs thickly from the shelves on either side of the windows here in the Pub. If you look through that ivy to your left, you’ll see a number of greenman representations ensconced there.

What’s that music I’m playing? That’s Skara Brae’s ‘Casadh Cam na Feadarnaigne’ recorded off the soundboard at Dunlewey Lakeside Centre, just after New Years fourteen years ago. It’s a superb concert that never got released officially but that recording is fairly widespread these days. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you…

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Most of us know Brian Froud of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth fame, but Mia introduces us to his wife, an artist in her own right: ‘Wendy Froud’s The Art of Wendy Froud is an 80 page art book, a collection of examples of her amazing faerie and mythic sculptures and her musings on the nature of her work. More than that, it’s an adventure for the reader, as every page brings new and amazing images to awaken the imagination.’

 Another artist get an appreciated  look by Jack in his review of  Michael Babcock’s Susan Seddon Boulet — A Retrospective: ‘Pomegranate has done the art world and its often not terribly bright chroniclers a service by showing what a truly great retrospective is. From the quality of the printing job, which is superb, to the text by Babcock which is both well-written and intelligent, this is one of the best books of its kind that I’ve ever read. It will certainly have a treasured spot in our collection of art books!’

Given the preponderance of books featuring images this week, it’s only fitting that we see Robert’s reaction to Joseph Campbell’s The Flight of the Wild Gander, which is, after all, ultimately about images: ‘The Flight of the Wild Gander is a series of essays produced betwen 1944 and 1968 in which Campbell was, he says, “circling, and from many quarters striving to interpret, the mystery of mythology.” The “mystery,” as comes clear as one reads, is that of the origins, dissemination, and meaning of the archetypes of human myth.’

And guess what: we just happen to have on hand a review of The Secret Sketchbooks of Brian Froud. How’s that for a nice balancing act? Robert says: ‘I suppose there might be someone, somewhere, who has never heard of Brian Froud. He was already gaining a reputation as an illustrator of books for children when his distinctive vision was brought to a wider audience through his designs for the films The Dark Crystal in 1978 and Labyrinth in 1986, both directed by Jim Henson. His first collaboration with Alan Lee, Faeries, published in 1978, set the course for his future work, which has garnered him a number of awards, including a Hugo in 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.’

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Michael has a double bill for your viewing pleasure: ‘Some of the greatest fantasy movies in recent memory have come from the incomparable, unbeatable, and sadly never to be repeated collaborations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud. Take the magical madness of Henson’s muppets and the bizarre mythic imagery of Froud’s faeries, throw in some special effects and superb actors, and you get two of the best-loved fantasy movies of the 1980s, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.’

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Denise takes a look at culture. Well, cultured food that is. As in probiotics, fermentation and the like. Michelle Schoffro Cook’s The Cultured Cook is more than a recipe book, it’s a look at how these foods interact with our bodies. But don’t think this book is too scientific for you: ‘What I like best about this book? It’s not scary. I like to keep my scares in my fiction reading, thank you. Each recipe is easy to understand, with less than ten ingredients per item – most with five or less – and the instructions are simple.’

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Cat (the Cat also known as ‘The Chief’) has a look at Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, a comic series that starts to seem frighteningly real: ‘Global Frequency is a organisation devoted to combating those incidents that are too extreme, too weird, or just too dangerous for the usual first responders to handle. Funded by the mysterious Amanda Zero, it consists of exactly one thousand and one agents, all of whom are specialists in something, say, for example, bioweapons or taking out snipers.’

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Lars is pleasantly surprised by this recording: ‘Why was I taken by surprise by Himmerland’s The Spider in the Fiddle? Firstly, Denmark is full of good music, and Danish groups are constantly producing lovely music. Secondly, I have twice before discovered new favourite groups with Ditte Fromseier in. First there was Flax in Bloom, a group that never recorded but in concert turned out smooth Irish music, then Habbadam, a trio playing traditional music from Fromseier’s native Danish island of Bornholm. Habbadam’s albums still get played in my stereo.’

Gary reviews the new release from folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, The Invisible Comes to Us. He says ‘on their third full-length, Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt have moved to the forefront of avant-garde folk music.’

Robert brings us back to Nordic music, this time with a Norwegian cast, in Gabriel Fliflet and Ole Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusik: ‘My first reaction to Fliflet and Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusick was to break into laughter from sheer surprise and delight. One forgets, sometimes, how raucously fun-loving Norwegians can be. That is only one point in favor of this collection — one gets a strong sense that the performers take their music very seriously, themselves, not so much so. (And how often does that happen?)’

And another Nordic tradition (it’s actually a Baltic tradition, but we’re sticking with Nordic for now): two collections of choral music, Oslo Kammerkor’s Kyst, Kust, Coast and Voces Nordicae’s Nordic Voices: ‘Together, these two discs offer a good glimpse of the range of choral music in the Nordic countries, from traditional folk songs to thoroughly contemporary choral works. I found them particularly hard to review, simply because I was too absorbed in listening to write anything down.’

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Our What Not is on the matter of Complaint Choirs. So you might well be asking ‘What is a complaint choir?’ No, it’s not the musicians in the Neverending Session expressing their annoyance at having to wait too long for a fresh pint of Winter Ale, so go thisaway for the charming tale of them. Yes, charming.

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And for our Coda this week — well, Spring is here, so why not go with the obvious choice, especially if you have a high-energy version, complete with bird calls? Presenting Red Priest performing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. (Yes, of course we’ve reviewed it.)

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Weavers and Stitchers

ivy

There’s been a group of stitchers here according to the Estate Journals for at least four centuries. And there’s certainly been weavers here for as well for at least that long. And certainly that’s why we’ve raised sheep here so long that some of them became recognised breeds!

I’m fairly certain that the first stitchers group was founded by the Norns or some deities similar to them as The Old Man and His Ravens clearly remember that being so. The Old Man says that they were tired of their living conditions in Norway, cold and always damp, so the allure of a place with modern accommodations by the standards of that period, errrr, summoned them here. I’m convinced that The Old Man had something to do with this but he says no, not that I believe him.

Be that as it is, stitchers and weavers of all sorts have called the Kinrowan Estate has been home to these folk and they in turn have contributed socially and economically, to this community ever since. Though there are no full-time stitchers or weavers here currently, about a third of resident staff, call it a dozen, spend quite sometime engaged in this activity. Certainly they’re more active in the Winter generally spending several hours a night in the Pub, or the Library or even that cozy corner in the Kitchen weaving or stitching while engaged in conversation or listening to the Neverending Session.

They do have their needs being fond, in addition to our wool, of interesting wools from such places as Iceland, the Shetland Islands and Turkey. Ingrid, the Estate Buyer, consults with them (she’s a weaver too) before going on a buying trip. It’s amazing us hat she finds for wool!

They fond of freshly brewed tea when the group meets and Mrs. Ware who manages our Kitchens (yes there’s multiple Kitchens here) makes sure they have it at hand along with cream, honey and sugar. They don’t eat as that’s never a good idea when doing these activities but the group often has High Tea, usually in the Russian manner, at least once a week.

We’ve even built a very large yurt that been set aside for them as looms and stitching frames take up a lot of room. It’s got full light as we put in windows with glare reducing film all the way around, and it has electric heat courtesy of solar panels on the roof. It’s quite cozy in the winter, especially when a snow storm is occurring!

Now I must beg off as the group is meeting a few minutes and I’m set to read to them this evening. Cat Valente’s Fairyland novel, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, is what I’ll be reading this time, not all of it of course as that’ll take several meetings to get through…

ivy

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