Welcome to The Green Man Review!

newgreenieIf you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the weekly edition which is up every Sunday morning.

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 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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What’s New for the 21st of August: A Firefly novel, our most criticised review, a pair of dark mangas, Recreating Medieval English Ales, Balkan music history, ‘Excitable Boy’ in Bluegrass style, Emma Bull’s favourite tune, on blackberries and less tart matters…

“Stories,” he’d said, his voice low and almost husky, “we are made up of stories. And even the one’s that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.” — Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose

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We raise a lot of berries here from those who expect this on a Scottish Estate, such as cranberries, raspberries and blackberries, to the unusual such as Border strawberries that start out blood red and turn as white as bleached bone as they ripen. Right now, we’re harvesting plump, full-of-tart-goodness blackberries that will be used in making both wine and preserves.

My wee gram used to make them both, as her ancestors did as well, and as a bairn I could never understand why they liked either, but now I find both quite appealing. Mind you though, I still think the best use of blackberries is in fresh churned ice cream. Or maybe in American style muffins. Or with porridge and cream. Or just eaten warm straight off the brambles as I did as a child.

H’h. I just had a Library visitor ask me where the phrase ‘the long conversation’ came from. I know what it means but I have no idea where it started, so let’s turn to this edition while I’ll research the question for that patron…

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Gary found a superb book on Balkan music: May It Fill Your Soul is a history and commentary on the massive changes in Bulgarian “folk” music that took place during the communist era, based on the experiences of Kostadin and Todora. The book is fairly well known among students of Balkan music and provides a different and much more detailed view than can be read in short articles, for example in The Rough Guide To World Music.’

Speaking of World Music, Kim looks at Richard O. Nidel’s World Music: The Basics: ‘Part of Routledge’s “The Basics” series, this book purports to give a survey of world music in an accessible, readable fashion. It largely succeeds, but may prove frustrating for those with more than a passing knowledge of any of the traditions it covers. Nidel’s text is readable, in that it is direct and simple. With very limited coverage of so many traditions, it needs to be.’

And now, dear readers, Mia gives you the review that brought us more hate mail than the next dozen or so reviews that drew complaints did combined: ‘When I read Fire Bringer  I had hopes for Mr. Clement-Davies future works.  The Sight was a huge disappointment. This book is a mess.’ Needless to say the lovers of this book were not  pleased what-so-ever, and they made sure we knew it.

William looks at a fantasy he really likes: ‘With a dark charm and grace no less endearing and seductive than the prince of darkness himself, To Reign in Hell, by Steven Brust, is a deliciously decadent voice leading you off the same tired, beaten path and into the wilderness of primal miracle and possibility. With a premise and daring vision that would have undoubtedly landed him on the Inquisitor’s table in an older time, the author of this descent into epic struggle manages with a deft and authoritative hand to slap an ancient myth in the face and force it on its head.’

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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.

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Mucking about the net one quiet afternoon, I chanced upon an interesting sounding article, Tofi Kerthjalfadsson’s Recreating Medieval English Ales, (a recreation of late 13th – 14th c. unhopped English ales). The author says that ‘These recipes are a modest attempt to recreate ales that are not only “period”, i.e. pre-17th century, but is actually medieval. These ales are based on newly available evidence from the late 13th and early 14th centuries.’ It’s an entertaining look at just what it takes to replicate these  ales.

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Robert brings us some manga from the dark side. Let’s start with Kazuya Minekura’s Wild Adapter: ‘Kazuya Minekura is a well-known manga artist responsible for, among other things, Saiyuki and Araiso Private High School Student Council Executive Committee, which I have only seen in anime and which, believe it or not, is directly relevant to Wild Adapter, her newest manga series.’

It gets darker. See what Robert has to say about Aya Kanno’s Blank Slate: ‘Aya Kanno’s Blank Slate is the sort of thing that turns up in manga from time to time — a grim story peopled by some frightening characters, all wrapped in gorgeous drawing. I will say, however, that I didn’t expect to find something like this from Shojo Beat, an imprint focusing on teenage girls.’

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April has a choice recording for us: ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willemark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s. Windogur, a set of ten original compositions commissioned by the city of Stockholm (in its role of Cultural Capital of Europe ’98), was first performed live as part of a series of concerts entitled “Ladies Next,” and only later translated to CD.’

Gary found a lot to like in Angel Olson’s sophomore release Half Way Home from a few years back. ‘In a world full of cutesy and waif-like vocals from female singers in all genres, Olson’s decidedly non-angelic style immediately telegraphs her seriousness. Her husky warble is unadorned, the perfect instrument for delivering her nakedly honest and emotional lyrics.’

Gary reviewed Mosaïk by the Francophone Canadian group Vishtèn, which he says ‘could maybe be described as progressive Acadian, in much the way that I think of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys as progressive Cajun.’ How progressive? To their tradition-based music they’ve added modern trappings including electric guitar and even an old-school Moog synthesizer!

We were talking about world music earlier. Well, Robert brought Mahmoud Fadl’s Drummers of the Nile in Town: Cairosonic to our attention: ‘Mahmoud Fadl is a well known percussionist and advocate of the music of Nubia, that region in southern Egypt largely forgotten in the contemporary world. Raised in Assuan and Cairo, he is today based in Berlin, not coincidentally a traditional center of study on Nubian culture and history.’

And just in case you can’t get enough of music from other traditions, Robert brings us the beginning of a major series on the Gamelan of Central Java: ‘A few pointers on listening to Javanese music. As I’ve noted, by Western standards the tones in Javanese music are not precisely predictable. Javanese music, along with that of many other non-Western cultures, develops horizontally, so that significance is a matter of sequence rather than chord. And the development is circular rather than linear, so that to a Western ear, it may seem formless.’ Got that? Enjoy.

Tim rounds our our music review with a look at the Rocky River Bush Band’s Sea Boots And Swags: ‘The title gives a good sense of what can be heard on this disc. The selections mostly have to with the sea (including four traditional shanties), with a couple of Australian bush songs thrown in, and rounded off with a few jigs and polkas.’

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Our What Not this time comes courtesy of a note by Emma Bull in The Sleeping Hedgehog from some twenty years or so ago about what was her favourite tune and decided it was worth sharing again, so here it is: ‘Right now that would be ‘Twa Bonnie Maidens.’ It’s so lovely and hopeful and soaring, exulting over Flora MacDonald helping Prince Charlie escape to the Isle of Skye. Yet it’s got a wistful strain, too, at the end, as if the singer knows Charlie won’t be coming back from France, whatever the song says: There’s a wind in the tree, and a ship on the sea / To me hi, bonnie maidens, me twa bonnie maids / By the sea mullet’s nest I will watch o’er the main / And you’re dearly welcome to Skye again.’

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Gary here. You and I would probably never think of playing Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy” as a bluegrass song. That’s why someone like John McEuen, who did think of it, has had a 50-year career as a groundbreaking roots musician, and you and I are just fans and listeners. McEuen is about to release a new album on which he is joined by some of the top names in American roots music. Not that he’s ever done anything else, but this is a special group, mostly featuring folks he’s known for a long time but not recorded with. Folks like Jay Ungar, David Bromberg (both of whom are on the “Excitable Boy” single along with Matt Cartsonis, who was a mainstay of Zevon’s touring band and who has also made his name scoring TV shows), John Cowan, Steve Martin, John Carter Cash … you get the idea. They’re all on the upcoming Made in Brooklyn.

I’ll be reviewing the album shortly. But in the meantime, see what you think of this ballad of a teenaged psychopath, performed in laconic bluegrass style by John McEuen and friends. I know this section generally features a live performance, but this one (and the whole album) was recorded live in studio using some special microphones, in just one take. Here’s “Excitable Boy.”

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chicken Pot Pie

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Making chicken pies starts with slaughtering enough chickens to feed thirty or so hungry folk. A chicken dressed out yields two pounds of meat which is enough for four to six people depending on what else gets added in. All of Iain’s Library Apprentices, the Several Annies, as they’ve been called for centuries, get to be part of the slaughtering as we believe firmly they should know where their food comes from. Only one of the six got sick and vomited, not bad. Of course they also got to dress out the chickens, a filthy bit of work as stripping feathers, beheading, gutting them, and washing them free of blood just isn’t pleasant work.

Most cooks boiled their chicken before deboning them for the pie but the tradition here is to bake (bone in) with smoked bacon over them and certain spices (no Estate Head Cook will tell what they are) in the wood stove in covered iron pots ’til the meat falls off the bones.

Next comes the crust, which is a yeast based dough that is allowed to rise overnight before being shaped into the pie pans. It makes a wonderful light crust that, on the bottom, soaks up the oh, so tasty juices.

The pie wouldn’t be complete without vegetables. In the summer, it would get fresh baby pea pods, mushrooms, and anything else appropriate to the season. During this season, it gets cut up potatoes, carrots, rehydrated mushrooms, and onions. All are chopped fine as is the chicken to give it a uniform consistency for cooking evenly.

It goes in the wood stove on a low heat for several hours with the top crust covered with moistened cheesecloth to keep it from drying out. After baking, the pies set for a hour to cool down just a bit.

Served along with cider, it’s a meal well-worth savouring!

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What’s New for the 14th of August: two London based urban fantasies, Devolving Europe Festival, Oysterband live and other interesting things…

There’s nothing for your comfort in the place where I was born 
Someone’s got the roses ’cause my people got the thorns; 
My people are the poor ones, their country made of stones 
Their wealth is in persistence, in stories and in bones

Oysterband’s ‘One Green Hill’

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Autumn will be soon upon us –  Summer’s already waning as the plants in our gardens are just now showing their form of botanical entropy, which puts them on their last legs before first frost kills them off entirely. So Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, and his staff has been drying beans and apples, preparing root cellars for carrots and the like, braiding strings of onions and garlic, sending cornucopias of produce to the Kitchen for Mrs. Ware and her staff to pickle, can or freeze as they see proper.

And you want to know about all the banners flying high in the rafters of the Great Hall? They represent some of the ‘lost’ nations of Europe, such as Alba, Andalucia, Breizh, Catalunya, Crsu, Cymru, Eesti, Elsasz, Euskadi, Føroyar, Friesland, Gallega, Jura, Kernow, Mannin, Northumbria, Occitania, Samiasne, Savoie, Ulster, Vlaanderen, and Wallonie. These all have delegates here, as do some newly re-emerged nations such as Slovenia and Kosovo, for The Devolving Europe Festival, which is being held here for the next two weeks.

(One of our reviewers, Richard, looked at a fictional take on a very fractured Europe in reviewing David Hutchison’s Europe in Autumn and its sequel, Europe at Midnight.)

Now, these are not advocates for violent overthrow of the existing order, but rather like-minded folks who know that keeping their local cultures alive in an age of an increasingly homogenized European society is a matter of food being prepared and shared, ale brewed and drunk deeply, literature being written and read, plays being performed, and music being played long into the night.

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Un Lun Dun, a fantastic look at a London that is just out of sight, gets a very detailed review by Kathleen: ‘China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council) is renowned for the world he has created around the great, multi-species, many-storied city of New Crobuzon. Those are adult works, beyond a doubt: ferocious and frightening, full of the incandescent mysteries and fatal sins of maturity. At the same time, one of the conundrums of Mieville’s style has been the sense of a small boy peeking through his writing; the kind of little boy who delights in snot and crawly bugs, who chases his sister with a frog and forgets to take that interesting dead bird out of his lunch box. Sometimes this gleeful grossness amuses the reader in turn. Sometimes it seems unnecessarily provoking. But it has always reminded me of how young Mieville is.’

Richard finds another book in that genre: ‘Hidden, magical London is all the rage these days. First there was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, then China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. And now there’s Mind the Gap, a collaborative effort between American novelist and comics writer Christopher Golden and British horror novelist Tim Lebbon. To be sure, that’s fast company for any book to be in, but Mind the Gap manages it more than respectably, and is an enjoyable, engrossing read that delivers plenty of thrills while deftly avoiding the numerous clichés lurking in wait for it.’

Rebecca likes Celtic Memories, a collection of stories, songs, blessings and charms retold by Caitlín Matthews and illustrated by Olwyn Whelan. Rebecca thinks this book would work wonderfully for reading aloud to children, and ‘Whelan’s pictures are charming, with bright, bold colors and a very Gaelic fondness for spirals and swirls.’

Robert was appreciative of booth the content and the cover art of Glen Cook’s A Cruel Wind: ‘Many years ago I read Glen Cook’s first Dread Empire trilogy, A Shadow of All Night Falling, October’s Baby, and All Darkness Met. I was impressed. Here was a heroic fantasy that cast aside the mold of Tolkien and Andersen, incorporated what was useful from Leiber and Moorcock, and then struck out on its own. Night Shade Books reissued the trilogy in an omnibus edition, graced with another of Raymond Swanland’s expressionistic covers, A Cruel Wind, and believe it or not, it’s better.’

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The Robin Hood legend has been used for better worse times in print and video including a memorable retelling in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but Cat found a possible unique telling in the Robin of Sherwood series: ‘If the Robin Hood that had Patrick Bergin at its centre was a telling of Robin Hood as the embodiment of the Saxon/Norman conflict, Richard Carpenter decided to make his series an explicitly Celtic telling. ‘Celtic’, you ask, ‘How so?’ Well, let’s start with Robin having as his Lord, Herne the Hunter! Yes, The Hooded God Himself! OK, so how did Carpenter get to this vision of Robin? Why Robin as the Hooded Man?’

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A book by Evan McHugh on Irish pubs and drinking Guinness really, really disappointed Gary: ‘I love good beer, and I love to travel. I also enjoy reading about both. I find beer writing more interesting than wine writing, because beer experts tend to be less stuffy about their craft than wine experts. And a good travel writer can make you feel almost as though you were along for the ride. So I jumped at the chance to review Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search Of The Perfect Guinness. Writing about travel and beer! What could be better?’ Now read his review to see why this was not sorority him.

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Robert brings us a look at several takes on Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic. The first is Gaiman’s own: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic — the original story, not the series — began when DC Comics approached Gaiman about doing a series that would bring together the “magic” characters of the DC Universe. Gaiman created the character of Timothy Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who has the potential to become the greatest magician of the age — our age.’

And we continue with John Ney Rieber’s continuation of the series: ‘John Ney Rieber’s continuation of Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic is a complex, multilayered story that focuses not so much on Gaiman’s mythic connections (although they are there in full measure) as on Tim Hunter: finding his magic, and his bearings in the world(s) he inhabits is intimately tied in with growing up, which Tim does a lot of in this series.’

And finally, Robert brings us his take on the “update,” Si Spencer’s The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: ‘Life During Wartime represents a distinct break with The Books of Magic as it had been developed by Neil Gaiman and John Ney Rieber. Si Spencer, working with Gaiman, “updated” the characters and took them into a new set of trials that speak strongly to a contemporary audience.’

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Alistair looks at a release from the Celtic Fiddle Festival: ‘Play On is the fourth release from a group of musicians who had no real intention of continuing as such beyond a one-off concert series in 1993. The enthusiasm, both on and off stage, generated by that project, which featured three of the Celtic world’s most noted fiddlers, Irishman Kevin Burke, Scot Johnny Cunningham, and Christian Lemaitre from Brittany has resulted, twelve years later, in hundreds of performances and numerous successful international tours.’

David sees Jean-Paul De Roover at the Pearl Company: ‘It was a quiet Thursday, and my wife was having some friends over. I had received an email about a last minute concert at The Pearl Company, but with such short notice I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Rich couldn’t make it, Ralph wasn’t home, Jesse was away, and so on. I had to go out to allow the ladies space, but did I want to go to a concert alone? I could just go to the bookstore, have a coffee, browse for a couple of hours. Ah, what the heck, it’s five bucks, and maybe it’ll be good — after all, the review online compared this guy to Robert Fripp.’

Gary found ‘moody, dynamic music’ played by Norwegian jazz bassist Mats Eilertsen’s septet on their album Rubicon. It ranges from the klezmer-influenced opening track “Canto” to other types of contemporary jazz, including the ‘atmospheric noir jazz’ of a tune called ‘March’ that Gary likes very much.

Bassist Mats Eilertsen also plays with the Nils Økland Band on their album Kjølvatn, which Gary says is ‘an acoustic, tradition-based project by (the) Norwegian hardanger fiddler.’ The band is a mixed folk and jazz ensemble making contemporary music that sounds ancient, blending folk and Baroque sources, ‘and always with a distinctive Nordic feel to it.’

Gary also reviews another recent jazz release, the Peter Erskine Trio’s As It Was. It’s a box set that collects all four of the trio’s albums released from 1993 to 1999, featuring Erskine on drums, Palle Danielsson on bass and John Taylor on piano. Gary says ‘It’s four hours of music that covers nearly all the bases of contemporary piano trio possibilities, from sublime ballads and melodic post-bop, to a bit of swing plus lots of abstract contemporary works.’

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It won’t surprise you to discover we’ve all got favorite reading places, mostly in the Kinrowan Hall (mine is my hidden space behind the Bar). So it didn’t surprise me that Zina has a cool place, one I hadn’t thought of: ‘The landing on the staircase on the first and second floors, with the window seat. I tend to disappear into my books, so noise and people walking past is never a problem. Maeve is not a ‘drape yourself across the reading material’ sort of cat, so as long as I’m not taking up her favorite pillow, she’ll deign to let me sit with her for a while and sometimes will even purr for accompaniment.’

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As you might have guessed from the lyrics at the top of this edition, the song this time, is ‘One Green Hill’ as recorded off the soundboard on Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996′. There’s a splendid version of it on their Alive & Acoustic album which I think is the same cut on their Granite Years and Trawler collections.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Rebekah And the matter of Jewish baked goodies

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If we’ve left the impression in these posts about the Kinrowan Estate that the Several Annies, the Library Apprentices here, are the ones that are the learners and we who teach them are just the teachers, then we’ve given you a false impression. Everyone here learns as much from them as they do from us. Perhaps much more.

Take the matter of Rebekah, a Several Annie from Israel who’s in her first year here. Other than the formal lessons chosen by Iain Mackenzie, our Librarian, each one chooses what they are interested in learning, be it something academic or something more hands on. As long as someone here knows what they’re interested in and has time to teach them, it’s fine with Iain.

So Rebekah, who has a strong interest in baking, got paired off with Brigid, our Head Baker.  Being observant of Jewish traditions but not following strict dietary teachings, she fit nicely in our farm-centric kitchen, which includes a lot of meat of various sorts. What she added to the kitchen was a keen appreciation of Jewish cooking, including holiday treats such as  hametashen, rugelach, coconut macaroons and mandelbrot, not to mention an awareness of the culture that created these goodies.

So our winter holiday season has been graced by a lot of great food that we hadn’t had before. And Rebekah in turn says she’s had a great time learning the practical aspects of production baking. Even her parents were very proud of her decision to seriously learn production baking, as her grandfather, before moving to Israel to live on a kibbutz, owned a bakery with his late wife.

Now I’ve got the jones for some of the rugelach that I know were just baked. Shall we head down to the Kitchen?

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What’s New for the 7th of August: Summer Queen SJ ‘Sooj’ Tucker including her performing ‘Ravens in the Library’, Swedish folk music, Matt Wagner’s Grendel and a wee bit more.

One flies in to case the joint,  boldly struts around.
Two fly in to make it three,  laugh a while and knock each other down.
Four flies in with a frowning walk  gains a laugh from out a squawk
but it’s five who owns the place  and proves it with a look, stopping
six and seven in their tracks from smuggling a book.

SJ Tucker’s ‘Ravens in The Library’

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Our new Summer Queen, SJ ‘Sooj’ Tucker is hanging out with us this month and I just handed her a drink of choice  while I looked over her interview with Leona. She will be known to many of you who are in the Ren Faire circles as she’s an honoured performer at them.

She’s an Arkansas born singer-songwriter who says that she was inspired by musicians like Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and Ani DiFranco but as the Skinny White Chick (as she’s also known widely), she quickly branched out to assume a more diverse identity with her music, adding bits and bobs of electronica, filk, spoken word and world music . With the Fire & Strings company, she’s quite an accomplished fire spinner which we hope she’ll do here during her visit. For a detailed look at her, go read Leona’s charming essay on her and her works here.

Lammas is tomorrow which makes this an auspicious time for introducing our new Summer Queen, the latest in a line that has included such luminaries as OR Melling, Jennifer Stevenson, Sharyn November and Emma Bull to name but few of those that have been honored with this esteemed title. Like Emma, she’s both a musician and writer, and quite good at both I’d say.

We’ve got two interviews with her, one on food and another on books on such as well. Both are delightful and amusing looks at her that will tell you much about her as a person.

She’s also a children’s literature author having written Rabbit’s Song, a charming work illustrated by Trudy Herring. Cat says of it that ‘If you’ve read books like Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife or Charles de Lint’s Medicine Road, you’ll recognize the use of First Folk animal archetypes here. The story is of course told more simply here than it is in those books but suits the intended audience.’

May I offer you what she’s drinking before I turn to this edition? She’s drinking her summer go-to refreshment which is coconut water with pineapple juice. We always have coconut water and canned sliced pineapple on hand in the Kitchen as Lahkshima, one of my current Several Annies, favours it as well.

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Remember last week, when Robert took on the beginning of Matt Wagner’s Grendel series? Well, he’s found a lot more. Let’s start with Grendel: Devil by the Deed: ‘Grendel: Devil by the Deed represents another breakthrough. It is, in general terms, the story of Grendel’s first incarnation, Hunter Rose, as told from his journals by his granddaughter, Christine Spar.’

Success has its vicissitudes, as Robert notes in his review of Wagner’s Grendel: Devil Quest: ‘Devil Quest is one of those spin-offs, concerned with the cyborg Grendel Prime and his search for the spirit of Hunter Rose, who, although not, according to Wagner, the first Grendel in history, is the first of whom we have knowledge.’

And of course, there comes the inevitable crossover series, in this case, Batman/Grendel: ‘Matt Wagner did two crossover series, the first a joint effort between Comico, his publisher at the time, and DC Comics, and the second between Dark Horse and DC, to bring together Grendel and Batman.’

Grendel became a family history. Remember Christine Spar? Well, her mother, Stacy Palumbo, was Hunter Rose’s adopted daughter, and Grendel: Devil Child, tells their story.

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Hedningarna’s Hippjokk and Trå elicits this comment from Iain: ‘If Gjallarhorn is cool and crisp like a late winter day, Hedningarna is a winter day when the storm is raging. Dirty Linen said of them — ‘Only a few bands really seem to define their own genre, but Hedningarna is definitely one of them.’ This is not your grannie’s folk music — this is folk music filtered through a rock sensibility, and blended with the feel of a rave.’

One of the most amazing things we were sent to review was the Folk Music in Sweden series, all twenty-five discs. Yeah, you read me right, twenty-five discs of Swedish trad music. Lars got the honour of reviewing this set from Swedish label Caprice and he has a word to the wise at the end of his most excellent review: ‘Well, a summary of this project would be: A very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.’

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Our What Not is from Howlin’ Wuelf Media who us an interesting press release which I’ll quote in its entirety…

The BBC recently presented an examination of the online streaming archives maintained by the Association For Cultural Equity of field recordings collected by renowned musicologist Alan Lomax. Their site says:

Adventures in music; ancient to future. Max Reinhardt dips into the Alan Lomax archive of over 17,000 recordings made from 1946 into the 1990s. Lomax spent his whole career capturing the musical performances of everyday people and their songs across the globe. Navigating through this great mass of historical audio treasures is the archive’s guardian and curator Nathan Salsburg, who joins Max to share some of his favourite selections.

Listen to the show here, and investigate yourself here along with the 17000 audio streams there’s video, airchecks of Alan’s radio shows, interviews, features and more!

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So I’m going to finish this edition out with our Summer Queen performing ‘The Raven in The Library’. This performance is at ConFusion in Troy, Michigan on January 23, 2010, and the performer you see here with Sooj is Betsy Tucker.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Huddled Masses Orchestra

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So have I talked to you about this group? It’s not akin to the Neverending Session, which is always here in some form, or even the resident Chasing Fireflies contradance band, which has several core members but adds other musicians who are here as need be. No, this is a much more ephemeral group that just seemingly is ready to suddenly do a concert even though a fortnight ago there was no sign of them existing.

It was near unto fifty years ago, I’m told, that this group first did a concert here. The Steward at the time recorded in his Journal that Béla, our resident Hungarian violinist, who had been here but a few years, told one of the musicians here that a group of his refugee friends from behind the Iron Curtain wanted to do a concert as a memorial to those who lost their lives in resisting the new regimes. Not something the British authorities were keen to have done, but they did little to stop it as long it was done quietly. So he agreed to let it be a go.

The group consisted of both stringed instrument players and vocalists from myriad captive nations. Poles and Germans, Estonians, Hungarians and Czechs… Well you get the idea. No three of them spoke the same tongue but the lingue des halles was French. I could follow the conversation because I’ve an ear for French and can follow German, but there was a mélange of other tongues as well.

They didn’t have much of a range of instruments, mostly violins and a few other stringed instruments such as violas and cellos. Oh and that most lovely of instruments – the voice.  In the ten concerts they’ve done down the years, they’ve always made sure that the vocalists in the group get their due. Be it sung in Polish or any of the other languages in the group, it’s superb to hear them.

Béla has been the mainstay from the outset, though I’m certain that I recognise several other performers as being part of Huddled Masses from the beginning of the group. They’ve got better at planning — now we know many months in advance when they be here for a fortnight so we can arrange housing and alert the Kitchen that they’ll be requesting their favourite fare.

Since all of them want to share their musical traditions, we arrange for a number of students to study with them while they’re here. It’s fascinating to watch a Slovakian singer teach her songs to students of Slovakian descent who’ve never heard their songs performed live. And our Pub Manger, Reynard, says several of the Hungarian violinists managed to get the musos in the Neverending Session to do an evening of Hungarian tunes the last time they were here.

I know you’re curious why they haven’t returned home now that The Wall came down nearly thirty years ago.  Well, some of them did, but many had married, had children and settled in communities of their liking. So the majority of the group has always been “from” the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe from the beginning and still are. Email and other net apps have made it easier for them to keep in touch, and many get together often as a result.

Suffice it to say that the three concerts they held here, each with a different content, were magnificent, with every corner of the theatre in the round that’s the old stone livestock auction house packed with folks from the Estate and from as far away as Poland.

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What’s New for the 31st of July: Yonder Mountain String Band live, Matt Wagner’s Grendel, Doctor Who’s The Talons of Weng Chiang, a Memorial Concert for Johnny Cunningham, YA by Heinlein, Lady Raglan on Green Men and other matters

It is a man’s face, with oak laves growing from the mouth and ears, and completely encircling the head. Mr. Griffith suggested that it was intended to symbolize the spirit of inspiration, but it seemed to me certain that it was a man and not a spirit, and moreover that it was a Green Man. — From an essay by Lady Raglan entitled ‘The Green Man in Church Architecture’ in the Folklore journal,  Vol. 50, No. 1 (Mar., 1939), pp. 45-57. Go here for much more on her ideas in an essay by Christopher Howse for  The Telegraph.

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There’s six green men here on Kinrowan Hall, the most noticable being the ones on the two doors to the Green Man Pub. They’re not the traditional ones of a archer dressed in green which likely is a reference to Robin Hood, but rather are the foliate heads Lady Raglan talked about in her essay.

The earliest reference in the Estate journals to them is by Estate Gardener Lady Alexandra Quinn in a Sleeping Hedgehog note that they had been carved a few years earlier. It appears that the doors they are on were designed and constructed with them in mind as they’re carved right into the six inch thick oak.

Another one’s carved over the main doorways to the new Library constructed about the same time. The Library itself has no name other than simply the Kinrowan Library and Alex as she was known says in the article that they, including the final ones that are over the two main entrances to Kinrowan Hall are all intended to be potent wards to keep everyone safe.

Now let’s turn to this edition …

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Carol Ballard’s The Greenman: The Shakespeare Connection elicited this comment from Kestrell: ‘Although most of the text of Ballard’s small chapbook explores the places where Shakespeare might have made his Green Man “sightings,” the more intriguing explorations are those which address the significance of the Green Man to contemporary creative artists.’

Liz has another review for us of Kathleen Basford’s The Green Man, which was originally published in 1978, then reprinted in 1996: ‘I am, of course, deeply honored to be given the task of writing about our noble namesake,’ says Liz, ‘and I had high hopes for this book.’ However, further on in her review she claims that The Green Man, ‘unaccountably dumped me.’ Read the rest of her review for more details about the strengths and disappointments of this promising book.

Matej  reviews Harlequin Valentine, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by John Bolton. In his review, Matej says, ‘Gaiman is a storyteller, one who time and again transcends genre and style, and Harlequin Valentine not only demonstrates his remarkable ability to bring together diverse elements, but also highlights the range of sources he draws on to bring his tales to life.’

Rebecca likes Celtic Memories, a collection of stories, songs, blessings and charms retold by Caitlín Matthews and illustrated by Olwyn Whelan. Rebecca thinks this book would work wonderfully for reading aloud to children, and ‘Whelan’s pictures are charming, with bright, bold colors and a very Gaelic fondness for spirals and swirls

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Cat looks at a Doctor Who adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

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Mia has a tasty offering for us: ‘Secrets of the Tsil Café is a coming of age story set in the world of food and enhanced with numerous recipes. Weston Hingler is the son of two cooks. His mother, a strong-minded but slightly neurotic Italian caterer, raises him in the kitchen of her business, BuenAppeTito. His father, an iconoclastic ‘New World’ chef, waits until young Wes is old enough to appreciate the flavor of anchovies (four years, in this book) before allowing the boy into the kitchen of his “Santa Fe style” restaurant, The Tsil Café. Weston grows up in the shadow of his two tough, capable, yet slightly odd parents until at last he is able to discover and reconcile the web of secrets and half-truths that make up his family history.’

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Robert brings us the beginning of a series by one of the comics creators who turned the medium on its head: ‘Matt Wagner was one of a generation of writers and artists who essentially remade comics in the 1980s. This does not count R. Crumb and the others who opened comics up to new modes of expression (and content) in the 1960s, or the singular examples of outrageousness such as Krazy Kat and Little Nemo that have inhabited the comics world since its beginning. (And one wonders when that might actually be — Gustave Doré? Francisco Goya? Egyptian tomb paintings? Lascaux and Altamira? There’s quite a deep provenance here.)’ See what he has to say about Wagner’s Grendel Archives.

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Barb exclaims that ‘If there are superstars to be named on the Swedish music scene, I would like this opportunity to nominate Lena Willemark (vocal, fiddle, viola, whistle, drone whistle), Per Gudmundson (fiddle, viola, bagpipes, vocal), and Ale Möller (octave mandola, overtone flute, cow’s horn, drone whistle, folk harp, shawm, harmonica, vocal), otherwise known as Frifot. The group’s CD Sluring is most certainly a masterpiece.’

Gary attended the Memorial Concert for Johnny Cunningham which had performances by  Phil Cunningham, Kevin Burke, Susan McKeown, Aidan Brennan, Seamus Egan, and Solas:  ‘Phil Cunningham sat alone on the large stage, eyes closed, as he wrung a slow, sad air from his custom Borsini accordion in memory of his brother Johnny. The Faerieworlds Festival crowd of several hundred, which moments before had been boisterously dancing, clapping, singing and talking, fell silent.’

Gary looks at a choice bit of Americana music: ‘The Red Clay Ramblers have been playing what’s now known as “new old-time” music since the early 1970s, and it’s entirely possible that they invented the genre, or at least played a part in its birth. They’ve put out more than a dozen albums over the years (including a live self-released disc in the late 1990s), on Folkways, Sugar Hill, Rykodisc and mostly Flying Fish labels. Now that Rounder has acquired the Flying Fish imprint, they’ve re-released It Ain’t Right from 1986.’

Naomi looks at Barefoot at the Altar by a lovely Irish group: ‘Chulrua (pronounced cool-ROO-ah) is not only the name of this amazing trio of celebrated musicians but the name of the favourite wolfhound of the ancient Irish hero Fionn MacCumhaill. It translates to English as “red back.” Personally, I love how traditional Irish music is infused with so much history; it adds a depth and richness which makes it even more enjoyable.’

Robert reaches back in time to bring us a new recording (no, that’s not a contradiction) by Rolf Lislevand, La Mascarade: ‘In La Mascarade, Lislevand performs works by two seventeenth-century composers from the court of Louis XIV, Robert de Visée and Francesco Corbetta, focusing on two instruments, the Baroque guitar and theorbo, a species of lute with a deeper, darker tone. And make no mistake: this is court music, meant to be performed before a small, select audience.’

Robert also remembered another collection from Lislevand, Diminuito: ‘Rolf Lislevand, in his essay accompanying Diminuito, says that this collection is about the Italian renaissance, “how it understood itself, how we understand it today, and how we would have understood it if we had been contemporary with it.” That’s rather a tall order.’

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Our What Not this time concerns Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, the original trilogy and the three additional books that followed (Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, The Other Wind, and Tales from Earthesea) are favorites of most everyone here. The books have been printed in many, many editions down the years but they’ve not had a fully illustrated edition until now which Saga Press will release next year. Go here for Le Guin’s thoughts on this. Oh did I forget to mention the artist is Charles Vess? Yes that artist.

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Shall we see what the Infinite Jukebox has for us? One moment… So let’s give a listen to ‘Red Rocking Chair’ performed by Yonder Mountain String Band at Cicero’s in St Louis, Missouri  on the 12h of  April five years ago.  ‘Red Rocking Chair’ is a popular old time tune often performed as a vocal number as it is done here.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Turkish Coffee

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Coffee should be as black as hell, as strong as death, andas sweet as love. — Old Turkish saying

We’ve been playing backgammon to escape the heat of the summer, gathered round small tables at the Green Man Pub, or in the common areas of Kinrowan Hall. One of the players, Zina Lee, has been telling me about her liking of a certain beverage that’s popular in this building: ‘There are certain things that make civilization more . . . civilized. Overall, they tend to be the ones that encourage a sense of luxuriousness in one’s existence, and if they support a sense of community and of sharing with other people, so much the better.

imageFor me, the inky little cups of Turkish coffee are exactly that — it’s not so much the coffee itself that’s so wonderful, but what tends to happen over the cups of it, even if I’m drinking it alone. I was in a tiny, tiny village in the pastoral English countryside visiting friends a bit ago, and after dinner we had Turkish coffee, some tunes, and a great deal of talking and laughing, in the lovely, warm, hospitable dining room of that unbelievably old house.

‘And I’ve just come back from a lovely little Turkish restaurant in the East End of London, having had a wonderful dinner with two handsome English gentlemen of my acquaintance. One is quiet, slender and dark, with a sardonic twitch to his mouth; the other is bluff, solidly-built and fair, with his sardonic twitch in the lift of his left eyebrow; but both of them are devastatingly intelligent, both can be dismayingly erudite, and also the both of them are vastly quick and entertaining. Over snifters of Turkish brandy and those tiny white cups of sweet hot coffee, the two had me giggling non-stop with their sharp, witty, and exquisitely detailed descriptions of the worst English towns one might have the misfortune to visit, in a rather loopy reversal on the more normal litany of sights one really must see.

Turkish coffee doesn’t cause these experiences, exactly, but they form an ineffable, intrinsic
of the conversations I’ve had while drinking the stuff.’

I’ve been sipping cups of Turkish coffee with Béla at a very small food stall that appears to have existed for quite some years near the Library in Kinrowan Hall… a small square of achingly sweet baklava, some Turkish coffee, and a friend’s company have been a luxury for a late afternoon break for no little time, thanks to the proprietor, a small, neat, clean-shaven gentleman of a certain age with a spotless white apron highlighting his closely-cropped jet-black hair and eyes.

He’s very skilled with his mortar and spoon, our host, grinding the beans to a very fine fluff, or gently stirring in the foam of the coffee as it boils in the gleaming ibrik over his little burner; part of the pleasure of the experience is watching him prepare the coffee after you’ve ordered it.

Something I never noticed until after the conversations with Zina about her digestif of choice is that, as soon as the Turkish coffee makes an appearance on the table, there’s an almost imperceptible relaxing of body tension, of the conversation turning towards something just that much more enjoyable, just a gentle click towards ‘civilized’ on the dial of the day.

The Turks have another old saying about coffee: ‘To drink one cup of coffee together guarantees forty years of friendship.’ At this point, Béla and I may have to live a few extra centuries to celebrate a friendship blessed with many cups of foamy Turkish coffee. May there be many more.

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