Welcome to GMR

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

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Irish music or perhaps a tasty jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfantasy inspired by folklorebeloved 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 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. 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 23rd of October: an Autumnal song from Pentangle, a bevy of ghost stories, All Hallows’ Eve dance tunes, Serial Minimalism, a Japanese historical fantasy, and well, a look at an Irish song and you’ll just have to see what else is here!

Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg: consider this — there’s some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts. No children’s laughter round the fire, no family left to know. So lend a warm and a helping hand, say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow. As holly pricks and ivy clings, your fate is none too clear. — Jethro Tull’s ‘Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow’


Now where I was? Ahhhh, having a pint of  Dark Hollow Stout while enjoying this fine October evening — first frosts and earthy leaf-mould and the bitter tang of wood smoke, and the smell of the winter yet to come – while thinking of what there is for Halloween songs…

I’m now watching with rather great amusement the Mouse in The  Wainscotting musicians — over  pints of Autumn Ale, a libation with a rather earthy taste —  debate what dance tunes they are going to play on All Hallows Eve in the Courtyard where the bonfire will be lit for that most sacred of nights in the Celtic Year. A great deal of thought goes into the set list on the part of the musicians and the caller.

Their list of possible dances so far includes ‘All Saint’s Day’ right after ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, ‘The Black Hag’, ‘The Booship’, ‘The Discorporation’, ‘Draper’s Graveyard’, ‘Gathering Pumpkins’, ‘Ghoul in the Wall’, and ‘Jack O’Lantern’s Health’.  Gus chimed up that’d be appropriate to do ‘ The November Reel’ as a coda after the dance concluded. It was composed by Keona Mundy of Cleia, a brilliant band whose recording he recently heard.

Some cultures, and the Celtic ones in particular, consider the barriers between this world and the next to be so thin that we perceive things we shouldn’t. We Scots call it The Sight and I’ve got some ghost stories for you in which encounters between ghostly presences and those still living don’t quite go well. So let’s lead off this edition with some appropriate book reviews…


Andrea looks at an Appalachian set tale for you: ‘Ghost Rider is the latest novel in Sharyn McCrumb’s “Ballad Series.” Ghost Riders is different from the others in the series in that there is no mystery (in the “mystery novel” sense of the word) to be solved. In the other books, the storyline goes back and forth between past and present, the stories linked sometimes obviously and sometimes tenuously. Usually in the “modern” story there is a mystery which the story in the past fleshes out or provides with a new insight. In Ghost Riders there are two separate tales from the past and a storyline set in the present. The narratives set in the past are linked by a chance meeting but still remain separate tales. One of these stories has a direct influence on the present. There are various characters, past and present, whose lives intertwine briefly in interesting and occasionally surprising ways.’

Cat looks at the urban legend retold yet again of a ghost girl asking for a ride home on the anniversary of her death: ‘Seanan McGuire decided to tell her own ghost story in Sparrow Hill Road which, like her novel Indexing, was originally a series of short stories published through The Edge of Propinquity, starting in January of 2010 and ending in December of that year. It appears they’ve been somewhat revised for this telling of her ghostly narrator’s tale but I can’t say how much as I’ve not read the original versions.’

Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas’ Haunted Legends anthology, says Gereg, is ‘something of a paradox: As a collection I found this volume kind of weak, but there are a lot of very fine stories in it. So many, in fact, that on going back over the anthology a second time, I wondered why I’d thought it was weak in the first place. As a reader, I’d probably just leave it at that; but as reviewer, I feel I owe it to my adoring public to tell you precisely why I feel the overall effect is weak. So I dove back into the book for a third time. Such travails are how I earn my fabulously high salary here.’

A woman who sees ghosts is the central character in a novel that Kathleen reviews for us: ‘Cherie Priest is a first time novelist. However, she writes with ease and a deceptive power, like the flow of the Tennessee River through her home city of Chattanooga. Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a Southern Gothic with a hint of hard boiled mystery: there’s grit in the magnolia honey and in the heroine as well.’

Possibly the earliest example of the American ghost story gets reviewed by Kestrell: ‘It is difficult to think of an American ghost story more well-known than that of Washington Irving’s short story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. Though Irving’s original sources for the stories may have been local folklore based on the same stories which the Grimm Brothers would collect and publish back in the Old World, Irving’s tale would emerge as one of America’s first and most familiar stories until, like the best stories, it seeped into the American consciousness the way well water rises from some hidden source deep underground.’

And one  of my favourite literary treats with ghostly presences for Autumn evening nights is reviewed by Robert: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s Tamsin first saw the light of day as a story idea for a Disney animated feature. Disney never followed through. Beagle did, finally, for which I think we can all be grateful.’


Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, has a tale to tell: ‘Now that I’ve shown you our potato patch, let’s head off to the pumpkin patch. They’re just about to harvested and it’s an impressive sight to see them in the field now that the leaves and vines have withered away.’ Read the rest of this Autumn tale here. Oh I should note Mars. Ware, our Head Cook, is making individual pumpkin pies this afternoon!


We have, for graphic lit, what Robert calls a ‘historical fantasy’ from the age of the Shoguns: ‘Basilisk is Masaki Segawa’s manga adaptation of Futaro Yamada’s 1958 historical novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls. It counts mostly as “historical fantasy,” and as rendered in the manga version, the story line is fairly spare while the “surround,” the visual component, is very rich.’

A very different sort of story is next. Robert offers his observations on Humayoun Ibrahim’s adaptation of Jack Vance’s classic story, ‘The Moon Moth’: ‘At risk of dating myself, I remember Jack Vance’s “The Moon Moth” from its first publication in Galaxy magazine. . . . It’s always been one of my favorites among Vance’s stories, although perhaps the golden glow of memory has made it more than it was.’


Gary says ‘When you listen to an album and you can’t tell which are originals and which are classic country covers, that’s a good sign.’ He’s speaking of Innocent Road by Portland, Oregon, musicians Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms, which is packed with covers of classic country songs and originals by Klauder.

Singer and songwriter Chris Porter, an Alabama native lately of Austin, Texas, died in a horrific crash in North Carolina on the 19th of October. The bass player in his band, Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, also died, and the drummer was seriously injured. (More details in the Austin306 blog here.) Gary reviewed one of Porter’s recordings in 2012, the band Some Dark Holler’s self-titled EP. It seems like an appropriate time to revisit that review, with condolences to Porter’s family and friends.

John went to see a legend among Irish bands: ‘Ending the Irish leg of their 2005 European Tour, Thin Lizzy arrived in Limerick to play at the University of Limerick Concert Hall to a capacity house. During the halcyon days of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Thin Lizzy were regular visitors to Limerick during their many Irish tours. For this re-constituted line up, this was their second time in the University of Limerick Concert Hall, as they played here before on their 2003 ‘Global Chaos’ tour.’

Robert has a look at a new release from ECM, Steve Reich’s The ECM Recordings: ‘It was with some misgivings that I undertook to review this collection of the music of Steve Reich. . . . It’s not that I don’t like the music, or don’t have any sympathy for it: I first encountered Reich’s music in the late 1970s-early 1980s at concerts sponsored by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which also introduced me to the music of Philip Glass. It’s rather that the works of both composers at that time were what I call “hard-core serial minimalism,” a sort of take-no-hostages approach that was strict, tight, and much easier to watch in performance than listen to on recordings: at least in a concert you could watch the musicians.’

And in a similar vein (truly), Robert brings us the another volume of the Gamelan of Central Java: ‘“Sindhen” refers to the solo part in a gamelan, usually sung by a woman pesindhen (soloist). In this collection, part of the extensive series produced by John Noise Manis on the gamelan of Central Java, we are presented with two innovative vocal works with an instrumental piece in between.’


Our What Not comes courtesy of Chuck who looks at an Irish song commonly known as ‘Johnny Cock’ or ‘Johnny O’Braidslea’: ‘One of the fascinating things about folk music is the variety that one song or tune can produce. Niggling purism aside, there has never been one folk style. That’s even more true these days with musicians fusing traditional folk to jazz, rock, Latin, and whatever other style they happen to like. So what I’m going to do in And Reels is to take a song or a tune and see how different performers, as well as different sources, treat it.’image

As the foliage turns color and the days grow shorter, the thoughts of some turn to the hunt. We leave you with this fine rendition of ‘Hunting Song’, a cryptic traditional song by Pentangle, from a BBC recording in 1970. The original song, of course, was the opening track on Pentangle’s third album, 1969’s Basket of Light, their best selling and some would say the pinnacle of their career.

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

imageDear Anna,

It’s nigh unto Guy Fawkes Day and Iain’s Library apprentices got the jones to put on a full-blown celebration, which The Steward agreed to fund, provided that Iain gave them a full lesson on what Guy Fawkes Day really means in the United Kingdom, historically and currently, including how Halloween has now largely replaced it.

Many Catholics takes offence at the burning of an effigy of the Pope that takes place at Lewes Bonfire in Sussex on this day, which makes perfect sense. Of course, Guy himself was a Catholic, so many, many Protestants in England assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the Catholic Church was behind the attack on Parliament. (Iain says a fellow Librarian  uses the pejorative ‘Fucking papists’ when referring to the Church.) Soon thereafter they developed this celebration which featured burning effigies of Guy and the Pope. And lots of fireworks.

Revisionist historians ofttimes claim that that there was no conspiracy to blow up Parliament but rather Guy and his fellow conspirators were framed by the Government to stir up anti-Catholic hatred. That might be true, might not be true. What’s true is that there’s no definitive way now to tell what happened so long ago.

Now mind you, most folks more commonly call it Bonfire or Firework Night so they’re in it for the drinking, the bonfires, and the rather drunken singing of such songs as ‘Devil and the Washerwomen’, ‘Remember the Fifth of November’, and ‘Guy Fawkes Prince of Sinister’.

Iain pointed out to them that Guy had denounced Scotland and the King’s favourites among the Scottish nobles, so it wasn’t surprising that the Scots are enthusiastic celebrants of the Fifth of November. Not that the good Presbyterians of Scotland needed much of an excuse to hate the Pope. And many, like a bookseller I was chatting with one time in Aberdeen, are openly anti-papist even now. 

Our Brewmaster’s devised an ale similar to what was called mild ale, which is a beer with a decidedly malty palate that originated in Britain in the 17th century or earlier. And Mrs. Ware is having her staff making food that would’ve been served by a late 17th century Pub.

So hopefully you can fly back here for the week-long celebration from All Hallows Eve through Samhain and now Guy Fawkes Day. Should make for an interesting week!

Affectionately, Gus


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

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


Care to have a pint of our new All Hallows Eve Ale? It’s quite good. I’ll get Finch to draw you a pint. I’ve been getting stellar comments about it from those who’ve had a few pints. Bjorn, our Brewmaster, always seems to enjoy creating new Autumn libations more than those he does for the other seasons. And he’s hinting that he’ll be doing an authentic Octoberfest beer very soon but he’s kept everything a secret from even me.

In the meantime, I’m writing up this edition as Iain, your usual host, is running through the tunes that Red Robin will be playing later this evening in the Sanctuary as he’s the caller. Two violinists, one smallpiper plus a mountain dulcimer player — all from Ashville, North Carolina — and it should be quite tasty to dance to.

I’ve got a full edition for you with no particular theme this time as you’ll find a look at The Clash, a folk music infused mystery, Irish lore, Kage Baker on barm brack, a new Handsome Family album and my favourite Suzanne Vega song to mention other things here this time as well. So enjoy your ale whilst I get this edition together…


David  looks at a choice band bio: ‘In the year 2000, a series of books was published under the imprint “Kill Your Idols.” They were published in a neat little format, black covers with a b&w photo of the subject and his name as the title. Neil Young, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen and The Clash. The only band that matters is the only band that got a book! David Quantick, a writer whose work has appeared in Spin, NME and Q magazines, is a good choice for authoring a book about the Clash. He is a fan, but he understands their weaknesses, as well as theirs strengths.’

So how about a major reading experience. Let me offer you  The History of Middle Earth which is the extensive background Tolkien wrote for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I suggest you get comfortable before reading Liz’s look at it as it is a very detail essay on this massive work: ‘The History of Middle-earth offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine a great writer’s creative development over a period of 60 years. At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’

Leona gives an incisive review of  Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, ‘this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

Robert got lost in a work by Daithi Ó hÓgáin:’ The Lore of Ireland is subtitled ‘An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance.’ That somewhat terse description hides a wealth of information in entries ranging from a short commentary on the mythical king Tighearnmhas (in whose reign gold was first discovered in Ireland, and who came to bad end) to an exhaustive discussion of the origins, permutations and meanings of the Fianna Cycle. It’s a treasure house of names, places, stories and ideas — everything from a short biography of Ní Mháille (Grace O’Malley, a sixteenth-century pirate queen who once visited Queen Elizabeth) to St. Patrick, and from pigs to fairies (not as far apart as you might think.) I admit it — I spent hours wandering from cross-reference to cross-reference.’


The late and much missed Kage Baker, a woman who loved all things culinary such as the Two Fat Ladies series,  once upon a time taught the bakers in our kitchen to make a most excellent soul cake according to what she says is a traditional Scots recipe. Let’s listen in as she tells them how she makes these nibblies


Robert has a look at a whole bunch of comics collections centered on the heroes of Robert E. Howard, starting with The Chronicles of Kull: ‘Before there was Conan, there was Kull! At least, so we were reminded on any number of covers of comics featuring stories about Robert E. Howard’s Kull, the spiritual forerunner of Conan.’

The sagas continue with The Saga of Solomon Kane and The Chronicles of Solomon Kane: ‘Kane himself is somewhat unusual for a sword-and-sorcery hero, particularly when we consider Howard’s later creations: not a barbarian, but a civilized Englishman of the time of Edward VI and Elizabeth, and, necessarily, Mary, whom Kane would have regarded ambivalently, at best: she was Catholic, he a staunch Puritan.’

And of course, you can’t talk about Howard’s heroes without mentioning Conan, and boy, have we got Conan: See what Robert has to say about Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith’s The Chronicles of Conan, Vol. 1: The Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories and The Barry Windsor-Smith Archive: Conan, Volume 1.


Gary says The Handsome Family’s new release Unseen is one of their strongest. ‘I’ve been a serious fan of The Handsome Family for so long – nearly 20 years now – that it’s hard to be objective.’ The album, he says, ‘continues their trademark blend of traditional country-western instrumentation and lyrics that range from the hyper-realistic to decidedly surreal, sometimes from one line to the next.’

Cajun fiddler Courtney Granger has a new solo album out, but it’s not what you might think, Gary says. On Beneath Still Waters Granger sings classic country songs by George Jones, Waylon Jennings and others. ‘A member of the Balfa clan, he’s a top-notch fiddler and for nearly a decade has been playing in Cajun groups the Pine Leaf Boys and Balfa Toujours,’ Gary says. ‘But he obviously has a deep love for and knowledge of classic country music, and man, does he have a voice that just won’t quit!’

Gary found a gem for us: ‘American singer-songwriters Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer have taken something of a middle tack in their superb little album Child Ballads. They do take a strictly acoustic and folk approach, but with arrangements and production that somehow have a modern feel to them. Mitchell, who hails from Vermont, has two critically acclaimed albums under her belt, 2010’s Hadestown and 2012’s Young Man in America. Hamer, a Colorado native now based in New York, played on Mitchell’s latter album and was a member of her touring band, which is when the two discovered their shared love of Celtic and British traditional music and folk-rock, and decided to record some Child Ballads.’

Robert has some thoughts on a release from a uniquely named group: ‘The group And Did Those Feet was founded in 1992 by composer/performer Richard Ellin to showcase his own compositions. He was joined by vocalists Ina Williams, who has won many awards in singing contests in Wales and abroad, and Celia Jones, born in Canada but active on the music scene in Britain for over twenty years. Forgetting the Shadows of History is their third release.’

For something slightly less contemporary, Robert has Anonymous 4’s The Origin of Fire: Music  and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen: ‘There is a large period between the fall of Rome and the late Middle Ages from which the names of artists, musicians and many other thinkers of note are lost to us. Thus it is of great interest when we have works that can be ascribed to a particular personality, and of further interest when that individual’s history is well documented. Such is the case with Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century German abbess who wrote extensively on medicine and natural history, counseled kings, popes, and emperors, composed music, and had visions.’


Our What Not this time is a favorite reading place of  Stephen who says it’s the under-cellar of Kinrowan Hall for him: ‘It’s actually a very wonderful place to be. There’s a particular quality to subterranean spaces that focuses the psyche on the ‘inner’ rather than the outer planes. I’ve always got a big kick out of being underground, whether that be in the myriad potholes of Derbyshire’s Peak District (stalactites and stalagmites a go-go!) or in the ancient ‘Foggues’ of West Cornwall. Being way down in the ‘very bowels of the earth’ focuses the human mind like nothing else in my experience. Taking a book ‘down there’ with you somehow almost makes the experience of reading more ‘intimate’. It’s as if reading below ground level makes the author complicit in some delicious, shared, secret rite, the acquired knowledge more ‘arcane.’ If nothing else, you get the most fantastic echoes when you laugh out loud at a supremely crafted passage of prose!’


If you’re truly fortunate, you’ll encounter a song that truly makes your heart ache for the raw emotion that it contains. For me, it was the song I heard sung by Suzanne Vega in some club down London way oh so many years ago: ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ which is breathtakingly mythic in scope and so damn personal that it hurts. All I know about the provence of this song is that it was performed in  London on the twenty fourth of October, thirty one years ago.


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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Wandering Through Time


Oh, hullo. Yes, it’s me, Robert. No, no, the other Robert. I was just — what’s that? Well, I don’t doubt at all that I look a bit confused — I am confused. I’ve lost my reading room, you see. I was sure it was right down here somewhere, but I think I may have given myself the same directions twice, and you know that never works. I really don’t know how I could have managed that — I was being especially careful.

Do you happen to know what year it is? Really? Oh.

Mmm — what calendar do you use? There are so many of them, I can never quite keep them straight in my head, and they all have different years that start at different times and have different numbers of days for everything — it’s quite confusing, even without keeping track of Great Years and Years of Years and all that. And that’s on this side of the Border. It’s even worse over there — time isn’t all the same length there, you know.

Hmm — I wonder if I messed up. . . . You do understand, don’t you, that the instructions must include at least four of the eleven directions, and I think I included yesterday in this set again, when it probably should have been tomorrow. Bother! I knew I shouldn’t have done it while I was in the Wood. I bet I was across the Border, and that throws everything off. The problem is, it keeps moving — the Border, I mean — so you can never really be sure.

Well, at least it’s only June, so I have time. What? Oh, dear — when did that happen? I’ve missed the entire summer? What’s that? You saw me here at Mabon? Here? In the Pub? But . . . oh, my. I thought that was next year.

I suppose I could just go to the Library, but my books are all in my reading room right where I put them, and finding the duplicates is always such a fuss. Iain gets quite put out with me — he says I should just pick a time and stay in it, and it’s not that I mean to wander around like that, but I get distracted, you see, and it’s so easy to get lost. And then we have to go through all the books that someone is thinking about writing, and all the ones that are going to be written, and the ones that might be written, and maybe the ones that no one wants to write, and sometimes even the ones that most definitely should not have been written, to find the advance copies of the ones that actually have been written so I can get copies of the ones I need.

And it’s so quiet in there I really can’t concentrate.

I suppose I’ll just have to find a Cat to follow. That’s the only thing I can think of, because I don’t have a minute to come up with some new directions. I really need to get caught up on my reading and find some time to do some writing.

Well, I’ll see you later. Whenever that is.



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

“But stories are fragile. Like people’s lives. It only takes a word out of place to change them forever. If you hear a lovely tune, and then you change it, the new tune might be lovely too, but you’ve lost the first one.” “But if I stick to the first tune, then I’ve lost the second.” “But someone else might discover it. It’s still there to be born.” “And the first tune isn’t?” “No,” Tallis insisted, although she was confused now. “It has already come into your mind. It’s lost forever.” “Nothing is lost forever,” Mr. Williams said quietly. “Everything I’ve known I still know, only sometimes I don’t know that I know it.” All things are known, but most things are forgotten. It takes a special magic to remember them. “My grandfather said something like that to me,” Tallis whispered. “Well there you are. Wise Old Men, one and all…”  ― Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss


It is, as all nights are on this Scottish Estate far from the light pollution of any city, a good night for star gazing if weather permits. I’ve got my gaggle of Several Annies, my always female Library Apprentices (and yes I do know their names but I usually use this appellation) are getting a stars-related mythology lesson from Tamsin, our resident hedgewitch, on this crisp evening.

I listened for awhile but realized being warm was a far better option so I decided that I’d stitch together this edition in the Pub while ensconced in the Falstaff Chair near the fireplace with a generous pour, neat of course, of Talisker Storm whisky as the Neverending session backs a sweet  sounding red-headed coleen singing ‘Run Sister Sister’,  a Red Clay Ramblers song with deep Appalachian roots.

Everything this edition is folkloric in nature. I’m selecting some of our myriad folktale reviews, music that’s equally folkloric and other interesting material as well. I’m sort of avoiding contemporary fiction, be it Sharon McCrumb’s  Ghost Riders, Seanan McGuire’s Indexing, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country or Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt as all are frequently cited here. For contemporary short story takes on folkloric themes, I recommend such works as edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling such as Black Swan, White Raven and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales.


April starts us off with a treat for fairy tale aficionados: ‘Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are well known, even to those who’ve never heard his name. His stories have entered our cultural consciousness (who doesn’t know of “The Little Mermaid,” even if it’s only through Disney’s version) and verbal lexicon (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”) and are here to stay. Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen offers a glimpse at the man behind the tales, the subtle nuances of his art and language and renders the stories all the more powerful.’

Deborah says ‘ (Jane) Yolen initially compiled Not One Damsel in Distress for her daughter and three granddaughters, as she wished to provide for her girls that which she had not been able to access — stories where girls are the heroes. Not heroines or sheroes but true heroes, in every sense of the word. Stories where it is the girls who are the knights and the serpent slayers and the pirates. As Yolen writes in the open letter to her girls at the beginning of the collection, “This book is for you because in it are folktales about heroes — regular sword-wielding, spear-throwing, villain-stomping, rescuing-type heroes who also happen to be females.”‘

Terri Windling’s The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors says Diane is an anthology that ‘reinterprets classic fairy tales with reference to contemporary issues of childhood. In short stories,essays and poems the various authors examine the issues of confusion, fear, and, ultimately, survival.’

Denise looks at Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood: ‘I surveyed Josepha Sherman and E.K.F. Weisskopf’s great green paperback with a twinge of envy. These folks took my long-ago discussion and tuned it into a book. It’s a work of scholarship, to be sure, but it’s a lot more fun than most scholarly tomes. Like the great collection of Ozark folktales Pissing in the Snow, Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts makes telling statements about American culture even as it induces milk-out-the-nose guffaws in its readers.’

John Colarusso’s Nart Sagas from the Caucasus gets reviewed by Eric who says ‘The Narts are a legendary race of heroes, whose deeds form the basis for the culture of the Caucasus. The stories are examples, both inspirational and cautionary, of how a warrior of the Caucasus should measure his life. The language is extraordinarily direct; the sagas’ talent for understatement is difficult to equal. . . .”

Jack Zipes edited a new edition of Thomas Frederick Crane collection which Faith reviews for us: ‘Italian Popular Tales, first published in 1885, was the first comprehensive collection of folktales from Italy published in English. It is meticulously organized by subject (fairy tales, tales of Oriental origin, etc.). This is not just a collection of stories, however, as each one is introduced and commented on in the text. The copious endnotes list the origins of each tale and cross-reference their various stock elements. They also include variants on several of the tales, some of them quite long, that were not included in the body of the book for whatever reason.’

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Jo looks at two versions of a Welsh collection of myths: ‘Grand quests, swords, sorcery, gods, mortals, love, war, and a healthy sense of mystery can all be found in The Mabinogion. These eleven ancient Welsh tales date back to somewhere around 1200 in written form and are classics of the folk tale genre. There are few places where you can find so many archetypal folk themes, presented within such a short space. Celtic lineage, culture, and heritage are presented with grace and passion within the framework of a group of stories. These tales are a must for anyone interested in Celtic folklore or in Arthurian legend, for Arthur plays a minor role in many of the tales.’

Leona comments that ‘When I started writing for Green Man Review, I thought of myth and folklore as primarily Irish and Greek, Latin and German. I suspect that’s fairly common in America, but that view misses several important and fascinating segments of the world. In Latin American Folktales, editor John Bierhorst has gathered together in print a wide variety of traditional oral Hispanic and Indian stories.’

Lory loves Jilali El Koudia’s Moroccan Folktales: ‘El Koudia did not merely transcribe the tales he heard, but rewrote, reconstructed and retold them, eliminating wordiness and repetition. His English translation (with Roger Allen) gives us the tales in direct, unembellished and almost stark language. It is an excellent basic source for storytellers and teachers,es who can retell the stories in their own idiom. For scholars, there is a critical analysis and an impressive numerical index of tale types and motifs.’

An edition of The Grimm Tales edited by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. and Alexander H. Krappe wins the favor of Michael:  ‘So what’s so good about this particular volume, as opposed to the numerous other Grimms’ Fairy Tales out there on the market? Quite simply, accuracy. I have to admit a great deal of respect for anyone who can translate this many stories from German, and still manage to keep the authentic flavor of the text, and the colloquial language intact. And if some of the stories seem just a tad … surreal, you can thus blame it on the original text involved. Trust me, some of the originals -are- a bit on the surreal side. It’s a safe bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to publish the Grimms if they were alive and submitting manuscripts today.’

Charles Downing’s Armenian Folk-tales and Fables gets reviewed by Naomi: ‘Armenia is a land which has been ravaged by war on far too many occasions. Other nations keep turning it into a battlefield, and tearing it apart. These tales have survived for many generations in the only way possible, through word of mouth. They were told and retold during the long hard winters, told in the coffee houses for entertainment, and have survived just as the Armenian people have survived.’


Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’


Asher proclaims ‘Here is a tale of human folly — “Whatever the cost, do it”. Of a noble dream – “One land, one king!” Of magic – “Can’t you see all around you the Dragon’s breath?” Of its passing – “There are other worlds. This one is done with me.” And of memory – “For it is the doom of men that they forget.” Excalibur is arguably the most exciting film version of the myth of Arthur to date.’

Grey looks at a Terry Gilliam film: ‘The Fisher King is a modern fairy tale after the pattern of stories by authors of urban fantasy like Charles de Lint. Like de Lint, scriptwriter Richard LaGravenese gives us a story in which an indentured servant and a victim of the urban jungle are redeemed by a traditional quest, by their acceptance of roles which echo some of the deepest archetypes from our collective human myths. In this story, those archetypes are the wounded king and the holy fool. However, we also see that in this redemptive quest, the heroes must play both roles to find their Grail.’


April, our resident Summer Queen, starts off graphic novel reviews with an intriguing offering by looking at the first two volumes in a sprawling series: ‘Imagine, if you will, if the inhabitants of the fairytales you know so well — human and fantastical alike — were alive and well and living in New York. Such is the premise behind Bill Willingham’s Fables series for Vertigo Comics. The Fables, as they call themselves, have long since been driven from their lands by an entity they call only The Adversary. The human-looking Fables settled in New York City, in a neighborhood they call Fabletown. Those who are less than human (think the Three Little Pigs, Shere Kahn, and Oz’s winged monkeys) live in bucolic upstate New York. Good King Cole is mayor of Fabletown, but the real power is in his deputy, Snow White.’

The four issue run of Ballads and Sagas get a look by Debbie: ‘Charles Vess, an extremely talented graphic artist, has done just that. Vess, who has a solid reputation for illustrating such works as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories (also published in graphic novel form) also loves the ballads and sagas that have been entertaining people for hundreds of years, and in this series of books he has collaborated with some of the best-known writers in fantasy literature, including Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Sharyn McCrumb (not a fantasy writer but an author of mysteries with an Appalachian folkloric theme), Midori Snyder, Robert Walton and Delia Sherman (whew!) — I hope I’ve not left anyone out! They tell the stories: he does the illustrations.’

Mia tells us about a charming Appalachian folktale for all ages, as are many such works intended for children: ‘Prequel or stand alone fairy story, A Circle of Cats is a bewitching little book, much bigger inside than out, and a wonderful collaboration between two enormous talents. There’s a place of honor on my bookshelves for this one … when I can finally stop going back to it every little bit and actually bring myself to put it there.’

Robert takes a look at a graphic novel that’s not quite a fairy tale. In fact, it’s pretty firmly grounded in Greek mythology: ‘Mike Carey’s The Furies, illustrated by John Bolton, is another spin off from Neil Gaiman’s series The Sandman, and captures that same blend of myth and everyday life that was such a striking feature of Gaiman’s work.’

Robert found another series that updated the Greek myths, Peter Milligan’s Greek Street: ‘Greek Street: Blood Calls for Blood is the first compilation of the individual numbers of the comic series. It offers another retelling of the Greek myths, translated to the seamy underbelly of a contemporary city — in this case, London’s Soho. The center of action, so to speak, is a strip club — the strippers serve as the Chorus. The main story arc is the story of Oedipus — in this case, Eddie, just released from the orphanage and left to his own devices.’

And the story continues in Greek Street: Cassandra Complex: ‘I’m sure you’ve heard the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me, Kate. Well, in the case of Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice’s Greek Street, it should go “Brush Up Your Aeschylus.” And Sophocles. And Euripides. Because you’re going to run into all of them here. In one story.’


I look at an opera based on a Grimm story:  ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’

Colcannon offers us two tales with Irish music as part of those tales in ‘The Pooka and the Fiddler’ and ‘Happy as Larry’ that Jack loves: ‘Ahhh, there you are. I saw you sitting over in Falstaff’s Chair by the cheerfully cracklin’ fire on this cold, windy, and even rainy night. I see you’re enjoying your novel. . . . Me? I’m reading de Lint’s Moonheart — perhaps his best known work. Not all great literature comes in the form of the printed page — indeed some can only be listened to like those told by the storytellers, who sit in that chair telling stories long after midnight is but a memory, or the entertaining tale told by Colcannon on the recording I saw you eyeing a short while ago in the Library.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’


Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here  but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.


Straying slightly away from the folklore theme,  I’ve got some music for you that I think befits the Autumn season. It’s 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.

Oh and Gary did a review of Howard Pollack’s Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man which you can read here.

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A Travel Abroad story: Moonshine


Yes moonshine, or white lightning as it’s often called by those who make and drink it. I’ve been reading a book on moonshine,  Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine by Max Whitman. I’ve been interested in it as it shows up often in the Appalachian mysteries. I confess that I did try moonshine once while traveling in the Smoky Mountains some years ago. It was offered up by a fellow musician while I was sitting up on his back porch in the proper serving vessel — a mason jar. You do know that over it’s a hundred proof or even higher? That’s fifty percent alcohol!

It’s sort of akin to drinking pure ethanol — it has no taste, burns all the way down, and (at least to me) really, really packed a kick. One jar, well maybe two, was enough for me.  Though I admit that sitting on that back porch looking over the mountains while my fiddler host and a banjo player played some tunes with me on my concertina might have heightened my appreciation of it just a bit.

Moonshine’s corn, rye and/or barley based liquor and indeed is made like whisky or vodka. In terms of the distilling process, it’s very similar to Irish whisky, which is to say a single pot is used for brewing. Bootleggers during the era of American Prohibition made shitloads of money and to this day do easily distill it in those hollows where federal agents still tread very carefully, if at all.

You can now buy legal moonshine, which is fine but really defeats the myth of it, as I figure the allure is like that of absinthe, which too has become legal:  the thrill of getting away with something that the authorities don’t approve of. I certainly am not planning on stocking legal moonshine in our Pub.


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

Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, you know, which you can find if you look. — Diana Wynne Jones in Fire and Hemloc


Now it is by some storytellers said that the very first Jack here got lonely for the sound of music that could be made  with other musicians. So he invited in a few fellow fiddlers and a smallpiper to play for the Kinrowan Estate residents in exchange for s place to bed down, a bit of grub and some ale. Keep in mind that it was a typically cold and damp Scottish winter evening when he did this, so the musicians weren’t terribly inclined to leave.

One of ’em got the somewhat bright idea that if they didn’t stop playing, they wouldn’t be asked to leave, so they didn’t. And they weren’t asked to leave, as it was convenient to have musicians here. So a deal was struck — food, drink and a place to bed down for all musicians who were playing, so long as the music never, ever stopped. So it hasn’t. Ever. Down through the centuries, human and fey alike have made sure the music has gone on without ever stopping. A player might drop into the session here for a few hours, or stay playing for longer than you and I would believe possible. But there’s always at least several players keeping it going.

Now let’s see what we’ve got this edition…


We definitely don’t like everything we review as you’ll see in this review of The Owl Mage Series by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. Now, Christine likes other books by Lackey, so she was anticipating good things from these three books (Owlflight, Owlsight and Owlknight).  But… ‘The Owl Mage books weren’t entirely bad, but neither were they very good.’ Christine’s review is fair, highlighting the things she thinks Lackey and Dixon do well, but in the end she gives the series a thumbs down.

Gary  takes a look at an alternate history adventure by Ian McDonald. ‘Although it deals in djinni and green men (!) and miraculous-seeming nano-tech, The Dervish House is more grounded in a reality Westerners will recognize than were McDonald’s two India books… Surely, though, one can wish for more books of this caliber from Ian McDonald.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’

Kelly has a review of the audiobook version of a novel jointly written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. She says, ‘If you’ve never heard Good Omens, you should. Whether or not you give a damn about theology or metaphysics, I prophesy you’ll find yourself chuckling often — or, like me, barking — as Martin Jarvis and these two well loved masters poke fun at everything most people hold dear and bring you to the brink of Armageddon.’

Robert brings us a look at a memoir that’s more than a little out of the ordinary, Jean-Marie Déguignet’s Memoirs of a Breton Peasant: ‘It is not often that one gets to read the memoirs of a peasant, because it’s not often that a peasant writes a memoir. This particular peasant was Breton, which is, for those fascinated by a part of the world that is unique and mysterious, a plus. As editor Bernez Rouz points out in “The Story Behind This Story,” Jean-Marie Déguignet was not a particularly nice man, and much of his story has been left out of this volume, particularly the paranoid ravings of his later life.’


Robert has a dark fantasy film for you to consider: ‘The films of Guillermo del Toro have often dealt with innocence in a corrupt world; sometimes the innocence is found in surprising places, as in Hellboy, in which a demon becomes a savior. He also plays with the idea of redemption through transformation in such a way that the concept becomes almost Wagnerian in scope. And in Pan’s Labyrinth, he hinges these ultimately profound themes on a child’s belief in fairy tales.’


Lucky Peach, an American food and drink website, has a rough and ready look at the various types of cider, both in the States and from elsewhere. If you’ve ever wonder what the different types of cider are and which commercially released ones you might like to try, go here to read it.


If you enjoyed the first Hellboy film, Cat has a look at a Hellboy graphic novel set in the years after WW II: ‘I must profusely thank the publicity department at Dark Horse for sending literary treats such as B.P.R.D. 1946 for us to review, as they make for a wonderful reading experience!’

Robert has some thoughts on one of Marvel Comics’ forays into noir fiction, Daredevil Noir: ‘One has come to expect tight, absorbing writing from Alexander Irvine, and one is not disappointed in the Daredevil installment of the Marvel Noir series. Daredevil is not one of those superheroes who’s been very much on my radar, so I had the added attraction of a new character without, in my mind, any history to muck things up.’


Kelly takes a look this week at Sara Perry’s The Tea Deck. She says, ‘As the now almost mythical door-to-door encyclopedia salesman knew, the opportunity to sell your product goes up exponentially once you’ve gotten it into the hands of a customer.’ How does this relate to a Tea Deck… and just what the hell is one?

Robert ran across a book that tells almost more than we wanted to know about Lobster: ‘Richard J. King’s Lobster is part of a series on “Animals” from Reaktion Books, and, in spite of what we might expect when dealing with a creature mainly interesting for its gustatory qualities, the culinary history is a minor part of the story.’


Barb has a story to tell us in her review of Trio: ‘Väsen is Olov Johansson on 3-row chromatic nyckelharpa and kontrabasharpa, Mikael Marin on viola, 5-string viola, and pomposa, and Roger Tallroth on 12-string guitar and bosoki. Having had the opportunity over the last few years to immerse myself in many of Väsen’s recordings, see them perform live, and interview Olov Johansson, these musicians (unbeknownst to them) have become old friends.’

Pat really likes Brendan Begley’s It Could Be a Good Night Yet: ‘This is Breandán’s second solo effort, following on his 2000 release We Won’t Go Home ’til Morning — and mighty fine it is too.’

The New York-based guitarist, singer and songwriter Cecilia Villar Eljuri, who performs under the name Eljuri, has released a new record that fuses various Latino genres and reggae and rock. She’s a somewhat rare breed of Latina rocker and electric guitarist, as Gary points out in his review of Eljuri’s La Lucha.

Vonnie has good things to say about this recording: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’


Our What Not this time is our oft asked question about what a favored libation is. Kathleen Bartholomew, sister of the late sf writer Kage Baker and a fine writer as well,  waxes nostalgic:  ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’


Although Guy Clark has been gone nearly five months now, we’re still missing that Texas troubador mightily. He’s especially been on our minds now that our tomato harvest is coming to a glorious end. Here’s what is perhaps Guy’s second-best-known song, ‘Homegrown Tomatoes’ recorded at Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1996, as released on Keepers by Sugar Hill in 1997.


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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Pudding Contest


Her name was Bronwyn ap Tewdwr and she was our guest judge for the annual pudding contest. ‘A pudding contest?’ you ask. And I say, ‘Why not?’ Real pudding, like real ale, is a long way from the packaged puddings that litter grocery stores. And watching a group of talented folk making tasty food is something I always appreciate!

The contest, which covers both sweet and savoury puddings, is held annually in the Fall as a break from the getting-ready-for-Winter tasks all of us are doing. So Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff start planning for this by finding interesting ingredients and picking the judge from among the culinarily inclined people that she knows. That person gets a week here gratis and a generous stipend as well.

(You cannot pitch yourself as a judge, as that gets you disqualified. And Mrs. Ware is quite above being bribed even if she has a weakness for Turkish Delight ever since she was a wee girl and read the Narnia books for the first time.)

Now I’ll admit that my only pudding of interest is a dark chocolate one made with bittersweet chocolate. But then I like a dark chocolate bread pudding as well. Maybe even better. The only thing I’ve ever tasted better than that pudding was a dark chocolate bread pudding infused with Madagascar vanilla and a hint of cardamom. Ymmm!

We Swedes have a long tradition of making puddings from scratch. My momor, my maternal grandmother, every Autumn made an apple and almond pudding using a tart apple variety with just vanilla and cinnamon for spicing. Served with warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was quite wonderful.

Bronwyn decided that though she officially is the arbiter for this contest, anyone interested should have a say. The actual contest took place in what’s called the canning and drying kitchen, as it’s set up exclusively for that purpose. It’s in a building that’s strictly two-season use only as we drain the water before the first real freeze takes place. It’s got two Viking gas stoves, each with eight burners, two sinks for water and cleaning up, and lots of work space.

We started in late morning with sets of four pudding makers, each given ample time to create their pudding from scratch. That group created a pudding using our pear cider; a blackberry and graham cracker pudding, as those bushes were still bearing; a breakfast pudding with bacon, cheddar cheese and mushrooms; and what the Yanks call an Indian pudding which is made with cornmeal and molasses.

Before we wrapped it up many hours later, we’d seen made and had sampled puddings such as black pudding and haggis pudding, groaty pudding (soaked groats, beef, leeks, onion and beef stock), kugel, a Yorkshire pudding, steak and kidney pudding, and several spotted dick and a suet and fruit based concoction. There was even a stellar Christmas pudding that Mrs. Ware said she’d be making for our Christmas eventide meal.

There was a three-way tie for best pudding between the breakfast pudding, the pudding using pear cider and the kugel, which was the work of Rebekah, a Several Annie, one of Iain’s Library Apprentices, from Israel.

All in all everyone was happy with both the food and the comfortable companionship in a contest no one took too seriously. Most of us went for a long walk afterwards to work off the feeling of needing a good nap this engendered.


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

The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff. — Steven Brust in this Strange Horizons interview


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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