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

On November the Fifth people gather on the heath
Point their Roman candles at the sky
Out of broken branch and leaf they construct a fiery wreath
Ready for the burning of the Guy

The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Home Fires’

imageOf course some of us here being good Scots, we wholeheartedly celebrate Guy Fawkes Day here with a ritual burning of the traitor in a bonfire. We skip setting off the traditional fireworks as various creatures really, really don’t like them.

The Several Annies usually construct him from paper and plaster over a wire frame with each group trying to be creative, such as when they recreated the gunpowder casks he tried to set off before he was captured. This year, they just did Guy himself.

It’s the 50th anniversary of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which first aired on the 27th of October, 1966, meeting a request for yet another Peanuts holiday-themed special that could run annually, like the previous year’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Gary reviewed Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Peanuts Greatest Hits, which includes ‘The Great Pumpkin Waltz’ from that special.

And let’s wish Gordon Lightfoot, a well loved Canadian, musician, a happy seventy-eighth birthday. If you want to know more about what his music is like, fellow Canadian David offers us a loving look at his Songbook recording. His best known song is likely ‘The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald’, and Peter, Paul and Mary sang a number of his compositions, including ‘For Lovin’ Me’ and ‘Early Morning Rain’.

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I’ve got a look at a Rebecca Ore novel that I liked quite a bit: ‘Slow Funeral is one of those Autumn novels that one reads to invoke the feel of the Appalachian Highlands, where the magic and mystery are as real as the bittersweet taste of rhubarb fresh from the garden, or the sound of a murder of crows gathering overhead during a funeral. This is not the clean, neatly packaged magic of the modern Witches, but the old, deep,and often dark magic that is old as the Hills themselves — or perhaps even much older.’

Kim looks at a novel, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, that riffs off the Welsh Blodeuwedd story: ‘This is a magical book, and the finest of Alan Garner’s young adult novels. Now, a lot of people associate magic with ethereal forces, great quests and spells and all that, and indeed spells can be found in several of Garner’s other books. The Owl Service reveals a different kind of magic, the kind that arises from the interaction of people with patterns, of desires that unwittingly mesh with the larger forces around us, harsh magic that people employ without knowing it. The book is multi-layered, with themes that sneak up on the reader, requiring a second or third read, and many fans who read the book as children report returning to it as adults. ‘

At first glance, Linda S. Godfrey’s Monsters Among Us: An Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms and Odd Phenomena looks like the sort of title that could potentially muscle its way out of the overcrowded neighborhood frequented only by the converted and members of CSICOP looking for something to get mad about, and into more mainstream territory. The cover, with a single staring eye peering out through a knothole in a fence, is tasteful and the design is clean. Godfrey herself seems like a good choice to cross over the mainstream. She first rose to prominence by introducing the so-called “Beast of Bray Road” – an alleged Wisconsonian werewolf – to the national audience. A professional journalist, she quickly became a go-to interview for various cryptozoological documentary shows, even as “dogman” and “werewolf” sightings exploded in number.

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’

Robert brings us a look at two interconnected books by Kage Baker, beginning with Dark Mondays: ‘Baker is an extraordinary storyteller who refuses to let herself be bound by the expectations of genre, as the stories here show. In fact, on the basis of this collection, I think I would just call Baker a slipstream writer and not try to get any closer to a categorization of her work (“slipstream” being the genre that wasn’t, according to some people).’

The second is — well, it’s like this: ‘Kage Baker’s short novel, Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key, is not a sequel so much as a continuation of the adventures of John James, fugitive, sometime pirate, and free-lance muscle, who was introduced in her novella “The Maid on the Shore” in Dark Mondays.’ Robert explains that. Truly.

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We ask our guests questions on bloody near everything, though food and drink are foremost of those questions year in and year out. So it is that writer Elizabeth Hand has a succinct answer to our ‘How do you like strawberries’ query: ‘Strawberry rhubarb crisp! Also, just eating them fresh from the farm. Our little church across the road here in the Center has an Annual Strawberry Festival, and I’ll get strawberry shortcake there next Saturday. Many years ago, my former partner Richard Grant made May wine using sweet woodruff we’d grown, white wine (or was it champagne?) and fresh strawberries. That was great. I should do it again someday…’

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Rachel says that The Wolves in the Walls is exactly what one would expect from a picture book written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean: a charmingly surreal trifle full of dream-logic twists and rhymes begging to be read aloud, featuring unexpected appearances by strange people and rowdy wolves, and all of it seen through the eyes of a small but determined girl who could be Coraline‘s little sister.’

Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street takes us into territory that’s a bit beyond surreal: ‘Transmetropolitan is another of Warren Ellis’ spiky and superbly wrought stories that, in many important respects, turns comics on their head. Back on the Street incorporates the first three numbers in the series in the tale of Spider Jerusalem, journalist.’ Robert says, if you haven’t met Spider Jerusalem, you’re in for an experience.

And now we’re going to stretch our definition of “graphic literature” once again to include a book on the work of a very interesting illustrator: r/evolution: The Art of Jon Foster. Says Robert: ‘One thing that I’ve found a delight while reviewing for GMR is the chance to move into fields I’ve never been able to focus on much before, one of which is illustration, specifically the art of the fantastic. Given my love of science fiction and fantasy and their allied genres and my background in fine art, it’s a wonder to me that I’ve never concentrated on this, and so have missed artists such as Jon Foster — until now.’

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Deborah really loved this recording: ‘Okay, I’m in love. Electric sitar! Bliss! No, seriously. Not hyperbole: it’s love. I’m replaying one of my happiest discoveries in a season of catch-as-catch-can, the Strangelings CD, Season of the Witch. And yes, that’s Donovan’s classic song, as redolent of the 1960s as anything short of “Purple Haze” could possibly be. The first three songs on the CD are covers, and they all work. Hoo.’

Gary says The Hazel and Alice Sessions is a labour of love: ‘The influence of Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard continues to reverberate in bluegrass and Americana music. The two became pioneer women in the male-dominated world of bluegrass music in the 1960s, leaving their mark on generations of musicians and singers like Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and The Judds. A few years later California fiddler and singer Laurie Lewis looked to them for inspiration that has been key to her own 40-year-plus career. She’s honoring that legacy with this album-length tribute to Hazel and Alice.’

Gary reviews The Lost Nashville Sessions of Waylon Jennings, 14 songs he recorded for a U.S. military recruitment radio program in 1970. ‘It’s a valuable document of a key musician at a historic time in American music,’ Gary says. ‘Plus it’s a hell of a lotta fun to listen to. These recordings demonstrate just what an earthy, rootsy singer Waylon Jennings was.’

Gary attended a performance by The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc in Seattle, and reports back on the experience. He says, ‘The crowd of about 100 on a very rainy Saturday night were intently focused on the music and very appreciative. … An evening that began in a major grump for me ended with everyone, I think, in a very good mood. That’s the power of music.’

Eilean mo Ghaoilan album by Arran area musicians, gets an enthusiastic endorsement from Lars: ‘This album is the brainchild of Gillian Frame, fiddler and Arran native, and if the Arran tourist board doesn’t adopt it as its official soundtrack (assuming there is such an animal as an Arran tourist board) then they’re definitely missing a bet. Had this album been recorded in any town I know, it would be on the front counter of every gift shop in the county.’

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Our What this week in an Inn and they have a long and honored history in literature, but the one Camille reviews for us is quite real, so  listen up as she introduces us to the Circa 1894 B&B in rural Ontario: ‘The place accurately bills itself as a getaway. And with three guest rooms and delightfully accommodating hosts, my (much-needed) getaway lasted just over a week.’ Go read her delightful review for all the lovely details on this B&B.

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For your Guy Fawkes celebration, let’s finish with ‘Homefires’, a Guy Fawkes song from The Men They Couldn’t Hang, a left of centre English folk rock band whose recordings we’ve reviewed many times. I’ll single out this by of as representative of the band and its music

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.
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