Here’s tae us! Wha’s like us? Damn few, and their all deid! Maire’s the pity. –– traditional Scots toast used by Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, our Librarian, when he hosts whisky tastings
I can hear the wind driven sleet hitting on the windows, so I’ll limit my wandering to the inside of Kinrowan Hall, but first I think I’ll sit down in the Kitchen, get some breakfast — a bacon cheddar bap, an apple and a big mug of Darjeeling tea will do — and watch what’s going on…
I see a book Reynard reviewed, Big Book of Bacon, is now sitting on Mrs. Ware’s corner desk. I think he got it from her so it’s come full circle. And I see several bottles of our Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider is on her desk with a note from our Steward that they’re to be packaged up and sent to Riverrun Farm in appreciation for their providing honey for our ciser (half cider, half mead) bottling this year. Hmmm… I spot a copy of Sleeping Hedgehog that has a loving look at a recent book, Children’s Games in Street and Playground by Ioan Opie, the British folklorist. Been meaning to read our copy of that work.
Ahhhh I see they’re discussing how many American style buttermilk biscuits they’ll need with that beef stew for the eventide meal. And I see one of my Several Annies, Rebekah, is being asked by Mrs. Ware if she’d like to join her staff when she gets done with her Estate, errr, Library apprenticeship in two years. She’s the one who introduced us to wonderful Jewish baked treats. Oh and I see that someone has been mushroom hunting, so the beef stew will have these tasty morsels in it. Barrowhill beef is always a treat no matter how it’s used.
Now let’s get started with this edition…
Gary very much liked William Gibson’s latest The Peripheral. At its base The Peripheral revolves around climate change, but it’s not about that, he says. ‘It’s just the baseline fact in these characters’ lives.’
Gary also looks at a perennial favorites of lots of us: ‘The long and colorful publishing history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with a new edition that seems to be aimed at reclaiming the written version of the story as a way to introduce it to young readers. It’s a handsome hardcover book with illustrations by the young Jemima Catlin, who was hand-picked for the assignment by the Tolkien Estate.’
Robert continues our book reviews with some thoughts on Peter S. Beagle’s The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche and Other Odd Acquaintances: ‘Peter S. Beagle lives and writes in a universe where anything can happen, and probably will. He is also one of those writers whose books should carry a warning label.’
He goes on to another book that should probably have a warning label, The Incrementalists, a collaboration between Steven Brust and Skyler White: ‘Readers who like everything laid out plainly are going to hate this book – nothing is up front. I was struck by how much of the story happens behind the words: it comes in layers and as they get unpeeled, one discovers more layers.’
In our food and drink section, Joseph takes a look at Bill Barich’s A Pint of Plain — Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub, which he describes as ‘a brilliant hybrid of new journalism and memoir… ‘By his own admission, Bill Barich is a dreamer on a mission to recapture his youth. But he greets each illusionary fishing hole, village, and forest with clarity and wisdom. In the end, the reader — not the author — feels nostalgic and thirsty for something never really existed.’ And Joseph even tells you how he did it.
Creatures of The Night, says our resident Summer Queen, ‘is a slim hardback graphic novel which ‘contains two short stories by Neil Gaiman, both illustrated by a frequent collaborator of his, Michael Zulli. Previously released in plain text form in Smoke and Mirrors, “The Price” and “The Daughter of Owls” have been reworked by Gaiman for their debut here in comic form. The front cover illustration combines art from each story (a barn owl and a calico cat) with a seemingly unrelated, but gorgeous, image of a woman’s profile against a full moon.’
Brendan found much to like in the recording called Glory Be: ‘Finality Jack is a trio of instrumentalists based in Northamptonshire, England and named after an obscure 19th century English politician, Lord John Russell. Consisting of Tim Perkins on violin and bouzouki, Richard Leigh on violin and kantele (a nordic form of the violin), and Becky Price on accordion and keyboards, they play an intriguing mixture of English- and French-influenced instrumental music with a smattering of Eastern European polka in there as well. These may not be typical traditional dance tunes, but in their quiet way they all feel as exuberant and full-of-life as the Greek morris dancers on the cover of the CD.’
Following the news of Leonard Cohen’s death last week, Gary reviews Cohen’s final album You Want It Darker. ‘At the age of 82, and obviously faced with knowledge of his own mortality,’ Gary says, ‘Leonard Cohen released an album that is just as vital and important and true and confounding as anything he did in his long career.’
Gary has high praise for Rising Grace by Austrian-born jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel. The album features a quintet that includes established jazz figures such as pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade, as well as a rising star in trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. The music, Gary says, embraces ‘warmth, light and indeed the grace of the title.’
Here This is Home is to the liking of Lars: ‘The Irish song tradition is really many traditions, the main lines either the more loud and boisterous sound of groups like The Dubliners, or the more gentle approach of ensembles like Planxty and Patrick Street. I find it hard to choose between them, which one I pick is entirely up to what mood I am in. Colleen Raney is a representative of that second line, with a soft voice and backings to match it. She is from Portland, Oregon. This her fourth album was mostly recorded in Dublin in the summer of 2013, and it might as well have been by an Irish singer.’
Our Belguim based Richard gives a detailed review of what turned out to be a spectacular evening at Minnemeers Theater despite some preconceptions of what he expected: ‘I have seen June Tabor live numerous times in recent years and I thought I knew what to expect at her concerts. I own just about every recording she ever made, the first review I wrote for GMR, when it was still Folk Tales, was of a Tabor CD and I do not expect many surprises from her performances.’
Our What Not this time is Emma Bull’s answer to our question about what her favourite libation is: ”I drink winter ales in the summer, too, because mmmm, winter ale! Summit Winter Ale, from Saint Paul, Minnesota, is delicious, with plenty of toasted malt flavor and a lovely slightly sweet finish. Good all year ’round!’
Leonard Cohen wrote any number of memorable songs but perhaps the most fitting in honour of him upon his passing this week is ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ as performed by him at the Beacon Theatre, NYC on the 19th of February 2006. The unusual take on a well known story from the Christian faith is matched perfectly by his gravelly voice.