What’s New for the 1st of January: music from Sunas, banana French toast, music in fiction and other matters…

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne?

Robert Burns

PShhh… We need to be more than just a wee bit quieter than usual as a lot of the residents of this Estate were up very late greeting in the New Year properly and some I know are regretting that they overindulged on potent spirits. I was tending bar as was Finch and Ingrid, my wife who’s the Steward here, so we’re both feeling fine, but not so Iain, your usual host here, and that’s why I’m doing the hosting duties this lovely snowy morning.

But first breakfast. For me, coffee with a splash of cream, eggs with applewood smoked bacon and Riverrun Farm feta along with a blueberry muffin grilled in Riverrun butter on the stove. That should do nicely. Just ask the staff for whatever you want as they’re used to personal requests.

I see that there’s several musos playing quietly in the sitting nook here in the Kitchen — that’s a Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill composition called ‘The Cricket’s Wicket’ which he composed for Nightnoise. They’re playing on a violin and a viola which I must say sounds very sweet.

So shall we see what’s in this edition?

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I was thinking about fiction where music plays a strong role in the story with the prime example being Charles de Lint’s The Little Country where the protagonist, Janey Little plays smallpipes in the style of Billy Pigg, the Northumbrian piper. The back of the novel has the tunes that the author composed for this novel.

Music is also central in de Lint’s Greenmantle, although its effects can be somewhat of a mixed bag: it’s about a piper in a hidden village, and a Stag, and the Wild Hunt, and how music brings out what is deepest in our souls.

Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks with a battle between the Fey and some of we mortal humans that is settled using music on Midsummers Eve. It also features music from Cats Laughing, or perhaps Cats Laughing plays music from the novel. I’ll need to ask Will Shetterly which it is… Ahhh he says the band comes after the novel. Oh and we’ve got the trailer made for a film version of the novel didn’t happen which has some of the music in the novel.

Of course Patricia McKillip’s The Riddle-Master of Hed has harps and harpers at the centre of its story. And it won McKillip a World Fantasy Award as it bloody well should’ve given how good it is!

Music is even more important in McKillip’s The Bards of Bone Plain, as Robert makes clear: ‘I’ve noted before the importance of music in the works of Patricia McKillip. I’ve probably also said something about the poetic quality of her writing. I know I’ve mentioned the way magic infuses her stories, context rather than event. That’s all here, in The Bards of Bone Plain, a story about poetry and music and magic.’

Steven Brust, a musician himself, brings us, in collaboration with Megan Lindholm, The Gypsy, which — well, as Robert puts it: ‘There are three brothers who have become separated. They are the Raven, the Owl, and the Dove. Or perhaps they are Raymond, Daniel, and Charlie. They are probably Baroly, Hollo, and Csucskari. One plays the fiddle, one plays tambourine, and one has a knife with a purpose.’ There’s a lot more to it, of course, so check it out.

Finally I’d add a mainstream affair of which Gary says the central character of  the novel, Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet, is the music. Sounds interesting to me!

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Speaking of breakfast, have I mentioned that we grow bananas in our Conservatory which was built some one hundred and fifty years about? Quite yummy in the Winter I must say. Well Lucky Peach, a magazine with an offbeat attitude towards food and drink, has a recipe for Banana French Toast which is baked, not pan fried. You can get all the details here. Oh and do top off with freshly made whipped cream or butter — bliss!

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April has two recordings to recommend to you: ‘One of Scotland’s more endearing — and enduring — bands, Capercaillie (named, curiously, for a particularly large species of Scottish grouse) has been making beautiful music for nearly twenty years now. Formed in 1984 by Donald Shaw, Karen Matheson and Marc Duff, Capercaillie has seen a few line-up changes, and some adventuresome musical wanderings (club remixes and world music!), yet has remained true to its Scottish roots. Capercaillie’s work has been heard not only on the radio, but in the movie Rob Roy, and in a host of BBC television series. Their 1998 compilation CD, Dusk Till Dawn, and vocalist Karen Matheson’s 1996 solo effort, The Dreaming Sea, are the perfect introduction to the band’s sound and history.’

It seems only fitting to take a look at Boiled in Lead’s Songs from “The Gypsy”, seeing as how we’ve discussed the novel itself. As Robert puts it: ‘Boiled in Lead‘s Songs from The Gypsy is a collision, of sorts. That’s a metaphor, of course, but then, if you can’t speak in metaphor, you can’t talk about music.’

We seem to have several artists who are showing up in more than one category today — Charles de Lint is a musician as well as a writer, as witness his Old Blue Truck. Robert says: ‘I’m not sure what I expected Charles de Lint to sound like as a singer. Whatever it was I expected, it wasn’t what I got. We’re calling it folk/trad-singer/songwriter music, and I suppose that’s as good a description as any. There are echoes of all sorts of things. . . .” Read on to see just what he means by that.

Next is MaryAnn Harris, wife of de Lint and a most talented artist and musician in her own right, released her own EP, Crow Girls: ‘Having heard Mary Ann Harris’ backup vocals on husband Charles de Lint’s Old Blue Truck, I still wasn’t prepared for her singing on her own EP, Crow Girls. The element of surprise seems to be something the two have in common.’

Stephen finishes off our music reviews with a look at Fest Vraz: ‘Anyone who claims to love traditional music, but owns nothing from Brittany, has a gaping hole in his or her CD collection. The thirty-six tracks presented here surely represent the most complete and consistent collection of Breton music ever assembled in a package of this type. The obvious precedent and comparator for Fest Vraz is Green Linnet’s Twentieth Anniversary Collection, which assembled the likes of Altan, Silly Wizard, Dick Gaughan and The Bothy Band under one roof. While the names of the Breton artists may be less familiar to non-mainland Europeans than their Scots and Irish brethren, the diversity of this music and the sheer talent of its practitioners is every bit as jaw-slackening.’

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Our What Not comes courtesy of  the American Songwriter where Geoffrey Himes has an essay titled ‘Saying Something Human: A Look Back At The Child Ballads’ which has a lovely lead-in: ‘What do Bob Dylan’s “Barbara Allen,” Doc Watson’s “Matty Groves,” Fairport Convention’s “Tam Lin,” the Fleet Foxes’ “The False Knight On The Road,” Tom Waits’ “Two Sisters,” Sam Cooke’s “The Riddle Song,” Dr. John’s “Cabbage Head,” the Carter Family’s “Sinking In The Lonesome Sea,” Jerry Garcia’s “Dreadful Wind And Rain,” Joan Baez’s “The Greenwood Side,” John Wesley Harding’s “Little Musgrave,” Anais Mitchell’s “Sir Patrick Spens,” Sam Amidon’s “How Come That Blood” and Steeleye Span’s “Lord Randall” have in common?’

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‘Nghtfaeries’, our coda music this time, comes courtesy of Paul Brandon,  author of one of my favorite novels, Swim The Moon. It’s by Sunas which is one of his bands which he founded in Brisbane, his home city. I do believe it’s a splendid note to end this edition on.

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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