Some stories are literally true; some of them are figuratively true; some of them are wrong. That’s the nature of stories, isn’t it? They show us all the highlights of the world, but they never leave us certain we can trust the things we know. We listen because they delight us, and mind them as much as they illuminate our hearts; but no one with a lick of sense ever trusts a tale he can’t verify himself. — Alan Rodgers in his Bone Music novel.
There is nothing quite like a freshly brewed pot of tea to get you going in the morning. I should know as I need at least two large mugs of something like a Gunpowder Tea before I’m fully awake. Not black though as I’ve a generous splash of cream in my cup which we get from Riverrun Farms.
(I once knew a well-regarded Canadian musician who started each morning with much more than a dram of Kilbeggan Irish whiskey. Seemed to suit him well for the coming day as far as anyone could tell. and always carried a flask to offer up to selected persons. It was damn good whiskey!)
It’s the deep of Winter here and that means a lot of outdoor activity — skating and curling on the Mill Pond, skiing out to the Standing Stones and back, the lads and lassies that work for Gus are cutting firewood and trimming up hazards such as partially downed trees as the horses which are just got do little damage to the ground now, paths get fresh river stones under their slates and so forth.
However I’m inside in the Kitchen sitting nook, my iPad in hand to finish off this edition on a a winter’s afternoon. The music playing right now is ‘Newmarket Polkas’ as played by Patrick Street which my Infinite Jukebox app tells me was recorded at Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on the 30th of April a dozen years back.
Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’
For a bit of popcorn reading, let’s turn to Richard’s review of Adam Hall’s The Striker Portfolio: ‘Adam Hall’s espionage agent Quiller is the sort of man who makes Jason Bourne look like a strip-mall rent-a-cop. He makes James Bond look like a school crossing guard. He makes, well, you get the idea. Quiller is hard, and he’s grim, and the world he moves through (unarmed) is as hard and as grim as he is.’
Robert has a look at an intriguing collection of critical essays on children’s literature: ‘I am more than a little pleased to learn that I am not the only person who would think of comparing a children’s picture book with Les Tres Rich Heures du Duc de Berry, which is exactly what Joseph Stanton does in his essay on The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney. This is only one of the thoughtful and illuminating studies in The Important Books.’
Vonnie says a novel she reviews by Patricia McKillip ‘is nearly a prose-poem. The writing is lyrical, the events mysterious, the metaphors shadowy and aquatic. The plot suffers from it, as it does from turning the ocean into a character. This is a diffuse mystery, and the reader has to trust the writer that a point will eventually emerge from the pages. McKillip is both good enough and well-known enough to entitle her to our trust, but at its best, this novel is not a page-turner. Even more so than most of her books, the best way to enjoy Something Rich and Strange might be to read it aloud, enjoying the leisurely trip rather than racing to the destination.’
Rachel reviews for us the first two titles in the graphic novel series Lone Wolf and Cub, The Assassins’ Road and The Gateless Barrier. ‘Lone Wolf and Cub is an ultra-violent samurai manga series,’ says Rachel. ‘It’s also a remarkable work of art… The elegant black and white illustrations sometimes portray the delicate beauty of the Japanese countryside, and sometimes the blurred and furious action of a sword moving faster than the eye can track. The characters are archetypal but realistic…’
Robert brings us a different take on graphic literature: two children’s books by Stephen J. Brooks, Alexander Asenby’s Great Adventure and Creatures of the Night: ‘Stephen J. Brooks, a former federal agent, is a writer of children’s books, and two of his newest happened to cross my desk. I think it’s probably an open secret at this point that I enjoy children’s literature, with a special fondness for illustrated books, and I was very pleased to have a chance to look at these.’
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.’
Gary note that ‘I daresay that many, if not most, readers of Green Man Review know all there is to know about Fairport Convention. If you’re not among them, there’s no dearth of information about this most venerated of English folk rock bands elsewhere in GMR, including a recent omnibus review. So I’ll skip any long historical introduction and say that Who Knows Where the Time Goes is a solid addition to the band’s discography.’
Peter who’s not a dancer looks at Cribber: ‘Dalla are a 4 piece dance band specialising in Cornish ‘Celtic’ dance music. They are based in Redruth, Cornwall. If you are dancer who enjoys the odd schottishe, furry, kabm pymp, etc, you’ll know what you are doing more than me! To be fair the album is recorded very well and I could not fault the musicianship.’
Symphonic is from, according to Robert, an artist we all should be aware of: Antonio Carlos Jobim, known widely as ‘Tom,’ was one of the key figures in the popularity of the bossa nova, a style he and his fellows — particularly Joao Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá, and Vinícius de Moraes — created from the musical traditions of Brazil, the urgent and sensuous Afro-Brazilian sambas and the Portuguese ballads with their tinge of Moorish melancholy, as well as modern jazz and the spare harmonies of the Impressionist composers. Jobim was the composer of ‘Desafinado,’ which, in a recording by Stan Getz, put him on the international map. ‘Girl from Ipanema’ then took the world by storm. Jobim was also a composer of more ‘serious’ music, which the two-CD release Symphmonic surveys.’
Our What Not is a longstanding question we ask folks, to wit what’s your favorite work by Tolkien. Peter Crowther, writer and editor of PS Publishing, picks The Lord of the Rings. Now here’s why: ‘As for ‘why’, well . . . because, for me, it’s the best and most enjoyable thing he wrote but also because it proved to be the most important thing he wrote. The Lord of the Rings caused a ‘resurgence in the interest in’ and a ‘taking more seriously of’ Faerie and myth. It resulted in both new and existing writers entering the field to try their hand at so-called ‘high fantasy’ And it directly caused the re-publication of and renewed interest in many great fantasy works from before Tolkien’s time (E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, Hope Mirlees’ Lud-In-The-Mist, Lord Dunsany’s Beyond the Fields We Know, David Lindsay’s A Voyage To Arcturus, Hannes Bok’s Beyond the Golden Stair, much of Clark Ashton Smith’s work and maybe even Lovecraft’s dark tales and Howard’s Conan books — there are hundreds more). It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the book’s and Tolkien’s importance.’
Our Coda today is courtesy of Brighton, England, based singer/songwriter, novelist, poet, and playwright Nick Burbridge and his musical vehicle named McDermott’s 2 Hours (when he’s not collaborating with the Levellers). Nick can slip easily from Irish folk to really great folk rock, so it won’t surprise you ‘tall that Nick’s a favorite of many of us here including myself and we even interviewed him once upon an afternoon.
So he most generously said we could use anything on the McDermott’s 2 Hours Live at Fernhame Hall recording, so let’s part company with ‘Playing The Silgo Maid’, a most unromantic look at one Irish musician and his fate.