One day I walked the road and crossed a field to go by where the hounds ran hard.
And on the master raced: behind the hunters chased to where the path was barred.
One fine young lady’s horse refused the fence to clear. I unlocked the gate but she did
wait until the pack had left. — Jethro Tull’s ‘Hunting Girl’, Songs from the Wood album
Come in! Put your anorak and boots over by the fireplace so they’ll dry out before you take leave of us. The snow storm’s made the Green Man Pub quiet today so I’m stitching together this edition and every so often reading a chapter from Scott Allen Nollen’s Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001, a most excellent band bio. It’s easily as good as Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography or Nigel Schofeld’s Fairport Unconventional, a hundred and seventy page book included in the boxset of that name.
It’s a pity that neither Maddy Prior nor Steeleye Span have gotten a biography written about them. The only place they get their due is in Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock where the early chapters depict his involvement in the formation of them and Fairport, but that means the last forty or so years isn’t covered.
Christopher Finch’s Jim Henson: The Works: The Art, The Magic, The Imagination gets a well- deserved review by Cat: ‘This is another authorised project by the Jim Henson Company making it akin to Imagination Illustrated which I reviewed here. It’s even copyrighted by Jim Henson Productions! Unlike that book, it actually covers the life of Jim from birth, in a nifty little laid-in booklet. That’s after not one but three introductions by Harry Belafonte, Frank Oz, and Candice Bergen. Belafonte and Bergen were just two of the many, many actors who appeared on The Muppet Show.’
On the other hand, Christopher Priest’s The Islanders was a mixed bag for Cat: ‘First thing to note is that this is not a novel. It’s more like notes that travelers put together on exotic (to them, not people who live there) locales they visited. Think of it as akin to something the publishers of Lonely Planet or Rough Guide have published for decades now. Some parts work for me, some didn’t.’
Grey says ‘So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this: collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’
Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is also 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.’
Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar gets a review from Rebecca: ‘Pepicek (very small) and Aninku (his sister, even smaller) have a problem: their mother is very sick. The doctor told them to go to town to get milk, but how can two children who have no money buy milk? And how can they get money when they have nothing to sell? They could sing for money … except that Brundibar (Czech slang for bumblebee) can sing much louder than two small children, and he chases them off. With the help of three talking animals, three hundred schoolchildren, and eventually the whole town, they chase off bullying Brundibar, get money and milk for their mommy, and so are happy again.’
In live music news, Norwegian hardanger fiddler Nils Økland is making a rare set of U.S. appearances this month. The 2016 Nils Økland Band release Kjølvatn was one of Gary’s favourite discs of the year. Now word comes that he and the band will be playing dates in Brooklyn (March 21), Chicago (March 22) and three days at Knoxville, Tennessee’s Big Ears Festival March 24-26. Full info on Økland’s website.
The new Cuban album Cubafonía, Gary says, is ‘an impressive display of Daymé Arocena’s chops as a singer and her depth as an interpreter and extender of Cuban musical tradition. If you like Cuban or any other Latin music, or even if you’re just curious about it, you need Cubafonía.’
The Canadian band Cowboy Junkies have just released a remastered version of The Trinity Session. The original, Gary says, ‘… was pretty revolutionary when it was first released in November 1988. Their second release, it was recorded pretty much “live” and pretty much in one day, in a Toronto church, around a single microphone … In retrospect, it’s one of the foundational albums of what is now considered Americana music, and at the time there wasn’t much like it.’
Gary says he’s drawn to droning music lately, and he includes in that category Everyone Else by the American rock trio Slothrust. He says: ‘Nerdy lyrics by a female vocalist, embedded in songs that turn on a dime from folksy strumming to pummeling power chords – what’s not to love about Slothrust?’
Hello World is a recording that appeals to Lars: ‘Scotland, like Ireland, is proud of its heritage and traditional music, and quite rightly so. It takes its music and musicians seriously and pays them homage. Lorne MacDougall is a piper, and not just any piper — he is brilliant! You don’t get to be three times BBC Radio Scotland “Young Traditional Musician of the Year” finalist for nothing. Mind you he was awarded a BA in Scottish Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2005 — so I suppose that helps!’
Robert takes a look at yet another album by Clannad that we’ve reviewed, namely Landmarks: ‘I always think of Clannad as an Irish traditional group, which they aren’t — at least, not any more. Traditionally grounded, yes, as one can see from their early recordings, but what has become their signature style incorporates bits of everything from jazz to rock to pop and wanders rather easily into the “New Age” category.’
Our What Not this time is the question of what is your favourite Tolkien. Like many others, The Hobbit is the favourite of Tobias Buckell: ‘Oh, it’s The Hobbit, hands down. I mean, I adore the novel because unlike Tolkien’s later work, it’s not overburdened. It’s a lean, well paced, adventure that takes you on this incredible tour through Tolkien’s countries and peoples and mythologies. I read it every couple years just to experience it all over again. I know The Lord of the The Rings is more popular in common culture, but I struggled through it and tried to pick them up recently and just found that I really kept waiting for things to just move. Frankly I thought the movies were a big improvement, although there were parts just kept limping along, like the end, that reminded of reading the books.’
I have a keen liking for the Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies which is why you’re getting a cut off their 1976 album, Songs from The Wood. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine pagan story about boy meets girl riding horse and … Oh just go give it a listen! It ‘s a soundboard recording from the 12th of November 1980 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.