You know what English is? The result of the efforts of Norman men-at-arms to make dates with Saxon barmaids.― H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy Sapiens
That’s ‘Number 37’ which is James Keelaghan’s homage to a female horse racer playing here in the Green Pub this lovely Spring day. It’s off one of the myriad samplers that we get, Festive to Go, An All Canadian Sampler that came in some years ago. I’m looking for a live recording of it so I can share it but no luck so far.
I remember seeing him play this quite some years back at a concert somewhere in Canada where I was managing the door as a favour to a friend. He pulled a flask out of his jeans that held some of the finest Irish whisky that I’d ever had. Don’t recall who distilled it but fuck it was good! If you’re in the mood for some Irish this afternoon, I’ll recommend the Powers John’s Lane. It’s pricy but worth it.
April looks appreciatively at Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations: ‘Published as a hardcover edition in 1990, Hamilton’s illustrated biography of English painter Arthur Rackham has been gorgeously reproduced here as an oversized softcover edition. Rackham is perhaps best known for his exquisitely detailed paintings of whimsical fairies, gnarled and tangled tree folk, and other such flights of fancy. His work has been used as illustrations for such diverse publications as Rip Van Winkle, Peter Pan, A Midsummers Night’s Dream and Alice in Wonderland. Hamilton’s book is an excellent glimpse into the painter’s life for both fans and those unfamiliar with Rackham’s own special brand of whimsy.’
A novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans by Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden is definitely rated adult by Richard: ‘Readers who come to The Map of Moments looking for something similar to Mind the Gap are in for a rude shock. Where the first novel of the Hidden Cities was essentially YA, The Map of Moments is steeped in sex and death, a whirlwind ride through centuries of secret history marked by murder, cannibalism, and lust.’
Mike has a choice fantasy work for us: ‘Patricia McKillip, a World Fantasy Award winner, writes with a sparse style that evokes great magic with the barest of words. She possesses a fine knowledge of funky musical instruments and the endearing qualities of musicians. Her power is that of place; it defines and motivates her characters. Song for the Basilisk explores how the expression of that power is shaped by the predilections and history of those who wield it.’
Robert rounds out our book reviews with a look at Garth Dahl’s Masks from Around the World: A Personal Collection which he says has something well nowing here: ‘The wealth found here is in the illustrations and descriptions of the masks themselves. Each is illustrated in color, and while the images are not all large, they are very clear, with a good rendering of detail. Dahl’s descriptions and anecdotes add context, and as one goes through the various sections (arranged by geographic areas), one gets a feeling for a deep “ur-tradition” underlying the variety of examples he shows.’
Robert got a treat this week — Chocolat Frey’s Chocobloc Dark 72% with Honey-Almond Nougat: ‘Chocolat Frey AG was founded in 1887, and is presently the number one chocolate in the Swiss retail market. Like all good chocolatiers these days, Frey is environmentally and socially conscious, which extends not only to its procurement of raw materials, but to its conservation-minded manufacturing and shipping.’
Ensemble Alcatraz’s Cantigas de Amigo is an album Brendan‘s raving about: ‘I’m beginning to suspect that eventually Dorian will have released a version of every single piece of Iberian medieval music still extant. This is by all means a good thing: although the current booms in Celtic and English traditions are nice, there are plenty of older and just as appealing musical traditions from the Continent that need our attention — particularly from the Iberian peninsula.’
Gary reviews the new album from the Seattle country band Western Centuries. ‘Songs From the Deluge is their sophomore full-length release, and with it Western Centuries continues to up the ante on just how good a country band can be in this day and age.’
Huw wasn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic: ‘[G]rouchy as I was when I put the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There’s no getting away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful music!’
Speaking of medieval Iberian music, Robert was quite taken with the Dufay Collective’s Music for Alfonso the Wise: ‘Alfonso X, “el Sabio” (“the Wise”), was king of Castile and Leon from 1252 to 1284, a time when those realms were an outpost of European culture on a peninsula under the domination of the Muslim Moors. . . . This collection, which includes the first known song cycle, ascribed to Martin Codax, gives a glimpse of a time and place which is deliciously foreign while at the same time hauntingly familiar.’
This week’s What Not is a little unusual, but, as Robert says, “You want roots and branches? I’ll give you roots and branches!” Bring comfortable shoes for a tour of “Evolving Planet” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.
‘Hallelujah’ is what the Infinite Jukebox is now playing which is a live recording of Leonard Cohen performing that song which he wrote. It was recorded at the Beacon Theater in NYC on the 19th of February nine years ago. Rather moving, isn’t it?