What’s New for the 11th of March: Well, It’s Still Winter I See

I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.― Corwin in Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber

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I had a brisk walk outside today with the Estate wolfhounds, as there’s a freezing rain falling that started off late yesterday afternoon, which makes it bloody unpleasant out. I’m now warming myself in the Library near the fireplace on the outside wall of the New Library here in Kinrowan Hall.  Indeed, there’s a goodly number of staffers here reading and talking quietly which isn’t surprising.  Corwin’s right: libraries do hold back the darkness.

Music holds it back as well, which is why you’ll always find trad and not so trad music playing here. Right now it’s Red Molly doing their cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, which they did at the Center for Arts in Natick several years back. We reviewed their Love and Other Tragedies recording here.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you. I’ll be in the a Kitchen if you’ve got any questions as Rebekah is baking up an array of Jewish and Palestinian nibbles for all of us…

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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.’

Joel ends his review of Neal Asher’s first Polity novel in this manner: ‘The danger of reading an early work by an author after later entries to a series, or even later stand-alone novels from the same author, is that one might discover the writer is still feeling things out, and perhaps stumbling a bit, lacking the experience his later works will reflect. While Asher has certainly found a somewhat firmer footing in later books (relatively speaking), this first novel is anything but clumsy. So I can happily recommend Gridlinked as the logical place to start for new initiates to the series. If you’re like me, you will be rewarded with a long and happy relationship with the Polity universe.’

Robert does a little catching up, bringing us a review of the most recent installment of Glen Cook’s Instrumentalities of the Night: Working God’s Mischief: ‘It’s hard to know how to lead into this one, so I’m going to let Cook do it: Arnhand, Castauriga, and Navaya lost their kings. The Grail Empire lost its empress. The Church lost its Patriarch, though he lives on as a fugitive. The Night lost Kharoulke the Windwalker, an emperor amongst the most primal and terrible gods. The Night goes on, in dread. The world goes on, in dread. The ice builds and slides southward.

And as long as we’re talking about fantasy noir (and we were, no two ways about it), Robert has some thoughts on the first five books of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Books of the Fallen: ‘I’ve been listening to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen and I’ve been reading Midnight Tides, book five of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Although it may seem a little odd, the two fit together quite nicely: both are vast in scale, both have a strong basis in myth — not necessarily the stories of myth themselves (although that’s obviously true of the Wagner), but the resonances of myth — and both push against our perceived boundaries of what is possible.’

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It’s still very much Winter here, so Gary picks these lovely Winter Ales: ‘Full Sail’s Wassail is very good. As I recall, it’s just a good strong winter ale, no flavorings used. Another excellent Oregon winter brew is Pyramid’s Snow Cap ale. It’s my favorite winter brew so far. Deep, dark and caramel-y, perfect for a cold night in front of the fire with a good book — although after a while, my eyes always cross and I have to switch to an audiobook or some music. The Decemberists, say.’

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Robert once again brings us something a little out of the ordinary for GMR as our film offering this week: BBC’s South Pacific (no, not the musical): ‘South Pacific is another of the BBC’s “nature” series that I’ve been watching recently — “nature” in quotes because, while it does deal with the wildlife on the islands of the Pacific, it also focuses on the people and their adapations to island life.’

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Interested in a really great graphic novel series? If so, go read April’s look at the first deluxe volume of this series: ‘As might be surmised from the subtitle to this collection, Vertigo has given Bill Willingham’s long-running series Fables the deluxe treatment, much as it has with other top series, such as Sandman, V for Vendetta and Death. This gorgeous volume reprints the first ten issues of Fables, previously collected in Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, along with a sketch gallery. If somehow you’ve missed out on reading Fables, this is a perfect opportunity to dive in feet first.’

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Asher starts our music reviews off with a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairy tale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.’

Big Earl looks at Grow Fins: ‘So Green Man Review has come to this: the inevitable “who or what is a Captain Beefheart?” paragraph. I’ll reduce it to a sentence: Captain Beefheart is the all-encompassing focal point of all 20th century American music idioms, rolled into one composer. Better still, I’ll reduce it to one word: genius. I’ve seen that word used with many musicians, but if it had to apply to only a select few, Beefheart would be on that list. Brahms, Beethoven, Beefheart… I’ll refer you to the absolutely wonderful Beefheart Web site if you want more background information on the man. Time and space don’t permit…‘

Cat has some thoughts on an EP from Boiled in Lead, The Well Below: ‘I’ve heard Boiled in Lead in person but one time, and that was twenty years ago when they played in a field one late summer. Lovely they were, and their live sound carries over very well to being recorded.’

Judith was thrilled by Robin & Linda Williams’ Visions Of Love! She says, ‘Visions Of Love is, by my count, the sixteenth album by American music harmonists Robin and Linda Williams. It is produced by Garrison Keillor and, unlike most of their other releases, it contains no originals but rather covers of old songs they’ve “known for a while.” The songs are indeed about love.’ Keillor was touring with the Williamses when news broke about the accusations  against him and that tour was canceled. The show that replaced that show is Live from Here which is hosted by Chris Thile and Cat’s upbeat review is here.

Robert brings us a recording by someone who has become a household word, even for those who don’t follow classical music — it’s Arturo Toscanini’s complete recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra: ‘The legend of Toscanini springs from a remarkable career. He was one of the first to bring order to what had been the sometimes barely restrained anarchy of the nineteenth-century European orchestra, demanding, for example, that all the instruments be in tune and that the performers all play at the same tempo, somewhat revolutionary concepts for the time.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert has a brief commentary on a small offering from Folkmanis Puppets, which you can read here.

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So let’s end with Richard and Linda Thompson doing ‘Shoot Out the Lights’ which was from their show at the Paradise in Boston way back on the 19th Of May thirty six years ago! The deluxe edition of the Shoot Out the Lights album gets reviewed by Gary here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Bloodied Kings

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There are stories of hauntings here at the Kinrowan Estate going back centuries. Of ghostly patrons of our Pub in the Kinrowan Hall who came back again and again at last call to hoist just one more pint of their favourite ale, of the gameskeeper (in those long ago days when we had such a post) who is still spotted watching over the deer as they eat acorns in the late fall, of the piper heard playing in the distance as the dawn breaks over the hills where High Meadow Farm is.

And any other of the myriad  tales passed down generation after generation ’till they past from being remembered to being part of our history into being simply stories…

There is one ghost, or rather a set of ghosts, that I See in my vision when I’m unable to sleep and leave Catherine sleeping soundly in our bed to roam around Kinrowan Hall and nearby grounds in warmer weather. So it was when some decades back that I first encountered them.

At first all I noticed was the crickets chirping loud in the warm night air.  Then I heard the Irish wolfhounds we have to keep the sheep and pigs safe from wolves and other predators growling lowly in their throats as if something was well beyond their ken. So I walked out to where they were and stopped awfully fast when I saw them.

They were I thought that they were just some waking dream I was having, not really there but I son realised that they were really there. They were a King, stocky and red haired, terribly wounded but still standing,  fucking huge sword unsheathed and covered with blood and gore, and his foe, equally stocky and blond haired, obviously Viking from the runes etched on his equally bloodied sword. Dead men walking. As I watched, they resumed hacking at each other. Over and over again.

They went on, silently, never saying anything, cutting at each other ’til they were far past the point where they should have been dead, but they went one cutting at each other. They were still having at each other as they faded away.

I’ve seen them several times since, always on the same date. I’ve tried researching the old battles, the old kings of Scotland, but never found anything that even vaguely matches up properly to what I saw. I do know that there are several barrow mounds on the Estate that may indeed be those of Kings lost now to even myth as they live and died so long ago that no one even remembers them  even in stories.

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What’s New for the 4th of March: G. Willow Wilson’s Cairo, Chinese magic, a first from the Archives, Frigg’s Frost on Fiddles, gamelan complete with dancer, and Other Matters

Happiness, in the land of Deals, is measured on a sliding scale. What makes you happy? A long white silent car with smoked-glass windows, with a chauffeur and a stocked bar and two beautiful objects of desire in the back seat? An apartment in a nice part of town? A kinder lover? A place to stand that’s out of the wind? A brief cessation of pain? It depends on what you have at the moment I ask that question, and what you don’t have. Wait a little, just a little. The scale will slide again. — Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy For Technophiles

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It’s  cold, near minus ten and with blowing snow from the tHiroyuki cm storm we just got this week, so most Estate residents are inside our various buildings doing needed chores, such as getting the scarecrows ready for the growing season or assisting in the cleaning of the sub-basements, which are always surprising in what they hold. That miniature construct of Kinrowan Hall that’s in the halleay near here was found during one such cleaning several years back. Magnificent, isn’t it?

Speaking of cleaning out, we were going to move musical reference guides to storage but Reynard pointed out that he sees them being used in our Bar rather often. He says such works as the Walton’s Guide to Irish Music and the Rough Guide to the Music Of India simply don’t exist on the web. Oh, there are websites that talk about specific  artists but there’s nothing on the depth like such works as  Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music: The Sliabh Luachra Story and but very little that looks at a genre of music. So they stay after all.

So you’re in the mood for  a cider? May I suggest our Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider? And for appropriate reading while you’re savouring that drink, there’s Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide.

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Another Cat joins us this week, writing about photographer Tim Cooper’s book, The Reader: War For the Oaks, as well as the Emma Bull novel inspiring that book, which was originally a Kickstarter project. She predicts varying reactions to the book; read her review to find out what category yours may fall into.

She also has a look at Catherynne M. Valente’s forthcoming book, Space Opera: ‘It is difficult to describe how Catherynne M. Valente’s new book Space Opera manages to be so wonderfully resonant of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy yet so insistently, inimitably her own. And yet, that’s the challenge.’

Jane Lindskold is an author who has done some adventurous things with urban fantasy. Mike got hold of a copy of her Thirteen Orphans, the first book in Lindskold’s ambitious urban fantasy series Breaking the Wall, which is, he says, ‘one of the best things I’ve seen from her in quite a while. Drawing from Chinese history, mythology, and astrology, she’s created a fascinating new setting, one that straddles two very different worlds.’

He also had a copy of the next book in the series, Nine Gates: ‘Nine Gates is a wonderfully-told story, using the mythic resonance of the Chinese Zodiac along with elements of history, gamescraft and magical theory to build a world almost entirely divorced from the European traditions that make up so much of urban fantasy. It’s new and different, but not enough to create culture shock.’

Happily, Robert had a copy of the third (and final) installment, Five Odd Honors: ‘Five Odd Honors continues the story begun in Thirteen Orphans and Nine Gates, leading the Orphans and their allies back to the Lands of Smoke and Sacrifice from which they were exiled years before. . . . The group decides on reconnaissance as the first necessity, but the scouting party runs into Lands bizarrely changed by a ruthless emperor determined to remake the Lands according to his own somewhat rigid and limited sense of what should be. (Yes, one can read a political subtext into this, if one wishes.)’

While poking around in the Archives, we ran across something of a milestone: Robert’s first review for Green Man Review‘s prior incarnation, Jim Grimsley’s Kirith Kirin: ‘Jim Grimsley is a successful playwright and novelist who has produced, in Kirith Kirin, a singular work of fantasy. The story revolves around Jessex, a boy of fourteen when the story opens, who narrates the tale of his entry into the service of Kirith Kirin, the Prince who lives in Arthen Forest, awaiting the call from the Queen, Athryn Ardfalla, to fulfill the next round of the Cycle and succeed her as King.’

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Denise looks at Swamp Thing — the film version of the DC Comics hero. She very much liked the 1982 offering now on DVD. Read her very entertaining review of Swamp Thing to find out why she says ‘The only way this film could have been any better is if it had been in Aroma-Vison.’

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Jack looks at a work by a Muslim writer now better known for her endeavours for Marvel Comics: ‘The first graphic novel by journalist G. Willow Wilson, Cairo is a rather well-crafted retelling of the Aladdin story set in contemporary Cairo. With a riff that will please fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues, here too are very old gods who find themselves confronting humans who are very much of the modernity. Here, residents of Cairo, human and otherwise, several Americans, a Leftist journalist and a djinn meet in a journey from the streets of Cairo to Undernile, the fabled river said to run deep below the Nile, in the opposite direction.’

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Capercaillie’s Dusk Till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie, and Karen Matheson’s (lead vocalist of Capercaillie) solo album, The Dreaming Sea got a review a quarter century ago by April who says these recordings ‘are the perfect introduction to the band’s sound and history.’ Yes we’ve been reviewing, well, the roots and branches of global culture a very long time.

Gary is very fond of Muzsikas and Marta Sebestyen’s  Live at Liszt Academy : ‘The music of Hungary is a rich gift to the world. Muzsikas is the best-known of the ensembles that have brought this mesmerizing tradition to the world since the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990s. This recording is yet another demonstration of the power of this music and the mastery of Muzsikas. It documents a series of concerts in 2003 at the Liszt Academy. Several tracks feature the ethereal vocals of the ProMusica Choir of Nyiregyhaza, 50 young women directed by Denes Szabo.’

Robert came up with something of historical interest — no, wait, it’s much more than that: Odetta at the Gate of Horn: ‘Albert Grossman, who among other things managed Bob Gibson and a number of other prominent folk artists, opened The Gate of Horn in Chicago in 1956. It became quite arguably the performance venue for the burgeoning folk music scene in the 1960s and early 70s — everyone played The Gate: Gibson and Camp, Glenn Yarborough, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Odetta.’

Somehow, while we were busy blinking, the group Frigg went from being promising newcomers in the Finnish folk music scene to being seasoned veterans.  Now Scott reviews Frost on Fiddles, their eighth album that came out this past year.

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Our What Not this week is another offering from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert was, he says, a bit unnerved by this one, for a couple of reasons. You can read his explanation of his reaction here.

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Our Coda this week is something a little out of the ordinary, but not as much as you might expect. We’ve done quite a bit of commentary on Indonesian gamelan (if you don’t believe me, just do a site search for ‘gamelan’  and see what you get); one of our earliest forays into that area was an album by Çudamani, a gamelan from Bali. (Just to remind you, ‘gamelan’ is not only the music, but the orchestra that performs it.) But a recording can’t give you the whole spectacle, so we thought it would be nice to give you a sample of a gamelan in action, so to speak, complete with dancer, which you can see here.

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A Global News Service story: Clockwork Beings

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15 January 1880
Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Global News Service

I’ve been chasing rumours of a true clockwork man for decades now. Not a pale shadow of a living being called automatas, but one that looks like and acts like a true human being. I’ve thus far seen a clockwork go player in Imperial China who could play a decent game, a fortune teller in Berlin who spoke German and Romany, an amazing working approximation of a Riverside sword fighter, and something that appeared to be a crossing for no apparent reason between a human and a pig. But even when they looked human, I could tell instinctively they weren’t human.

The creatures that I saw and examined in my travels were far more impressive. There was a full-sized tiger in Rajasthan that looked and moved as it were flesh and blood.; a raven in Paris that quoted Poe impeccably; and  a scarecrow that tilted its head in a manner that made me not want to meet it ever again. Each of them was a marvel of complexity with workings so fine and intricate that they would each fetch a godly sum in any of the shadow markets that handled fenced goods as their owners had no intent of parting with them. Indeed the creator of the tiger said that two different thieves had tried to steal him and both were turned to bloody bits by him.

I encountered fakers, the most common of which was to use a dwarf ensconced within a body working the puppet and speaking when asked questions. I was told that one of these dwarfs met a bloody demise when a perspective owner used a sword to make sure on-one was inside.   And the perpetrator made his own bloody demise shortly thereafter. No one likes being taken by this sort of chancer.

So I came to Istanbul as I had heard tales of the Grand Vizier offering extraordinary wealth to anyone who could create a clockwork storyteller who could entertain him with tales from <strong>The Arabian Nights</strong>. Failure of course would most likely mean death. I asked for in a most polite to meet with to ask about his desire for such a creation.

In due course, that being several years as the request had to pass upwards from one clerk to another clerk and so one until it reached his personal secretary  who could have made a decision but really did wasn’t keen on losing his head if the Grand Vizier decided his decision was wrong. Indeed this personal secretary got his appointment to that post by having information about such a decision by the previous personal secretary. The the Grand Vizier was so displeased that he made the death last a full month ending in a beheading of course.

When I finally met with him, a date set a year in advance, we sipped sweet tea and listened to music from a trio of oud players. After a decent interval of me telling him the latest from Imperial India which fascinated him, I asked my question.

He admitted that he was not the one that suggested this affair, but rather was what he took to be a djinn. The djinn found itself unable to be fully tangible in our world and wanted a body that it could inhabit. Mortal bodies were too fragile and failed within a few days, so a mechanical man would have to suffice. Or so the djinn thought was the deal with the Grand Vizer was. But the latter thought he was going to capture and imprison that djinn thereby binding him to his service.

We shall see what happens when that mechanical man is finished. If indeed the Grand Vizer ever found someone that met his and the djinn’s exacting needs!

P

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What’s New for the 25th of February: Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’, Wild China, identity in science fiction, ‘hedgehog highways’ and other neat stuff

He tried to reconstruct the story in his mind, but it kept getting confused, bleeding into itself like watercolors. ― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden

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If you like Irish whiskey, I’ve got a definite treat for you as several bottles of Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt came in from our Dublin Agent and the Casker site noted ‘that it is distilled through traditional Irish pot stills and aged for eight years in oak barrels before being re-casked in first-fill bourbon barrels.’ Shall I serve you up a dram, neat of course?

I’m not quite ready for you, so let’s give you a bit of a story to listen to while I finish off this edition. ‘The Girl in the Garden’ from the Sirens recording by SJ Tucker does this nicely. It tells the tale of the orphan in Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale:  In The Night Garden. If you like what Tucker does here, you’ll love this work by Valente, the first of two volumes with  the second being The Orphan’s Tale: The Cities of Coin and Spice. There are many stories told here, all brilliant, in a metanarrative that connects everything together.

So now let’s look at this edition, which has many tales for you — even music tells its own tale if you pay attention carefully…

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Cat had, not a look but a listen to Rita Mae Brown’s Crazy Like a Fox audiobook: ‘It’s a joy to listen to, with a skilled narrator, great setting, compelling mystery, and distinctive characters, both human and otherwise. Highly recommended, as are the previous audiobooks in this series, which are all read by the author as well.’

John Has a look at a book by contradancer and historian Allison Thompson: ‘The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances set to airs by Turlough O’Carolan: ‘This book is at once fascinating and difficult to review. The fascination lies in the idea of combining the music of Turlough O’Carolan with modern English country dances. The difficulty lies in my own lack of experience in the world of choreography, which renders me unable to offer objective criticism or judgment to this project. Having said that, the work is an interesting collection in its own right.’

Robert has a look at a work of fantasy? Science fiction? Both? Not either? See what he has to say about Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Arms: ‘Nalo Hopkinson gave a speech (“Looking for Clues,” reprinted in The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3) in which she addressed one of science fiction’s quandaries with great wit and eloquence. The thrust of her remarks involved the problem of finding someone she, a Caribbean woman of mixed, mostly non-white ancestry, could identify with in stories written usually from a white, male, mostly middle-class point of view.’

And speaking of questions of identity and the James Tiptree Awards, Robert has a look at the first three anthologies of those prize winners. First, Volumes 1 and 2, followed by Volume 3: ‘Tiptree’s career, as much as her writing, led to the creation in 1991 of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award by Pat Murphy and Karen Fowler. As Murphy says in her introduction to the first anthology, “We did it to make trouble. To shake things up. . . . And to honor the woman who startled the science fiction world by making people suddenly rethink their assumptions about what women and men could do.”’

We finish out our books section with an announcement by Richard Thompson: ‘RT is excited to announce the title of his book: Beeswing: Britain, Folk Rock and the End of the 60s. Due for publication in Autumn 2019, Beeswing is a memoir of musical discovery, personal revelation, and social history written by Thompson with journalist and author Scott Timberg. In the title, Thompson will describe how this “intense and fertile” time in Britain led to a spiritual crisis both personal and culture-wide. The book will also detail his conversion to Sufi mysticism, the legendary partnership with wife Linda, years of musical experimentation, and how he wrote some of the “saddest and most emotionally resonant” songs in pop-music history.’

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Robert brings us something out of the ordinary for our film section this week: a documentary series from the BBC, Wild China: ‘I have a confession to make: I’ve become addicted to the BBC nature series on Netflix. It’s probably the natural result of a boyhood spent poking around in the empty lots and forest preserves around my childhood home, seeing what was there to see, aided and abetted by a father who encouraged my curiosity. One of the better series from BBC is Wild China, which examines not only the wildlife of a vast and highly variable country, but also the geography, geology, and the attitudes of the human populations.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons garners accolades from Brendan: ‘This is an amazing CD that manages not only to pay tribute to the rural style of life but the entire field of American traditional music as well. Ungar and Mason have created a unique blend of orchestral and folk music that manages to preserve the integrity of each style while enhancing each other.’

Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of Cat but comes with a caveat:’ Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household that I can count as it simply has not a less than stellar cut on it.’

A recording by Amarillis which has the aforementioned Allison Thompson on accordion and concertin getd high praise from veteran contradancer Gary: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home.’

As Richard Thompson noted above, he has a book coming this Fall, so let’s have this reviewer tell you about one of his legendary boxsets: ‘What can you say about a musician whose career began more than 40 years ago and whose creative and physical energies are still going strong? If the artist in question is Richard Thompson, you needn’t say anything. Just open the cover of the career-spanning box set Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009 and marvel.’

Jo wrote a review of the Labyrinth recording by a band created by Scots fiddler Alasdair Fraser: ‘All of the members in Skyedance are consummate musicians, who have honed their craft to excellence. It is pure pleasure to hear these six phenomenal performers work together with such precision and craftsmanship.’

Popcorn Behavior’s Hot Contra Dance Tunes, Journeywork and Strangest Dream meets with the approval of Naomi: ‘It is rather disconcerting at first to listen to this group. The music is impeccable and surpasses much of what I have heard in my life. This in itself is not all that remarkable. However, when you realize that the musicians are only 10, 13, and 14 years of age, it kind of makes you suck back and reload, if you know what I mean. These Vermont youngsters are all musical marvels who have been playing together for years!’

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Today’s What Not has a rather spiky subject. Now, you may be aware that just about every continent has a mammal that has found a way to protect itself with spines. New World porcupines, as might be expected, inhabit the Americas, while Old World porcupines are found in southern Europe, western and southern Asia, and Africa. Madagascar even has its own version, the tenrec, which is not related to any of the others. The one that has captured our hearts here at Green Man Review, of course, is the hedgehog — not the long-eared hedgehog of the Arabian desert that eats, among other things, snakes, but our own little fellow native to Britain. (If the name of our in-house newsletter, The Sleeping Hedgehog wasn’t a dead give-away — well, we couldn’t have made it much plainer. We’ve even commented on a hedgehog puppet.) Sadly, like so many other animals, our native hedgehog is having trouble adapting to urbanization — fences and walls have put a crimp in its normal wanderings, which has not had a good result. However, one man has decided to do something about that, and his solution is quite down-to-earth and simple. You can read about Barnes Hedgehogs and ‘hedgehog highways’ here.

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So I’ve got some music for you that I think fits pretty much any season. It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’from Rodeo from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Snow

Snow, especially heavy snow falling without any wind, quiets everything. And we’ve had such going on for three days now. It certainly changes the rhythms of this Scottish Estate!

Every winter season this happens several times when a weather front sets up just so. It’s not a blizzard as the winds are usually fairly light and the temperature doesn’t bottom out like it does in a really bad storm. It just starts snowing, keeps snowing, and then refuses to stop. It quickly becomes hazardous to be out in it, as there’s just enough wind to create whiteout conditions, so everyone except those tending the animals stay where they are.

It’s true that we’ve added lights along the path to the old renovated crofter cottages, where folks like Gus and his wife live, which assists in staying safe while getting around. But skiing or being out skating on the Mill Pond are not a good idea. So we stay put. Life slows down, chores get set aside, and we just enjoy ourselves.

Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff prepare lots of treats, such as cookies and s’mores, the musicians in the Neverending Session break up into smaller groups to play everywhere they’re wanted. Inevitably a contra dance gets organised by Chasing Dragonflies, the in-house dance band, to keep those interested from being too slothful. And the various informal groups, the chess players, reading groups and such take advantage of the downtime to engage intensely in their leisure activities.

I’m not saying everyone gets to take it easy — Gus and his staff, as I noted before, have the animals. They also try to keep the paths clear, watch for trees that might be hazards with heavy snow on their boughs, and generally keep a watch on the Estate.

I, on the other hand take the time to do some reading, say a mystery I want to read without interruption, just be with my wife, and enjoy the quietness.

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What’s New for the 18th of February: A New Album by Joan Baez, Bee Gees Down Under, Yet More Taza Chocolate, Jack Vance, Baby Groot and Other Matters

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but ifyou want to
test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACandlemas is past, which means Spring’s approaching. We mark Candlemas here not as a Church celebration but rather as the time when the days are noticeably longer. We’ve got a Several Annie by the name of Astrid, from Sweden, who initiated the present Estate residents into the tradition of St. Lucia’s Day.

Its been an unusually rough winter here with Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, suffering several broken ribs when one of our draft horses pinned him up against a stone wall. Not the horse’s fault, as he was startled by an owl swooping toward him. And our Head Cook, Mrs. Ware, has been away for a month as her daughter took ill and the grandchildren needed looking after. We’re just a a bit short on grounds staff, too, as the flu made its very much-lamented presence known.

I see from my notes that Robert has taken over the book reviews for a bevy of reviews of books on and by fantasy and science fiction writer Jack Vance; Gary’s got looks at two Americana recordings and one from … well, you decide; Cat reviews a very cute Groot sort of action figure.
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Robert’s been digging around in the library and ran across some treasures from one of the greats of science fiction’s Golden Age — Jack Vance. First, he brings us a look at a collection of early stories, Hard Luck Diggings: ‘Hard Luck Diggings collects fourteen of Jack Vance’s earliest published stories, originally appearing between 1948 and 1959. As editors Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan point out in their Introduction, what we see here is Vance not only mastering his craft, but finding his audience. As might be expected, these stories, while all capable, are not uniformly wonderful (although which are what is going to have a heavily subjective basis), nor are they all uniformly what we now think of as “Jack Vance stories,” although one can find here not only the beginnings of Vance’s distinctive voice, but some full-blown examples of what that voice would become.’

To add to the fun, he’s also looked at Tales of the Dying Earth, perhaps Vance’s best-known cycle: ‘Jack Vance has been, throughout his long career as a science-fiction writer, one of the most consistently creative universe-builders in the field. From the far-flung stellar civilization of The Demon Princes to Alastor and The Dying Earth, his creations are marked not only by imagination but by a degree of attention to how they work — the structure of the milieu — that makes them inescapably real.’

And, hearing from the man himself, we have Vance’s autobiography, This is Me, Jack Vance!: ‘There is a quality in this book, as there is in Vance’s fiction, that we used to call a sense of wonder, a wide-eyed look at a world in which everything is an adventure and life’s lessons, no matter how ruefully one looks back at them sometimes, are a preparation for the next part of the voyage. I think maybe that’s the word I would use to describe This is Me — a voyage. So hop aboard.’

If you thought that was enough (how can there ever be enough of Jack Vance?), well, Jerry Hewitt and Daryl F. Mallett came up with The Work of Jack Vance: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide: ‘This is not the first bibliography of Vance’s writings. It is, in fact, the fourth. It was simply, at its publication, the most complete (and the authors note that it probably is not completely complete).’ Robert thinks this is an adventure in itself.

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Robert had the happy opportunity to sample another offering from Taza Chocolate, this time their Coconut Almond bar: ‘[T]his is one I can recommend for those times when you just have to have a little bit of chocolate — more than two bites verges on overwhelming, even for a confirmed chocoholic like me.’

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In the realm of graphic literature, Robert came up with a manga series that deserves attention, Studio CLAMP’s Legal Drug: ‘Legal Drug is a series by CLAMP, with story by Ageha Ohkawa, illustrated by Tsubaki Nekoi, that, sadly to my mind, was dropped in 2003 when the magazine in which it was being serialized ceased publication. The first three volumes, however, are worth looking at.’

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Barb notes that ‘Mention Hungarian music in a sentence and the word gypsy will inevitably follow. But as is the case with stereotypes, that doesn’t give you the whole picture (a lot of it, but not all of it). The Rough Guide to Hungarian Music takes you all through this small country (as well as some surrounding areas) and gives you a peek at the diversity that lies within, from the many different traditional styles to the new music infused with influences from technology and other world music.’

Denise takes a look at the Bee Gees’ One For All Tour Live in Australia 1989, a concert video that has only just been given the Blu-ray treatment. And well it should have, she says. “The brothers Gibb at the top of their vocal game, playing just about everything. It’s truly a joy to listen to.”

We’ve lost count of the albums Joan Baez has released in her long career, but her new one is the first in just about 10 years. Gary says, ‘With Whistle Down the Wind Joan Baez proves she still deserves her standing as one of the voices of her generation.’

Gary also takes a look at Lord of the Desert, the fourth CD from the Utah-based Americana group 3hattrio. ‘This one’s an open range of a record, with this trio wandering like spirit animals over a landscape that covers cowboy poetry to airy space jams.’

And then there’s Bu Bir Ruya, the latest release from Dirtmusic. Gary says of it, ‘The multinational band Dirtmusic’s fifth album Bu Bir Ruya is a startling and timely recording that confronts the worldwide refugee crisis head-on.’

Robert, as might be expected, came up with something a little out of the ordinary: the self-titled debut album from an Austrian group, Wûtas: ‘“Wûtas” (pronounced “wuotas”) is an Alemannic word denoting the Wild Hunt. . . . It is also the name of a group formed in 2008 with the avowed intention of performing medieval music, which seems to be a going concern in the German-speaking world. However, Wûtas (the group) also evidenced a love of folk music and a tendency to get a little experimental, as well as a fondness for themes from myth and legend. The result, as presented on their eponymous debut album, can perhaps best be described as “medieval pagan folk rock.”’

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Abraham Lincon. Emancipator. President.  Wrestler?  In getting ready for this year’s President’s Day here in the States, I decided to forego my usual cherry pie and dig into the life of our 16th President. And I found out he was quite the grappler back in the day, and could ‘trash talk’ with the best of them. Who knew?  Well, anyone who’s visited the Wrestling Hall of Fame, apparently.  Because he’s there.  I tip my stovepipe to you, Mr. President.

And to add something fun to this week’s What Not, Cat reviews NECA’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Body Knocker Groot figurine.  Because who doesn’t love Groot? Cat marveled at the detail; “Even the Boom Box that he’s sitting on is nicely detailed and looks like it could actually play music.” And did I mention this figurine is solar powered?  Because it is.  Read the review here!

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Let’s have something different from our usual trad music Coda this time. ‘‘Volunteered Slavery’ is from an April 1971 Fillmore East concert in  New York  City by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was an American jazzman who played flute, tenor saxophone, and quite a few other instruments.

He was one of the liveliest musicians you’d have the pleasure to experience, as his verbal diologue during any concert was a mixture of lighthearted, often comic banter and political ranting while he played several instruments at the same time. He died from a second stroke at forty two, a much too young an age for anyone, let alone someone of his genius.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cookbook (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I’m going to pitch a book for that culinary folklore seminar you’re teaching next Winter here for those visiting food writers, as I really tkink it’ll be a good addition to that endeavour.

One of Several Annies, Iain’s library apprentices, was literally squealing with delight in the kitchen this week over a book that just got added to the collection of cookbooks and culinary history we have here at the Kinrowan Estate. It was Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook by Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple. And I would be remiss not to note that the illustrator is Sima Elizabeth Shefrin, whose work here is simply charming.

The recipes look really great, with easy to follow instructions that allow even an inexperienced cook to make each dish easily. Our reviewer noted that ‘When I think of the books I loved as child, I get hungry. There was Pooh lapping up honey and cream teas, Mary Poppins handing out magical gingerbread, while Frodo chowed down on mushrooms and lembas. Food surely is an integral part of children’s literature. After all, where would Cinderella be without her pumpkin coach? Would Alice in Wonderland be half as memorable without the magic mushrooms and the strange bottles labeled “Drink Me?”‘

This is traditional fare like you find here with lots of butter and the like: no thought about healthy cooking is here! But then food centered on Jewish folklore would hardy be concerned about counting calories and getting enough greens in your diet, would they? (Iain used it in a course on Jewish traditions for his Several Annies several years back, as he firmly believes learning should be fun. And this is a very fun book.)

I’ve got other books that I’ll bring to your attention but the person skiing down to the Post in the village as the road’s closed again wants to get going.

Warmest regards Gus

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What’s New for the 11th of February: ’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’, Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boot, live Irish Music from De Dannan & Skara Brae, Hobos, Mary-Sues, Live from Here replaces Prairie Home Companion and other matters

Most times we only see things for the way we are. But we’re good at lying to ourselves. Sometimes we need somebody who’s not living in our skin to point out how things really are.  ― Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

What am I listening to? Well it’s a choce live performance of ‘‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ by De Dannan at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio nearly thirty years ago. This is before the band split into two, each faction not speaking to the other, with only a different spelling of the name as a way of telling them apart. As of five years ago, both bands were still active, and both are very much worth hearing live if they perform in your area.

There’s a not-at-all-gentle wind driven freezing rain battering itself against Kinrowan Hall on this rather dark afternoon. Needless to say there’s lots of Estate staff here in the Library — some reading, some holding conversations, some even napping as we we don’t have the usual Library rules here but everyone’s respectful of not being too loud. Even Ysbaddaden and his feline kin  aren’t raising their voices here as they’re all curled up near one of the patrons.

So let’s see what our staffers have for reviews for you this Edition; the Coda this time will be of a Celtic Music nature as well as you’ll see see when you get to it…

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Craig brings us a look at an anthology on an American icon, Cliff  ‘Oats’  Williams’ One More Train to Ride: ‘What does the average reader really know about the culture of the American hobo? Mostly they keep themselves out of sight due to the misdemeanor status of actions necessary to their survival (e.g., riding on freight trains). Still, there are hundreds of transients constantly traveling, making their way back and forth across the country — riding trains, working where they can, taking handouts, and just enjoying the freedom from society’s strictures.’

Denise takes us into uncharted territory (uncharted for GMR, at least) with a review of three romance/fantasy novels. Alas, the prospects don’t look good: ‘Mary Sue (n.) : (1) A type of story where characterization, plot and theme is supplanted by the author’s quest for his or her own wish fulfillment. (2) any character that is a thinly disguised idealized version of the author when the story suffers from such usage. The term is almost always derogatory.’

Robert was fairly enthusiastic about three chapbooks from small presses, to wit: Jack Vance’s The Kragen; Thomas M. Disch’s The Voyage of the Proteus: A Eyewitness Account of the End of the World; and Cat Rambo and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories: ‘You may recall that we here at GMR are extraordinarily fond of the small presses that publish so many of the things we discuss. We are fond of them because they bring us all-but-forgotten classics, exciting new works from important writers, and challenging new voices, all in attractive new editions — as witness the group of chapbooks that I have on my desk right now, representing successive “waves” in the history of speculative fiction.’

Robert brings us a look back at early — well, fairly early — Charles de Lint, with reviews of two of his novels set in and around Tamson House. First is Moonheart: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint.’

And next is Spiritwalk: ‘Spiritwalk is a loose sequel to Moonheart, a series of related tales, again centering around Tamson House and including many of the same characters. In fact, the House is even more important as a Place in this group of stories.’

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And now, something that has never happened before here at GMR, as far as we can determine: two reviews of the same work, namely, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. First, a very thorough, in-depth review from Rebecca, written back in the day: ‘The hype began months ago. The first I knew of it was the full-page ads in my monthly comics. Then I caught the teaser on Apple’s site. The concept caught me immediately: a movie in which everything but the actors themselves was created by computer. The more I found out, the more intrigued I became. Most of my friends were fascinated, too. We all agreed that, visually, this would be a terrific movie if things had been done even half-right.’

Next, from Robert, a more impressionistic review from someone who happened on the film by chance. Once again, Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: ‘I’m not sure when or where I first ran across Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but it has become one of my favorite “something to watch when I’m just up for some light entertainment” movies. (This is not a bad thing, and is no reflection on the quality of the film, as you’ll see below.)’

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, Denise leapt at the chance to review some candy and beverages for this issue.  She dug into Lovely’s Salted Cashew Chocolate CaramelsStarbucks’ Cherry MochaChocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company’s No 3 – Dark Strawberry Champagne Truffle Bar, and Contadino’s Pinot Grigio Vivace.

Some were hits – she says of the Vivace, ‘Not too shabby for a fiver! Seek this out.’ But there were some misses as well; of the No3 bar, she says ‘The strawberry may not be overkill, but the total amount of sweetness is. Instead of being happy, I feel over-sugared.’ If you’re trying to figure out what do add to your holiday table, check our these reviews!

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Cat looks at Live from Here, the show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Chris Thile: ‘Having sort of followed A Prairie Home Companion and the dreadful and frankly disgusting behaviour of Garrison Keillor, the very long time host and creator of APHC  before Chris Thile, Americana musician par excellence, took over. I listened to him in the early months of his hosting but it didn’t impress me as it felt too much that Kellior was haunting it from offstage.’ Now go read his review to see why he’ll be listening to this show!

A new recording by a trio of superb musicians in the Americana tradition caught Gary’s ear. He says of the album See You Around, by the group calling themselves I’m With Her, ‘I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here to predict it will be one of the top Americana albums of the year.’

Gary got some kicks out of an album called Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boots. ‘This is hard-rocking country, rooted in tradition but not afraid to sound modern.’

Author and musician Willy Vlautin has a new book out this month, and Gary reviews Don’t Skip Out On Me … not the book, but the soundtrack album he wrote for it. ‘Fans of Richmond Fontaine and of Willy Vlautin have a real treat in store with this book and its accompanying soundtrack,’ he says.

Huw finishes us off with some Classical music. Not bein’ a fan of anythin’ more classic than my old pair of Wayfarers I know absolutely zero about this music, but Huw knows his stuff. He wuzn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music / Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic in ‘…but, grouchy 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. Foot-tapping melodies, indeed!’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWe stumbled on this older post in the British Library’s Medieval manuscripts blog the other day. It’s the sort of combination of the ancient and the modern that we love: an animation inspired by one of the library’s Medieval bestiaries. Here is ’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’.Do read the credits and visit the websites or Facebook pages of the blog and the animator!
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Ysbaddaden and his brood are telling me that ’tis time for their eventide feeding, so I’ll take your leave now. Now where did the kitchen staff put that leftover smoked duck from last night? Ahhh, there it is! Let me feed them and I’ll see about some music to leave with you after their feeding, so one moment please…

I’m thinking that I mentioned here a few months back that I had been playing a concert recording by Skara Brae, The short-lived Irish trad group which the sorely missed Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill wa a member as he was of a number of bands including  Nightnoise, so I’ll finish off with a set of tunes, ‘Ar A Dhul Chun’ and ‘Chuain Dom’, from that performance. And I’ve no idea why they didn’t get a commercial release of this performance as both the music and the production are quite fine indeed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Burns Supper

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January and early February can be a rough timr. After the champagne glasses have been washed and returned to the cabinet following New Year’s Eve, it sometimes seems there’s not much to do but hunker down and wait for spring. So, when word spread around the office that a few special kegs of oatmeal stout were to be tapped in honor of Robbie Burns I made one of my rare visits to the pub to get a pint or two before they ran out. I’m glad I got there early.

Not long after I’d settled into a seat in the corner and gotten my first taste of the stout . . . smooth as a baby’s bum it was, with a hint of chocolate in the finish and a head so creamy you’d swear you could whip it; but I digress . . . as I was savoring the stout the door burst open and a lanky fellow in a kilt arrived. He was leading a rag tag lot of close to forty. Tartans were in great abundance and there was no doubt that this self-selected voluntary clan was out to celebrate the poet laureate of Scotland with a Burns Supper here in the Pub. No idea where they came from given that the nearest village is twenty miles away from us!

What a sight they were. They ranged in age from a few who seemed to have slipped off from Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sporting their class emblems, to geezers with plenty of grey in their hair but spry of step and bright of eye. There was one bespectacled professorial chap in a tartan tie that you wouldn’t have noticed save for his face being painted blue. Some of the younger lot seemed to be returning to the old ways and sported druidic looking tattoos. By the time they all tumbled through the door there wasn’t a seat left.

I found myself sharing the corner with a few of them including a raffish young witch who tucked a fiddle case carefully behind her. Close by there was a hale fellow with a big drum, a balding gent with guitar and fiddle cases along with a book of Burns poetry, a wee little Goth lass and a vibrant woman who seemed to have forgotten that her lineage was more likely to include a leprechaun or two rather than Wallace or Bruce.

The ostensible head of this clan was enjoying his role as toastmaster, but it was clear that his lovely lady was really the one in charge. Belying the stereotype of Scots’ parsimony, I noted that the pub keeper was handed a well-weighted purse and told to keep the food and drink coming for one and all. Serving trays with steaming dishes were brought in and carried out to the kitchen to wait their proper serving time. And it seemed that for every one of the visiting crowd there also appeared a bottle of single malt; there were Highland, Lowland, and Islays of every description. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, what a night this is going to be!’ as Reynard poured a dram of a peaty 16 year-old Highland, refilled my stout and handed me a steaming mug of cock-a-leekie soup.

Now, I’d read a little about Burns Suppers and knew there were Burns Societies that held highly ritualized and formal affairs with specific toasts and a format that must be followed. One of the visitors explained that their approach was instead predicated on having the kind of party they assume Burns would have enjoyed, ‘Food and drink in abundance, shameless flirtation, jokes and poems, song and sentiment, how can you go wrong?’

Periodically someone would ring their glass to gather attention so that they might offer a toast or read a bit of Burns. A funny youngster with the ears of an orange tabby cat read the bard’s paean to the ritual center piece of the meal, haggis, that amalgam of oats and sheep parts you don’t want to know about, upon its emergence from the kitchen.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
A boon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.

Somehow, my own interest in the stuff waned at the lines:

Tenching your gushhing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

The several regular players in the Neverending Session were much expanded by the many guests who brought out instruments of all sorts once the haggis course was over and a sufficient quantity of single malt had been consumed. The lovely young witch with the fiddle case who sat in my corner played bewitchingly indeed. There were singers and dulcimer players and drummers and fiddlers. (Fortunately, no one brought bagpipes.) The material ranged from the expected, Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘John Barleycorn’, to the incongruous, ‘Rocky Raccoon’ seemed to be traditional with this crowd.

Well, as I said, I had just gone down to get a pint of oatmeal stout with every intention of leaving when the pint was gone. Instead, it was nearly three in the morning when I stumbled out the door. By then the pub was definitely out of stout, not to mention low on brown ale and a few other provisions. I was stuffed with haggis and salmon, tatties and ‘neeps, shortbread and Dundie Cake, all of which moderated the many wee drams of single malt that had been pressed upon me. (I tried to resist, really.) I’d heard poems by Burns and a few other Scotsmen, but I swear someone read Ginsberg or Kerouac, too. All in all, I think Burns would have enjoyed himself.

Now, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we might yet make it to Spring.

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