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Christina Smith and Jean Hewson preserve a slice of Newfoundland
tradition in this August Gale. "It is a stirring, delightful set of
traditional songs collected throughout Newfoundland and laced with
toe-tapping fiddle tunes," Jane Eamon says. "I love this music. I love
its simplicity and power to make me cry."
Peter McCune puts his "soft, gentle and very warm voice" to good use on
Memories Embrace, says Nicky Rossiter. "McCune is a mean
instrumentalist as well as a singer and he demonstrates this to great
effect," Nicky says. "The button melodeon is a neglected instrument
outside Scotland, but if enough radios take up this track, Peter could
Judy Cockwell moves Beyond the realms of Celtic/new age music. "Judy,
the singer/musician, has overcome physical obstacles to create lyrics
and music that is beautiful and uplifting," John Lindermuth says. "She
has a lilting, haunting voice that is not overwhelmed by the variety of
instruments she plies to accompany herself."
Sid Selvidge performed Live at Otherlands for this double-disc set.
"The first disc, an audio record of the concert, carries slightly more
than half an hour's worth of Selvidge's soulful reinventions of
material from African-American vernacular and folk-revival sources,"
Jerome Clark informs. "The second disc, a DVD, lets you know how
Selvidge looked as he picked -- he is a finger-picker (one of several
reasons his versions of old country-blues tunes don't ape the sources)
-- and sang. ... If you've never heard him before, this is one place to
start -- and start you should; he lives up to decades' worth of
Beth Orton reaches out for the Comfort of Strangers -- but Gregg
Thurlbeck says the new recording does not fulfill the promise of her
2002 release. "Comfort of Strangers takes too much comfort in sameness
to be a worthy follow up to Daybreaker," he says. "So while Orton fans
will certainly revel in the fractured beauty of this release, despite
its unimpressive production, those who are unfamiliar with this
talented songstress would be better off discovering the wonders of
Daybreaker before picking up this new disc."
Melwood Cutlery brings his music to the Campfire with "a voice like
Arlo Guthrie and a sound as unique as his name," Jane Eamon reports.
"Recorded live with just his acoustic guitar and voice, overdubs added
later, Campfire is a tossed salad mix of tunes ranging from swingy jazz
to pedal steel roots to topical John Prine style. ... It's interesting
and a little arresting. But I didn't feel connected."
Kris Kristofferson travels This Old Road to great effect. "This Old
Road is the best Kristofferson recording I've heard in a long time, and
I am pleased to recommend it, especially to those who've shied away,
out of frustration and disappointment, from previous Kristofferson
albums," Jerome Clark opines. "This one will remind you that
Kristofferson can be as good as his notices."
Hillbilly Parker caught Virginia MacIsaac's attention from the
beginning of this self-titled CD. "I warmed up to this one right away,"
she says. "With a few opening songs, the rich acoustics, clear tracks
and fine voices lured me into listening more closely. The musical blend
of damn good music and a unique sense of despair and humour are new
kinds of hurtin' and movin'-on songs." (Be sure to compare Virginia's
review to an earlier opinion posted by country/bluegrass section editor
The title is condensed to BluegrassHits. "Does one word follow from the
other? Or is this just some generic title slapped casually onto an
anthology of tunes yanked from Rounder's deep bluegrass catalogue?"
Jerome Clark ponders. "Well, I suppose the title to a
better-than-average bluegrass collection ought not to consume excessive
cerebral energy. ... Everybody here is very good at what he or she
does, and it all comes down to how you like your bluegrass served."
The Finnish band Valerian shares its Intimations of Sorrow in a rockin'
CD with hints of its Northern European heritage and mainstream folk.
"This is pretty much a mainstream rock album, but its most
characteristic feature is an authentic live-type sound without too much
studio trickery," Andy Jurgis opines. (His review is added to an
earlier one of the same CD, submitted by Jenny Ivor. Compare and
Howard Shore supplies the music behind A History of Violence. "This
orchestral soundtrack is at once meditative and tense, with such an
undercurrent of nobility and grief that it's hard to imagine that the
film it was created for is titled A History of Violence," says Carole
McDonnell. "But those who have seen the film will agree that it
captures the haunted aspect of the characters."
The Chicago Blues Reunion is Buried Alive in the Blues, Jerome Clark
says. "If this isn't 'authentic' blues, then the concept is a useless
one -- as, in truth, it may always have been," he says. "Maybe it does
after all come down to no more than the simple question of good music
or bad music. What we have on Buried is the former in stellar
Boris Kovac & La Campanella give a jazzy flair to Eastern European
sounds on World After History: A Pannonian-Mediterranean Round-Trip.
"Influences from jazz go along with typical traditional instruments
from the Balkans and passionate rhythms from Latin America," Adolf
Goriup says. "La Campanella's playing together is excellent, and when
you listen to the music you seem to forget about the world around you."
Peter Edwards relates a modern tragedy in One Dead Indian: The Premier,
the Police & the Ipperwash Crisis. "This is the story, told in all its
sad detail, of how an unarmed Ojibwe man protesting a land claim was
shot by police at Ipperwash Park Ontario in 1995," David Cox explains.
"Edwards, with this book, sheds enormous light on this tragic episode
in Canadian history. The true story of what happened, and the
consequences of that night, continue to unfold."
Debora Elizabeth Hill and Sandra Brandenburg begin the Lost Myths Saga
with The Land of the Wand. "The concept is delightfully engaging," says
Stephen Richmond -- but the self-published novel "suffers mercilessly
from a lack of any sort of editorial guidance. Aside from the
tremendously annoying grammatical, syntactical and semantic gaffes, the
style is often almost telegraphic and there's a distinct tendency to
language most trite."
Robin McKinley turns her attention to vampires in Sunshine. "There are
a few too many similarities between Rae Seddon and Sookie Stackhouse,
the heroine of Charlaine Harris's vampire novels -- even though the
modern worlds they live in are vastly different," Tom Knapp says. "On
the other hand, McKinley's writing stimulates the senses in ways the
printed word often can't -- odors especially come alive, from the
delicious aromas conjured in Sunshine's bakery to the rank stench of
Michael Flynn picks up the threads of his near-future science-fiction
epic series Firestar and advances in time for The Wreck of The River of
Stars. "There's a distancing quality to Flynn's writing in Wreck that
manages to set the book apart stylistically but which doesn't allow the
reader to feel much closeness to the characters," Gregg Thurlbeck says.
Still, he adds, "Flynn looks to be a writer with the talents to forge a
host of intriguing future-histories. Only time will tell."
Andrea Savitch crosses the line between science fiction and fantasy
with Envy of the Gods #1: If the Reward were Right. "Savitch's
strengths are in her portrayals of friendship and loyalty," Jean
Marchand says. "The story, however, is like a cake made without butter
and sugar. Key ingredients are in short supply."
Tanith Lee "displays her usual inventiveness in Gold Unicorn, resulting
in a very satisfactory sequel to Black Unicorn," Jennifer Mo relates.
"While not, in my mind, quite as enjoyable as the first one, Gold
Unicorn nonetheless remains a well-crafted fantasy in a creative and
Tom Knapp swallows a dose of Venom with Volume #6 of Ultimate
Spider-Man. This chapter, Tom says, "reintroduces one of mainstream
Marvel's most villainous bad guys. ... The Ultimate version is better."
Next, Tom goes on a Wild Ride with Catwoman. "Selina Kyle isn't a Sad
Sack; she shouldn't have misfortune heaped on her head at every turn,"
Tom says. "After a sequence as dark and disturbing as Relentless, Wild
Ride is just what the doctor ordered."
Tom takes One Small Step with Y: The Last Man and continues to find the
saga engrossing. "It certainly cranks the tension up a notch as various
plot threads -- the astronauts, Yorick Brown's cross-country quest, an
all-female Israeli military unit on his trail, a government safe house
and a stage full of amateur dramatists -- come to a head," he says.
"Readers will finally get some of the answers they've been waiting for,
although there's still plenty of mystery to keep the book interesting
for issues to come."
Daniel Jolley is willing to duck and cover at the behest of one Chicken
Little. "I'll never be too old to enjoy a good animated film, and the
sort of 3D animation that brings Chicken Little's world to life is
still quite an amazing thing to see," he says. "At the same time, the
animators attempt to retain the essence of the classic Disney style,
which ensures that the look of this movie won't be anything less than
impressive. ... Chicken Little certainly isn't Disney's most magical
film, but it is cute and entertaining enough to delight children as
well as a fair share of adults."
Jen Kopf reluctantly joins The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
"Teeeeeen mooovie," she warns. "Luckily, The Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants doesn't overstay its welcome, nor is it a flick that
most parents will dread watching with their kids -- daughters or sons.
... You bet Sisterhood tries hard to have you reaching for the entire
box of tissues. Yet, at the very least, it also tries very hard to be
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