Here's what you'll find on the What's New page at Rambles,
your best source on the Internet for roots and traditional
music, fiction, folklore and movie reviews!
May has arrived, along with some glorious spring weather. We hope everyone
celebrated Beltaine/May Day in some joyous way! Now, let's talk about music!
Katie McMahon used her Riverdance fame to launch her solo endeavors, and Tom
Knapp says she marks her success with her latest CD, Shine. "The album, with
its courtly grace and exquisite precision, is the latest pinnacle in her
rising career," Tom says.
Chet Williamson minces no words when it comes to Ian Melrose's recent CD, A
Scottish Legacy. "Bow down -- a guitar god is in the house, or at least in
the CD player," Chet says with unrestrained enthusiasm.
Sheree Morrow says you shouldn't expect "the typical canned 'Irish' music"
from Blackthorn's Ratty Shoes. "They have so much more to offer," she says
of the Philadelphia-based Celtic rock band.
Finn MacCool knows how to rock out the Celtic sounds, as evidenced by their
album Sherdhana's Hand. "This disc is a joy from beginning to end," says
reviewer William Kates. "Think Capercaillie or Altan crossed with Jethro
Tull and an occasional dash of the Strawbs, acoustic Led Zeppelin and even
Nicky Rossiter stumbled upon Irish singer Anthony John Clarke's Man with a
Red Guitar and found it much to his liking. "Clarke has the ability to
combine humour with very strong feelings of loss and deprivation," Nicky
says. "This CD may be hard to find but like all precious gems it is worth
Jamie O'Brien loves the accomplished sound of Ken Kolodner's hammered
dulcimer on his CD Walking Stones: A Celtic Sojourn. Now he's thrilled to
find Kolodner's accompanying instructional tunebook, Walking Stones: Music
from A Celtic Sojourn for Hammered Dulcimer. Read Jamie's enthusiastic
review of the CD and book combined!
It slips into the background and fades quickly from the memory. But Sarah
Meador is quite impressed with To Honor a Queen: The Music of Lili'uokalani.
"Ozzie Kotani's interpretation of Queen Lili'uokalani's songs could best be
described as Hawaiian sunshine," Sarah says.
Woody Guthrie's rich collection of children's songs gets new life in Daddy-O
Daddy! -- Rare Family Songs of Woody Guthrie, an album featuring the talents
of numerous folk musicians. Alanna Berger says the disc is an unquestioned
success. "Thanks to the talents of these musicians, the CD has a variety of
musical styles, all of which are guaranteed to excite children and entertain
adults -- which is a difficult feat for a children's project," she says.
Chet says Sweetwater Reunion is a band worth looking for, and Almost
Bluegrass is a fine place to start. "Combine their performing talents with
top-notch songwriting abilities, and you've got a gem of an 'almost'
bluegrass CD," Chet says.
Richard Cochrane came to a fresh conclusion after listening to the jazz
recording Composition No. 30. Read on to learn why Richard says he is
"increasingly starting to believe that Simon H. Fell is one of the most
important composers alive."
Donna Scanlon says the Italian folk-rock band Ned Ludd shows similarities to
the likes of Great Big Sea and the Pogues on the album A Zero Ore. The
blending of acoustic roots with a rock beat results in "frenetic lively
music," Donna says.
Robin Brenner has become something of a Mark Erelli groupie since she
reviewed his first CD. Her follow-up review of his latest, Compass &
Companion, proves her fandom well placed. "I can only patiently, gleefully,
anticipate where Erelli will go next," Robin says.
A group of musicians pull together to pay tribute on Preachin' the Blues:
The Music of Mississippi Fred McDowell. Veema Kysac says, as one might
expect, "all the cuts pack a punch, but some of them are just a little more
entertaining, a little more in the groove than others."
Charlie Ricci had high hopes when The McCloskey Brothers Band arrived in the
mail, but says the country-rock band from Colorado let him down. The album,
he says, "is a complete disappointment."
Melissa Kowalewski gives credit to Chip Symonds for his vocal and
instrumental talents with Life Trip on the folk-rock CD Chronicles II.
"These tracks provide a warm, '70s feel that comes alive with
instrumentation," she says.
Wil Owens has mixed feelings about Too Human's CD True. "The songwriting is
pretty solid. The playing is generally good," he says. "But I am simply not
engaged by the vocals."
Before we turn from music, Tom has a report from the 58th annual New England
Folk Festival in Natick, Mass. Read his story to see what makes NEFFA, as
it's affectionately called, different from other festivals he's attended.
We also must share this bit of grim news: Clandestine, one of the finest
Celtic bands currently on the market, has announced its four members are
going their separate ways at the end of their current tour in October. This
amazing band, always a treat live or in the studio, will be greatly missed,
and we wish Jen, Greg, EJ and Emily the very best in their respective
Donna Scanlon admires the artistry that went into Patricia McKillip's
fantasy novel Ombria in Shadow. The tale, Donna says, "confirms the opinion
that McKillip's work keeps getting better and better, and fans and new
readers alike will not be disappointed."
Jenny Ivor has high praise for Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song For Arbonne, which
was recently reprinted in paperback. "If A Song For Arbonne doesn't make you
weep, it will surely pluck at your heartstrings," Jenny says. "Don't think
it is a 'chick novel,' though -- there is enough machismo, warmongering,
sexual shenanigans and political machinations to keep any red-blooded male
Elizabeth Badurina enjoyed burrowing into The Loop with Joe Coomer. Says
Elizabeth, "If there's one thing that Joe Coomer does very well, it's
capturing in words both the strange, unresolved futility of life and the
absolute absurdity of it."
Tom recently received a copy Pirate & Gypsy Girls in the mail; it's one
volume from the Artist Archives series published by Collectors Press and
features "calendar girl" art from the 1920s and '30s. "At no time are the
artists portraying gritty, realistic scenes," Tom notes. "But that's really
the point of art of this sort, from this era -- wide-eyed innocence coupled
with toothy, red-lipped smiles, a well-placed leg beneath a too-short skirt,
a button or two missing from a frilly blouse, all in exotic locales to
excite the imagination."
Tom says Officer Down is a strong, cohesive story that crosses over the
entire span of Batman comics, in which a major character is gunned down from
behind. "It's worth noting that this storyline marked a few significant
changes in the makeup of the Batverse," Tom says.
Over in zines, Elizabeth Badurina hits us with a review of Copycat #3.
Janine Kauffman opens our popular movie review section with a bit of musical
folklore; she says the story is good and the music is stunning in the
Appalachian film Songcatcher. In the movie, a music professor, "up against a
chauvinistic wall at her university, has stumbled across a trove of musical
history buried in a region that's snubbed by everyone else as full of
savages, 'ruffians' and illiterate drunks," Janine explains. "No one else
knows these songs still exist in their purest form."
Tom liked the story and loved the visuals in What Dreams May Come, a
startling visit to the afterlife. "This movie presents heaven and hell in
awesome clarity, mixing the visual acuity of Hieronymous Bosch, Vincent Van
Gogh, Michael Parkes and Salvador Dali," Tom says.
And so it goes. Another edition has reached an end, so until next time ...