8 February 2003
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!
Go to http://www.rambles.net to access the new edition and
much, much more! (Our archives now contain more than 4,500
reviews, interviews and other bits of excitement.)
The groundhog's big day is over, the cherub's is just ahead. This week, it's
just February, and it's cold and snowy. So let's just get to it!
Tom Knapp has a blast with Liverdance, a live recording by British
Columbia's the Town Pants. It is, Tom says, "a wild, raucous album of
live-in-the-pub fun from start to finish."
Ffynnon gets right to the point with its excellent, if unimaginatively
titled CD Celtic Music from Wales. "Personally, I find the Welsh language
and accent musical even in the spoken word," notes reviewer Nicky Rossiter.
"Add music and you get some of the most melodic tunes and songs possible."
The title of Eamonn Coyne's new CD, Through the Round Window, takes Nicky
back to a concept from children's TV. But the music, featuring Coyne's Irish
banjo, is definitely at an adult level, he says. "Coyne invites us to look
through a window into a world of wonder -- a world of great music played
with great heart by a very talented player."
Jerry Holland Jr. says hello from Cape Breton with his first Rambles review,
featuring Dragon Reels by Roger Landes. "This album is jam-packed with music
from the best musicians playing the best music," Jerry enthuses. "There are
no flaws anywhere to be found."
Jenny Ivor is definitely a fan of Galacian piper Susana Seivane, and Alma de
Buxo is an example of why! "All these tunes would appear very close to her
heart and her traditions, and she certainly throws her soul into playing
them," Jenny says. "For aficionados of the Galician pipes, this is a vibrant
celebration; for those as yet uninitiated, this provides a vivid sample of
the genuine article -- ¡vamos a bailar!"
Rai is a style of music from western Algeria that earned some popular
attention through "Desert Rose," a duet between Cheb Mami and Sting. Now,
World Music Network is offering a big swig of rai on The Rough Guide to Rai,
and Wil Owen says it's a CD worth gulping. "If you are a serious world music
fan or simply want to know more about rai, this is a good CD to pick up,"
Wil says. "It is one of the better compilations from the World Music Network
that I've heard."
Wil broadens his knowledge of South African music with South African Choral:
Songs of the Alexandra Youth Choir. "The music incorporates complex African
rhythms with choral stylings more familiar to Christian churchgoers in the
West," he explains. "The melodic combination of vocals are made up of
children of all ages, singing in Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa and English."
Donna Scanlon had a hard time defining the sound, but she knew she liked
what she heard. "Lo'jo defies description, breaking the boundaries of simple
classification," she says, "and Au Cabaret Sauvage is a passionate blend of
tradition, experimentation, raw power and cool restraint."
Sarah Meador says Elaine Morgan's Shine On "is a dangerous album. With
simple lyrics, it could just be another pleasant Celtic-inspired set of
tunes. But beyond the simple beauty of the music, over the touching poetry
of the lyrics, Shine On layers a powerful, entrancing spell: Elaine Morgan's
Gianmarc Manzione joins the ever-growing Rambles staff with an insightful
look at bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman's latest effort,
Let It Rain. "While Chapman's work rarely lacks emotion, her songwriting has
never pierced the heart with a sharper blade," Gianmarc says. "These 12 new
songs achieve a poetry that eclipses even her best work."
Joy McKay welcomes the musical return of Kate Taylor, sister of James
Taylor, down her Beautiful Road. "The songs are well-chosen, paced well and
with the right degree of diversity," Joy says. "Many of them ... bring out
themes of hard-won wisdom, self-realization and courage."
Joy goes There with Connecticut singer-songwriter Lara Herscovich. "I feel
as though I know Lara Herscovitch quite well and that's a real credit to the
project," Joy says. "It's all too easy for young artists to take out the
elements of their work that make them unique; in Lara's case she embraces
Ken Fasimpaur receives some Postcards from the South, sent by folk singer
Mike Freedman. "With a diverse collection of songs that are primarily
folk-rock but also incorporate elements of jazz, blues, Indian guitar
stylings and African tribal percussion, the Toronto-based Freedman makes a
strong, coherent musical statement that's deep and multitextural without
being overly pretentious," Ken write back.
Nicky says Sandy Cash has produced "a lovely collection of songs" on Exact
Change. "It has often been said of literature that local issues are the ones
that best translate to an international audience," he says. "Sandy Cash
proves that the same applies to songs."
Nicky finds some mighty fine bluegrass by Alternate Roots. "Kick back your
heels, turn up the volume and enjoy mountain music whether you live in the
city, in the country or on a boat," he says. "Branching Out is 14 tracks of
pure mountain-fresh joy."
C. Nathan Coyle finds a lot to like on Misty River's Rising. "Without a
doubt, Rising is a variety pack of original and traditional music featuring
a female quartet and a variety of instruments," he says. "I'm not kidding --
this album has so many different types of songs that you might have to check
the CD to make sure it's all the same band."
Joyce MacPhee spends relaxing down-time with Peter Brown and Marie-Claude.
"What this CD offers is an upbeat blend of entertaining music in a
combination of styles and moods," Joyce says. "Brown is at his best with his
own material, which really shines."
Ron Bierman is already looking forward to the next release from Alfredo
Rodriguez y Los Acereko. For now, let's be content with Cuban Jazz, from
Naxos World. The disc, Ron says, "captures all of the joy and excitement of
Cuban jazz at its best."
There might be a hitch or two in presentation, but Chet Williamson holds
Kotaro Oshio's first solo album, Starting Point, in high regard. "Kotaro
Oshio will make most other guitarists drop their jaws in wonder, but he
isn't just a guitar player's guitar player," Chet says. "He's bound to
appeal as well to anyone who enjoys fine compositions well-played."
Carool Kersten shares his thoughts on David Gogo's Bare Bones: The Acoustic
Blues. "This is blues at its purest, with no frizzles," Carool says. "Gogo
has captivated that essential mood and lived up to his reputation as
Canada's most prominent blues musician."
Our comprehensive look at Celtic Colours 2002 comes to an end with Virginia
MacIsaac's review of The Next Generation featuring Celtic Crew, Stephanie
MacDonald & Margie Beaton, Cynthia MacLeod and the Rankin children.
Nicky has high praise for his new songbook, The Songs of Anthony John
Clarke. "The songs are fantastic, revealing a genuine feeling for modern
Ireland that is not clouded by silly sentiment," he says. "I hope he has
sent copies to Christy Moore and the like."
Alicia Karen Elkins examines The Wandering Irish in Europe: Their Influence
from the Dark Ages to Modern Times with Matthew J. Culligan and Peter
Cherici. The authors, Alicia says, "have done an exceptional job of creating
a narrative of history. It flows along smoothly and is easy to understand."
Pamela Murray Winters gets spiritual with Jack Kornfield and The Art of
Forgiveness, Lovingkindness & Peace. "Kornfield, who has written several
other self-help books ..., combines training as a Buddhist monk and as a
clinical psychologist," Pamela notes. "Many of the pages contain an
individual thought or verse, and it's easy to succumb to the desire to use
it for that quick-pick-me-up, fortune-cookie spiritual practice that a lot
of us muster just enough time for."
Tom is refreshed in the green after reading reading a new anthology devoted
to woodland lore. "Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have paid true homage to
the spirit of the Green Man in their anthology, The Green Man: Tales from
the Mythic Forest," Tom says. "Not only do the short stories collected in
this hefty volume evoke a true sense of mystery in the wild, but artist
Charles Vess ... has provided cover art and incidental illustrations to
bring the concept alive."
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro returns to her popular Saint-German series with Night
Blooming, and Sarah lauds the rich tale. "Fans of history, fine characters
and rich stories will find more than enough to satisfy their cravings in
Night Blooming, and perhaps enough to foster an addiction to all the
chronicles of Saint-Germain," she says.
Lynne Remick says the story is a little predictable, but still enjoys the
charming fantasy of T.A. Barron's Tree Girl. "Although somewhat unevenly
paced and unclearly targeted in age group, the simple tale proves a quick
and enjoyable read," Lynne says. "Tree Girl captivates with its strong voice
and mystical tone, much like a Celtic fable."
Jenny reports on Alan Dean Foster's new novel, The Mocking Program. "This
thriller is very different from Foster's Spellsinger novels," she says.
"However, it is nicely paced and exciting thriller with a maze of twists and
turns, and the more one reads, the more it grips you, until it is impossible
to put the book down."
Beth Derochea is back with her 50th Rambles review, revisiting the first
book in a classic fantasy epic with Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, the first
book in the highly acclaimed Dragonriders of Pern series. Even three decades
later, Beth says, "new readers will find themselves eager to learn more
about Pern and its magnificent dragons."
Jean Marchand explores a future Earth in Louise Marley's The Maquisarde.
"Marley ratchets this hair-raising plot to one with breathtaking levels of
suspense," Jean says. "She is inventive, sensitive to nuances and possibly
prophetic in her view of mankind as desperate and even reckless in the
pursuit of the old freedoms."
Jenny goes to interplanetary war with Rick Shelley and Spec Ops Squad: Deep
Strike. "Shelley's exciting yet detailed descriptions of the fighting more
than held my interest," Jenny says.
Tom gives the devil his due in Mike Carey's debut volume in his ongoing
Lucifer series, Devil in the Gateway. "Neil Gaiman rarely chooses poorly
when creating a character, and his take on Lucifer in his highly acclaimed
Sandman series was, to say the least, intriguing," Tom says. "I'm glad to
see one of Gaiman's characters in such capable hands."
The plot of Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech, as described by Michael Vance,
begins thusly: "Reanimated by the burial shroud of Christ, a madman attempts
a plan begun 150 years ago, ravaging Earth with gigantic eels from outer
space." But, Michael promises, "this graphic novel is much more than plot."
David Cox captures a moment in the Welsh struggle to reclaim its heritage in
Dafydd Iwan yng Nghorwen (Dafydd Iwan in Corwen), a concert video
commemorating 25 years of protests and songs. "This video recording stands
as a landmark in Welsh song and the struggle for Welsh freedom, and presents
some of the great songs of that fight in unforgettable context," David says.
So what if he's a killer and cannibal? Alicia Karen Elkins thinks Hannibal,
as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, is "cuddly." So is this film a horror or a
love story, Alicia??
Tom revisits an old favorite set in northern Scotland. "Local Hero has
buckets of charm," he says. "Local Hero is funny, but never in a
gut-busting, knee-slapping kind of way. The film is too subtle for that, and
the humor is dry, clever and refreshingly intelligent -- and, in the end,
far more memorable."