5 July 2008
Here's what's new at Rambles.NET, 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 contain more than 11,000 reviews, interviews and
other bits of excitement.) See you there!
Anne Roos shines A Light in the Forest for who has wished "that
Renaissance Faire musicians were a little less drunk and a little more
classy," says Jennifer Mo. "As with Anne's earlier release Mermaids &
Mariners, this CD boasts unusually thorough and beautiful liner notes
with details about each of the songs and artists, plus plenty of
illustrations and folklore about fairies and woods. ... Bottom line:
like its subject matter, A Light in the Forest is pleasantly evocative
and sprightly, if not entirely substantial."
David Cortello swoops Through an Open Window with this one-man show
that, according to Corinne Smith, doesn't pass muster. "It's
surprisingly average on all counts. There is no discernable hook and
nothing remarkable to attract repeated play," she says. "So if you're
in the market for music that's deliberately non-intrusive and that can
remain thoughtlessly and effortlessly in the background, this CD could
serve your needs."
Hunter Robertson offers Songs for the Masses. "Listening to Songs for
the Masses (that title comprising the album's one and only flash of
humor), I reflected on how rarely these days one hears traditional
songs -- field recordings aside -- performed traditionally. Even less
commonly encountered are records by raised-outside-the-tradition
artists who choose to recreate a sound that seems to capture the
feeling of homespun front-porch, dance-hall, street-corner music from
the age before the advent of the recording industry," Jerome Clark
opines. "Robertson, who now resides in Vermont but who has lived in
the United Kingdom, Greece and France, has produced that kind of
Natasha Borzilova makes a Cheap Escape into a solo career after ending
a career with Bering Strait. "Cheap Escape is her first solo record.
It shows where she's been and where she is going," says Michael Scott
Cain. "The fabulous thing about the CD, though, is Natasha Borzilova's
voice, which is deep and husky, with a nuanced intensity that causes
you to pull your car over to the side of the road and just listen."
Debi Smith makes her living as The Soprano. "The Soprano is a kitchen-
sink album, a flat-out showcase for Debi Smith's voice -- which is, by
any measurement, pretty spectacular," says Michael Scott Cain. "She
has, as the album title indicates, a soprano that is as pure and clear
as uncharted waters and, on this release, the inclination to show us
exactly what she can do with it."
David "Honeyboy" Edwards is Roamin' & Ramblin' with the blues.
"Honeyboy Edwards is absolutely the best 93-year-old bluesman on the
planet. Actually, he's one of the best at any age, way up there in the
pantheon and well deserving of his status," says Michael Scott Cain.
"His playing and singing are as soulful as a church congregation and
as strong as a tank. His solos, never complicated and all based on
riffs he must have learned 70 years ago, still sound as new and fresh
as organic vegetables from the local market."
Hope Nunnery is "not just another sweet-voiced singer-songwriter," as
evidenced on Wilderness Lounge, Jerome Clark says. "Southern Gothic is
almost a genre in itself. Hope Nunnery's music falls roughly within
the same noirish rural landscape as the Earl Brothers, a San Francisco-
based oldtime/bluegrass band that also operates on the sunless side of
the mountain -- except that if the Earls are about sin, Nunnery adds
'and salvation' to the equation. Her music, I need to stress, is not
bluegrass even by the ignorant definition often applied to white
Southern roots sounds, nor is this a gospel record in any ordinary
understanding of the phrase. It's more in the vein of Hazel Dickens
and Olabelle Reed, like them coating no sugar over emotional truth,
speaking in a language that permits no lies."
Buzz Matheson and Mac Martin offer Echoes of the Past for the
bluegrass fan. "The songs are in close company with the bluegrass
stylings of Bill Monroe and the vocal harmonies of the Louvins," Dirk
Logemann says. "These recordings overstep slick commercial production
and achieve a warm and simple ambience, in keeping with such a
refreshing and timeless set of tunes, and are highly recommended to
any lover of older country, gospel or bluegrass."
Fous de la Mer provide the Stars & Fishes for a relaxing music
experience. "The music on Stars & Fishes is well crafted and the
vocals fit neatly into the instrumentation," Paul de Bruijn says. "So
if you are looking for relaxing music that will wrap itself around
you, then Fous de la Mer delivers."
Van Morrison is not all he seems in Under Review 1964-1974. "Morrison
and his people had absolutely nothing to do with this documentary,
which means he and the people closest to him are not interviewed. It's
all built on secondary sources," says Michael Scott Cain. "All of this
is not to say the film has no value. Many of the interviews are
interesting and, since the DVD covers a wonderfully creative time in
Morrison's career, we learn stuff we hadn't known before. The only
problem is that it doesn't live up to its promises."
First in books, we have a mixed bag of fiction reviews for you today.
Khaled Hosseini's debut novel, The Kite Runner, "is an incredible
achievement in fiction writing," Eric Hughes says. "Set in Afghanistan
against a backdrop -- the fall of the monarchy, the Soviet invasion,
the exodus of refugees, the rise of the Taliban -- that hasn't been
previously detailed in fiction, Hosseini's story is so riveting, so
breathtaking that it is simply unforgettable. Its compelling story,
coupled with its broader themes of friendship, betrayal and the price
of loyalty, will certainly allow the piece to stand the test of time."
Simon R. Green says there's Hell to Pay on the Nightside of life.
"Welcome to the Nightside, an alternate London where it's always 3
a.m. and the living isn't easy. You can get anything you want at
Alice's Restaurant -- if you're willing to pay the price. Think about
that -- in Nightside, ambulances are fueled by pain and suffering, and
taxis run on virgin's blood," says Becky Kyle. "This seventh book of
the Nightsidestories is one of the best so far."
Carlton Mellick III raises eyebrows with The Menstruating Mall. "This
is one of the most bizarre books I have read, and I am sure author
Carlton Mellick III would take that as high praise," Chris McCallister
warns. "While very strange, there is also a very, very interesting
story here. I often found it revolting and disgusting, but it was also
riveting. I had trouble stopping, despite wanting to seek out the
nearest incinerator in which to deposit this book. ... I did not enjoy
reading this book. I did not hate reading this book. I will never read
it again. I will never forget it. I will try to, but I will fail. I
could not stop reading it, either."
Michael Dobbs details Churchill's Triumph in a historical novel set in
1945, as world-altering events unfolded at the close of World War II.
"Three men who had a dominant hand in shaping these events met in
February 1945 in Yalta at the Black Sea Resort. For eight days, U.S.
President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
and Russian Dictator Joseph Stalin discussed, bargained and harangued
over the fate of the world," Wil Owen says. "Dobbs presents a
fictitious accounting of this event in his novel Churchill's Triumph.
Instead of simply reading the documents they signed and getting an
outsider's view of what happened after the fact, Dobb provides a look
at what happened through the eyes of the participants on each of those
Shizue Tomoda visits both Japan and the United States in Sachiko. "It
is about a teenage Japanese girl, Sachiko, who fights against odds to
travel to America and find herself. Her parents object to her leaving
Japan, but Sachiko is determined to go," Liana Metal says. "The
heroine is a courageous female who seeks love as well as her place in
the world. Her journey in life is full of surprises, and the plot
helps to reveal and discuss important issues such as women's
independence, racism, politics and romance."
And in graphic novels...
Woe, and more woe, as the Bomb Queen returns as a Suicide Bomber. "I
keep hoping Jimmie Robinson will learn from his mistakes and turn the
Bomb Queen concept into something worth reading," Tom laments. "The
premise -- a city cut off from the rest of the nation where crime runs
rampant, all under the rule of an amoral supervillain -- has boatloads
of potential good storytelling, but Robinson apparently prefers to
draw naughty bits for giggles."
The saga continues in War Games #2: Tides, as Batman faces a massive
outbreak of gang violence in Gotham City. "The gang war begun in
Outbreak spills over into Tides with bloody and devastating results,"
Tom says. "By no means just a bridge between the first and third
volumes of War Games, Tides is loaded with action and some truly
horrific developments. While this is not a good stepping-on place for
Batman novices -- simply because of the sheer number of Bat family and
supporting characters involved -- this is an excellent crossover
collection that packs a lot of punch."
The big Civil War crossover does not pass without its share of War
Crimes. "The problem with Civil War: War Crimes is that it has very
little to do with the ongoing War Crimes saga that rocked the Marvel
universe," Tom says.
Ace Reid's Cowpokes: Cow Country Cartoons earns a chuckle from Mark
Allen. "I'm no cowboy, but, I've known plenty over the years, living
in Oklahoma, and I see some of them well-represented within Reid's
single-panel cartoons," Mark says. "Besides the honest and realistic
humor, Reid offers fans an art style like no other. His unique
characters display a gaunt, yet rugged appearance. They look
constantly hungry (as do the horses and cattle), haggard, worn out and
played out. Yet, they're obviously not too spent to get into tons of
Larry Gonick gets educational in The Cartoon History of the Modern
World, Part 1. "When you consider the correlation between history and
the political cartoon, and how, in some instances, cartoons actually
shaped political history, it seems like a natural jump to frame
history in cartoon format. The political cartoon is uniquely suited to
relaying masses of information in a compressed format, which is the
one of the best ways -- apart from extraordinarily tiny print -- to
relay the history of the world from the time of the Portuguese
conquest of South America, to the fateful decision by King George III
of England in 1783 to rid Britain of its expensive, and increasingly
upstart, pesky colonies," says Mary Harvey. "This book is perfect for
anyone who wants a working knowledge of the basics of world history
but who only has time to read one book. It's engaging, funny, accurate
and easy to zip through for all its density."
Raymond J. DeMallie and Douglas R. Parks delve into Sioux Indian
Religion: Tradition & Innovation in this collection of 12 essays.
"This book excites the mind and fulfills your desire for action and
drama. As you read about these ceremonies and rituals, you will feel
that you are in attendance," Karen Elkins reports. "The writing is
beautiful. While the editors tried to produce a grammatically sound
book, they wanted to retain the individual storytelling flair. So you
get solid information that is a pleasure to read."
Joanne Shenandoah and Douglas M. George come together for Skywoman:
Legends of the Iroquois. "This hardcover, 109-page book contains nine
stories that explain a great deal about the Iroquois beliefs of
ancient times. Most of the stories, in typical indigenous fashion,
relate lessons for life: to remember to pray and give thanks, to
respect your elders, to share, to keep your promises and to live a
good life," Karen says. "Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois is one of
the must-own books for any Native American or folklore collection.
This is a top-notch book by a brilliant team."
Todd Cobb reveals the Ghosts of Portland, Oregon in this new release
from Schiffer Publishing. "I have friends in the Portland area and
visited the city in the past," Wil Owen says. "But with this book and
its 14 tales of hauntings around the town, I got to see a side of
Portland I was unfamiliar with -- a side I might have to check out
during my next visit."
Elizabeth D. Samet reveals a Soldier's Heart based on her adventures
teaching literature at West Point. "The tendency is to think of these
young men and women as people trained to kill, to unquestioningly
carry out the orders given them, regardless of the morality or
immorality of those orders," says Michael Scott Cain. "Samet's job,
though, was to teach them to think and feel, to recognize and respect
their common humanity and to see that they share it with everyone on
this Earth. ... The main thing her book accomplishes is to remind us
that no stereotype tells the truth, and that even though they wear
identical clothing and follow identical rules, customs and folkways,
no two army officers are the same."
We have just one movie review to share with you today, but Becky Kyle
says it's one worthy of consideration for serious cinema buffs!
Becky opens her door to The Visitor without hesitation. "Overall, the
film is one that will leave you thinking: The Visitor is not a summer
popcorn film. By the time you have walked out, you will want both to
find the music in you and to learn more about U.S. policies towards
immigration and whether they are as inhumane as they appear to be,"
She adds: "My husband and I left The Visitor wishing there were more,
hoping there was a good outcome for all the characters. In the lobby,
we met a man who had attended the Sundance Film Festival where The
Visitor screened for the first time. He told us this was the only film
that year to get a standing ovation. I understand why."
Lots more is on the way!
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