8 November 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 12,000 reviews, interviews and
other bits of excitement.) See you there!
Daithi Sproule is back for more with The Crow in the Sun. "Let's start
with two complaints," Jerome Clark says. "The first: This is only
Daithi Sproule's second solo album. Such paltry output amounts to an
outrage on lovers of fine music everywhere. The second: The Crow in
the Sun, whose elegant beauty nobody with ears will fail to
appreciate, has none of Sproule's vocals, this in spite of the truth
that he's as good a ballad singer as any Irish artist currently
breathing. ... It is grand and glorious stuff, and I've listened to
Crow repeatedly since it arrived in a package from Rambles.NET a few
weeks ago. I just hope we don't have to wait another 15 years for the
next one. And next time -- there will be a next time, I hope -- I
would be thrilled to hear some ballads along with the instrumentals."
Alpcologne isn't selling cough drops on Alpha, although those long,
long alphorns might make you think they are. "They have a four-octave
range. Still, you would not think much could be done with three
alphorns and a female singer," Dave Howell says. "You would be wrong,
as this wonderful CD proves. ... You might call this a novelty CD, but
it is a great novelty CD."
Eleanor McEvoy "is a singer who defies being put into a category. This
seems to be a deliberate policy of a singer who changes direction with
every album and manages to win new fans while retaining those who were
hooked by her earlier efforts," Nicky Rossiter says. On Love Must be
Tough, "she gathers the cream of contemporary writing and mixes them
in with some of her own compositions. The odd thing is that the songs
by Jagger & Richards, Nick Lowe and Rodney Crowell, among others, are
tracks usually sung by men about women. McEvoy takes them on board,
rattles them round and delivers a new take on the old as on she can do."
The David Bromberg Quartet sends a postcard from the past with Live:
New York City 1982. "This recording is exactly as advertised: guitar/
mandolin/fiddle master David Bromberg's string band (long since
extinct) at its hottest, recorded before Bromberg packed it in for a
couple of decades to make violins, first in California," Jerome Clark
says. "From the sound of things, all concerned -- wherever they were
standing in relation to the stage -- were having a good time that
night. I'm not a huge fan of live albums, but this is undoubtedly
among the better ones, and it's good to have it to listen to while we
wait (I hope not years again) for Bromberg's next studio outing."
Craig Schumacher showcases "a wistful and pleasant voice" on New
Shoes, says Michael Scott Cian. "He sings softly, never pressing,
never getting insistent; his is a light jazz, calm pop voice that does
not so much sell his songs as simply present them. ... Had he varied
the formula more and varied his vocal approach, he would have had a
more intriguing album."
Lisa Karp teams up with Dr. John for some Fucsia Blues. "The music
includes some wonderful funky grooves and, combined with Karp's range
in styles, makes this a CD to listen to. It is a well-rounded
package," says Paul de Bruijn. "Fucsia Blues may not be the be all and
end all of jazz music, but Lisa Karp and Dr. John have crafted a solid
CD that is consistently good, and very good at that."
Chris Stuart & Backcountry sing of a Crooked Man on this memorable
recording. "In a very good year for bluegrass music, Crooked Man still
manages to stand out. It will roost high on many best-of lists when
such are tolled as 2008 recedes," Jerome Clark says. "This is a
superior recording on any number of levels: the breath-taking
songwriting, the inventive arrangements, the extraordinarily seamless
fusion of innovation and tradition. It's the kind of CD that both
affirms the genre and transcends it. In this instance, it does so not
by moving into pop, rock and jazz territory, as some ambitious
contemporary bluegrass bands have done, but by delving into the
antique folk music -- without itself sounding in any way antique --
out of which bluegrass arose six decades ago."
Albert Castiglia demonstrates promise as a blues-rocker on These are
the Days. "When he is good, he is very good," says Michael Scott Cain.
"In all, you come away from the CD feeling that you've been spending
time with a promising talent whose promise hasn't exactly been
Robert Mirabal lives his craft on Indians Indians. "Robert Mirabal --
or the Mira Man, as he calls himself in a note on the CD booklet --
lives in a traditional pueblo at the foot of sacred Taos Mountain, New
Mexico. He is musician, composer, flute-maker, poet, actor, craftsman,
farmer and horseman," says Adolf Goriup. "The eagle of wisdom is
flying high above our heads; we should not let him slip out of our
sight. I love this CD with Mirabal's self-crafted songs, full of
philosophical thoughts, spellbinding music, modern grooves and
Ensemble Odila provide listeners with some Traditional Songs from a
Georgian Village. "All of the 25 songs here are sung a cappella, and
the sound will be strange to most Western listeners because of the
unusual vocal configurations. It somewhat resembles the singing of
Eastern Orthodox church services," Dave Howell says. "This is a
valuable work. It is not something for the casual listener, however.
Everything tends to sound the same without careful and repeated
Gwen Orel had the privilege of attending an Oct. 29 concert by the
legendary Joan Baez at New York City's Town Hall -- a performance that
"moved the audience to cheers and tears," she says. Read Gwen's full
review of the experience, and bask in the glow of a '60s folk icon who
is still going strong today.
October is a time for many things -- Halloween and the Canadian
Thanksgiving among them -- but one of our favorite October treats is
the annual Celtic Colours International Festival. Although our editor
and his wife, Tom and Katie Knapp, spent the week sobbing at home in
the States, unable to attend, the festival went off without a hitch,
and Kaitlin Hahn headed up without them to enjoy (and report on) the
musical doings. Here's her first report from the scene: Ceilidh at the
Big Fiddle, a festival opener that included performances from Beolach,
Brock McGuire, Gaiteros de La Habana, Genticorm, Grace, Hewat &
Polwart, Jerry Holland and Mairi Smith.
Nicholas Pekearo makes his debut -- and his swan song -- with The
Wolfman. "Pekearo had a damn promising career as a writer ahead of
him, and now he'll never have the chance to tell those stories. He
never even got to see his first novel, this one, published," Tom Knapp
says. "Pekearo had planned to turn this book into a series -- sadly,
now, never to be -- but The Wolfman still is a complete story that
won't leave readers hanging. It's a savory paranormal thriller;
although the identity of the killer becomes apparent to readers far
sooner than Marley catches on, the people here -- including a fairly
broad collection of supporting characters -- make this book a deeply
satisfying reading experience."
Marion Dane Bauer summons The Red Ghost for a little spooky reading.
"This is a good book for young readers -- unless your child, like my
daughter, is really freaked out by ghosts," Tom says. "The fairly
innocuous cover of this one was enough to spook my faint-hearted girl.
Others should be fine with the story, which manages to be eerie
without ever becoming actually frightening."
Greg Egan gets mathematical with Dark Integers & Other Stories. "In
this, my first exposure to the work of Greg Egan, I discovered that
even a math-challenged, former liberal arts major such as myself can
find enjoyment in stories that use a lot of phrases like 'omega-
inconsistent number theory,' 'strong bullet femtomachines' and 'eight-
dimensional hypercube,' so long as the plots that such terms are
factored into make some overarching sense in the end," says Gary
Cramer. "Slightly weak characters aside, there are many fine moments
of suspenseful action, gee-whiz invention and thoughtful reverie here,
plus enough nuances of cyberpunk, space opera and sociological sci-fi
that readers with tastes ranging from Gibson to Brin to Le Guin should
all find something worth relishing."
J.L. Miles is Divorcing Dwayne in the first in a three-part humorous
series based on the marital trials of Georgia girl Francine Harper.
"The formula here isn't original," Becky Kyle remarks. "We've got our
heroine with her crazy sidekicks and nutty grandma. But throw in some
man troubles and some criminals, and you've got a plum of a tale. What
keeps this story from being just another knockoff is the writing
itself. Voice is one of those aspects of writing that's hard to
define, but as a reader you know it when you read it."
Jodi Picoult finds a Perfect Match in a novel addressing a serious
subject. "The sexual abuse of children is a subject that can provide
prurient interest or a discussion of moral dilemmas. It is a matter
not to be taken lightly, and one that many shy away from for fear of
being seen as sensationalists," Nicky Rossiter says. "Jodi Picoult
attacks it with a steady hand and sure eye in this novel. ... As ever,
she has her subject researched very well, but again she manages to
package the most heinous of crimes so well that the reader never feels
voyeuristic. We read the story for entertainment, but we are also
being educated on a subject that we, as a society, must confront."
Robert M. Tilendis serves up his thoughts on the first volume of
Tanpenshu. "Hiroki Endo is best known for his epic manga series Eden:
It's An Endless World. Tanpenshu is a two-volume collection of short
pieces -- 'tanpenshu' translates as 'short stories' -- that reveal
Endo's range and a taste for the surreal elements of life," he says.
"If you've discovered manga -- and even if you haven't --
Tanpenshuoffers a good look at some of the possibilities of the form."
Tom Knapp thinks the second volume of Tag is a trifle Cursed, so far
as sequels go. "The story -- which focuses on Ed, a minor character
briefly mentioned in Tag -- isn't nearly as interesting as its
predecessor. Ed, who was tagged by a zombie and became one himself
until he was able to pass it off on the next victim, becomes obsessed
with tracking the curse down to its current bearer and ending it once
and for all," he says. "But Ed is a bit of a schlub, a sadsack lacking
in imagination and esteem, and it's hard to picture him in any sort of
heroic, or even moderately active, role. Sure, Leib gives us an
endlessly guilt-ridden man who fumbles his way along through the
narrative, but I had a hard time believing he got as far as he did.
The repetitive voice in his head of his shrewish and long-dead mother
just weakened the story even further; it was an unnecessary and
distracting device that added zilch to the plot."
Tom also takes a gander at 28 Days Later: The Aftermath. "The
Aftermath is a stand-alone graphic novel intended to fill in some gaps
in the movie, 28 Days Later, and build enthusiasm for its inevitable
sequel, 28 Weeks Later. But, although written by Steve Niles, whose
resume is filled with a varied selection of graphic horror fiction,
this book is more mess than must-read," he warns. "It's hard to
sympathize with truly stupid characters, which many of these are, and
since the book doesn't fill in any important holes in the film nor add
anything of substance to the story, I can't see any reason to
Miles O'Dometer harkens back to days of glory in Elizabeth: The Golden
Age. "Blanchett, who in 1999 was nominated for an Oscar for Best
Actress for Elizabeth, is even more convincing here, in part because
director Shekhar Kapur allows her to look almost as homely as the real
Elizabeth I -- no mean feat, given Blanchett's natural gifts," he
says. "Sadly, however, it does not end there. Somewhere along the way,
just about the time Philip sends his fleet toward England, Shekhar
lets his film slip out of the personal and into action-film mode. ...
By trying to give us more, Shekhar ends up giving us less. More's the
Jen Kopf is watching movies In the Shadow of the Moon. "As In the
Shadow gains momentum, it goes beyond the usual talking-head
documentary style, or the re-enactment of Apollo 13 with astonishing
rare or never-seen footage of the flights, of the speech President
Nixon recorded in case Apollo 11 ended in disaster, and of people
around the world in 1969 anxiously awaiting Apollo 11 reports and
erupting in joyous celebration when the astronauts landed safely," she
says. "And you're left to wonder: Will any triumphant event ever unite
the world in quite the same way again?"
You think we're done? Hardly!! Come back for more next week.
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