2 January 2010
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!
Alan Lomax's name is forever entwined with the preservation of folk
musics from around the world. The release of a new box set, Alan Lomax
in Haiti, is certainly cause for rejoicing. "In 1936, the Library of
Congress sponsored a collecting trip to Haiti, where he recorded more
than 50 hours of native Haitian music on aluminum discs. The material
seems to have sat on the shelf until the 1970s, when he tried to edit
it and discovered that the music was too messed up -- too much surface
noise and sound distortion -- to be released. He abandoned the discs
and that was the story for another 30 years until the technology was
developed that could clean them up," explains Michael Scott Cain.
"Now, digitally cleaned and reworked, the music has been released in a
10-disc set, each volume organized around a theme. And how is it?
You'd expect scholars and reference librarians to go crazy over these
discs, but the amazing thing is exactly how much fun this music is to
listen to. It is not simply a thing for folklorists to pore over in
search of footnotes. No, this is music; this is performance as well as
social and cultural history."
Chuck McCabe is a reliable Creature of Habit. "McCabe's music is like
a visit with an old friend, the ones up for at visit at 3 a.m. with no
warning. Unpretentious, familiar and relaxed, but always insightful
and entertaining even when times are rough, McCabe's folksy blues --
or is it bluesy folk? -- pulls out a comfortable chair and a pitcher
of something strong from the first chords," Sarah Meador relates.
"McCabe's music is politically aware without being politically
aligned. His songs are always for ideals, while being solidly against
idealogy; about people, the ordinary sort of people that most of us
know and are. ... Above all, Creature of Habit is about humans --
loving them, cursing them and above all being one of them. It's a
habit none of us seem able to shake, and the wonderful thing about
Chuck McCabe is that he can remind us why."
Gary McMahan makes it back to the studio after a lengthy hiatus for
Goin' My Way?"Goin' My Way?, McMahan's first studio album since 1992
but the first I've heard, is an engaging collection of songs and
recitations by a man who is unmistakably a seasoned professional
performer," Jerome Clark says.
"Just as apparently, he has the raw talent behind the showman's gloss
(not, it should be added, that anybody would mistake McMahan for a
slick Nashville hustler eating up his 15 minutes). Most of the
material is Western-themed and suited to the cowboy circuit, where you
need authentic range credentials to get a hearing. Native Coloradan
and rancher McMahan has a lifetime's worth of those."
Zac Harmon sings blues From the Root. "After a quarter-century working
in the recording industry, Zac Harmon decided it was time to pursue
his lifelong dream of making his own music," says Jopn Lindermuth.
"Harmon's debut release with NorthernBlues, From the Root, is an
eclectic mix combining elements of blues, soul, gospel and even a bit
of reggae, and it continues the promise of those earlier accolades.
The 14 tracks provide tradition stamped with individuality, a style
all his own but defining its roots."
Mike Mason makes his novel debut with The Blue Umbrella. "Mason's
experience as a writer allows his characters and settings an
appreciable vividness, although at times his phrasing seems a bit
beyond his target age group of 9- to 12-year-olds," Whitney Mallenby
"However, his newness to this kind of narrative becomes apparent in
the structure of this novel. The pacing grows almost meandering at
times, and the driving force behind the main plot occasionally seems
weakened rather than supported by the focus given to descriptions.
Most importantly, however, the main part of this novel is given only
to setup rather than to buildup. When the reader starts learning
answers along with Zac, they fall logically into place with the
Broos Campbell doesn't give young Matty Graves much of a break inThe
War of Knives. "Since reading No Quarter, the first book in Broos
Campbell's Matty Graves series, I have had the time to read several
novels and nonfiction books of a nautical vein. Some were good, a few
were very good, and one or two was a struggle to read to completion,"
Tom Knapp says.
"But after them all, I was very happy and relieved to pick up The War
of the Knives, which not only met my expectations after reading No
Quarter, it exceeded them by far."
Jocelynn Drake takes the third step of Dark Days with vampires,
werewolves and elves inDawnbreaker.
"Dawnbreaker is unrelenting in its heart-exploding action and page-
turner suspense," Justin Tenley says. "Drake's characters are as cold
and distant as ever, but the illuminating light tucked deep inside
each of them is an undeniable presence. Best read when the sun has
gone down, this dark story will keep readers awake all night, unable
to put it aside."
There is, Tom Knapp muses, a certain subset of comics fan that enjoys
looking at superheroines in the buff. "There are -- or so I'm told,
this is purely rumor -- entire websites devoted to the art of naked
versions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, She-Hulk and the like," he says.
"Those fans will loveThe Cat & the Bat, a Batman title collected from
the Batman Confidential monthly series."
A young Batgirl mixes it up with Catwoman in the unsubtly titled
collection, The Cat & the Bat. "The story takes a surprising turn when
Selina, hoping to shake her pursuer, ducks into the Gotham City
Hedonist Society, where everyone is entirely naked. The only way to
catch her now is to drop spandex and follow," Tom Knapp says.
"OK, let's state up front that Batman, whom Barbara is trying so hard
to emulate, would never ever doff his attire to catch a crook. He'd KO
the bouncers, plow through the crowd and nab his man. Barbara, though,
takes the less likely route...."
Stephen Hawley Martin crosses science with spirituality in The Science
of Life After Death. "If you've followed the research over the past 30
years or so, what you'll discover is that Martin is searching for a
scientific basis for what we already know: that consciousness can be
projected so that we can perceive remote objects, that there is
probably something that survives death, that a whole bunch of evidence
exists that suggests the possibility of reincarnation and so on," says
Michael Scott Cain.
"Not that it's not a good thing to have scientific validation of these
things, but as far as consciousness research goes, we're still stuck
at the beginning, showing that something beyond ordinary modes of
perception exists. It's time to change the question, to ask what these
things mean, instead of what they are."
David Sedaris is quite confident that Me Talk Pretty One Day. "This
memoir by David Sedaris is Garrison Keillor crossed with Augusten
Burroughs. More drugs than Keillor, but less depravity than
Burroughs," Dave Sturm remarks.
"It's non-linear and each essay is a portrayal of an event in the life
of Sedaris or a family member. As you read it, it becomes apparent
some embellishment is going on. It's a shared wink, I think, between
author and reader, and I didn't mind. He's a James Thurber for our age."
Tom Knapp settles back for a wash, cut and style while watching You
Don't Mess with the Zohan. "You Don't Mess with the Zohan is an action-
spoof with funnyman Adam Sandler as Israeli counterterrorist Zohan
Dvir. Despite his superhuman abilities, Zohan tires of the constant
fighting, fakes his death and heads to America to pursue his dream --
cutting and styling hair," Tom says.
"The comic potential is vast here, and much of it is tapped inZohan.
Zohan's enthusiasm for the trade is palpable, even if he learned
everything he knows from a 1980s styling guide and practiced his art
on a pair of shaggy dogs. Unfortunately, Zohan has a schtick -- he
likes to have sex with elderly women -- and the movie beats that
schtick into the ground."
Dave Sturm, meanwhile, spends his movie-watching time In Dreams. "In
Dreams is a thriller made by a master. This is a movie to be watched
more than listened to. Let the visuals have their way with you and you
are going to have an exciting, nail-biting two hours capped with a
perfect-fit ending," he says.
"If you look for meaning, logical connections and perfect continuity,
don't bother. It's not going to work for you. It's not that kind of
movie. This is not Silence of the Lambs or Se7en. It's more like
Nicholas Roeg's twisted little masterpiece, Don't Look Now. In fact, I
recommend that movie to anyone (the few, the proud, the brave) who can
see what a terrific movie In Dreams is."
You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week.
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