4 September 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 13,000 reviews, interviews and
other bits of excitement.) See you there!
� � � MUSIC
Luis Fernando Puente will try to Brighten Up your day with his music.
"Puente is a pretty good musician, but he isn't a very good singer,"
warns Paul de Bruijn.
"For one song Brighten Up is very good. It's too bad most of the other
songs on the CD don't live up to that potential."
Michael Hurwitz & the Aimless Drifters are finding their Chrome on the
Range. "Backed by his country-folk band, the Aimless Drifters, Wyoming-
based guitar picker Michael Hurwitz releases a fine CD of the sort
that encourages repeated listening, every few years or so," Jerome
"Most of the songs are set in the West, where Hurwitz has spent the
bulk of his life holding down a variety of occupations, including
cowboy, bronco buster and tourist guide. He is also, of course, a
longtime working musician who, having absorbed assorted rooted
influences (most deeply, old-fashioned folk balladry for the darker
stuff and Western swing for the lighter), has fashioned a personal
style out of an engaging perspective and an attractively weathered
baritone with which to give it voice."
The Steeldrivers are feeling a bit Reckless about their new CD. "When
a group of Nashville's finest and most prominent musicians get
together to form a bluegrass band, you can bet the farm the result is
going to be worth hearing. And that's certainly the case with the
Steeldrivers," Michael Scott Cain proclaims.
"Reckless is not only a first-rate bluegrass album, it also points out
the direction that bluegrass music has to go in if it wants to remain
a power, instead of just a fringe music. The Steeldrivers, while true
to the tradition, extend it, bringing a modern sound to it, one that
incorporates aspects of rock, soul and country. Not since the
emergence of Newgrass Revival has the music been this energized, this
fresh and innovative."
Albert Castiglia is Keepin On. "Castiglia plays fat, tough, heavily
amped chords in his version of late-model blues. Nothing unusual about
that, of course. It's the lingua franca of a genre that, at least on
its electric side, sounds these days as much like a kind of rooted
rock -- those roots sometimes no deeper than 1970s Southern rock-and-
boogie bands -- as the sort of downhome folk music that blues used to
be," Jerome Clark says.
"Fundamentally, Keepin On succeeds because of Castiglia's manifest
musical/literary intelligence and his imposing taste in material."
� � � PERFORMANCE
Zydeco musicians C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band made a
stopover in Lancaster, Pa., that coincided with the fifth anniversary
of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall in New Orleans. "Chenier,
scion of a proud zydeco tradition and with five albums to his credit,
has polished the musical merger of Cajun, Creole and blues sounds, and
the audience on Sunday responded with tireless zeal," Tom Knapp says.
"Chenier played a few quick riffs on his accordion before crunching
into the first song -- and the dance floor in front of the stage
filled in record time." Read Tom's complete review for a full account
of the performance.
� � � RAMBLING
Tom Knapp shares his thoughts on a pop song tearing up the charts ...
and teaching kids the wrong way to love. InLove hurts?, he says, "It
tears my heart a little every time this song comes on the radio and I
know, out there somewhere, a kid is learning that violence in a
relationship is par for the course. It happens; just say you're sorry
and move on, if you're the villain of the piece, and if you're the
victim, just take it, learn to like it, and never ever try to leave
� � � FICTION
Cherie Priest has wowed a lot of readers in the present ... but how
about in the past? Tom Knapp takes a look at her novel debut, Four &
Twenty Blackbirds, for the answer.
"As first books go, Priest produced a winner," he says. "The narrative
bogs down a time or two along the way, but the story is compelling
enough to pull you over the rough patches. Your skin will crawl while
reading this one -- and not just because you can feel the mosquitoes
on your arms, the heavy air in your lungs and the hungry eyes of a
gator on your back as you walk."
Scott Thomas goes for the scare -- but doesn't quite get there -- with
Midnight in New England. "The blurb on the back cover of Midnight in
New England compares author Scott Thomas to Poe and Lovecraft. It's an
impressive claim -- but only if the work within can live up to the
claim," Tom says.
"Thomas, sadly, falls short of the mark. It's not that he doesn't make
a strong effort -- he has a knack for evoking a certain atmosphere,
certainly -- but the payoff isn't there."
Tanya Huff spreads a little Smoke & Ashes on the Canadian vampire
scene. "In this third book of the Smoke series, a Demonic Convergence
threatens to loose the demons from hell and end the world as we know
it," Becky Kyle warns.
"There are some slow spots at the end, but overall this book is funny
and fast-paced. The series is picking up and I certainly hope there
are more of them."
� � � GRAPHIC NOVELS
Jennifer Love Hewitt, "with the level of expertise that comes with
playing someone who interacts with ghosts on TV, has teamed up with
writer Scott Lobdell to tell horror stories in comic-book form," Tom
"The stories in Music Box are presented in a Twilight Zone format, a
series of loosely related vignettes that touch briefly on the lives of
people who are about to ... well, they're gonna have very bad things
happen to them. ... The writing is pretty good, so full credit to
Lobdell. The art is a mixed bag. I'm not really sure what Hewitt's
input here is; I suppose it's enough that she lends her likeness to
some of the covers."
Tom doesn't think Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars hits its mark.
"Perhaps it would help if I'd read Frank Beddor's novel, The Looking
Glass War. I don't think so," he says.
"The story, which includes zombies, vampires and thieves of the
imagination, is a trainwreck, with everything pretty much coming down
to the Hatter flashing some blades, throwing his hat and spilling some
blood. I was bored fairly quickly."
� � � HAUNTINGS
David J. Pitkin examines the Ghosts of the Northeast. "Pitkin writes
primarily about his regional area of New York. His writing style is
inquisitive, with much information based in fact," Lee Lukaszewicz says.
"I enjoyed his well-researched historical information about the places
he visits, as well as the photos he includes. He then pulls it all
together with contemporary stories, including eyewitnesses, credibly
told and concisely written. He writes with just enough speculation to
make you think, and I also enjoyed his wry sense of humor."
� � � SCIENCE & NATURE
Mary Kay Carson gets up close and personal with The Bat Scientists --
and a whole lot of bats. "The photographs are startling in their
beauty," Tom Knapp reports.
"But the heart of The Bat Scientists is Mary Kay Carson's informative,
easy-to-understand text. Her subject here is twofold: she imparts a
vast amount of knowledge about bats and, as the title suggests, an
equal amount of detail on the people who study them, strive to protect
them and do their best to explode the myths that lead people to fear,
hate and kill them."
� � � MUSIC CULTURE
Lonn Friend tells it like it is in Life on Planet Rock: From Guns N'
Roses to Nirvana, a Backstage Journey through Rock's Most Debauched
Decade. "What can a book reviewer say about a memoir written by the
editor ofRIP magazine and endorsed by Cameron Crowe, Scott Ian, Paul
Stanley, Alice Cooper, Lemmy Kilmister and one of the founders of
MTV?" asks Jessica Lux-Baumann.
"Friend's memoir marks a critical contribution to the history of heavy
metal. It reads like an impeccably verified collection of bar-room
tales from a top notch storyteller."
� � � MOVIES
Daniel Jolley spends a little time with The Living & the Dead. "I
would never dare claim to understand all of the nuances of this film,
and I can see how a good many viewers will not find it appealing in
the least, but I personally consider The Living & the Dead a brilliant
motion picture. This may well be the darkest, most depressing film
I've ever seen; it's certainly among the most powerful, as it reaches
parts of your heart and mind that are rarely if ever touched by
anything other than personal tragedy," he says.
"Get any notions of visceral horror out of your head right now, as The
Living & the Dead curls up in its very own corner of the horror genre,
where the divide between horror and tragedy is at its thinnest."
Daniel also notices Winter Passing. "You look at this film, especially
the cover, and you think quirky comedy. Will Ferrell is in it, so you
know it has to be a comedy. Well, it is quirky, but Winter Passing is
not a comedy; it's actually a pretty bleak, depressing film. Seemingly
by design, the film defies your attempts to get your mind around what
is going on," he says.
"This is an excellent, albeit unconventional, film. The film is
probably too dark and weird for some people, and others may just be
mad because they expected it to be funny, but it's really quite a
touching film in its own way, and it has a lot to say about life in
You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week.
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