Review: Rowan Jacobson and Clare Barboza: Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders

Apples. It’s that time of year, although in the world of supermarkets and global transportation, we have apples year around. Still, there’s something special about local produce in season, don’t you think?

What we have today is a look at a new book on apples from Gus, our Head Gardener. It’s Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders, with text by Rowan Jacobson and photos by Clare Barboza. It’s maybe not as exhaustive as the title makes it sound, according to Gus (and he should know), but it’s well worth a look.

Read the review to see what it’s all about.


Musical Musings: Even Folk Legends Can Stink

Sometimes a recording just doesn’t work which is why Jack Merry doesn’t regret a word of this review he wrote for Roots and Branches. Really. Truly. So now I offer up his review of Savourna Stevenson, June Tabor, and Danny Thompson’s Singing the Storm which was released on Cooking Vinyl nearly twenty years ago as why folk legends can sometimes go terribly wrong with who they work with.

Like melting a bitter saccharine pill on your tongue, this endeavor leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Tabor and Thompson are still up to par and a couple of tracks almost showcase their talents. Sadly though, they are quickly drowned out by the oddly arranged harp music provided by Stevenson. Arpeggiated folky elevator music meets muzak jazz, the work is lightweight and unchallenging — technically competent but horribly boring. Stevenson’s sound is suggestive of self-hypnotic tapes played in a metaphysical bookstore with tarot card readings, and incense burning.

The opening track, “The Baker”, is actually a sombre song about a man who bakes funeral cakes, but unless you read the lyrics, Stevenson’s “foo-foo” gives it a whole different, diluted feel. It’s only the fifth track, ‘Water’, that showcases Thompson’s unmistakable bass line, and lends a heartbeat and truth to the music.

The start of the closing track, ‘Jean Gordon” (words by Les Barker) finally shows a tremendous contrast with Tabor creating a strong rhythm with her voice, and stands out briefly with her passion — but then the fucking elevator music gallops over the top and envelopes Tabor’s trademark quality. Stevenson doesn’t understand what accompaniment means — her efforts are incongruent alongside these two seasoned professionals.

There’s not much more left to say.

Review: The Rough Guide to the Music of Haiti

We have another Rough Guide, this time of the music of Haiti. In fact, the title is The Rough Guide to the Music of Haiti. There — I guess that settles that question.

Perhaps it’s not strange the the music of Haiti displays a major African influence. As our reviewer notes, “It is said that by around 1800 there were eight times more Africans on the part of Spanish Hispanola known as Haiti than any other racial group.”

So, what kind of music do we wind up with? See the review for our take on that.

Live Action: Casey Neill Trio: Portland West: Recorded Live at St. John’s Pub

We have another live recording for you today, from the Casey Neill Trio, one of those bands who seem to combine a lot of influences into a brand of music that’s best described as “americana.” (And they’re not even Canadian!) Our reviewer takes a look at a live recording from St. John’s Pub in Portland (that would be the West Coast Portland, where it seems to rain every night).

So, what do you get when you combine Celtic influences (there’s that word again) with American folk music and a few other things? Well, read the review to find out.

Essay: Andrew Wheeler on Peter S. Beagle

Andrew Wheeler was editor of the SF Book Club when he gave us this comment.

In this, as in so many other things, my favorite is the one that came first. The first work of Beagle’s that I read was coincidentally his first novel, A Fine and Private Place. (Well, maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, after all — unicorns give me a rash, but a book set in a cemetary was just what I was looking for.)

A Fine and Private Place is elegant, quietly lovely, and deeply thoughtful. It’s a book with deep reservoirs of wisdom, and a viewpoint obviously built on decades of close observation of real people’s lives and interactions. And yet it was written by a nineteen-year-old.

Luckily, that nineteen-year-old was Peter Beagle, and that explains all.

(On the other hand, The Innkeeper’s Song is pretty darn good, too…)’

Review: Tommy Fleming: Sand and Water

More Irish music, more or less traditional, in a look at an album by Tommy Fleming, Sand and Water:

While Tommy Fleming has not achieved the kind of household popularity and familiarity in Ireland as singers like Mary Black or Dolores Keane, he comes from the same highly reputable stable – veterans of that longstanding traditional group, De Danann. Interestingly, the Sligo man claims that his own choice of listening matter lies in the direction of Streisand and Sinatra.

With that kind of provenance, this should be a knock-out, right? Well . . . maybe. Read the review to see what’s in store on this one.

Review: North Cregg: Mi.da:za

We’re back to Irish music today, with a review from the Archives of what was, at the time, an up-and-coming group from Cork. As our reviewer notes:

North Cregg have been causing quite a stir during the past couple of years. With a highly acclaimed debut album “…And They Danced All Night”, a prestigious Best Traditional Newcomer award from Irish Music Magazine, and an extensive summer 2001 touring schedule to their credit, things seem to be constantly getting bigger and better.

As for the details — well, you know what to do. You’ll find the review here.

Story: Autumn was her name (A Letter to Ekentrina)

I’ve been reading the older Pub journals this past week in the afternoon as I’ve taken a week off to be the caller for the series of contradances this week organized by Shut Up and Dance!, a meeting of dance enthusiasts who are staying in the yurts and having a grand time dancing, gossiping, eating, drinking, and skinny dipping in the river.

So I’d been reading a long comment from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, about a visitor from over The Border which separates here from the Faerie realm. She had been telling Sara, the Pub manager a century and half ago, that she’d had a visitor named Autumn, no other name that Autumn would admit to, dressed in reds, yellows, and browns.

You can read my letter to Ekentrina as I tell her what I found here.

Review: Dr. John: Creole Moon

Some years back, I saw Dr. John, the Night Tripper as he’s oft called, perform in some club down London way. He was, as always, brilliant that night. Just as interesting was that I saw him several hours earlier in a bar near where he was to perform and he was dressed just as he would be on stage (just google his name for photos of his dress) and had been for decades beyond count including his strangely carved cane. And Patrick O’Donnell, our reviewer of his Creole Moon album, has this to say about his music:

A force known to move the critics since the early 1960s, Dr. John has been making his own brand of music for four decades. While he hasn’t had much chart-topping success, almost anyone who’s got an ear for jazz, blues or R&B can tell you he’s the cat who did “Right Place, Wrong Time.” And anyone with half a brain who listens to him can tell you he’s damn good at what he does.

Now go read this review for a lot more on the Night Tripper and this album. Then go listen to ‘Right Place Wrong Time’, recorded live in Dallas by him and The Bonnaroo Review in 1974.

Literary Quote: Charles de Lint’s Seven Wild Sisters

There’s those that call it ginseng, but ‘round here we just call it ‘sang.  Don’t know which is right.  All I know for sure is that bees and ‘sang don’t mix, leastways not in these hills. 

Their rivalry’s got something to do with sweetness and light and wildflower pollen set against dark rooty things that live deep in the forest dirt.  That’s why bee spirits’ll lead the ‘sang poachers to those hidden ‘sang beds.  It’s an unkindness you’d expect more from the Mean Fairy—you know, the way he shows up at parties after the work’s all done.  He’s happy as all get out, flirting around and drinking and playing music, but then he can just turn no account mean, especially when he has a woman alone.

What’s that? 

‘Course there’s spirits in the hills.  How could there not be?  You think we’re alone in this world?  We have us a very peopled woods, girl, and I’ve seen all kinds in my time, big and small.

Beginning of this novel.