An odd project with a significant connect to Jackson’s film version of Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings is the aural version of The King of Elfland’s Daughter. Our reviewer explains here why you should give it your attention: ‘On hiatus from Steeleye Span, Johnson and Knight tackled a musical project that seems mostly to have been ignored. Adapting Lord Dunsany’s classic parable on marriage, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, has a lot of things going for it. It also suffers from some severe weak spots, but it’s well worth a listen.’
Read his full review here. If you find it of interest, go read the review of Steeleye Span adapting one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels!
It’s a testament to the strength of folk traditions that the stories — the folktales and fairy tales — can come through any number of transmutations with their essence intact. Let’s see how some writers, both contemporary and older, have handled the genre.
First up today is a retelling of the fairy tale of The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson. And in the tradition of Hans Christian Andersen, it has lessons.
Next, a pair of reviews of books by “The Princess Royal of Heroic Fantasy,” Tanith Lee. Yes, Lee took on some fairy tales, but if you’re familiar with Lee’s work (and if you’re not, I recommend that you rectify that as soon as possible), the results may not be so surprising. Take a look at our reactions to Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer and White As Snow.
In a slightly more traditional vein — at least, “traditional” to those of us who grew up within the last century — we have editor Michael Patrick Hearn’s anthology, The Victorian Fairy Tale Book.
FInally for today, another contemporary take on folklore and fairy tales, Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, with illustrations by Charles Vess.
See — you can bend them, reshape them, tone them down, ratchet them up, but they’re still our old familiar fairy tales.
And that’s the way it should be.
Later. . . .
Winter at the Kinrowan Estate can be long enough that even the most cheerful of us can get a bit depressed. My letter this week is to Svetlana, a friend of mine who lives now in Sweden, though she’s Russian.
She’s no fan of the current regime in her native country and feels Sweden’s a better place to raise a family. I certainly can’t disagree with her given the crisis in the Ukraine this week.
My letter to her is about the curling round-robin we held here and how it cheered everyone up. And Spring should be here soon!
It’s a good day for digging around in reviews past, and an especially good day for listening to music, so let’s see what looks interesting.
To start us off for today, we have a band that’s basically Balkan, even though based in Seattle, but manages to mix a lot of other things into their music. See what we had to say about Kultur Shock’s Fucc the INS.
From the other end of spectrum, sort of, is a collection of more traditions, this time African-American, with again, a lot of other things mixed in, courtesy of Sweet Honey in the Rock and their CD, The Women Gather.
How about a little Finnish in the mix? We have a solo album from Sanna-Kurki-Suonio, Musta. You Hedningarna fans will probably recognize the name. You’d be right.
Back to North America, this time with Joanne Shenandoah and Lawrence Laughing’s Orenda: Native American Songs of Life. Rule One: Don’t believe everything you see — or hear — in the movies.
And finally for today, another one of those collections that I can only call “traditional plus.” That’s what we have in Jin Jin/Firefly from Takashi Hirayasu and Bob Brozman.
There — that should give you something to occupy yourselves for a while.
This letter is a fond remembrance of things past.
From: Joe Du Vall
Subject: King Biscuit Boy
Date: June 21, 2004
I just read your tribute to the Biscuit a few moments ago. Funny thing was, it was the first time I’d ever searched his name on the Internet, not even after he died almost 18 months ago. I’m 50 years old, and live in Ottawa. I first saw the Boy play in late 1971 at Carleton University, here, when a few buddies who actually play music, talked me into going. Even though Sly and the Family Stone were playing at the Civic Centre that night, and my girlfriend wanted to be there, I convinced her to come to the pub at the university. Sly was his legendary stoned freak self in concert (what a waste of fucking talent; he turned out some great music), but I digress.
I will listen to any kind of music there is, as long as it captures my soul: Sinatra, Blood Sweat & Tears, Beatles, Metheny, bluegrass, Edmundo Ross, Steely Dan (Fagen & Becker are genius), Gilberto, whoever. But when I heard the Biscuit that night, it was like nothing else. I only had two beers, afraid to fuzz my pubescent brain, or lose my spot on the floor. A short time later, I was in a record store and bought the Official Music album. I shared it with my cousin, who went berserk. We tracked down his manager at the time, got a list of upcoming dates for 1972, and saw him 4 days in 7 nights. My mother thought I was obsessed, my sister got hooked as well, and soon all my cousins were listening.
There were some memorable shows, but I always liked him in a club setting. After Gooduns came out (he would never play “29 Ways” in concert; one time in between shows at the Ottawa Ex, he said they nailed the first take and used it for the album), he toured some more, but seemed to drift out of sight, and I got involved in college, then the working world. I think the album King Biscuit Boy that he recorded in New Orleans showed his diversity in the vocal department, but left me feeling a bit miffed without any harp. Nonetheless, it was a good album. Mouth of Steel was worth the wait, but I must confess that his final two recordings are not in my collection, but soon will be.
The last time I saw him in concert was at a Tuscon’s Road House in suburban Ottawa. What a disappointment. We talked briefly, he lamenting that he longed for the days of playing with good bunch of musicians, but was unaware of the whereabouts of old Mainline guitarst Mike McKenna, for instance. The ones he had with him this night were hackers, especially the piano player — who thought he could play boogie-woogie piano, but sounded more like some dude trying to make “Chopsticks” sound bluesy. Word that he had died came through a phone call by my cousin. He was really bummed out. It sent a flood of memories through me that left a smile on my face the rest of the night.
Sorry for this, I just wanted to share it with a true fan.
Regards, Joe Du Vall
We have interviewed some legends along the way, to say the least. Here’s one from a few years back (aren’t Archives wonderful things?), with none other than Loreena McKennit, who at the time was facing some major career changes. You get to share her thoughts on making music and shifting focus.
And, given the subject, there’s no point in my adding more.
We have a story for you today from Deborah Grabien, somewhat in the vein of “musical musings,” but very personal and ultimately very hopeful.
I lost a lot of my ability to use my right hand on musical instruments the way I’d been using it on 6 September 1971. On that day, I was a passenger in a car which was forced off Highway 1, in the Marin County headlands north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We fell a good long way. My young goddaughter was killed, and I trashed my hands when I stood up on two fractured legs and lifted the car because I thought she was under it. Turned out I had osteoporosis and was heading for a wheelchair. The accident took a lot of things away from me – ice skating, skiing, archery with a bow and arrow, and dance – but most importantly, my dominant hand, the right, had skin grafts, replacement knuckles, and dead nerves in key places, including between the pinky and ring finger.
Read the rest — it’s worth it.
Ah, music at a festival in the summer:
This festival must been one of the best-kept secrets in Cheshire. However the secret is now out! And it must surely be the “jewel in the crown” of Cheshire folk festivals. It started modestly, three to four years ago, and has grown steadily ever since. It is held on the grounds of the O.C. Club in the English village of Bromborough, on the Wirral.
The village of Bromborough is on the A41, heading out of Chester towards Birkenhead and Liverpool. The festival really has a lot to offer in that the O.C. Club complex houses a large, dedicated concert theatre with excellent acoustics and comfortable seating, plus another small theatre and function room upstairs that is used for small, more intimate concerts and rolling folk club, sessions, and work shops. If that isn’t enough there is even an outside marquee for never-ending sing-a-rounds and sessions. So whatever the weather, you are sure to have a good time. The field and grounds are flat and ideal for camping and caravans, and disabled access. Plus nice clean toilets and a hot shower room. Good food is served in the bar (and the beer is reasonably priced!) all day. There is ample car parking space on tarmac and the overflow field.
You can read his full look at this festival here.
Reprinted from Green Man Review.
Neftoon Zamora was legendary. He was part Zuni, part Martian and part Delta blues player. He hailed from the Great Spirit, or from Mars, or from somewhere in the back country of Mississippi… thousands of years ago. He was over six feet tall, strong, handsome, with long sand-colored hair which hung to his waist. The songs that he sang impacted the listener with a power, almost hypnotic, that went beyond mere music and lyric. Whatever impression Robert Johnson, or Muddy, or Wolf made when you first heard them… the songs of Neftoon Zamora were more terrifying in their imagery, more haunting in sound, more involving than all of them combined! So when Nez (ex-tv star, musician and businessman) received a tape of the lost recordings of Neftoon Zamora, he set out on a trip the likes of which has not been reported since Ulysses.
The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora was first published 1998, but I read the first six chapters online in 1997. I had admired Michael Nesmith for many years, thinking him to be the most talented of the Monkees, possibly the father of country-rock music as well, and the developer of the rock video as we know it. And his mother invented Liquid Paper! This novel is not his first attempt at prose — he had previously released two book and record sets, which attempted to marry music with the reading experience. The Prison and The Garden were only partially successful. The act of reading, for me, requires focus, and so does the act of listening… so to combine the two meant that I was able to give only partial attention to each. It was frustrating.
This novel, on the other hand, was captivating, a piece of magic realism which has been compared to the work of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez or Lewis Carroll. In my mind it cried out to be read aloud, so beautiful were many of the long descriptive passages! So I did; I read aloud to my wife (an exercise she enjoys), and when she was not available I read aloud to myself. Now, Michael Nesmith will read his novel aloud to you in the privacy of your own living-room. This new 6-CD set presents the entire novel, unabridged, with sound effects and music. It is delightful.
I’ve been listening to this story in the car since I received my copy last week. Nesmith’s soft Texas drawl is warm and soothing. His descriptions of the New Mexico landscape paint indelible pictures in your mind as you drive. You feel yourself lifted into this “Land of Enchantment” (the motto on New Mexico license plates). His words allow you to visualize the rocks and rills, the sky, the rivers, the sunsets, the clouds, the environment in which the action of the novel takes place. When he moves from indoors to outdoors, a sound effect assists in the illusion, traffic noise or a bird’s squawk. When Nez (he has given his narrator his own nickname) listens to the tape of Neffie’s blues tunes, Nesmith (the author/musician) has provided a scratchy recording of two of the songs which sounds authentically old, and authentically bluesy.
Describing sounds is another area where Nesmith shines. The chapter about the dance and the blues band is filled with technical information about stacked amps and cabling, and the true music lover’s tone of reverence for the music which issued forth from all that equipment. It is a remarkable piece of writing. His tales of the developing love between himself and Neffie (an affectionate nickname for Mr./Ms. Zamora) range from pastoral to torid. Neftoon Zamora transcends gender in this magical novel; he is at first a man, then she is a woman, now young, then old, always beautiful, powerful and magnificent with that long sandy hair that is her/his trademark. This is a conceit that is far easier to accept in the CD version than it was in the reading, for some reason. As I listened to Nez’s warm south-western voice I immediately understood which Neffie was in front of him.
I have listened to other writers read their work. Some are wonderful to listen to. Michael Ondaatje captivates the listener; Margaret Atwood’s nasal voice, on the other hand, is simply annoying. Michael Nesmith has done a remarkable job of transforming this work from ink on paper to a living, breathing world. When asked, “What is this book about?” Nesmith answered thus, “In each person, there is a place where intelligence, truth and beauty reside. It is not a mystical or remote place. It is a place we find when we hear a song that may bring tears to our eyes, or perhaps, when we sit under a tree taking in the beauty of the day. This novel is about Nez’s search for the search for that resonant spot in his own life and learning how to distinguish its reality from false moments. The search brings him in contact with Neftoon Zamora and the myths that surround her.” Whew!
On six CDs you will hear this whole story. You will hear about a place where intelligence, truth and beauty reside. It may be inside your head, or inside your car, but for awhile, it will seem like it is not a remote, mystical place… but someplace close, where that resonant spot comes within your grasp… if only for a moment. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Mostly the Sadies. Who, you may ask, are the Sadies? Well, boys and girls, read on.
The Sadies, says our reviewer, “may be the best Canadian band you’ve never heard of.” Well, let’s see if we can fix that, with a look at their Favourite Colors CD.
The Sadies also did a soundtrack, for an animated feature on Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Both the film and the album are titled Tales of the Rat Fink.
Of course, there’s a live album — there’s always a live album. So let’s see what happened with the Sadies’ In Concert, Volume One.
And as a footnote to that, and a reminder that boundaries are not as important as we think, here’s a look at the Sadies opening and backing for Neko Case at the Bowery Ballroom in 2005.
It’s almost too easy to segue (and I’ve been wanting to use that word for the longest time) from an album by Canadian musicians to a novel about Canadian musicians, so here’s a look at Ray Robertson’s Moody Food.
There’s probably more. We’ll get to it soon enough. In the meantime, stay warm.