Literary Quote: Paul Brandon’s Swim the Moon

It was Christmas and Kinlocochbervie had a festive atmosphere about it. Decorations and fir trees decked out with tinsel stood in windows, lighting the dull afternoon with flashes of cheerful Technicolor brilliance, and the door to the Compass was adorned with a massive wreath. The smell of burning wood was in the air, as the wind tugged at the ribbons of smoke issuing from most of the chimneys. I walked past the Compass, and my nose was assaulted by the wonderful odor of roasting chestnuts, something I had not smelled in years. It conjured many images of Christmases past, and as I walked to the first of the shops on my list, I was whistling a merry carol.

You can read our review here.


Review: Luke McCallin: The Man from Berlin/The Pale House

Looks like we have another iconic detective, this time an officer in German military intelligence in the closing days of World War II as portrayed in Luke McCallin’s The Man from Berlin and The Pale House. Reviewer Donna Bird lays out some of her attraction to novels set during the World Wars and in between:

Many years ago, I discovered a strong attraction to books about Europe during the first fifty years of the twentieth century. That the continent was beset by bloody conflicts and terrible destruction during that period seems to be part of the attraction. Even more, though, I find myself drawn to these times and places because of the moral challenges they presented to people of good will.

I can’t think of many circumstances that present more moral challenges than occupied Serbia (the setting of both novels) during World War II. Read Donna’s review to see how our hero coped.

Review: Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder

Gary Whithouse has provided us with an exhaustive review of one of those Americana musicians who defies classification, much like America itself: Cory Branan and his new release, The No-Hit Wonder. As Gary puts it:

A Tennessee native who records on the Chicago indie label Bloodshot, Branan comfortably wraps himself in a patchwork Americana quilt that’s equal parts roots rock, bluesy folk and hard-core country, with colorful bits and pieces of everything else from rockabilly to bluegrass to Tex-Mex to gypsy jazz and more. In other words, a true American original.

With that to whet your appetite, why don’t you just click through and read the review? (See? No waiting.)

Dylan Speaks: The Legendary 1965 Press Conference in San Francisco

We have something a little different today for our weekly interview — it’s an essay about an interview — well, a press conference, as you no doubt gathered from the title of this post.

And the subject is none other than the legendary Bob Dylan, about whom I could say a lot, but I don’t have to. So I won’t.

Instead, just read David Kidney’s reaction to the DVD of this historic event.

From the Letters Bag: We Have Our Own Opinions

That’s why we’re here. The recipients of our attention don’t always agree with us, though.

From: Dana Lyn
Subject: Review of Looking for the Early Opener
Date: October 8, 2005

Dear Mr. Nilsson,

I read your review of my record. It has taken me several months to decide whether or not to reply. Whereas I would respect anyone’s opinion should they not like my style of playing or the music that I write, I did find your review to be quite misguided and mean-spirited (‘better luck next time, Ms. Lyn?’).

I am not looking to make a buck with this music. I think it is very obvious from my CD that I am not out to make a commercial record. At any rate, from your words it seems like you might only be familiar with commercial Irish music — fast, slick, note-perfect, over-produced and ultra-arranged — which is not something that moves me in the slightest. I am sorry that my record ever fell into your hands and to your ears.


Dana Lyn

To which Lars Nilsson responds:

Dear Ms. Lyn:

Sorry you did not like the review.

I listen to a lot of music, much of it not produced to ‘make a buck’ and not ‘over-produced’. When reviewing I listen quite a few times to each record to get really into it. Some of the things I listen to grab me; I am sorry your record did not. I wrote the review some months ago, and I am sorry to say I do not remember the record or what I wrote about it, whereas I remember some reviews and records from years back.

I try not to kill off records or write sarcastically, as I think each performer is serious about what he/she does, but as a reviewer I have a responsibility to pass on my judgment of a record and to help the readers select which records to buy and which not to.

Somewhere on Green Man Review there is a longer essay written by me on how I look on my task as a reviewer. And just to make sure you know, no one at Green Man Review is paid to write: we all do it for the love of the music. Each one writes about the music he loves the best, in my case primarily Irish, Scottish and English music. And I must confess I prefer many of the albums produced by the performers themselves or released by small companies such as Wild Goose, to the big productions you find on the multinational companies.

And when I wrote ‘Better luck next time’ I probably meant it.

Lars Nilsson

(And a note from your Editor: We no longer have a letters department, but with our change in format, you can leave comments on our posts and reviews, and we encourage you to do so.)

Review: Kevin Thurman and Julian Darius: Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization

I’ll admit that the title is a little grandiose, and maybe a little misleading: Warren Ellis is not participating in the demise of Western civilization, any more than the rest of us are, but he is observing and commenting on it.

I’ll admit to a fondness for criticism, tempered by a fair amount of impatience with critical schools, which tend to be self-limiting: anyone writing from a tightly defined critical stance is going to miss things that don’t fit into their accepted viewpoint. Fortunately, we are spared that in Voyage in Noise: the authors seem to have adopted a fairly loose romantic approach — Das Ding an Sich, Ellis as himself and not a proponent of any school, and his work standing, in each case, on its own.

That’s just a couple of thoughts after rereading the review. Read it for yourself and see what you come up with.

Sound Bites: Summer 2014

Since I’m feeling lazy this morning, with sun streaming through the window as I look at a weather forecast that says “mostly cloudy” (insert head scratching here), I decided to let Gary Whitehouse do all the work, in the form of another installment of “Sound Bites.”

Given that it’s summer, you have to admire Gary’s dedication:

It’s summertime! I’m listening to lots of music, both new and old, but when it’s still light out at 9 o’clock of an evening, around here the thing to do is either grab a bucket and pick some blueberries, or pour another glass of pale ale and linger around the table on the deck in the twilight. Not hunker down with the headphones over the laptop.

But it looks like he did some hunkering anyway. Read his column to see what the summer has to offer (because there’s still a lot of summer left).

Literary Musings: Alan Light’s The Holy or the Broken

The subtitle of this fascinating book is Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah’, which pretty much sums what it’s about. However, it is worth quoting from the review: ‘Do you feel a personal connection to the song “Hallelujah”? I certainly do, and to judge from Alan Light’s book The Holy or the Broken, so do millions of people all over the world.’

I hadn’t encountered the song until I read Gary Whitehouse’s review of this book, as I wasn’t a fan of either artist in any meaningful sense. What I discovered was a damned earworm that had my brain looping the song for a half-dozen times. The book explains nicely why countless other folks have had the same epiphany.

Now it would really unfair to leave without you hearing “Hallelujah,” so I’ve searched The Infinite Jukebox to see if we had a live version. Of course we did… This version is from a concert at the Sony Center, Toronto on June 6, 2008, and demonstrates very nicely that a song is not the same every time it’s sung, as the lyrics often change, the musicians change, and the audience always changes, which affects the musician. Now go listen to this version of Hallelujah.

Review: Duhks: Fast Paced World

We have another look at that “americana” band from Canada, the Duhks, this time their fifth release, which sounds like a honey. But it seems that with the addition of two new members, their range has broadened a bit:

The new additions to the band are Sarah and Christian Dugas (replacing vocalist Jessee Havey and percussionist Scott Senior respectively) and the siblings certainly shine on Fast Paced World. The Dugas are French Canadian and Sarah’s multilingual abilities are shown off on a number in French (an original by Sarah), “Toujours Vouloir”, and another, the Sergio Mendes Brazilian dance hit “Magalenha”, in Portuguese.

So, it’s not exactly pure “americana” by any means, but that doesn’t dampen our reviewer’s enthusiasm. (And you have to wonder about a group that can generate rave reviews from our crew, who are a pretty tough bunch.) So read about what makes Fast Paced World so special.

Live Action: The Celtic Notes at Aras Chronain, Dublin

We have a personal essay from Peter Massey on a fabulous club and the experience of his band, the Celtic Notes, playing there.

Pete describes Aras Chronain:

Aras Chronain is a large Georgian house. It has now been converted into an Irish Cultural Centre. To the rear a large concert hall has been built on. There are some annex buildings, mainly classrooms where children / adults are taught the Irish language plus music, dancing and drama during daytime. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from 8.30pm there is a Traditional Irish Music Session in the ‘Kitchen bar’ and/or one of the other rooms. Entry is free for the sessions. On a Saturday night at 8pm there is usually a concert or ceilidh dance in the concert hall for a small entry fee. In short, this place is pretty unique. Musicians and singers come from all over Ireland to join in the sessions and learn.

The Celtic Notes were there for the entire weekend. Read Pete’s account of a musician’s dream.