30 October 2001 to 9 February 2002

9 February 2002

The shortest month is pushing on and our editor is suffering from a wicked cold. I guess that's why they call it the February Blues! But none of that here, where we have another big update to keep you busy.

Tom Knapp is happy to get things started by revisiting the cheerful sounds of fiddler April Verch, whose Fiddelicious is another example of excellent musicianship. "Fiddelicious is infused with joy, a tangible pleasure in the act of playing," Tom says. "You can tell that April is deeply in love with her music, so clearly does it ring out in every note."

Veema Kysac found plenty of fine fiddling on The Lighthouse, a Cape Breton collection from Paul Cranford and his musical friends. "Thoroughly enjoyable," Veema says. "I can't say how many times I listened to the album and found myself toe-tapping along with it."

Canadian balladeer Paddy Tutty has collected songs from two early CDs on The Roving Jewel, and Veema says it's a collection worth hearing. "A passion for folk singing can be assuaged by a listen to The Roving Jewel," Veema says, "and those who missed her first CDs can be sure they're getting the best of those two on this one."

Patrick Derksen seems a bit blown away by the talents of Greenfire. The new CD A Roof for the Rain "is full of beautiful melodies, laid-back or up-tempo, whose aim it is to make the listener feel right at home," Patrick says.

Sheree Morrow was likewise overwhelmed by the music on Canterach's self-titled CD. "With almost an hour of sheer listening pleasure, it's hard even to pick a favorite track," Sheree says. "Every need is satisfied."

Wil Owen has found a new favorite in former Mouth Music member Talitha MacKenzie's CD Spiorad. "While much of the music has a modern feel, the base is definitely timeless and Spiorad should have appeal for years to come," Wil says.

Guava Soul, from Hawaiian music scion Bla Pahinui, provides "a touch of the tropics, a touch of the blues, full-bodied and deep," says Jamie O'Brien. "This is Bla having fun and at his best."

Ken Fasimpaur gives high marks to Tim Story's Shadowplay, a CD Ken describes as "a delicate, brooding masterpiece of ambient chamber music, a luminous mosaic of attenuated and ethereal melancholia."

Chet Williamson says James Leva's old-time/bluegrass CD Memory Theatre "is a pretty spectacular outing for Leva and his fellow musicians." Chet has no qualms about giving this a high recommendation in this, his 100th Rambles review!

Nicky Rossiter is clearly impressed with folksinger Leigh Hilger and Casting Shadows. "Her music is simple, the lyrics are clear and the message is profound," Nicky says.

Rachel Jagt comes away from Paul Bromley's debut CD, Where I Come From, with a good feeling. "Bromley is the next name to add to a growing list of young Canadian singer-songwriters who are making names for themselves in coffeehouses and at music festivals across the country," Rachel says.

Naomi de Bruyn says the CD didn't "kick" her, but she found herself enjoying Andy Collins' Barron Delta Blue nonetheless. "It speaks of a different time and place," Nai says, "one I won't mind visiting now and again."

Italy isn't usually the first place you think to look for jazz, but Wil Owen is quite satisfied with the jazz output of Ferdinando Argenti on his recent CD Argenti. "The music is very classy, to say the least," Wil says. "In fact, being a jeans and T-shirt guy myself, I often feel underdressed when I pop Argenti into the CD player."

The Keith Yaun Quartet took a chance with its classical jazz project Amen: Improvisations on Messiaen, says Richard Cochrane. No worries, though, he says: "This is a rather marvellous record and a quite unexpected one."

Charlie Ricci had a blast with Bash!, a folk-rockin' CD by Billy Bremner. The album, originally released in 1984 and given new life last year, "is a fun album from start to finish," Charlie says. "Even Bremner's downer songs make you want to party."

Ellen Rawson had the pleasure of attending a performance by Lynn Miles and Bill Morrissey at the Borderline, London, England. Read her assessment of the show!

And now, onto books!

Kate Danemark is quite happy with the course in art history she completed by paging through Federico Zeri's Van Gogh: Starry Night, part of the One Hundred Paintings series. "As a single edition it makes an educational study of one artist; the collection as a whole is a useful and approachable art history resource," Kate opines.

Next, Rambles newcomer Joyce Rankin serves up some Codfish and Angels, a novel from the Maritimes by Daniel Doucet. "Doucet's work shows a remarkable understanding of human nature," Joyce says. "This writer goes beyond cynicism into compassion, and his characters are multi-dimensional and full of contradictions."

Melissa Kowalewski was left breathless by John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson's science fiction tale Oxygen, which "leaves you hanging until the very last page."

It's not easy jumping headlong into an ongoing series, and Amanda Fisher says I Dare, the seventh novel in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe series, was an abrupt entrance into that science fiction world. "If you are not already a fan of the series ... I can't recommend starting it, particularly with this volume," she says.

Donna Scanlon says the audio version of Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer adds new dimensions to the science fiction tale. "The vivid presentation captures the reader's imagination," Donna says.

Tom Knapp is impressed by the efforts of numerous comic book artists, who respond through their art to the dreadful events of Sept. 11, 2001. Tom urges everyone to take a look at 9-11, a pair of collected works raising money for various relief organizations.

As usual, we'll wrap up this edition with a pair of movie reviews.

Tom has finally braved the live-action remake of the classic Dr. Seuss tale How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- and he finds it lacking when compared to the 1966 cartoon. Despite good work by Jim Carrey in the title role, Tom says he feels "sorry for the children who will grow up associating this movie with Dr. Seuss' marvelous story, rather than the animated feature which still holds up so well after 35 years."

Janine Kauffman says the film version of Bridget Jones's Diary doesn't quite live up to the book by Helen Fielding. "But, know what? Ultimately, I don't care," Janine says. "For a light, romantic comedy -- and there really is no other way to adapt Bridget Jones -- it's a winner."

2 February 2002

Is it Imbolc? Candlemas? Or just Groundhog Day? However you mark Feb. 2 in the turning of the year, we'll mark it here with another lively and informative edition of Rambles. And what better way to begin than with Beth Derochea's review of Candlemas: A Feast of Flames by Amber K & Azrael Arynn K. The book, Beth explains, provides an in-depth look at the holidays centered around this time of year.

Now, without further delay, let's skip right into today's jam-packed music section!

Tom Knapp isn't the world's biggest fan of bagpipes, but Clann An Drumma blew him away with some heavy percussion and other embellishments on the band's debut album. "Tried & True will surely keep your foot tapping to the beat as the pipe skirls through your speakers," Tom says.

Donna Scanlon enjoys the solid musicianship and musical contrasts on White Horses by William Pint and Felicia Dale. "Overall, this CD is a bracing as a brisk sea breeze," she says.

Have a hankerin' for Irish rock the way only Shane MacGowan can do it? Nicky Rossiter suggests seeking out a copy of The Rare Oul Stuff, a collection of great tracks by MacGowan and the Popes. "Storming through a series of 21 tracks like a cil band on speed, the Popes defy anyone to avoid singing along or tapping their feet," Nicky cautions.

Kimberley Marie swings our attention to the Maritimes for the vocal harmonies of the Ennis Sisters on their new self-titled CD. "This album is certainly a feel-good CD, which at this time is really needed," Kimberley says. "A smile comes to your face while listening, and you'll be singing along to the music before you know it!"

Alan Lomax captured a fading moment in time when he took his recorder to Italy and preserved the material for Italian Treasury: Emilia-Romagna. Reviewer John Cross says the album "serves to document with veracity the traditional folk music of this key region so vital in Italian history, a pocket of upheld cultural integrity in a changing time."

Wil Owen is a big fan of well-made compilation discs, and Oxfam Africa: Dance Rhythms from Algeria to Zimbabwe fits the bill. "The artists showcased on Oxfam Africa display a wide variety of music, which might be expected on a CD that covers an entire continent," Wil says.

Wil had a false start, but nonetheless found himself enjoying Lee Boice's Sacred Spaces immensely. The album blends various world, jazz and new age styles, Wil says, and "the talent involved in melding all these musical styles into a coherent amalgamation of sounds is apparent."

Nicky is well pleased with the folk stylings of Red Grammer, a Soul Man in a Techno World. "Almost every track on this CD is a gem," Nicky says. "He writes well about hope, love and adversity."

Tina Marzola "is not only ready, she's already there," claims reviewer Lynn McLachlan after hearing Marzola's debut CD, She's Ready. "Her roots-rock sound is smooth and polished," Lynn says.

Three out of four isn't bad, says Paul de Bruijn, but on a four-track EP, one bad tune can sour the mix. That's his reservation with T.J Sullivan's Blues and Other Love Songs, which only gets a 75 percent grade.

Chet Williamson says Tom, Brad & Alice failed to engage him despite flawless instrumentation on their imaginatively titled bluegrass CD We'll Die in the Pig Pen Fighting. "There's little else here to differentiate it from the hundreds of other banjo/fiddle/guitar old-time recordings that cover similar territory," Chet explains.

Nicky isn't too impressed with Dave Ramont's folk CD Scrawny. Nicky has high hopes, however, for Ramont's future as a lyricist, noting that he "is perceptive and has good stories to tell."

Over in jazz, Richard Cochrane has kudos for Evan Parker and Waterloo 1985. "Virtually anything involving Parker tends to be essential, but because he releases so frequently it's impossible for any but the most fanatical collectors to keep up," Richard says. "This is a set that has plenty to recommend it."

Veema Kysac shifts us from music to books with a book about music. Roving Through Ireland: Piano Solos of Traditional Irish Folk Music is a "good bet" when it comes to Irish tunebooks, Veema says.

Tom Knapp admits that some folks just aren't ready for a book like Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. "If you pick up a copy of Lamb looking to be offended, chances are you will be," Tom notes. For everyone else, he says, the novel is "a refreshingly bold, insightfully clever and joyously funny book that you'll want to share with everyone you know."

Donna Scanlon pays a visit to Spider Robinson and reviews his latest novel. "The Free Lunch is a swiftly paced amalgam of science fiction, adventure and pure wish fulfillment," Donna says.

Paul de Bruijn says the editors of Quantum Musings have done a good job compiling their short stories into a volume titled, aptly enough, Quantum Musings. Read on to see what awaits inside.

Naomi de Bruyn not only enjoyed the story, she also enjoyed the convenience of "reading" Neal Stephenson's futuristic novel Snow Crash in an audio format. "It is a twisted and yet very logical pathway for this plot," Nai says, "and I've got to hand it to Stephenson for creating such an interesting piece of literature (which I believe either has become, or is in the process of becoming, a cult classic)."

Elizabeth Badurina marks her 100th Rambles review with At Seventy, a collection of autobiographical writings by May Sarton. "Her up-front way of talking about her craft has some fantastic hidden gems of writer wisdom enclosed -- like having a mentor at the ready," Elizabeth says.

Tom's graphic contribution today is Gotham Noir, an Elseworlds Batman tale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. "The story has all the right elements: menacing mob bosses, thick-necked enforcers, corrupt politicians and even a leggy dame with a past and a secret," Tom reveals.

In movies, Tom says Deep Blue Sea "crosses the classic shark movie, Jaws, with elements of Frankenstein." However, flaws in the movie's logic and some amateurish computer-generated sharks prevent it from achieving the depth it hoped to achieve.

Miles O'Dometer says You Can Count on Me. Miles describes it as "a film that's Shakespearean in its plot machinations and Capra-esque in its outlook." Read his review to see why the film and its makers were nominated for a "bushel-basket full" of Academy awards.

That's it for today. Have a good one! (And don't forget to check out that shadow!)

26 January 2002

Cheryl Turner gets this edition off to a good beginning with Cape Breton fiddler Kimberley Fraser's CD Heart Behind the Bow. "I am really looking forward to the next album by this young talent," Cheryl says. "In the two years since this album was produced, I have heard Fraser play several times, and her musical talents continue to mature and grow."

Jamie O'Brien is sold on the combination of Scottish, Irish and Breton fiddling put forth by the Celtic Fiddle Festival on Rendezvous. "There is not one false moment on this album as they combine styles and move with ease from one culture to another," Jamie says, "entertainingly demonstrating their own music while sensitively complementing each other."

Nicky Rossiter has little patience for the arrangements of Ola on The Animals Are in the West. The members of this British band "are accomplished players and have very sweet melodic voices," Nicky says. However, "folk music needs an edge -- at least on some tracks -- and Ola simply does not give it one."

Nicky (who, you'll notice, was a very busy reviewer this week!) is pleased to see Two a Roue, an older album from British folksingers Jez Lowe and Jake Walton, getting new life. "The CD features some beautiful original songs that are steeped in the folk tradition," Nicky says. "So steeped in fact that it is often necessary to remind ourselves that these are new songs penned by the performers."

Tom Knapp was startled by the pop and jazz elements hovering Above the Clouds with Bevel Jenny, but he can't say he's unhappy with the result. "Sure, there have been Celtic/jazz hybrids of varying degrees in the past," Tom says, "but none to my ears have sounded so perfectly centered as this genre-crossing blend."

Tom enjoys the disparate sides of Nonie Crete's Moonlight Dreams, a blend of folk and Celtic styles. "Crete's voice is strong and sure throughout, injecting just the right amounts of glee or sorrow in each song," Tom says.

Nicky has few reservations about going Down in the Valley with British folksinger Charlotte Greig. Greig, he says, "has a lovely voice and brings a beautiful performance to each track."

Wil Owen discovered a new favorite African musician while listening to Habib Koite and Bamada perform on Baro. Read his review to learn why!

Wil also enjoyed the folk sounds of Soaring with Steve Eulberg. "The point of Soaring was to create a CD showcasing Steve's live act where he trades instruments with other musicians and together they produce a beautiful tapestry of both traditional and original songs," Wil says. See how successful Wil thinks Eulberg was!

Gilbert Head taps into a Blue Ridge Legacy with Hobart Smith, a Portraits series release from Alan Lomax and Rounder Records. "If you are a fan of traditional, Appalachian or old-timey music and don't already own this CD," Gil asks, "what are you waiting for?"

Nicky discovered a treasure in folksinger Jane Fallon's CD Faces. "It is a combination of the fun with the sad, and it makes comment on social ills that are well known but seldom given space in our minds and thoughts," Nicky says.

On the other hand, Nicky senses good things from country singer Blaike on Just Taste It. Unfortunately, he says, "the spark that is so necessary for success just failed to ignite."

Lynne Remick compares Night Sessions, the new album from jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, to "a sensual, musical body massage. ... During particularly tense periods in my work day, a little Botti goes a long way."

Donna Scanlon serves up a look at Tanglefoot, who performed recently in Bethlehem, Pa. Read her review to see why it was possibly a good thing that one of the band's five members was absent that night.

Moving to the printed page, Donna enjoys the Shakespearean twists in this story that is not by, but features a young Will Shakespeare in the realms of faerie. Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt "is an engaging first novel," Donna says, "and Hoyt is an author to watch."

Donna says Candas Jane Dorsey's A Paradigm of Earth "is a lucid and unusual 'first contact' novel that delves into what it means to be human. ... It is a book you owe to yourself to read and re-read."

Elizabeth Badurina garnered some laughs from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, a collection of "essays and ruminations" by David Foster Wallace. Still, she questions anyone who labels Wallace "the most hilarious writer of our generation." Read why!

Tom delves again into hauntings with Vernon Oickle's Ghost Stories of the Maritimes. See why Tom found it superior to a similar pair of collections previously reviewed.

Our graphic novel for today is Superman's The Odyssey. "The story is strong," Tom says, "with plenty of intrigue and global tension to mix with the action."

Janine Kauffman unbars the cineplex for The Tao of Steve, a look at an unusual personal philosophy. See why Janine lauds the film's "wonderful quirkiness."

Next, Miles O'Dometer delves into the world of artist Jackson Pollock. "If you're looking for happy endings or snappy patter, don't go here," Miles warns. "But if you like films that aren't afraid to pick the scabs off of human nature and look deep into the wounds below -- that turn words into images and images into profound statements on the human soul -- Pollock is your man, and Pollock is your movie."

That closes another edition of Rambles. Have a grand week!

19 January 2002

Sheree Morrow gives today's edition a grand start with her review of Carleen Frazier-Adlam's Celtic CD On the Scottish Side. "This recording works so well on so many levels, it's hard to know exactly where to start," Sheree admits. Take a look and see why!

Sheree also shares A Traveler's Dream with hammered dulcimer player Maggie Sansone. "Such a versatile musician with an equally versatile instrument guarantees limitless possibilities," Sheree says.

Tom Knapp can't shake the comparison between the Pogues and Norway's Greenland Whalers in his review of the latter band's debut CD, The Mainstreet Sword. "If you like the Pogues, you'll like this a lot," Tom says. "But, no fears, the Greenland Whalers aren't just a retread band; the original material and the fun-filled approach to their music earns them a spotlight all on their own."

Cheryl Turner says this new Greentrax release, The Best of Scottish Music, Vol. 2, "is an excellent mix that should hold appeal for listeners of a wide variety of Scottish music. The recording earns a high score in my books for sheer diversity, not to mention the talented artists showcased on the compilation."

Amanda Fisher meets and greets one of the top African reggae artists in The Rough Guide to Lucky Dube, a new release from the World Music Network. "The songs on Rough Guide follow Dube's career, and it's very enjoyable to hear how his style has evolved over time while still retaining a distinctive flavor," Amanda says.

Chet Williamson goes to a Faraway Land with bluegrass artist Ron Block. "Block's guitar chops are impressive and his lyrics are well-crafted," Chet explains, "but the level of musical composition lags too far behind the words."

Rambles says hello to new writer Jeff Callahan, who makes his debut with jazz guitarist B.D. Lenz and Lost and Found. "What really differentiates Lenz from his jazz contemporaries is the ability of his instrumental compositions to capture and vividly recreate intimate scenes and portraits," Jeff says.

Wil Owen straddles a musical line by Going to Water with Eddy Lawrence. While focusing on Native American roots, the album mixes "a little country with some rock, reggae, Mexican and perhaps a little bit of the blues," Wil says. "Eddy has certainly come up with an intriguing CD!"

Alanna Berger crosses a few more musical boundaries with her review of Across the Winterline by Jack Williams. "Jack is everything you want a blues-picker and singer-songwriter to be," Alanna says. "His voice is that perfect tenor blend of sometimes gravelly, sometimes velvet smooth, bluesy-folk energy tinged with country and jazz that whispers and pulls you closer."

Ellen Rawson climbs Five Stories with folksinger Kris Delmhorst. "Her voice hits you first," Ellen says. "Its light silvery tones feel delicate at first, but they're far from fragile."

Donna Scanlon says there's "a blend of folk and pop, a hint of country and a dash of blues" on Heather Shayne Blakeslee's CD Bones. "She's definitely an artist to watch," Donna says.

Lynn McLachlan says Cheryl Hoenemeyer's second CD, Crowded Bed, provides "heartfelt vocals, strong musicianship and intriguing lyrics. Yet for me, Crowded Bed just doesn't feel comfortable."

The incidents of September 11 touched everyone, and the traditional Irish music community is no exception. From Dervish valiantly playing a "cancelled" gig to kind words from Lunasa and an eyewitness report from Tony DeMarco, Helene Northway reports on how New York City has fared in this, her Rambles debut.

Nicky Rossiter marks review No. 40 with a report on Pierce Turner & Friends live at the White's Barn in Wexford, Ireland. Read why this event, which was sparked by an act of thievery, "proved to rather a unique concert."

Feel like exploring the roots of folk music? Try Benjamin Filene's Romancing the Folk: Public Memory & American Roots Music, which reviewer Veema Kysac says "enlightens and draws you into its historical and musical reveries."

Sarah Meador says Federico Zeri managed to cram a full course of study on Botticelli in his slim art book, Botticelli: Allegory of Spring. "If all the books in Zeri's One Hundred Paintings series are this comprehensive, an attentive reader would be able to out-critique most museum staffs," Sarah says.

Tom shares a Discovery at Walden with Roland Wells Robbins, who details the process and events leading up to the finding the ruins of Henry David Thoreau's small house, long lost in the woods surrounding Walden Pond.

Tom also serves up a double dose of the Dark Knight in his review of Haunted Gotham and The Doom That Came to Gotham. "Both tales involve ancient evils that threaten to rise and sweep over the city," Tom says. "But, ultimately, neither managed to truly engage me all that much and neither offers a style of art I find very appealing."

Donna Scanlon is impressed by Glen David Gold's debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil, which "blends history, mystery and illusion with deft literary sleight-of-hand. ... It's impossible to put it down as the tension mounts."

Conor O'Connor serves up some science fiction Linda Nagata-style in Vast. "Vast is rich in ideas, and successfully combines them with characters driven by such ancient emotions as love, jealousy and revenge to offer a convincing glimpse of how, as ever throughout the history of the species, humans can successfully manipulate the building blocks of the universe, to be in turn changed by these products of their own ingenuity," Conor says.

Over in cinematography, Janine Kauffman has this to say about Requiem for a Dream: "The last 15 minutes are some of the most painful and unsettling I've seen in movies in a long, long time. But ... those 15 minutes are some of the most necessary minutes you'll watch. You won't forget a single one of them."

Tom brings another day to a close with an old favorite, Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. "Young Frankenstein brings to life more than just a monster," Tom says. "Even after all these years, it remains among the best of Brooks' work."

12 January 2002

Alanna Berger begins today's edition without further ado a Band of Rogues called the Fenians. "Their brand of music is high energy, traditional Irish with the passion of rock and the sophistication of jazz overtones," Alanna says.

Alanna also offers up a review of From Ireland and Elsewhere by So's Your Mom. "Certainly, when Arthur Guinness, John Jameson and the Clancy Brothers are listed in the acknowledgements, you'd expect exactly what you get -- a down-home, traditional ceilidh!"

Cheryl Turner is next with David Doersch and Warrior Poet. "The album is a potent mix of original works featuring insightful lyrics, appealing vocals, skillful accompaniment and pleasant melodies," Cheryl says.

Cheryl also swings by Cape Breton for a Dedication from fiddler Jennifer Roland. "It has everything I look for in a good fiddle recording," Cheryl says, "variety, expression, good tunes and (most importantly) danceability."

Paul de Bruijn stumbled upon the band Colcannon, an Australian Celtic-rock band not to be confused with Colcannon from Colorado. Covering Our Tracks, Paul says, "is a beautiful CD full of wonderful music and songs."

Donna Scanlon serves up some Celtic music Texas-style with Songs of the Muse from the Brobdingnabian Bards. "Overall, the selection and arrangement is appealing and cohesive," Donna says.

Spreading into Europe, our next selection is the self-titled release from Mikveh. The band "explores related events and themes through klezmer and Yiddish music," Donna says. "These five women have produced a textured, varied and cohesive CD featuring musicianship and balance."

Ellen Rawson cuts to bluegrass with a New Favorite from Alison Krauss and Union Station. "Each member of this group is noted for his or her musical expertise, and this album allows each one to demonstrate those well-honed skills," Ellen promises.

Wil Owen finds the meaning of life with his 42nd Rambles review, Putumayo's new compilation disc Colombia. "Without fail, Putumayo has created yet another must-have CD," Wil enthuses.

Tom Knapp enjoys Lisa Gerrard's music even when she's not with Dead Can Dance. See how she sounds in The Mirror Pool, "a reflective, expressive introduction to her original sound."

Julie Bowerman marks her 50th Rambles review by Crossing the Line with jazz composer/pianist John Polito. The album, Julie says, "leans more toward jazzy classical than toward classical jazz, but either way, it's a fine first effort."

Sheree Morrow meets up with folk band Lingering Doubts at First and Ruby Street. "This is definitely music for a small neighborhood coffeehouse or the house band in a quiet little bar," Sheree says.

Nicky Rossiter tells a Long Sleeve Story with folk-rocker Devon. "Her soulful renditions and clear feeling for the songs and sentiments comes across on CD, but not as well as it could in real life," Nicky says.

For our live music portion of today's update, we introduce new staff writer Patrick Smyth, who treats us to a sampling of the latest incarnation of the Battlefield Band in concert in Toronto. "In spite of some very significant changes in the line-up, the sound did not disappoint the crowd," Patrick assures us.

Elizabeth Badurina says Julia Cameron's Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart is a good way to get in touch with your muse. "It's almost magical or alchemical -- the effect she has on some people is stunning," Elizabeth says.

Daina Savage dusts off the shelves in our poetry section for a Spring Garden, lovingly planted and tended by Fred Chappell. "His descriptions are fresh and wondrous, yet centered in a maturity that tells the reader these are lessons to be heeded," Daina says.

Conor O'Connor mixes the Old West with a post-apocalyptic near future in the science-fiction novel Crazy Horse in Heaven by Robert P. Arthur. "I found Crazy Horse in Heaven to be a tonic for the imagination even if at times the elixir could have been made a little more palatable," Conor suggests.

Tom, meanwhile, returns to the London of Terry Pratchett's whimsical novel Johnny and the Bomb. "Still hilariously funny, as Pratchett novels tend to be, this third book in the series adds a few more serious undertones to the tale," Tom says.

Our graphic novel for today features the Gen 13 gang in Science Friction. "If skin and wit are your primary reasons for reading comics, this is a good place to look," Tom explains.

Kate Danemark says the hunk factor wasn't enough to save Spy Game. "Sure, Brad Pitt and Robert Redford are in it, but the plot isn't," Kate warns.

Janine Kauffman wraps things up with Billy Elliot. Read why Jamie Bell, in the title role, "makes you cheer for the young dancer despite yourself."

5 January 2002

Well, 2002 seems to be off to a grand start! Truth be told, our editor -- exhausted after his Irish band energetically played in the New Year as part of the local First Night celebration -- wasn't sure he'd have this week's edition ready in time, but never let it be said that Rambles leaves it readers wanting! So, without further ado....

Cheryl Turner gets things going with her 60th Rambles review: Raglan Road's live CD, appropriately titled Live. "Anyone enjoying a mix of traditional and contemporary sounds in the Celtic vein should enjoy this recording," Cheryl promises.

Alanna Berger is coming up Four Shillings Short, whose CD Dodging Lodging has some flaws as a live recording. However, Alanna says, "the overall personality of this CD is fun, alternative, clever, energetic and perfect for folks who like their traditional music served up in a nontraditional style."

Charlie Ricci returns to the welcome sounds of Black 47 for the band's latest CD, On Fire. "The new live CD could be named Live in New York City, Volume 2, as this live material replicates the prior disc's unrehearsed looseness of the performances, showcases the band's vibrant, irreverent personality on stage, and gives listeners the same high quality recording," Charlie opines.

Ellen Rawson takes a listen to the latest effort from British folk-rockers Equation. "The Dark Ages makes it clear that they haven't lost touch with traditional material," Ellen says.

Over in the Maritimes, Tom Knapp is startled to be posting an unfavorable impression of native Cape Breton fiddler Sandy MacIntyre's Steeped in Tradition. "For the most part, it sounds like MacIntyre rushed his way through the recording and didn't bother going back to polish his work," Tom says.

Gilbert Head takes a bit of a detour, stopping off in Hungary and Transylvania to report on the krs Ensemble's new CD, I Left My Sweet Homeland. Read how this album breaks the Hollywood mold of Gypsy music!

Switching to jazz, Ken Fasimpaur says Boptronica by Mitges "forms a diverting if sometimes only sporadically engaging quilt, woven from patchwork elements of jazz and dance cultures."

Lynn McLachlan marks her 10th Rambles review with some Woodland Tea from Dave McCann & the Ten-Toed Frogs. The folk album from Canadian is "something you'll want to savour as long and as frequently as possible," Lynn asserts.

Lynn keeps the ball rolling with her report on country folk-rocker Effron White's Day in the Sun. "With well-crafted songs and an inviting voice, White clearly belongs in the spotlight," Lynn says.

Amanda Fisher makes a welcome appearance with a Wake Up Call from Michelle Willson and the Evil Gal Festival Orchestra. "Willson is true to the spirit of the blues, while expanding the sound of roots blues into some exciting new areas," Amanda reports. "It became an instant favorite in my house."

Donna Scanlon checks in with our final CD review for the day: Untraveled Worlds by Chorus Angelicus. This children's choir developed by Paul Halley has prepared "a beautifully executed compilation of sacred, traditional and original music from around the world," Donna says.

So, do artists, musicians and writers have a social responsibility to uphold? Elizabeth Badurina addresses that question in a new rambling on the arts and social responsibility.

Veema Kysac opens the book section of this edition with Jigs & Reels for Classic Guitar, a tunebook by Ed Munger. "The book is a hearty addition to the tools of Celtic exploration that many musicians are experimenting with," Veema says.

Naomi de Bruyn turns to mystery with Lawrence Block's novel, Out on the Cutting Edge. "You'll be amazed at the end of this novel, and at Lawrence's incredible plotting skill," Naomi predicts.

Donna explores Empty Cities of the Full Moon with science-fiction novelist Howard V. Hendrix. "Rarely have I read a book that makes me think so much about its content," Donna says. "Hendrix's writing is rich in philosophical constructs and effective literary device, and while the reader's brain might boggle at comprehending the multiple levels unfolded, it will also rise to the challenge."

Tom slips back in with a review of Maritime Mysteries and the Ghosts Who Surround Us and More Maritime Mysteries: Everyone Has a Story, a pair of haunting books by Bill Jessome. "It's interesting, atmospheric stuff," Tom says. "But it could have been better."

Tom also offers a peek into Realworlds: Superman, a graphic novel that gives a mediocre ending to an otherwise enjoyable series from DC Comics.

Our final book review of the day comes from Wil Owen, who tackles the long-titled nonfiction tome The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead by Heather Pringle. "Heather has managed to breathe life into the subject of the dead," Wil enthuses.

Could we have anticipated a positive review of Dude, Where's My Car in the pages of Rambles? Not for a second. And yet, Miles O'Dometer manages it, explaining why the movie "might never make it to the art houses in New York and Los Angeles, but it contains just about as much fun as you can squeeze into an 83-minute film."

Janine Kauffman closes the day with a checkup from Nurse Betty. "What makes it so funny -- aside from a couple jarring moments of too-sudden violence that are too graphic for the rest of the film -- is the chemistry between some great big-name actors and some smaller, offbeat names who deserve a shot at the limelight," Janine says.

30 December 2001

Happy New Year!! The year 2002 is nearly upon us, and we at Rambles hope your 2001 has been an outstanding year, with even better things to come. Cheers!

Tom Knapp pops by with another musical moment from the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton. This time, he shines his spotlight on a fiddle workshop with fiddle legend Jerry Holland. See what Tom thought of the experience!

Tom sticks with Jerry for his collaboration CD with the Scottish band JCB and A Trip to Cape Breton. "The performance on this collection of jigs and reels, hornpipes, airs and waltzes is one of a highly polished ensemble," Tom says. "Either everyone put in a lot of rehearsal time preparing for this album, or else both parties just clicked."

Alanna Berger finds some pleasant listening in Will Millar's The Lark in the Clear Aire. "The result for this CD is a sound that is easy on the ears as well as the heart and soul," Alanna promises.

Laurie Thayer has a Celtic-folk doubleshot for us today, starting with Contented Minds from Cucanandy, a traditional Celtic quartet from North Carolina. "This is music that will set your feet moving and drag you away after them," Laurie warns.

Also from Laurie is a look Behind a Voice with Nova Scotia singer Maurice Poirier. "If Behind a Voice is any indication, Poirier has great things ahead of him," Laurie says.

Veema Kysac explores a variety of Celtic and mainland European roots in Restless Home by Orion. "These players are very good if you like the European sound and the CD is alight with energy," Veema says. "The selections are pleasurable, but not exotic; light-hearted, but not sentimental."

For the bluesier side of folk music, check out Veema's review of Bottle Up & Go by JimJim & the FatBoys. "There are no limits to the music they present on this CD, all of it great music," she says. "I thought it full of imagination and inspiration, much of it straight from life experiences."

Now it's off to Hawaii with Jamie O'Brien, who reviews Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's CD Alone In IZ World. "It is no exaggeration to say that Alone In IZ World is the most popular Hawaiian album ever issued," Jamie notes.

Alanna is back with a hard look at Lisa Kane's Old Strings & All. The poetry of her lyrics is excellent, Alanna asserts, but Kane's voice is not as strong.

Lynn McLachlan is impressed by Radigan by country singer-songwriter Terry Radigan. "She's an engaging performer ... with finely tuned and soulful vocals plus impressive skills on guitar and piano," Lynn says.

Chet Williamson serves up an offering of bluegrass with a Gospel Parade by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. "For the bluegrass fan, this CD is like a valley, with some highs at the beginning and end, but a precipitous dip in the center," Chet cautions.

OK, Christmas may be over, but it's never too early to start getting ready for the next! Chet is very fond of Tommy Sands' new CD, To Shorten the Winter: An Irish Christmas. "Sands' vocals are consummately done, and the instrumental work is of the highest caliber throughout," Chet says. "To Shorten the Winter is a marvelous CD for any season of the year."

Lynne Remick comes in with a slightly belated Christmas music review of Christmas in a Celtic Land from Golden Bough. "The music this trio makes on these instruments conjures pure magic," Lynne says. "However, I found the vocals ... to be disappointing."

Wil Owen stumbles into action-adventure in Terry Wright's science fiction tale The 13th Power. "If this book were made in to a movie, it would be one of those action flicks staring someone like Steven Segal," Wil says. "In other words, there are a lot of explosions and a lot of killing, but not much of a story and no real character development."

Tom takes a gander at Marvel kingpin Stan Lee's reinvention of the Batman in Just Imagine Stan Lee's Batman. "It's not a bad story, but it's fairly predictable," Tom warns.

Janine Kauffman goes to Paris with, all of things, the Rugrats. Rugrats in Paris turns out to be a movie that, "in slightly over an hour, manages to entertain and talk about the finer points of friendship, real love, loyalty and kindness," Janine says.

Elizabeth Badurina was pleasantly surprised with Crazy/Beautiful. "It's not so much the storyline that's original, but the way in which it's presented," Elizabeth says.

That's it for today. Once again, Happy New Year from the Rambles staff!

22 December 2001

We hope everyone had a grand winter solstice! Rambles wishes a wonderful season to all!

Ellen Rawson gets this edition rolling with a traditional holiday-themed concert featuring Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band in Reading, England. Next, Tom Knapp celebrates an Instant Christmas with Nova Scotia's Sons of Maxwell, "a pleasant holiday offering that should provide plenty of Christmas sing-along opportunities."

Tom steps back in time for a few Maritime memories with the Barra MacNeils early recording Rock in the Stream. The band features four MacNeil siblings, Tom notes, "all of whom have vocal and multi-instrumental talents to spare."

Alanna Berger stays in Cape Breton to share the music of singer Connie MacAskill on her debut recording, Closer to Home. "If there is a musical ambassador for Cape Breton, it should be MacAskill," Alanna opines.

Jamie O'Brien is here with Bridgetown, the first solo outing by Johnny B. Connolly. "He shows a tremendous ability on his instruments -- both accordion and melodeon -- together with a wonderful understanding of the tunes," Jamie says.

Veema Kysac visits U.S. Celtic vocalist Jennifer Licko's Cave of Gold. "This smooth and professional presentation allows one to recognize the beauty and appreciate the importance of this folk music at another level," Veema says.

Veema also pays careful heed to The Lea Rig by El McMeen & Friends. "The guitar is one of the instruments I appreciate the most, and El McMeen delivers a cut above on this CD," Veema insists.

Concluding a triple play for today and marking her 10th review for Rambles, Veema has a few words to say about Cave of Gold: Celtic Lullabies by Lynn Morrison. Says Veema: "The music tantalizes and sweeps over you with intoxicating magic."

Elizabeth Badurina serves up a bitter mug of Music from the Coffee Lands II, the follow-up to an earlier Putumayo compilation disc. "Slow and slightly disjointed, the collection lacks coherency," Elizabeth complains.

Patrick Derksen finds folk music from around the world in Hotpoint's Steppin' on Cords. "The result is dynamic mix of folk-dance tunes that overflow with energy," Patrick says.

Over in European roots, Amanda Fisher gets down to dance with Jimmy Sturr's Gone Polka. "Jimmy Sturr is strong stuff," Amanda enthuses. "He knows what he's doing, and does it superbly."

Amanda also has a review of World Keeps Turning by Brian Bonhomme. "Bonhomme is a promising singer-songwriter," Amanda says, "and I expect that he'll develop a style of both writing and performing that will be excellent."

Rachel Jagt reads the Signs Along the Way, kindly left behind by Canadian singer-songwriter Doug Folkins. "Folkins is both a rock artist and a folk troubadour," Rachel says. "He puts his most personal experiences and emotions out in the open in his songs, and he has solid musicianship behind him all the way."

Lynn McLachlan follows along with a self-titled release from Paul Porter. "It's clear that he enjoys his music and that his bandmates are pros with an enthusiasm for the material," Lynn says.

Nicky Rossiter rounds out a folk-rock grand slam with Phil Cody's Big Slow Mover. Despite the name, Nicky says, the album provides "upbeat, rocky, fun folk tunes." Also, he adds, "given a fair exposure, this CD will move quickly."

Charlie Gebetsberger has a touch of the blues -- the good kind -- when he listens to The Lost Tapes, Vol. 2, from the Groundhogs. "This is a great disc and a must-have for the live concert collector or blues-rock fan," Charlie says.

Are You Ready for the Big Show? The answer is yes if you're Radney Foster, Rachel says. Foster "is a great live performer -- his voice is strong and filled with so much emotion."

Laurie Thayer hefts a sword with the maiden knight Bradamant in Ron Miller's The Iron Tempest, based on a 16th-century Italian poem. "The plot twists and turns and writhes like a snake stuck with a spear," Laurie says.

Donna Scanlon joins author Eva Ibbotson in asking Which Witch? "I am not certain whom this book will annoy more, modern-day witches or those who rail against books with witches in them in the conviction that they will cause children to trot out and cut up the neighbor's cat," Donna wonders. "The rest of us can just sit back and enjoy Ibbotson's tongue-in-cheek, arch humor as she spins her tale."

Donna also takes a swing at nonfiction with Diana Anhalt's A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965. "I was expecting a childhood memoir set in the political context of the times, but that was not what I got," Donna says. "Instead, I took a fascinating look at a segment of history of which I was mostly ignorant, and one from which the population in general could learn an important lesson about freedom."

Tom's graphic adventure today focuses on Nightwing and A Knight in Bludhaven, a collected tale in which writer Charles Dixon "made Nightwing a force to be reckoned with."

Tom was thrilled this week to avoid the lines with a complementary review pass for the opening day of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. "Is it Tolkien's vision exactly as he saw it? Of course not," Tom says. "But it's a vivid reimagination of a glorious tale that has been splendidly realized -- a story brought to life in a new and wonderful way, paying the greatest amount of respect to its source material and imbuing the words with a fresh sense of awe."

Janine Kauffman pushes the movie section along with Almost Famous. The story is based on writer/director Cameron Crowe's experiences as a 15-year-old writer for Rolling Stone magazine," Janine explains, noting that it "translates beautifully on screen to an ebullient, insane time in the world of rock 'n' roll."

Miles O'Dometer concludes the day with The House of Mirth. Kudos to Gillian Anderson for "dominating all her scenes with an unbeatable combination of passion, looks and internal turmoil," Miles says.

That's it for this solstice edition ... here's wishing everyone a safe, happy and very merry Christmas! (Of course, we'll be back with more before the New Year rolls around, so stay tuned!)

14 December 2001

The editor is going away for a few days this weekend, so let's get this edition up early! Since Christmas is fast approaching, we'll start things off with a few holiday specials.

Tom Knapp starts the holiday blast with a Christmas Turkey from the Arrogant Worms. "If you like your Christmas with a wickedly bent sense of humor, this album is a must-have," Tom says. "The Worms will twist your tinsel in ways you've never imagined!"

Lynne Remick is next with Smithfield Fair and The Winter Kirk. "This fine selection of Scottish, Irish and Welsh traditional hymns and folk songs sparkle and shine like the lights on a Christmas tree," Lynne says.

Alanna Berger is next with A Christmas Celtic Sojourn by various artists, compiled by radio personality Brian O'Donovan. The disc, Alanna predicts, is "a real treasure bound to become your new favorite Songs of the Season CD."

Charlie Ricci presents our fourth and final holiday CD for today: Christmas Santa Fe by new-age guitarist Ottmar Leibert. It was, Charlie says, his "favorite new Christmas release of 2000."

A cookbook? Well, it's not the sort of thing we usually review here at Rambles, but hey, it's the holidays, and Beth Derochea is pleased as punch with the holiday goodies available in Betty Crocker's Best Christmas Cookbook. Read her review to see why!

We're moving away from Christmas for now, although there may yet be a few more holiday tidbits in the weeks to come. For now, however, back to the music, starting with a selection of Celtic music reviews.

First up is Woman of the Island by Newfoundland singer Phyllis Morrissey. "Morrissey's songs, her voice and the stories she tells are an enchanting way to pass some time," Tom says.

A contingent of Cape Breton musicians traveled to County Cork, Ireland, in 1993 to showcase their unique musical styles. Traditional Music from Cape Breton Island is "a dazzling recording," Tom says. "My only question and complaint is ... why wasn't this released as a double CD, with twice as much music from this wonderful festival?"

Laurie Thayer is next with Ensemble Mystical, featuring Kathryn Tickell. "The combination of such skilled musicians is bound to produce an amazing sound, and Ensemble Mystical is no exception," Laurie says.

Nicky Rossiter says West Virginia native Tim O'Brien's roots are "firmly planted in Ireland," as evidenced by his latest recording, Two Journeys. "Tim is joined on the album by a plethora of top-class folk music idols and their presence lifts every track," Nicky says.

Donna Scanlon says you shouldn't be fooled by the low-budget look of Incan Flutes by the Punkin Holler Boys, who "seem to be having a grand time, and even when the subject isn't all that upbeat, the music usually is."

Wil Owen is off to Cuba with The Rough Guide to the Cuban Music Story from the World Music Network. "I never realized how much influence Cuban music has had on the American scene," Wil notes. "I think this CD is worth the purchase price just to see if you agree with me."

Jamie O'Brien jets back to Hawaii for more by Amy Hanaiali'i and Willie K. He shares his findings on Nostalgia, noting that Hanaiali'i's "clear, soaring vocals deserve a wide audience and a recording like Nostalgia is the perfect album to introduce her to the world."

When J. Higgins-Rosebrook was asked for a recommendation on Greek singer George Dalaras, she chose Oi Megaluteres Epitucies Tou as a good place to begin, explaining: "When it's February and the snow is falling steadily, inexorably in big, fat flakes piling up until the windows are buried, I can put that CD on, lie down on the couch, close my eyes and suddenly, the cliffs are white, the water is blue and the sun is pouring down so hot that the sweat is running off us in rivers."

Gilbert Head touches a piece of music history with the Holy Modal Rounders and I Make a Wish for a Potato. "It's a bit daunting to review the work of a group which inspired the name for one of the most respected independent labels in music in America today," Gil says. And yet, after all these years, the musicians are "still making their own peculiar species of music and mayhem and social commentary cloaked in the raiment of chaos that has pretty much always (very loosely) defined their work."

Ellen Rawson shares a Poet's Dance with folksinger Annie Wenz. "She's not worried about breaking any rules about what a singer-songwriter can and cannot do," Ellen warns.

Naomi de Bruyn discovered "a most restful and inspiring work" when she shared A Place Called Morning by Bill Douglas. "There is a great deal of emotion in the instrumentation, which picks you up and carries you along on the melody like a leaf on a stream," Naomi says.

Tim O'Laughlin takes a look at the instructional side of music in Mel Bay's Complete Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar Book, a joint effort by Stefan Grossman, Duck Baker and El McMeen. "All in all, this is a wonderful book," Tim says. "I am convinced that mastery of the contents will allow the reader to confidently proclaim themselves to be a Celtic fingerstyle guitarist."

In the fiction department today, we have Valhalla, a new book from British humorist Tom Holt. The novel, says reviewer Tom Knapp, "turns the afterlife upside down in Holt's grand gut-busting style."

Also under fiction is Laurie Thayer's review of Sanctuary by Beverly and David Lewis. The book is a sort of Christian mystery set largely in Pennsylvania Dutch country, Laurie says, and it is a "fascinating, suspenseful, romantic novel with interesting characters."

Tom's graphic novel feature today is Justice League of America/Witchblade, another in the recent glut of company crossovers. "Yawn," Tom opines.

Naomi opens the video department with a musical biography, The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack. Filmed by Jack Elliott's daughter, Aiyana Elliott, the movie provides a wealth of biographical information and a whole lot of personal pain, Naomi says. "He could have been a legend, he could have been a loving father, but he was neither of these," she explains.

Miles O'Dometer steps back a few years, ending this edition with the Irish film War of the Buttons. The movie, he says, "is a beautifully made, well-acted, carefully scripted and sometimes very funny movie that tells us much about ourselves and our penchant for making war out of less than nothing."

8 December 2001

It's another week closer to Christmas, and Veema Kysac starts things off right with an early Christmas recording from her private archives: Ashley MacIsaac's 1993 CD, A Cape Breton Christmas. "If you can't be in Cape Breton for Christmas," Veema says, "pick this up and you'll enjoy at least a taste of the Christmas cheer that's going around down here."

Check back next week (or maybe the middle of this week) for more in a Christmassy vein. Meanwhile, Kimberley Marie sticks with the Cape Breton theme for More Bridges to Cross: Cape Breton's Best Fiddle Music. "This album has so much energy that I am sure it was a lot of fun to put together for everyone involved," Kimberley says. "Every track is a gem and destined to become a classic!"

Tom Knapp is next with Irish singer Seamus Kennedy's latest, A Smile and a Tear. "Never one to skimp on his CDs, Seamus has packed 17 tracks onto his new recording -- and there's not a wasted track in the bunch," Tom reports.

Tom also has a review of the latest -- and last -- CD from Celtic rockers SixMileBridge. "Fortunately for posterity's sake," Tom says, No Strangers Here is "a good last bow for the band and should keep fans sated 'til Maggie Drennon and Anders Johansson get their new project, the Maggie Drennon Band, into the recording studio."

Laurie Thayer keeps things rolling with Emerald Rose and Bending Tradition. "Though the traditional tunes are well done, Emerald Rose excels with their original pieces," Laurie decides.

Next, Laurie is Making Waves with Irish folk-rockers, Cadenza. "These guys are all over the place," Laurie says. "Here's hoping they stay hard to classify."

Nicky Rossiter was so impressed with folksinger Gary Callahan's CD Death on the Ice, he sought out a copy of the artist's earlier album, After the Rain. "This is not an album that will set the world alight" Nicky admits, "but it is worth have in your collection for a careful listen and perhaps to prick your parental conscience."

J. Higgins-Rosebrook provides a Latin American sound with Escandalo by Cuban countertenor Armando Garzon. "This is a terrific CD to have on hand when you're planning a quiet candlelight dinner with camarones, rice and a slinky dress," she suggests.

Gilbert Head also does some traveling, although in his case it's to Martha's Vineyard for, you guessed it, reggae. Back to the Island: Reggae from Martha's Vineyard is, in Gilbert's view, an unfortunate exception to the usual high standards of Rounder Records.

Amanda Fisher goes on a Mystery Ride with Edge City. The strength of Jim Patton, the band's songwriter, "lies in the telling of stories, a focus strongly within the modern folk tradition and capable of communicating almost any mood and situation," Amanda reveals.

Paul de Bruijn spends An Evening with the Blues with Mark Cook -- and considers it time well spent. "It is full of the blues done well," Paul states.

Chet Williamson serves up a bit of Bluegrass Alliance on Re-Alliance. The band, Chet notes, "has run through a number of permutations since it was formed 30 years ago, and some of the hottest of today's pickers have come up through its ranks."

Donna Scanlon gives us a bit of country with Buck Lambert and The Olde Prospector. "Those who are partial to smooth and mellow country music with an old-time touch would do well to give a listen," Donna says.

Cheryl Turner keeps the Celtic Colours alive with The Next Generation, a last-day concert featuring the Cottars, the Dalbrae Celtic Crew and the MacDonalds. Also, see what Tom didn't like about his bodhran workshop with Danu's Donachadh Gough.

Beth Derochea kicks off our book section right with The Winter Child, a collaboration between writer Terri Windling and artist Wendy Froud. "Faery lovers of all ages will enjoy this book, which is so beautiful that rather than keeping it in the bookcase, it is proudly on display for all to see," Beth exclaims.

Our novel review today comes from Amanda, who read Tracking Time, an April Woo procedural by Leslie Glass. "Tracking Time is an eventful novel that touches on weighty issues but does not delve into them enough to be emotionally disturbing (a mixed blessing)," Amanda says.

Most of see a mosquito and swat it. Not Donna, who has been reading up on the secret life of those blood-sucking insects in Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe by Andrew Spielman and Michael D'Antonio. "Mosquito is thought-provoking, insightful and an important reminder of the huge impact such a tiny creature can have on the world as we know it," Donna insists.

Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty take a new look at the early days of Dick Grayson in Robin: Year One. "This is a great story that should appeal to all Batman and Robin fans," Tom says.

It's with great pleasure we welcome Rambles alumnus Miles O'Dometer back to the fold. Our movie guru resumes his former duties with The Pledge, which Miles labels "a psychological thriller that eschews cheap tricks for real terror and classic tension-building."

Janine Kauffman still holds her own in the cinema field, however; today she proves it with Disney's The Kid. The film isn't really for children, she says, but "is great for anyone who can suspend disbelief and who remembers, just a little, what kids' dreams are like."

1 December 2001

December has begun and the holidays draw closer! Have you done all of your shopping yet? Baked your cookies, trimmed your tree? Of course not! (Unless you're my mother....) Well, forget about the hustle and bustle of the pre-holiday season for a while. Kick back and read the latest news from Rambles!

Jamie O'Brien begins today's update with a little Steam from Irish multi-instrumentalist John Williams. "This is a well-thought-out album," Jamie says, "well recorded and exceedingly well played."

Laurie Thayer moves things along with Tam Lin's Back on the Road Again. The album is "a solid entry into the field of traditional music and I'm sure that we will be hearing from Tam Lin again," Laurie predicts.

Next, Tom Knapp shares the skinny on A Place to Stand by the Killdares. The band is more rock than folk, Tom says. "They are often listed as Celtic rock because they use a fiddle, mandolin and bouzouki in their arrangements -- only at times overtly -- and there are fragments of traditional-sounding tunes scattered hither and yon in their music."

Rachel Jagt has a sample of Newfoundland native Dave Anthony and 31B Victoria. "Anthony is very much a part of the Newfoundland tradition of singers and songwriters," Rachel says. "He writes and sings about home with infectious passion."

Nicky Rossiter is up next with the guitar work of Michael Delalla on Soli. "The more I hear it the better I like it," Nicky says, "but...."

Lynne Remick changes our focus to Greece for The Rough Guide to the Music of Greece, a new compilation disc from the World Music Network. "This lively compilation captures the very heart and soul of Greece -- an ancient land of exotic passions and remarkable culture," Lynne says.

Elizabeth Badurina is off to Africa for Putumayo's African Odyssey. "Meant ... to showcase the diversity of the southern African continent, it truly is a journey across land and culture," Elizabeth says.

Naomi de Bruyn says Native American singer Little Deer is "probably not what you'd expect" if you're used to traditional drumming and lyrics. But her album Earth Mother, Naomi says, "is a unique work by a very talented woman."

Organist Paul Halley takes the spotlight with Nightwatch. Reviewer Donna Scanlon says the album "will appeal especially to organ music afficionados, but the music is accessible to and evocative for anyone."

Chet Williamson pays heed when Bessie Jones says Put Your Hand on Your Hip. This folksy disc from the Rounder Heritage series, Chet says, will "make you sing, dance and roll up your pants!"

Ellen Rawson takes some weather advice from Bud, who warns that Outside It Rains on the new CD from the British band. "This debut release, featuring folk stylings blended with pop music, may certainly lead the group towards the top of its genre," Ellen says.

For a touch of folk-rockin' blues, check out The Way We Are by Fred Moolten. C. Nathan Coyle says the album has variable success, based on the city in which the tracks were recorded.

Lynn McLachlan shares some Conversations with country-folk singer Hunter Moore. The album, inspired by Robert Frost's poetry collection North of Boston, is "full of thoughtful and easygoing songs about human nature," Lynn says.

Cheryl Turner begins our continuing Celtic Colours coverage with McGinty's Gathering, a showcase for Kimberely Fraser, Patricia Murray and, of course, McGinty in Prime Brook, Cape Breton. Tom Knapp follows along with Route 19 ... the Concert, an Inverness concert featuring Aoife Clancy, Haugaard & Hoirup, Howie MacDonald and Ashley MacIsaac.

Nicky examines an excellent music resource in The Complete Guide to Celtic Music by June Skinner Sawyers. "This is a book that I will treasure for decades to come and which will probably lead me to bankruptcy as I try to source and purchase all the albums and books listed that I never even knew existed," he says.

Sarah Meador is a newcomer to the Rambles staff, and she makes her debut with Michael Ende's Momo. "Ende showed his skill at world building in The Neverending Story, and Momo's world is no less rich and fantastic," Sarah says.

Donna is back with Highland Hopes, historical fiction by Gary E. Parker. "Parker's writing brings the little town of Blue Springs to life in description that is detailed without being florid," Donna notes.

You may have forgotten Rambles has a poetry section, but J. Higgins-Rosebrook hasn't. Today she shares her impressions of Asphodel P. Long's Athene Revisted, a book she says "seems to have been composed just for me."

Tom writes mostly about DC books in the graphic novels section, but today takes a foray into the Wildstorm/Marvel collaboration Qeelocke's Really Big New York Adventure, featuring Gen 13 and the Fantastic Four. See why Gen 13 has become the "common denominator between all comic book universes."

Zines is a category we hear from only rarely. Elizabeth takes a look at Stamp Stories #23.

Amy Harlib tells us about the Japanese anime film Spriggan. She recommends the film for "twisted souls who actually get their jollies from seeing vast numbers of human beings killed in various gory ways."

Tom wraps things up with A View to a Kill, another in a series of James Bond reviews. This movie marks Roger Moore's final appearance as the spy.

24 November 2001

Did you miss the show? Did you see the spectacular light show, the likes of which won't be seen again for 33 years? Unfortunately, the skies were overcast here in southcentral Pennsylvania. But J. Higgins-Rosebrook saw it all from her vantage point in the state of Washington, and she shares some impressions in her rambling, To my friends who missed the Leonids.

Now, on with the music! Thanksgiving, the American holiday for consuming vast amounts of turkey, is past us now, and it's time to begin thinking on the Christmas season. Tom Knapp got an early start on that mood when he reviewed a Christmas album from the Maritimes, Kirkmount's Mittens for Christmas. "Kirkmount, a trio of Nova Scotia musicians, has crafted a beautiful, elegant album for the holidays," Tom says. "It's a gorgeous, uplifting package which should be in everyone's Yuletide collection."

Next, Tom gives a listen to the hammered dulcimer as played by young Beth May on her debut solo album, Ciuin Ceol (Peaceful Music). "The album has the sound of a great hall, pure notes resounding through the room," Tom says. "The only disappointment is the tempo."

Kimberley Marie explores Musical Ties of Troy MacGillivray, another young talent from the Maritimes. "Troy's nimble fingers bring to life traditional piano and fiddle music from Nova Scotia," Kimberley says. "The future looks very bright indeed for this Antigonish musician!"

Amanda Fisher enjoys the Celtic Seasons of Enchantment from Will Millar. This all-instrumental, new-age Celtic album is not for Celtic purists, Amanda warns. However, she adds, "the traditional Celtic elements are blended with the contemporary in a way that avoids the risk of blandness that sometimes happens in such a mix."

Laurie Thayer shares a Decade's worth of music from the Sligo supergroup Dervish. "Whether featuring vocals or instruments, the music is toe-tapping irresistable," Laurie says.

Laurie also shares a collection of Film Music from Welsh composer Michael J. Lewis. "The music consists of discreet themes rather than full scores, and is easier to listen to for that reason -- it has no little awkward blats and bleeps as a full score might," Laurie explains.

Nicky Rossiter continues our Celtic explosion with a self-titled release from a young, enthusiastic band called Providence. "They bring new zest to old tunes, which are played only as people with a true feel for the music can," Nicky says.

Amanda Fisher changes our focus to the European mainland for Airbow by Maria Kalaniemi and Sven Ahlbäck. It is a "lovely CD of Scandinavian fiddle and accordion music," Amanda says. "I hope some Celtic fans will venture into this territory; there's distinct common ground between Ahlbäck's fiddling and fiddling in the Celtic traditions."

Lynn McLachlan switches gears to bring us You Are Here, a new CD from American folksinger Gina Forsyth. "Although the Cajun influence is present here, and Forsythe is a wonderful traditional player with a voice that suits the traditional songs, for me the contemporary material was the freshest and most enjoyable element of the album," Lynn says.

Chet Williamson has a double-header of new releases from Rounder's excellent Alan Lomax collection: Deep River of Song: Alabama and Deep River of Song: Georgia. "If you have any interest in roots music," Chet says, "you'll find the real thing here, well recorded and excellently documented."

Amanda jumps back into today's edition with a pair of folk-rock CD reviews, starting with Bruce Piephoff and Fringeland. "At its best, it is wonderful," Amanda says. "I wish more of the songs here reached that level, but enjoyed the album nonetheless."

Dick Smith is a band, not a person, and Amanda says they blend bluegrass and country music with a folk-rockin' attitude in their recent CD Swill. "If you're intrigued by the sound of very alternative, rootsy bluegrass and country, look no further," Amanda says. "Swill is the album you want."

Donna Scanlon gives a heads-up for Long Line of Leavers by Caedmon's Call. "There are some who will be turned off just by hearing that Caedmon's Call is a Christian band, and doubtless there are Christians who will find the band's theology lacking," Donna says. "For those remaining seekers and sojourners, Christian or not, with an appreciation for good music and challenging, thought-provoking lyrics, pay heed to Caedmon's Call."

J. Higgins-Rosebrook, who started today's edition, keeps it going with Armenian singer/musician Arto Tuncboyaciyan and Every Day is a New Life. "Tuncboyaciyan brings to Every Day is a New Life a family history of displacement, loss and hardship," she explains. "Pain, sorrow and loneliness are here, along with joy, love and solace."

Jamie O'Brien concludes today's CD reviews with a taste of Hawaiian Tradition with Amy Hanaiali'i and Willie K. "Every now and then, something special comes along, something so special that I find I have pressed the repeat on the CD player and spent hours listening to an album over and over," Jamie says. "It only happens rarely and it's happening now."

While we're on the subject of Hawaiian musicians, Jamie had a chance to read A Hawaiian Life by George Kahumoku Jr. with Paul Konwiser. "Kahumoku combines levity with an element of the serious as he illustrates Hawaiian society, its traditions, structure and beliefs," Jamie says. "A Hawaiian Life leaves you with a smile on your face and a deeper knowledge of the ways in another part of the world."

Our look at Cape Breton's annual Celtic Colours festival continues with Tom's review of Winston's Home, a fiddling tribute to legend Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald. Next, Cheryl Turner takes a peek at another side of the festival: the workshops, which give enthusiasts a variety of chances to interact with and learn from the performers. Today, she describes Remembering Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald, an afternoon session paying tribute to a local son.

Donna is back with a touch of fantasy in The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. "Ibbotson's tale is fresh and appealing, sort of like Road Dahl without quite so much bile," Donna says.

Amy Harlib has some science fiction to share: Ben Bova's The Precipice, the first volume of The Asteroid Wars. The novel, Amy says, "will add further luster to Bova's already confirmed stature among the best writers of thoughtfully conceived hard SF."

Tom keeps the graphic section growing with a Frank Miller classic, Batman: Year One. "It's hard to imagine a better Batman tale than this, and I encourage anyone who's a fan of the character to track this book down and read the definitive version of his first year in the costume," Tom says. "No one has topped this book yet, and I suspect it will be a long time before anyone comes close."

We have a pair of new blockbuster releases to spotlight today, starting with Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. "For once," says reviewer Kate Danemark, "Hollywood has managed to transform a wonderful book into just as terrific a film."

Julie Bowerman closes the day with the animated feature Monsters, Inc. "Monsters, Inc. is a clever, fast-paced film for both children and the adults they bring along," Julie says. "There's enough cuteness and visual splendor to keep everyone entertained."

By the way, I wanted to mention that today's edition takes us to a total of more than 3,000 reviews and interviews! Who knew we'd grow so fast?!

17 November 2001

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us (in the States, that is) and we're all getting ready to be stuffed with all the fixins. But don't you worry, we have another feast of reviews for your reading pleasure, beginning as usual with a few Celtic music selections.

Nicky Rossiter starts the ball rolling with Lenahan and Contrary Motion: Lenahan Plays Acoustic. "This album, too short as it is at 40 minutes and still would be at 140 minutes, is one of the best value CDs I have heard in years," Nicky says. "It should carry a government health warning for anyone allergic to toe tapping because you will not be able to resist that urge."

Tom Knapp is next with the self-titled debut from the Scottish band Cliar. "The recording evokes a sense of joy in the music -- you can tell the singers feel the words they're singing; they're not merely reciting memorized text," Tom says. "Sure, it's in Gaelic, but I didn't find the language barrier to be a problem because their passion was so evident and their enunciation so clear."

Tom makes the leap from Scotland to Cape Breton to review First Hand, the debut CD from young fiddler Mairi Rankin. "Mairi is fun and fresh, putting out a great collection of tunes with energy and enthusiasm," Tom notes.

Valerie Fasimpaur has high praise for Cocktail Swing, the new album from Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. This blend of bluegrass, blues and jazz, Valerie says, is "music that makes you smile and dance around the living room."

Naomi de Bruyn hears a blend of jazz, folk and rock styles in Trace the Sky with Michael Tomlinson. "The first word out of my mouth after putting this disc on was, 'WOW!' ... This enigmatic artist literally jumps out of the speakers and fills your home with his vibrant performance."

Amanda Fisher goes Cajun and visits Happytown with Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. "Happytown is a genre-busting album," Amanda says. "To like it, though, you have to be willing to have your preconceptions challenged!"

Amanda adds some country spice to the day by going Outside the Lines with Nancy Apple. Says Amanda, "I like Apple's approach both musically and visually, and will look forward to her next work!"

Lynn McLachlan says David Elias and the Great Unknown "produced a sweet and beautiful CD" in Half an Hour Away. "We're lucky to be taken to such a good and pure and simple place," Lynn says.

Donna Scanlon shares some Bagel Roots & Water Dogs with Rob Tobias and Friends for a "worthwhile introduction to an accomplished and promising artist."

Ellen Rawson keeps things rockin' with Willy Porter's Falling Forward. "His skillful guitar playing makes Porter stand out among the numerous singer-songwriters making the rounds these days," Ellen says.

Nicky started the CD review section of today's edition, and he ends it with Waltz of the Scarecrow King by Gary Myrick. "The songs may be a little too personal to be hits for other singers but it would be very interesting to hear more from Gary Myrick," Nicky says.

Celtic Colours coverage continues with Tom's review of The Welcome, which featured a Scottish singer, an Irish singer, an Irish band and a Native American/Celtic fiddle troupe. Cheryl Turner follows along with the Glencoe Mills Square Dance, an unofficial part of the Celtic Colours week featuring fiddler Howie MacDonald and a whole lot of dancing feet.

Conor O'Connor dives deeply into a pair of non-fiction books: Hungry for Home: Leaving the Blaskets: A Journey from the Edge of Ireland by Cole Moreton and The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home by Pico Iyer. See how they compare!

Elizabeth Badurina delves into things spiritual with Vastu Living: Creating a Home for the Soul by Kathleen Cox. "It'll be a departure for most people from conventional wisdom on decorating, but it raises a great deal of questions that anyone would benefit from answering about his or her home," Elizabeth explains.

Donna Scanlon is back in the world of wizard Harry Dresden in Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. "Butcher keeps the pace going at a relentless clip, making you keep turning the pages," Donna says. :He adds enough humor to the mix to leaven the horror and relieving the edge just enough."

Tom returns to the fantasy world of O.R. Melling's Ireland in The Light-Bearer's Daughter. "I certainly hope Melling continues writing in this vein," Tom says. "She is a skilled wordsmith and has tapped into a rich vein of modern Irish lore."

Tom's graphic novel for the week is Superman for All Seasons, a four-part story about a young hero finding his way in the world. Tom says it's "a pleasant, low-key book which, in the end, will likely stick with you far longer than the usual book about supervillains and massive brawls."

Janine Kauffman opens the Rambles cineplex with Wonder Boys. "It's a movie about becoming, and being, an adult, about finding a new path when the old one grows cold and about deciding in the end what most matters to you," Janine says. "And to top it off, it has some of the best bittersweet/funny moments about that whole wonderful, painful process."

Amy Harlib finishes up the day's festivities with Jabberwocky, a British comedy classic from a part of the Monty Python crew. "Rich in visual detail -- dazzling costumes, pageantry, castle and outdoor settings juxtaposed with grime, gloomy interiors and poverty -- all superbly photographed, Jabberwocky uses these contrasts in its ironic way to portray the 'nasty, brutish and short' lives of the era," Amy explains.

That's it for now. See you in a week!

14 November 2001

Here are the winners of the 2001 World Fantasy Awards, which were announced earlier this month at the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, Quebec.

• Novel (tie): Declare by Tim Powers & Galveston by Sean Stewart
• Novella: The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem
• Short Fiction: "The Pottawatomie Giant" by Andy Duncan
• Anthology: Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, edited by Sheree R. Thomas
• Collection: Beluthahatchie and Other Stories by Andy Duncan
• Artist: Shaun Tan
• Special Award/Professional: Tom Shippey for J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
• Non-Professional: Bill Sheehan for At The Foot Of The Story Tree: An Inquiry into the Fiction of Peter Straub
• Life Achievement: Frank Frazetta & Philip Jos Farmer

10 November 2001

Hello again! We have another bumper crop of new reviews for your reading enjoyment, beginning with a quintet of Celtic CDs and some more Celtic Colours coverage further down. Read on!

Tom Knapp is up first with Hair of the Dog's live CD, At the Parting Glass. "OK, so Hair of the Dog isn't purely Irish in its sound or style," Tom says. "The band, based in the Empire State, has obvious Appalachian influences, a bit of rock 'n' roll and even a hint a western swing in its music. But wow, the energy these five boys put out would fill even the truest Irish soul with joy."

Tom keeps with the Celtic sound with Away Ye Go Now! by Morning Star. "There are no tricks or gimmicks here," Tom explains. "This is a solid traditional album, and Morning Star has made it work."

Donna Scanlon is Bringing Down the House with the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh, who bring "bring exquisite harmonies and sparkling energy" to their music. "Their enthusiasm and energy are infectious, and it won't be long before you're singing along," Donna says.

Wayne Morrison makes a too-rare visit to share his insights into World Masters of Piping, a disc recorded at the Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition in 2000. "This is a superb CD," Wayne says. "The playing is of the highest quality."

Amanda Fisher sings the praises of Attention All Personnel from Croft No. Five. "They add electronic sampling and touches of funk to the usual Celtic rock mix for a unique and very exciting sound," she says.

Amanda switches to folk-rock with Barbara Phaneuf's Hat Full of Diamonds. "The musical variety and the skillful songwriting set off Phaneuf's voice and playing, and the skills of the other musicians," Amanda says.

Paul de Bruijn is next with Janet Saadian's Weather the Storm. "There is a warmth in much of the music that is wonderful to hear," Paul explains.

Naomi de Bruyn follows along with How Faint the Whisper by folk artist Luke Brindley. "This will be an artist to keep an eye on," Naomi says. "His rich and meaningful lyrics are combined with some very impressive guitar work."

Nicky Rossiter keep this rolling with A Crooked Line by Darryl Purpose. "This album is a treasure trove of song-stories from a man with a formidable past," Nicky insists.

Dave Townsend makes an appearance with Incendio's Misterioso. The album is "a pleasant blend of elements of flamenco, jazz and Middle-Eastern influences," Dave says. "If you enjoy exploring world music, this one is a good choice."

Charlie Ricci wraps up the CD review section with a little new age piano. Marsha Webb's Whiterock is "very pleasant," Charlie says. "But every tune is played at the same volume, with the same relative beat and the same gentleness."

Tom Knapp and Cheryl Turner each supply a Celtic Colours concert review for today's update. Tom begins with Gaelic Airs, a celebration of Cape Breton's Scottish musical heritage featuring Buddy MacDonald, Mary Jane Lamond, Ishbel MacAskill, Tony McManus and more. Next, Cheryl shares her impressions of The French Connection, which casts the spotlight on the Acadian culture with aid from Brent AuCoin, Celtitude and Suroit.

Tom serves up a plateful of Irish folklore with Bob Curran's The Truth about the Leprechaun. "These leprechauns aren't prettified in adorable little suits of green, nor are they happy-go-lucky bundles of blarney in gay pursuit of their lucky charms," Tom notes.

Rambles newcomer Alanna Berger, herself an accomplished performer on the hammered dulcimer, provides a review of A Traveler's Dream: Celtic Explorations for Hammered Dulcimer by Maggie Sansone. Read what makes this tunebook a success -- and what will give students of the instrument nightmares.

Beth Derochea takes a spiritual turn with Dancing with the Wheel: The Medicine Wheel Workbook by Sun Bear, Wabun Wind and Crysalis Mulligan. "By using the Medicine Wheel as a framework, the reader can use the exercises to meditate on aspects of the world and his or her relationship to them," Beth explains.

Laurie Thayer kicks off the fiction section with Lizzie's Secret Angels, the second book in a series by J. Robert Whittle set in 19th-century London. It is "an excellent sequel," Laurie says, although "some adults will undoubtedly find the book extremely cloying."

Donna Scanlon hits review No. 350 with Patricia Briggs and The Hob's Bargain. "Briggs has a good ear for dialogue and pace and a marked talent for drawing complex characterizations," Donna comments.

Conor O'Connor completes our trio of novels with Gregory Benford's science fiction thriller Artifact. "As expected from an author who is a professor of physics the scientific extrapolation and invention in Artifact is, as far as I can judge, impeccable," Conor says.

Wil Owen provides our graphic selection today: The Man Who Grew Young, written by Daniel Quinn and illustrated by Tim Eldred. Unfortunately, Wil says, this tale of time moving backwards fails on a few levels despite a fascinating premise.

Janine Kauffman marks her 60th Rambles appearance with a review of Sally Fields' directing debut, Beautiful. Sadly, Janine says, the movie can't decide if it wants to be a comedy or drama, so "the pathos takes away from the humor, and the humor falls weakly when the tears begin."

Amy Harlib finishes things up with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. "This exciting, spine-tingling dark fantasy and SF anime feature must not be missed by mature fans of horror, animation or anyone looking for guaranteed chills and thrills," Amy says.

3 November 2001

We've begun the last few updates with live coverage; let's start this one with some studio work. (No fears, the live coverage is coming a little further down the page.)

Tom Knapp begins with a CD from a new Cape Breton band. The self-titled debut from Beolach, Tom says, "did a cracking good job nailing their sound to a disc."

Next, Tom shares some music from from kilted singer-songwriter Charlie Zahm and A Summer's Morning Rare. "He never fails to impress me with the strength of his baritone," Tom says, "belting out each song with an audible love for the words."

The third album in Tom's Celtic music triumvirate for today comes from the archives of popular Irish singer Seamus Kennedy. "No recording can capture the fun of Kennedy's live performances," Tom says, "but Bar Rooms and Ballads comes close."

Nicky Rossiter continues the theme with The Music of Cry Havoc, the first volume in a series from the English Folk Dance Project. "The one thing that I find about Morris dance music in general and this album in particular is the friendly, jolly feeling," Nicky says.

Chet Williamson finds a great slice of bluegrass on Grandpa Loved the Carolina Mountains by Ron Spears and Within Tradition. "This is a fine collection of a dozen songs and tunes that every bluegrass fan should enjoy," Chet says.

Amanda Fisher slides into contemporary folk music with Ghosts of the Heart by Willis Pracht and Konnie Ott. "If you think that a lot of modern folk is overproduced, this is the album for you," Amanda says. "It couldn't be simpler, and it couldn't be more lovely."

Turning to blues, Amanda has a sample of the band Roomful of Blues and Watch You When You Go. "Roomful of Blues sounds very capable of producing a great album," Amanda says; unfortunately, this one falls a bit short.

Amanda's music trilogy ends with Jack Kid and Espresso Ecstasy. "Jack Kid is an excellent singer-songwriter, and Espresso Ecstasy is proof," Amanda says.

Donna Scanlon is next with Laura Smith's self-titled debut. Smith, a singer-songwriter from Nova Scotia, "explores universal themes and presents them in textured, multi-layered songs," Donna explains.

Naomi de Bruyn is pretty pleased with Marilyn Harris and Between the Lines, a jazzy, folk-poppin' sort of album. "Marilyn is a performer for all seasons and moods, and her music will enchant you," Naomi says.

Nicky closes the CD portion of this update with The Rough Guides Collection, a sampler from the travel and music company's broad array of compilation discs. The sampler, Nicky says, "gives a representative taste of what is out there, whether it is to relive a happy holiday in an exotic location or to pretend you are on a warm beach as the rain pounds your city window."

Tom has a pair of performance reviews to share, starting with another in our ongoing coverage of the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton. This week's spotlight is the Songwriters Circle, featuring Scottish singer-songwriters Brian McNeill and Archie Fisher, Newfoundland's Ron Hynes and Cape Breton's own Gordie Sampson.

Before we give you the idea that all the music is coming from Cape Breton these days, Tom also offers a peek at this year's Celtic Classic festival in Bethlehem, Pa. The annual event is "a musical buffet," Tom says -- the lineup for 2001 included Charlie Zahm, Aoife Clancy, Clandestine, the Maggie Drennon Band, Alasdair Fraser, Seamus Kennedy and more!

Gilbert Head takes us from music to books with a book about music: Visions of Jazz: The First Century by Gary Giddins. "Etched in jello, elusive as smoke, defying rigor and constraint, jazz resists analysis and classification. Giddins has captured some of the stuff of jazz in the bell jar that is this worthy book," Gilbert says. "If you love the music, and those who make it, this volume should find a place on your shelf."

Laurie Thayer swerves into the realm of Arthurian literature with The Forever King, a modern take on the tale by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. Set in a modern era and written more like a thriller than a fantasy novel, the book "is a different and exciting version of the Arthurian legends and I highly recommend finding a copy," Laurie says.

Wil Owen serves up some mystery and horror with Lee Killough's Blood Games, third in a series of novels about a vampire detective. "The vampirism comes in to play, but it definitely takes a back seat" to the mystery, Wil notes.

Amy Harlib delves into feline lore with The Sacred Cat by writer Marie Stuttard and photographer Denese Moore. The book is "full of adventure told from a 'cat's-eye view' that will appeal to all ages," Amy says. The tale is enriching and the photos are a "visual delight."

Tom's contribution to the graphic arts features Superman in Where is Thy Sting?. In this below-par story, an incarnation of Death "seems bent on guilting Superman into dying."

Janine Kauffman opens the theater today with the Jim Carrey/Renee Zellweger flick Me, Myself & Irene. See why Janine says the movie feels like it's "rushed headlong off track."

Amy Harlib wraps things up with the oddly titled movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It's a musical, Amy says, which "deals with controversial, edgy subjects in a very enjoyable way, offering much food for thought about gender, sex roles and relationships."

30 October 2001

The Rambles staff wishes everyone a grand Halloween/Samhain. For one short night, the veil between worlds grows thin and the faeries, ghouls and goblins frolic in our land, heralding the changing seasons and the advent of the Celtic new year. The nights are growing longer, the days grow short and cold, but the promise of rebirth and renewal in the spring always follows the wintery death in the months ahead. We hope the seasons are turning in your favor!