28 August 2004 to 23 October 2004

23 October 2004

If I could tell you what it meant,
there would be no point in dancing it.
- Isadora Duncan

Our coverage of the Celtic Colours festival begins today! Check out our first concert review, listed below, as well as an interview with one of the phenomenal movers and shakers who visited Cape Breton for the music this year. In other news, we're still finalizing details for our big move; stay tuned for details. And now, onward and upward with today's edition!

Rita MacNeil has a bouquet of Blue Roses to share. "With a voice that alternates between a warm honeyed clarity and a relaxed drawl, she is absolutely unique," says Virginia MacIsaac. "She sings about issues that cloud our days, romantic and all too often tinged with sadness."

Runrig marks the Day of Days with a castle gig in Stirling, Scotland. "Prospering for three decades, Runrig doesn't need me to inform people that they are a fantastic band whether in castle or club -- but I say it anyway," says Nicky Rossiter.

Catherine-Ann MacPhee reawakens a passion for Gaelic with Suil Air Ais (Looking Back). "If you never learned Gaelic or feel that you have an aversion to the language, put prejudice aside and try this CD," Nicky says. "MacPhee's voice combined with the beauty of the tongue and the excellent musicians will more than reward you for the effort."

Teresa Doyle wonders about the world If Fish Could Sing ... and Sheep Could Dance. David Cox calls this Prince Edward Island singer's work an "engaging CD of Celtic songs for children. ... Doyle's voice is the perfect vehicle for such songs."

Christian Lopez is Down By the Drowning Creek for a debut folk recording that explores "some interesting musical ground," Gilbert Head says. "Lopez is a teller of tales set to music, and the tales he relates in Down By the Drowning Creek are largely the stuff of darker times, the hard edges of life in America a century and more ago."

Russ Rentler gave up a medical practice to go on the road as an Acoustic Minstrel. "This aptly-titled CD showcases Rentler's writing and interpretation of some beautiful traditional material," Nicky Rossiter says. "The music lifts spirits, cures the blues and may help us think better than pills, but beware -- it could be just as addictive."

Don Chaffer takes a serious tack with What You Don't Know. "Considering Chaffer composed the songs in the wake of 9/11, during the year his mother died of leukemia and his father was diagnosed with cancer, it is of little surprise that themes of loss, grief, personal change and challenge abound on this album," says Jenny Ivor. "But more surprising still is the upbeat feeling of the record -- a blend of rock and folk."

The Green House Band seeks a Mirage with "some of the top players from the hey-day of folk-rock," Nicky Rossiter says. "This is an album to listen to for the pleasure of hearing great songs and tunes performed to perfection."

Alan Kelly celebrates Quiet Lives of Consequence in his CD featuring "beautiful songs about everyday matters," says Nicky. "Kelly may not set the world on fire but he is definitely an important singer-songwriter chronicling our times."

Ken Whiteley exclaims that Gospel Music Makes Me Feel Alright! "His voice is low-key and relaxed, and the songs are very traditional in their lyrics," says Virginia MacIsaac. "There's no doubt that Ken Whiteley has great strength as a gospel singer-songwriter and he's turned out a reverent, semi-traditional album that isn't going to have you swaying in ecstatic gospel fervor, but will have you smiling comfortably and peacefully at ease while listening to graceful music based on the Good News."

Tinsley Ellis has chosen The Hard Way to fame, Gregg Thurlbeck laments -- sullying excellent blues guitar skills and songwriting abilities with a less-than-stellar voice. "Ellis can't conjure up anything like the power and passion needed to hold its own against the emotion he finds in his fingers," Gregg explains. "And so The Hard Way won't be the hit that it might have been."

Jazz label Nardis shares the wealth on Classic Cool. "What is the theme? Lounge, bebop, scat, R&B, classic jazz, international -- it don't matter," says C. Nathan Coyle. "If it's cool, it fits."

The Silvermen light an Incendiary Luminary, which C. Nathan describes as "a blend of retro cool, odd self-awareness and contemporary experimental sounds" in the realm of pop-culture country music.

Hillbilly Parker "is two guys out of the acoustic end of the Austin music scene," Jerome Clark explains. "That means they sound not a little like Guy Clark, who pioneered a Texas country-folk sound out of original songs that came off dustier, more windblown and older than they were in prosaic fact." Check out Jerome's review of their self-titled CD for more info!

Ladysmith Black Mambazo tries to Raise Your Spirit Higher; for Ann Flynt, this is a flashback to, believe it or not, Sesame Street. "Raise Your Spirit Higher is filled with songs that transcend the narrow focus of humanity's various cultures," she says. "Although there are wars being fought in a number of places and many misunderstandings both locally and abroad, this music serves as a focal point for community."

Joji Hirota & Pete Lockett explore a world of percussion on Taiko to Tabla. "The classical pair of tablas may be known around the world, but even the most enthusiastic percussion fans are probably less familiar with instruments like the kanjira, an Indian lizardskin tambourine, or the kin, made of metal bowls struck with a leather-covered stick and used in Buddhist temple prayers," says Adolf Goriup. "If, like me, you're a fan of percussion instruments and appreciate the wonderful sound of Asian music, you'll love this album."

The Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton, NS, has left poor editor Tom Knapp (and a few other members of the Rambles.NET staff) exhausted and bewildered. But the music and presentation was, as always, beyond compare. We have long and comprehensive coverage of this international event to share with you over the next several weeks.

Today, Tom gets the ball rolling with his review of the Whycocomagh Gathering, an event featuring performances by Kimberley Fraser, Haugaard & Hoirup and Dougie MacLean.

Tom also took some time in the green room of the weeklong event's notorious Festival Club to chat with some influential musicians who were performing there. First up is Scottish guitar wizard Tony McManus. Be sure to read up on Tony's thoughts on the growth and development of the guitar as a folk instrument.

Robert Baird goes off on too many tangents and proposes too many wild theories for Laurie Thayer's liking in his book on "Kelts" and Atlanteans, Diverse Druids. "The problem with Baird's theories is that they contradict established anthropology, archaeology and scholarship," Laurie says. "And yet ... like a train wreck, Diverse Druids is also weirdly compelling -- if only to see what Baird is going to say next, or how far we have to go before aliens enter into it."

Consuelo de Saint-Exupery speaks from beyond the grave to tell The Tale of the Rose: The Love Story Behind the Little Prince. "Consuelo wrote a very honest story about a very passionate relationship," says Paul de Bruijn. "The highs and the lows are included, and in this relationship they were quite extreme."

Pamela Sargent compiles a collection of "what if" stories in Conqueror Fantastic. "Sargent did an excellent job as editor of the Women of Wonder series and is a rightly well-known author," says Sarah Meador. "Still, the more constrictive concept behind Conqueror Fantastic seems to have hampered her, for there are quite a few stories that don't seem to fit the book."

John G. Hemry follows up on A Just Determination with Burden of Proof. With this novel, Daniel Jolley says, "Hemry cements his position as the best writer of legalistic military science fiction working today. ... No other author manages to hook me mind, body and soul from the very first page, and no other author creates characters who become such an integral part of my life."

Anne Frasier opts to Play Dead in this horror-mystery set in Savannah, Ga., "where police detectives travel the seamier side of the city that's famous for its Southern grace and architecture." Virginia MacIsaac says the atmosphere "is creepy, dark and just as moist and malodorous as the mucky, dank earth and rotting bodies that Frasier describes so vividly."

Patrick O'Brian sets Aubrey and Maturin on a course for Desolation Island in this, the fifth book in the British naval series. "O'Brian's expertise on his subject is unquestionable," Tom Knapp says. "Combined with remarkable characterization and high adventure, his books are an experience never to be missed."

George Pelecanos leads a Hard Revolution in this Derek Strange novel. "I enjoyed the audiobook overall, but I also have to mention that I was at the end of the second CD (out of five) before my interest was engaged," says Wil Owen. "If you can hang on for two hours, you too might like the tale."

Janine Kauffman says it's just something Between Strangers in Edoardo Ponti's film. "Each segment of the three plot lines is too weak to carry a film on its own, and the trio together, once you get past figuring out what holds them all together, isn't quite enough, either," she says. "Still, there's Sophia Loren, still stunning and a much better actress than all those late-night movies like Houseboat would indicate."

Miles O'Dometer takes a dip in the Swimming Pool with Charlotte Rampling for a "fascinating exercise in visual storytelling, driven by powerful images and fueled by raw human passion. It's witty, intelligent and mind-boggling."

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

17 October 2004

In the fiddler's house, all are dancers.
- French proverb

We're a little bit late, but only 'cause we're busy! Celtic Colours is over (and was fabulous!) -- you can expect to see reviews and interviews from Cape Breton appearing here soon. Now, we must get back to packing these books and CDs for the big Rambles.NET move to a spankin' new office....

Freeland Barbour crosses An Linne Dhubh (The Black Water) for "acres and acres of fine Scottish tunes" as performed on his Highland accordion. Virginia MacIsaac says this is a CD "you'll listen to over and over -- if you've got a bit of the Celtic swing in you, anyway."

The band Darby O'Gill is back for an Irish Christmas Rollick. "OK, it is a collection of Christmas songs, but these are no ordinary Christmas ditties," says Nicky Rossiter. "Listen to Darby O'Gill on 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' and you will never bother with Bing Crosby again."

We know it's early, but check out another Christmas-themed music review below....

John Tams "is a writer who is not afraid to take chances with his lyrics and to use humour to hook the listener," Nicky says. On Unity, "the diction, the writing and the playing combine to produce music magic as only folk music can."

For more Celtic music, check out Laurie Thayer's review of the Dubliners' new live DVD, listed below in films!

Susan Hickey "has struck deep into the heart of the kind of spirited folk music that I love best" where Water Meets Sand, Gilbert Head reveals. "Water Meets Sand is a musical journey well worth taking, and I only hope that this is but the first of many musical gifts which Susan Hickey and her musical cohort have in store for us in the years to come."

Mark McKay comes to us Live from the Memory Hotel. "Possibly the most interesting element of this album is McKay's vocal style -- it's rather odd yet captivating," says C. Nathan Coyle. "He sings in a very throaty baritone style that borders on being a subdued scream." Intrigued?

Amilia K. Spicer's music is Seamless on this album that steadily grew on reviewer Dave Townsend. "Seamless seems to get better with time," he says. "Amilia Spicer is a talented songwriter who gives us a good mixture of folk, pop, blues and a little country -- combined with a voice that fits nicely with her music."

Marc Herman sings in Neon for this country-folk recording. "Even on the slower, more serious tracks, you get the feeling that Herman's quirky sense of humor will surface in the next tune," says Jenny Ivor. "The lyrics run the emotional gamut, making the album extremely listenable."

Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys seek New Horizons with their latest bluegrass recording. "This is Jesse McReynolds's first solo album after the 2002 death of his brother Jim, and the songs are pretty dour and sad throughout," Chet Williamson says. "Despite the title, New Horizons seems to be a sad farewell from Jesse to Jim, filled as it is with so many songs of heartbreak, sorrow and longing for old times. Things are more introspective than intense, and I suppose that's to be expected."

Gregg Thurlbeck expands his understanding of bluegrass with The Grass is Always Bluer, a new compilation disc from Nettwerk America. "If you can forgive the disc for not causing you to break out in a sweat on the dance floor, The Grass is Always Bluer is a wonderful introduction to some talented young folk and bluegrass musicians, with just enough star power mixed in for variety," he says.

Alan Lomax collected Blues in the Mississippi Night at a time when the blues meant something more than it does today. The men featured on this archival recording, Virginia MacIsaac says, "talk about their music as a most natural extension of themselves. ... It wouldn't hurt any modern blues fan to have a listen. The CD served to remind me that the deep-picking of modern blues that I so enjoy evolved from serious social under-cutting of fellow human beings and the road traveled is a long way off from country-style hurtin' songs."

Leon Redbone visits Christmas Island for a holiday "that comes from sun and sand," Paul de Bruijn says. Few of these traditional songs get a standard treatment here, Paul says, "making this a CD that can be enjoyed year round."

Haugaard & Hoirup ponder the warmer days of Denmark with Om Sommeren (In the Summer). "Although Nordic music is filled with ominous and bittersweet compositions, Haugaard & Hoirup have concentrated on the more cheerful end of the spectrum, as befits an album devoted to the endless sunlight of the northern summer," says Jennifer Hanson. "You don't have to be a fan of Nordic music to enjoy this album."

Bolot & Nohon explore the music of the Republic of Altai on Uch Sumer, says Jennifer. "The variety of sounds the singers produce is staggering, and what is perhaps more impressive is that a vocal technique that seems like a novelty to many westerners can produce such listenable songs."

R. Carlos Nakai marks his finest works with In Beauty We Return: The Best of Nakai. "His recording career has encompassed 13 albums, and this anthology gives a representative cross-section of the full range of Nakai's musical journey, from powerful solo selections exploring traditional melody and rhythm through to fusion ensemble experimentation and fully realized orchestral pieces," says Gilbert Head.

The benchmark movie soundtrack Dances With Wolves is reissued to celebrate composer John Barry's 70th birthday, and Gilbert is impressed with the scope of the new release. "It earned Barry his fifth score Oscar and has entered the language of American film music so thoroughly that it has become identified in places with iconic images well-removed from the original film context," Gil says. "Dances With Wolves is a score more than worthy of this defining piece of American filmmaking, while never overpowering the story being told."

John Bird takes us along to experience the thrills of the Ukulele Expo, held last month in Bushkill, Pa., and sponsored by the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum. What, you didn't know there was one? For shame! You owe it to yourself to read John's review and learn what you're missing!

Colin Irwin goes In Search of the Craic -- but does he find it? Nicky Rossiter isn't telling. But Nicky's review of Irwin's new book might set you off on your own quest through the length and breadth of musical Ireland....

Pauline Hayton relates a fictionalized account of her father's experience in A Corporal's War: World War II Adventures of a Royal Engineer. "This may be a fictionalized biography, but it is definitely one of the best wartime accounts I've read in a long time," says Daniel Jolley. "This isn't what you would call a gritty wartime memoir, though. The focus here is truly on the men who served, their mental and emotional reactions to the horrors they encountered, the emotional pain and homesickness of men who just wanted to do their duty, win the bloody war and get home to their families. I was totally captivated by Norman's story."

Sharon Shinn returns to the arms of the angels with Angel-Seeker. "Shinn heads back to the fascinating territory of her breakout trilogy," says Tracie Vida. "She stretches herself well with this book, exploring interesting facets of social life -- such as childbirth, prostitution and slavery -- that few authors of popular fiction dare touch."

Barbara Hambly's Dragonstar is "the conclusion to a series that never should have been," David Roy opines. "Dragonstar almost seems to have been written as an apology to fans for the gloom of the first two books."

Lolly Winston exclaims Good Grief in a book Wil Owen calls "depressingly funny. I feel guilty when I laugh at the woes of others. Good Grief ... made me feel guilty for about six hours as I chuckled pretty much non-stop listening to the audiobook version."

The hedonistic Tank Girl follows in the footsteps of Ulysses (sort of) in The Odyssey. "This odyssey is every bit as tawdry as the haughtiest critic would expect," opines Sarah Meador. "That doesn't mean it's not good."

The Dubliners showcase 40 years of music history with Live, a new DVD concert experience. "They're still going strong and remain as popular as ever, despite several changes in the lineup," says Laurie Thayer. However, she adds, "my reaction to the DVD set is mixed. The music and interviews were great, but the visuals were less than stunning. This is a good introduction to the Dubliners, though, if you're not familiar with their work."

Miles O'Dometer takes a look at real reality with In This World. "It's a hard trip, both to make and to watch," he says.

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

9 October 2004

There is an incessant influx
of novelty into the world,
and yet we tolerate incredible dullness.
- Henry David Thoreau

So many things going on! Rambles.NET editor Tom Knapp and assistant editor Katey Knapp are off to Cape Breton for Celtic Colours, an amazing annual music festival that has been featured on this site for several years running. (Fellow staffers Cheryl Turner Smith, Virginia MacIsaac and Erika Rabideau are joining them for this year's comprehensive event coverage!) Then, they return to their home base in Lancaster, Pa., just in time to move the Rambles offices to a new address (to be announced shortly). We're still packing for both endeavours! Wish us luck!!

Pete St. John takes a page from Ulysses with James Joyce Lives On, a musical tribute to the novel. "Thankfully, another great Dublin writer has produced this 'everyman' guide to Joyce, his works and his Dublin," says Nicky Rossiter.

Colum Sands sings The Note That Lingers On, Colum is another of Ireland's beloved Sands Family, and Nicky is happy to include him here. "This is the only member of the clan that I have seen perform live, and what a show he puts on! This album is as close as you will get to that magic -- and it comes pretty close."

Escale En Ecosse, or A Journey to Scotland, is like "a quality Scottish variety hour on CD," Jean Price explains. "It has got everything: pipes and drums, fiddles, singing of various descriptions, accordion, harp and ... well, you get the picture. This one little album is fairly complete in its survey of Scottish music. There is also a strange plinky-plunky-boingy instrument I have never heard...."

Josh Lederman y Los Diablos celebrate The Town's Old Fair with an album of Irish-tinged singer-songwriter material that rises to the top of the heap in the Boston scene, Jerome Clark proclaims. "Think of the Pogues, the Flatlanders and Steve Earle (in his apolitical mode) as New Englanders," he says. "Tall company, true, but you'll swear that Josh Lederman y Los Diablos have an inch or two on the competition. ... Why aren't these guys famous?"

Ceredwen's debut CD, O'r Mabinogi, "features a very unique interpretation of Celtic myth and legend," Jean Price says. "Setting original Welsh lyrics to rather techno-dance music beats, they have created a whole new genre: techno-Welsh!"

Jane Siberry has recorded a collection of traditional songs from the United Kingdom and United States titled simply Hush. "Siberry has a slow, mellow voice and the sense of intimacy she creates on each piece accentuates the quality of her singing," Jean says. "At times ethereal, at times haunting, at times a little bit spacey-sounding, always she sings with love and that makes the album a terrific choice to listen to, relax and remember."

Janet Holmes takes The Road to the West from Belfast. "All 12 tracks on offer here are top class," Nicky Rossiter says of the young folksinger. "It is elementary, my dear Watson and others -- Holmes is a name and an artist to note and to hear."

Colleen Power is a popular folk guitarist, songwriter and singer from Newfoundland, Virginia MacIsaac reveals. On Lucky You Are, she says, "Colleen has taken note that the pen is sharper than the sword and has learned to wield it well. She cuts sharply and deeply, fearlessly thrusting and thrusting again, making no retreat and giving no quarter with her lyrics."

Amy Fairchild goes Live at four venues to showcase her folk chops. Nicky Rossiter lauds her "huge talent" and says listeners will want to "want to thank her for more than an hour of great sounds, lively performance and sensitive lyrics." Woohoo, Nicky, for review #350!

Alan Lomax's efforts once again pay off for the early music fan with Deep River of Song: Louisiana. "This is a more interesting collection than some of the others, with a wide variety of musical styles, from jazz to zydeco to the blues, with many stops along the way," says Chet Williamson. "The 23 tracks offer nearly 70 minutes of music, some very listenable, some primarily of scholarly interest. Nearly all were recorded in 1934, so the sound is primitive, but the music always triumphs over the early technology."

Grant Dermody is Crossing That River to show the versatility of the blues harmonica. "Crossing That River is an excellent CD that has a consistency in sound and feel, never seeming scattered even though it covers many styles," says Dave Howell.

Kristian Blak and Yggdrasil join forces on two early albums, The Four Towers & Heygar og Dreygar, which were combined and re-released as a single package of Nordic jazz. "These two suites are best suited to those listeners who enjoy hearing the boundaries of jazz pushed back," says Jennifer Hanson. "Fans of more traditional music, however, will not find this CD to their taste."

Tracy Lawrence is coming on Strong with his latest release. "His musical style is maturing, becoming more and more consistent," C. Nathan Coyle remarks. "In a market over-populated with aging kickin'-it-up bad-boy rebels singing about their latest wild time, it's refreshing to hear a country performer that not only embraces having a family and gaining maturity, but intertwines those themes throughout his album."

Maggie Austin sings Time & Again on a too-brief country CD that earns "an emphatic YES" from Nicky Rossiter. "Maggie appears to be the ultimate Internet hit singer, with regular top spots on various sites," he says. "Now you can hear the sound on a CD, and I for one am impressed beyond belief."

Ray Kane and Leonard Kwan supply a tasty sample of Hawaiian tradition on their companion CDs, The Legendary Ray Kane: Old Style Slack-Key and The Legendary Leonard Kwan: The Complete Early Recordings. "Hearty thanks to Cord International for making this seminal American music available to all of us," says Jerome Clark. "My own favorite of these two is Kane's, probably because I love his singing so much. But for all real-world purposes, there is no artistic distance worth mentioning between the two."

Agatsuma takes the music of the Japanese shamisen Beyond it's past applications. "The results on this album are hit and miss, but the totality shows tremendous promise for both the instrument and the performer," Chet Williamson says. "There's a brilliant musician at work here when we're allowed to hear him." Hoopla, Chet, for review #200!

Debbie Koritsas had the chance to see Dumfries-shire's Emily Smith Band perform in York. Read her report on the show!

Michael Lohr shares his recent chat with Azam Ali and Greg Ellis, both members of the musical group Vas. Check out his interview with the band for their take on world music.

Ron Korb creates a "bold masterpiece of sight and sound" with Between the Shadows: Live in Quebec, says Virginia MacIsaac. "Korb's compositions are absorbing and intense. The performances on this DVD draw his listeners into following his every move and note."

David Sedaris describes his life in disconcerting detail in Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim, a new audiobook from the popular NPR commentator. "You just don't say this stuff out loud!" Katey Knapp first thought. But, "in the end, I gave myself over to Sedaris's droning voice and wacky anecdotes. I carried the packet of CDs around from kitchen to office to car, and he became the background to whatever else I might be doing."

Jasper Fforde says there's Something Rotten in the literary world of Thursday Next. "Fforde's trademark wit is fully evident, as he parodies bad political talk-shows ... and creates a full-contact version of croquet that makes it seem like American football," says David Roy. "I haven't laughed out loud this much in ages."

Will Hubbell sails through the Sea of Time, his latest temporal plunge. "Cretaceous Sea was ostensibly about time travel, but Sea of Time really mines the depths of questions, possibilities and repercussions the subject of time travel engenders," Daniel Jolley explains. "With its heavy emphasis on the theoretical underpinnings and logic-defying nature of time travel, its multiple journeys across a number of millennia, its account of the heroes' struggles to survive in the most inhospitable of times and places (both past and future), and its rich and wonderfully complex main characters, Sea of Time makes for a gripping, entertaining read."

Kevin D. Randle continues The Exploration Chronicles with Starship, the second book in the series. "The heart of this novel lies in the social interaction and political continuity of life aboard the starship, and to my surprise Randle's exploration of social and psychological themes actually succeeds much better than his first novel's overreliance on science to the detriment of his characters," says Daniel. "The writing in this book is a significant improvement over that found in Signals, and I am actually quite excited about the future of this series."

Ben Sherwood details The Death & Life of Charlie St. Cloud in a deeply affective novel. "Like Alice Hoffman, Sherwood knows how to paint in magical colors without the obscuring effects of glitter," says Tracie Vida. "His characters shine with the extraordinary light of ordinariness, and his version of Marblehead glows with so much warmth and character, you'll want to leap away from your computer to join a fishing boat crew."

Capt. Jack Aubrey is unhappy on land when The Mauritius Command begins, but author Patrick O'Brian doesn't take long to set him and Dr. Stephen Maturin off on another exciting adventure at sea. "It is impossible to read the tale without being moved, or without feeling the shudder of ships sorely battered by cannon fire and running with blood," Tom Knapp explains. "This book alone should make an O'Brian addict of anyone who has the pleasure to read it."

Mark Allen is pleased to announce the release of The Steve Ditko Reader, Vol. 2. "An eclectic collection of mystery, horror, science fiction, crime, western and, yes, even jungle tales awaits the wise and fortunate reader who chooses to delve into this work," he says.

Miles O'Dometer views Intolerable Cruelty in a Coen Brothers' film revolving "around two of America's favorite caricatures: a divorce lawyer, Miles Massey (George Clooney), and a professional divorcee, Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones)." The brothers, Miles says, "seem to discover more in a 100-minute movie than some filmmakers find in a lifetime of work."

Miles spends a bit of time with The Triplets of Belleville. "The Triplets of Belleville is visual storytelling at its finest: one deftly articulated image after another, all of them adding up to a great story, but only if the viewer is willing to do the math," he says. "Not a frame is wasted, and not a frame can be ignored. This isn't just a film worth watching; it's a film that requires watching -- and is fun to watch."

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

2 October 2004

Peculiar things, people. ...
Dead certain they know what they need.
Dead wrong, more often than not.
- John Ney Rieber

As mentioned last week, the main Rambles.NET office is about to move! While we will always have a certain fondness for these beloved surroundings (And to think it happened on Mulberry Street, after all!) it's time to move out, move on and find bigger accommodations. We don't want to jinx the process by revealing the new address yet, but watch this space. Cheers!

Tim Dennehy is Between the Mountains & the Sky. Here, he gives new life to the words of Sigerson Clifford, one of Kerry's greatest writers, Nicky Rossiter says. "This is the album to own if you like intelligent, heartfelt lyrics performed whereby you understand every syllable and can feel the love of the world emanating from your speakers."

Ben Sands explores the Roots & Branches of Irish folk music. "When you listen closely to Sands, especially to his personal songs, you hear how the ordinary people loved the land, the people and the traditions even in the midst of so much trouble," Nicky asserts.

Sean Tyrrell shares this Cry of a Dreamer on this 10-year-old CD that Nicky (completing his trifecta for today!) brings to the fore. "Tyrrell has a distinctive voice and a very obvious love of music that comes across to great effect," Nicky says. "He displays a great love of poetry and a real flair for putting poetic works to music."

Gordie Sampson returns to the studio with a little Sunburn -- and Sean Roach, the latest addition to the Rambles.NET team, says it's been too long a wait. "Most of the traditional elements that popped up on his first album are gone, the mixed-bag aesthetic replaced by a more mature and consistent sound," Sean says. "The songs, although infused with Sampson's unique style, have a more mainstream tone -- no surprise, given his time spent writing for other performers in Nashville and Europe."

The Grievous Angels are Waiting for the Cage on this classic Canadian recording. "The Angels' lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Charlie Angus is one of Canada's great troubadours," says David Cox. "His folk-rock portrayal of the mining families of Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Sudbury, Ont., is poignant. The songs are gritty, at times harsh and certainly emotional."

Chuck McCabe serves up some Chicken Dinners, an upbeat album with "a smiling take on everything from beer to bacon to 'Blue Hawaii'," according to Sarah Meador. "Chicken Dinners is two hoots and a holler, a collection of road trips and tall tales roped together with blues-bar country and front-porch picking. It's definitely an album worth perking up your ears for."

Julie Ellison makes her mark At Last -- as a singer as well as a guitarist, Nicky Rossiter says. "This album brings together a mixture of songs and instrumentals ranging over a few years and as such give an ideal showcase of a talent that is constantly maturing. ... Ellison is a voice/writer/player to watch."

Toronto singer-songwriter Justin Rutledge "knows his way around, through and into sad songs," says Rachel Jagt. No Never Alone, recorded with the Junction Forty, "is a collection of country songs that sound much older than they are. It's a soft record, gentle and reflective, and I can't stop listening to it, sometimes for the poetry, sometimes for the beautifully crafted music, sometimes just for the sadness."

Albert E. Brumley Jr. is "making a joyous noise to the glory of the Lord" on his bluegrass/gospel CD I'll Fly Away, Virginia MacIsaac reveals. "Brumley's voice is a strong reminder of Johnny Cash at his mellow-tone finest," she notes. "Though comparisons are not always welcome, it's hard to miss the similarities of a rich baritone, distinctive accent and graceful style."

Doc & Merle Watson's CD Sittin' Here Pickin' the Blues is blues in name only, Jerome Clark decides. "But however you define it, this collection ... is a welcome addition to the already extensive Watson catalogue," he says. "At this stage of a long and distinguished career as a giant of American folk music, further praise of Doc Watson -- as well as the still-missed Merle -- is superfluous. Just do what Doc would want you to do: go listen."

Jessie Allen Cooper proves that Sound Travels with an album of smooth jazz. Unfortunately, Dave Howell warns, "if you are not a fan of the smooth genre, everything starts to sound the same by the fifth or sixth cut."

Bill "Tappy" Tapia and the Essential Resophonics supply the Hawaiian jazz on Tropical Swing. "Listening to this CD is like having the absolutely coolest grandpa in the world (and a dynamite ukulele player to boot) sit down with a tape machine to record his favourite songs just for you," John Bird says. "The result is intimate, sweet and lovely, and touching beyond compare."

The Hawaiian tradition of music gets an on-air boost with Territorial Airwaves. "Like any other people, Hawaiians borrowed and absorbed, the familiar and the novel in constant conflict, embrace and synthesis," Jerome Clark explains. "If you want to know what that sounded like, Territorial Airwaves is the best imaginable place to start."

Ensemble Tumbash takes us to the steppes of Mongolia with Ayalguu: Vol. I. "These songs are improvised and take as their subject matter love, everyday life and animals," says Jennifer Hanson. "Given the importance of horses in Mongolian culture, it's no surprise that they are favorite topics for these short songs."

Robert Tilendis tackles a broad range of musical styles in Music from Macedonia 2. "All in all, this is an immensely absorbing collection, dizzyingly diverse and a strong indicator of the variety and richness of the musical traditions of Macedonia and the Balkans at large," he says. "It's also a lot of fun."

Mohamed Naiem is a Master of the Arabian Flute. "This is a well-done CD that presents the beauty of Middle Eastern flute music while retaining the listener's interest," Dave Howell promises.

Peter Allen's music is recalled in The Boy from Oz, a soundtrack featuring Hugh Jackman as Allen. "This musical is a testimony to their many talents and serves as a glowing tribute to their lives and spirits," Ann Flynt opines.

Lawrence Millman explores folklore in the chilly north in A Kayak Full of Ghosts: Eskimo Folk Tales. "Open-minded readers will find a portrait of a culture that has survived one of the harshest environments in the world," says Jennifer Hanson. "The world of these stories is not a pleasant one, but the reader willing to meet it on its own terms may find a strange fascination in it."

Robert Thurston's Battletech/MechWarrior trilogy -- Way of the Clans, Bloodname, Falcon Guard -- is reprinted as The Legend of the Jade Phoenix. "Thurston brings the field of battle to vivid life in these pages, offering readers a thrilling look at a massive engagement of Battlemechs and warriors in a fight for victory, pride, and heritage," Daniel Jolley reports from the front lines. "It's a thrilling, satisfying conclusion to a classic Battletech storyline."

Marduk's Tablet "is an engaging novel of suspense built upon a foundation of archaeological discovery, but author T.L. Higley has a much grander purpose than mere entertainment behind her writing," says Daniel. "The book is billed as fiction for the mind and soul, and Higley seeks to challenge readers with the spiritual truths of God."

G.M. Ford "tackles international terrorism in his own, unique way" in Red Tide. "The book is extremely tight and well-plotted, with twists and turns that will make your head spin," says Dave Roy. "The ending, however, leaves a lot to be desired. I don't mean the end of the story, but the end of the book itself."

Diana Gabaldon penned a 627-page historical-romance-action-adventure epic in Outlander, says Susannah Carey. "This novel holds many different elements and is not for the weak at heart or close-minded," she warns. "If you prefer realism, then stick to the classics; however, I do feel that someday we may look back at this epic as a so-called modern-day classic."

Kristine Kathryn Rusch suffers the Consequences of employing too many points of view, Gregg Thurlbeck complains -- but otherwise the novel is "entertaining, clever and briskly plotted. ... If Rusch had kept to this tighter focus, Consequences could have been a wonderful book."

John B. Olson gets his Adrenaline flowing in his debut science-fiction novel. "Not only does adrenaline hold an integral place in the medical foundation of the plot, the novel itself rushes from first page to last at an adrenaline-pumping pace," says Daniel Jolley. "The action gets a little repetitive from time to time, but it never slows down."

Alice Blanchard reveals The Breathtaker in a murder-mystery that actually "keeps you guessing before revealing the killer," Wil Owen says. "I actually looked forward to my daily commute to/from work one week as I listened to the 10-hour unabridged audiobook version of the story."

The timeless work of Charles Schulz is collected in The Complete Peanuts: 1953 to 1954, the second volume in a new series from Fantagraphics. Here, Tom Knapp says, "Schulz begins to develop clear ideas about the future personalities his precocious imps will bear. ... Unlike the well-worn paperback collections I once owned, these solid volumes are built to last for generations."

William Kates pays a visit to the Garden State, in which Zach Braff makes his debut as a film actor, writer and director. "Braff's acting is good, his character seems flawed but likeable, his direction is good, but what really makes this movie special is Braff's writing, which is constantly fresh and funny," he says.

Tom Knapp says the action-thriller Soul Assassin doesn't benefit from director Laurence Malkin's experience shooting music videos. "The visual effects are, I assume, supposed to add tension and drama to the tale, but instead they cause headaches and eyestrain," Tom says. "I can only guess the blue filter Malkin used to drain color and life from his movie was intended to mask its gaping flaws."

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

25 September 2004

There is a difference between getting money
for what you do, and doing it for money.
If you don't do it for love, or because you think
it needs doing, get out and let somebody else do it.
If nobody else does it, maybe that means it shouldn't be done.
- Emma Bull

Watch this space! Rambles.NET will soon have a new address!! No, not our web-bound URL; it would be silly for Rambles.NET to use anything other than rambles.net, eh? But our physical location, our main office, looks to be moving soon. Those who send us lovely books and CDs in the mail, take note!

Al Petteway accentuates the Whispering Stones in this light collection of music. "Whispering Stones will not have your feet tapping -- well, occasionally it might -- but it will give you a beautiful warm Celtic feeling of well-being," says Nicky Rossiter.

Shirae visits Tiger's Island for "a combination of familiar and new," Nicky Rossiter says. "The effect is magical. ... This is an important debut album and I am already looking forward to the follow-up."

Phil Coulter guest-laden Coulter & Company is "a varied album and a departure for those accustomed to Coulter's instrumental-only CDs," says Jenny Ivor. "There is quality and style aplenty, and enjoyment to be had in listening to some good voices and lovely arrangements. Coulter continues to go from strength to strength."

Le Vent du Nord is "one of the better new groups performing traditional Quebecois music," David Cox assures us. Maudite Moisson, he says, "presents 14 songs in a lively neo-traditional setting (by which I mean the use of acoustic, traditional instruments enhanced by modern studio techniques and contemporary song-structure)."

Amy Martin "seems to be making her personal effort at making peace and to help enable others to do so also," Ellen Rawson says. One method is This Fall. "She generally is preaching to the choir; new fans probably will be those who share her political beliefs," Ellen says. "That said, perhaps she figures that if even one pro-war advocate thinks twice about his stance after having heard one of her songs, she's done her job."

Eddie Cole might be a little too nice and well-mannered on I Know What's Going On, Gregg Thurlbeck opines. "Unfortunately, there's very little excitement in evidence amid all the niceness," he says. "The album settles into a bit of a pleasant, well-mannered rut."

Reviewer Gregg Thurlbeck invites everyone to Sing Along with Putumayo. "As for this album's prime audience -- who have not yet had time to submerge their childishness under layers of adult, or even adolescent, concerns -- this disc offers a superb mix of kid-friendly music and refined musicality," Gregg says. "It's a wonderful combination that lives up to the uncompromising standards that I've come to associate with the Putumayo label."

The Feathermerchants try their hand at Street Theater. Wil Owen, a fan of the band, explains why the new EP is a disappointing effort.

Colin Henderson pays tribute with Highway of Diamonds: The Songs of Bob Dylan ... but Jerome Clark isn't sure why. "The results are not embarrassing, but they're not much else," he says. "Nothing here makes clear why this album was recorded or perceived to need to exist."

The Chris Duarte Group is on a Romp through "loud white electric-guitar blues," Jerome Clark explains. "If you want it sort-of bluesy and anything-but-sort-of loud, without a whole lot of nuance or subtlety -- in other words, if you need something to go out and drink a whole lot of beer alongside -- look no further."

Harry Connick Jr. expands his repertoire with Other Hours. "The music allows the listener to be transported to an intimate club setting and feel privy to the inner workings of a quartet that flow more smoothly than homemade jam," says Ann Flynt. "As Connick has grown, so has his music."

Del McCoury is High Lonesome & Blue on this bluegrass compilation disc from Rounder Heritage. "Though a disappointment for McCoury fans who have this easily obtainable material and are seeking out the earlier, more elusive tracks, this may be the best single collection of McCoury available to date," Chet Williamson states. "This is a great package, and the 20-page booklet has lots of information about the tracks."

The Wayfaring Strangers catch This Train for a "blend of bluegrass, jazz and klezmer, with elements of folk and country thrown in for good measure," Rachel Jagt reports. "It takes some time to get used to the variety of musical styles presented and mixed here; but, in the end, This Train leaves me with a good feeling, one that makes me want to look out for the next recording from this unlikely supergroup, if only to see where they go next."

The Langley Ukulele Ensemble present the Pacific Ukulele Connection with a recording John Bird calls "quite simply an amazing ongoing ukulele orchestra and choir. ... It's fine background music for those warm, lazy summer days when you want to kick back and relax, as well as for those sleepy winter evenings in the den when you close your eyes, sip your rum punch and dream of warm breezes and tropical isles."

Reviewer Dave Howel tackles the music of Bali on two CDs, Gamelan of Central Java I, Classical Gendings and Gamelan of Central Java II, Ceremonial Music. "Gamelan music is challenging for Westerners," says Dave. "It is not easily understood. But even without knowledge of the various instruments, scales and musical formats, its beauty is immediately apparent."

Sevara Nazarkhan "has come upon the world in a whirlwind," says Michael Lohr. "Yol Bolsin is an eclectic, sincere set of Uzbek folk melodies and Sufi songs. At times ancient and spiritual, at other times folksy and comfortable. Yol Bolsin is a stark and compelling contrast to 99 percent of the popular music being made today; Nazarkhan is indeed a weaver of spells."

Passing Through adds a twist or two to Native American music on Just Passin' Thru. "Like the work we have come to know from TerryLee Whetstone, this music reaches deep within your soul to touch and awaken primal instincts and feelings," Karen Elkins says. "Just Passin' Thru is an exceptional CD from beginning to end."

The classic soundtrack to West Side Story -- the movie musical by which all others are judged -- gets new treatment in a fresh release. "The remastering for this reissue is perfect," says Chet Williamson. "The brass and percussion are so crisp they burn the ear, and the voices sound better than ever."

Tempest knows how to rock the Celtic, and when writer Dave Howell saw the band recently in Bethlehem, Pa., he sat down for a chat with lead singer Lief Sorbye. Take a look at Dave's interview!

Richard and Judy Dockrey Young have compiled a collection of Ozark Ghost Stories now available in audio form. "As is true for most folklore of this kind, some of the graphic details provided may be too overwhelming for younger readers, but will only serve to catch the attention of older youth," reports Debbie Gayle Rose. "The stories can be appreciated by the expert fan of folktale as well as the layman."

Glen Hirshberg collects five "haunting pieces of fiction" in The Two Sams, says Daniel Jolley. "What you get here is the highest literary form of the dark tale."

Poppy Z. Brite and Christa Faust combine forces for Triads. Despite an ongoing theme that Daniel finds unsettling, he recommends this horror-tinged novel. "The tapestry they weave from three distinct yet interrelated stories in this short novel is impressive," he says. "When you step back and look at Triads in an objective way, you see a well-crafted tale that succeeds admirably in communicating the themes the authors wanted to convey."

Peter Tremayne uncovers an ancient Irish mystery in Our Lady of Darkness. "He is remarkably adept at creating a sense of place in the long-distant past," Celeste Miller says. "The intrepid and quick-witted Sister Fidelma makes a compelling heroine, and Tremayne's excellent grasp of Irish history and tightly-woven plot combine for an absorbing read."

Kate Horsley explores faith, nature and gender issues in her novel, Confessions of a Pagan Nun. "I loved this book," said Rambles.NET newcomer Barbara Spring. "It transported me to a faraway time and place that is still relevant today since there will always be a struggle between different beliefs. Horseley's characters and settings are believable and she has woven a plot that kept me intrigued. Even more than the plot, the author's poetic use of language enchanted me."

Patrick O'Brian does it again with H.M.S. Surprise, the third book in his Aubrey/Maturin saga of British naval warfare in the early 19th century. "I have never touched a series of historical novels that have so fully commanded my attention," says Tom Knapp. "These books are a true pleasure to read, and H.M.S. Surprise is a wonderful chapter in the ongoing saga."

Mark Allen says a certain emerald-skinned hero is moving up in the world in a new Marvel Comics collection, She-Hulk: Single Green Female. "Marvel opted for the humor aspect in this book and, really, where else could you go?" Mark asks. "The wild thing about it is, it works! She-Hulk is funny. Quirky. Entertaining. And it has the feel of something that has never been done."

William Kates goes on a retro-futuristic adventure with Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow. The film "brings computer-generated imagery to new levels of artistic achievement," he says. "Ultimately, the acting and the story are good but secondary to the visual art, which is stunning."

Jenna Rink is 13 Going on 30 in this Jennifer Garner vehicle -- a new twist on the Tom Hanks classic Big. "But where Big was refreshingly charming, 13 Going on 30 feels stale and forced despite a strong effort by Garner to inject her character with youthful energy and naivete," Tom Knapp says. "For us retro fans, the '80s soundtrack is a welcome flashback -- but that's not enough to atone for the overuse of hackneyed plot devices and formula characters."

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

18 September 2004

In America, anybody can be president.
That's one of the risks you take.
- Adlai Stevenson

It's a Halfway to St. Paddy's Day weekend! Joy and hoopla, everyone! Our house band, Fire in the Glen, has three gigs in three days, so we're reeling (pun intended) from a bit of exhaustion -- but the enthusiastic crowds help to keep our energy sparkin'! Not only that, but it looks like a home sale might be in the offing; cross your fingers for us!

The Battlefield Band is Out for the Night. "These lads make beautiful music together, hewing more to the traditional sound than the more contemporary tones that some previous incarnations of the band had produced," Chet Williamson says. "From the first minute of the first tune set, you know the boys are back in town."

Mark Saul's first solo bagpipe album, Mixolydian, "is not for the weak of heart," says Virginia MacIsaac. "He exhibits a wicked sense of innovation backed by a strong grasp of music tradition and an ear for powerful acoustic flavours."

Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies sign Doolally on this album from one of "the best and most prolific of songwriters and performers on the scene in Britain today." Nicky Rossiter says Lowe's latest CD is "a pleasure to hear but also has a spine of steel."

Howdenjones, the duo of Kate Howden and Paul Jones, put the English singer-songwriter tradition to the test with Beautiful Again: Live. "This is not full-tilt rock 'n' roll, but quietly stated, intelligent folk and folk-rock," says Jerome Clark. "It won't knock you over on first hearing. It starts working on you on the second, and it gets better each time after that, until you start actively looking forward to hearing it again."

Darden Smith sings songs on the ups and downs of love on Sunflower. "Smith delivers many of the songs in an intimate, almost hushed style that befits the subject," says Jennifer Hanson. "His professions of devotion and disappointment are more convincing as a result."

Karen Fay sings the Empiric Lyric. "Her vocal style doesn't stretch any boundaries but accepts the greater limits of her range," C. Nathan Coyle notes. "Fay provides solid, soulful performances with a surprising amount of versatility in style from song to song."

Lori Chaffer shows a lot of potential with 1 Beginning, Karen Elkins says. "It almost alternates between great songs and those that cause you to grit your teeth," she explains. "Lori Chaffer has the talent to go far in the music world, but she will not get there with this collection."

George Scherer dances The Election Year Waltz, which "continues the great tradition of political bluegrass with fun, grit and down-dirty soul," Tracie Vida says. "The Election Year Waltz (is) an all-around treat of fun, satirical and subversive bluegrass that leaves you laughing and cursing and longing for more, even after the chads have all dangled their way to the Big House."

Rob Ickes gets to work once again with Blue Highway on Big Time, an album that is more solidly situated in the bluegrass camp than 2002's jazzy What It Is. "Big Time is a solid if forward-looking bluegrass album that should engage not only lovers of that genre but any acoustic music fan," Chet Williamson opines. "Once again, Rob Ickes shows his musical chops and taste to be at an astronomical level."

Lossingarmenn plays jazz, "but don't look here for straight-ahead bebop or tasteful reworkings of standards," says Jennifer Hanson. "Skronk is basically noise as music, and there's some of that on Lossingarmenn's self-titled debut album. But there are also more lyrical interludes as well as some rock-flavored pieces that groove."

Paul Geremia takes a swat at Love, Murder & Mosquitos. Pamela Dow says Geremia is "an exceptional singer-songwriter who's a genuine historian of rare, prewar blues classics. ... This veteran of traditional country blues presents these rare blues selections and his original material with infectious enthusiasm."

Ryan Farish's music is Beautiful -- and is already familiar to fans of the Weather Channel, Sherrill Fulghum reveals. "Farish has mastered the art of merging electronic music and new age sounds with his piano and digital samples," she says.

Ensemble Mzetamze highlights an Eastern European tradition with Traditional Songs of Georgian Women, Vol. 1. "The lullabies and work songs are interesting, but the collection's most lasting impression comes from the wide selection of dirges," says Sarah Meador. "Don't be surprised if one or two find a way into your internal soundtrack, too."

Jennifer Hanson takes a fresh look at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, an annual tradition in Hillsdale, New York. Take a look at some of the excellent entertainers who dropped by this year in her comprehensive review!

Next, Ellen Rawson reports on the doings at a gig featuring Gillian Welch, with David Rawlings & the Old Crow Medicine Band, in London, England, and Michelle Doyle shares a brief taste of a recent Wolfstone concert in Unity, Maine. It's too late to see the shows, but at least you can see what you missed!

A scholarly anthology on The Monstrous Middle Ages, edited by Bettina Bildhauer and Robert Mills, goes to great lengths to explain the medieval conception of the "other" in that time. "What is sobering is the realization of how much those attitudes have shaped our own ideas of the monstrous and marvelous, something that is more implied in the book than examined outright, although that discussion would have been a very welcome chapter or two," opines Robert Tilendis.

Durlabh Singh impressed new Rambles.NET reviewer Michael Lohr with a volume titled Chrome Red: Collected Poems. "Durlabh, a Sikh from London, England, knows the struggle to find spiritual calm in a raging sea of chaos," Michael says. "He covers a wide range of topics, dealing with the nature of human experience, life, love, loss and beauty. You can sense his earnest struggle in these poems."

Barbara Ann Porte assumes the guise of head librarian Lavinia Drumm for a series of smooth-flowing short stories in Beauty & the Serpent: Thirteen Tales of Unnatural Animals. "A collection of short stories is no unusual thing," Tom Knapp says. "Tying them together into a unit that flows smoothly from beginning to end is a harder job -- and one Barbara Ann Porte has mastered."

Alice Hoffman's twin tales Aquamarine and Indigo, collected in Water Tales, didn't impress Katey Knapp -- but her kids overruled her decision. "It turns out that these short novels are indeed of interest to children, and considering the cheers that meet our daily revisiting of these characters, I would have to recommend the book," she admits. "Perhaps I would not encourage an adult to seek a fulfilling read here, but I can say for sure that my kids will be passing it on to friends of their own."

Robert Zubrin visits The Holy Land in a science-fiction novel that veers sharply from the author's previous work. "The novel follows more in the footsteps of Douglas Adams than it does in those of Heinlein or Clarke," Gregg Thurlbeck explains. "But added to the book's Adams-esque comedic approach is a healthy dose of John Brunner-style political activism."

Steve Hamilton's Ice Run has turned Jean Lewis on to a new mystery series. "The scenery and the weather have a character all their own in this book," she says, "and Steve Hamilton has brought a new meaning to the term 'chiller'."

Dissatisfied with the final screenplay for the movie Druids, Norman Spinrad published the historical novel The Druid King to tell his story properly. "Spinrad captured the intensity and struggle of a people desperate to hold on to a fading way of life," says Michael Lohr. "He effectively demonstrates the very complex Celtic social structure and the role of the druid within Celtic society. He also successfully captured the tragedy and pain of the failure of Vercingetorix to stop Rome, which signals the subsequent demise of Celtic Europe."

While he was at it, Michael also took the opportunity to interview author Norman Spinrad about his work. Check it out!

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro drives her first novel, Miriam the Medium, with interesting characters, Jean Marchand says. "Miriam is a wonderful character to watch and her funny dialogue and commentary are treats," Jean says.

John LeCarre draws together his Absolute Friends in this audiobook spy story. "LeCarre's hero is feeling defensive about his position, though spying suits him and he is an expert at his craft," says Jean. "It's the juggling of the characters he assumes and the knowledge that the British Crown expects its men to be both honest and shifty, as the occasion demands, that makes him feel beleagured at times."

Tom Knapp takes a look at two very different interpretations of Victor Hugo's classic novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Hunchback, starring Mandy Patinkin, Richard Harris and Salma Hayek, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring a platoon of Disney animators. One, Tom says, is "a poignant, passionate interpretation that boasts a trio of incredible performances." The other, "made to sell lunchboxes and action figures, dismisses the novel entirely, sacrificing the power of the story for a package of cute, cuddly and happy." (And don't miss our earlier review of the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

Miles O'Dometer spends some time with the King of Rock 'n' Roll and an undead Egyptian pharoah in a Texas nursing home in Bubba Ho-tep. "The job of bringing this tale to life was placed squarely on the shoulders of Bruce Campbell, whose voice and moves are good enough to convince you that he and the real Elvis might have traded places," Miles says. "On the whole, Bubba Ho-tep makes Men in Black look like gritty realism."

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

11 September 2004

Patriotism is the conviction
that your country is better than all the others
because you were born in it.
- George Bernard Shaw

Some days require no words to remember why they are worth remembering. Today is one of them.

Fred Morrison demonstrates his ample skills on pipe and whistle on Up South, a recording that Jerome Clark says "staggers with excellence. ... Throughout the disc Morrison alternates between fast and slow pieces, moving easily from jigs and reels to slow airs, all the while exhibiting taste and precision, never giving vent to a note's worth of excess."

Black 47 has done it again with a newly recorded homage from leader Larry Kirwan to New York Town. "Whether the song concerns romantic relationships, the immigrant experience, people on the dark side of urban life or the awful events of Sept. 11 that appear to have inspired him, Kirwan writes some of the greatest story songs in rock music," says Charlie Ricci. "As always he writes with both humor and sadness and each song makes you feel the emotion he wants to convey."

Tim Gorman is on a Celtic Loop. "Much of the music on this Celtic musical journey has an epic, filmic quality about it, so I wasn't at all surprised when I read on the sleeve notes that classically trained Tim Gorman has worked on music scores for films such as Braveheart and Titanic," Debbie Koritsas says. "After a couple enjoyable listens, I found I had quickly tuned into the lyricism of the gentler compositions, as well as the stirring, rhythmic qualities of the more rousing tunes."

Kate Rusby is captured Live in Leeds on a DVD our reviewer, Debbie, was lucky enough to watch being recorded. "The biggest plus of this DVD is that it captures perfectly Rusby's humour and north-country warmth, her empathy with the audience (they look genuinely happy to be there, and even join in the singing!) and her banter with the band," she reports.

Karen Elkins gives an ear to The Sounds of Nova Scotia, Vol. 2. The songs, she says, "are quite picturesque and fill the mind with images of people, houses, barns and the ocean."

Yikes McGee supplies a witty political rant on Protest Songs for the New Millennium. "McGee pulls no punches with his opinions," says Tracie Vida. "His crystal-clear and surprisingly moving voice lets you hear every hilarious word." Warning: This one's not for the ardent Bush supporter.

Tim Eriksen hears Every Sound Below on a CD that reawakens a tradition. "This album may not spawn many hit singles," Nicky Rossiter says, "but it is an essential part of the collection for anyone professing a love for or interest in American folk music."

Sam Bush doesn't fail to impress fan Chet Williamson with his newest release. "King of My World is another feather in Sam Bush's musical chapeau, with his usual eclectic variety of musical styles and hot picking," Chet says. "There's also more musical depth and thought evident on this release than on some of his previous ones, in which chops seemed to be all-important. Bush's instrumental work here is often deeply moving, as though evincing a newfound maturity."

Ron Spears and Within Tradition perform in the Carolina Rain. "Like most mainstream bluegrass bands these days, Ron Spears & Within Tradition walk the line between modern and older sounds within a genre whose sense of its own history is keener than most," says Jerome Clark. "Spears's band reminds me a bit of the Country Gentlemen, who were innovative in their time (the 1950s and '60s, though a version of the group with only one original member survives) and have been influential ever since."

Nura "has permanently removed jazz from the list of foreign four-letter words in my house," Virginia MacIsaac admits after spinning the Canadian singer's self-titled CD. "She will affect you personally from the first note," Virginia says. "With passages of sweet innocence, she personifies the delicate lost art of whispering sweet nothings."

The artists from Telarc share some Bar Room Blues. "Close your eyes while listening to these 12 tracks and you could be in a juke joint," says John Lindermuth. "You can smell the booze. There's smoke in the air, sticky floors underfoot, body heat all around you as couples shuffle to the music and sounds, sounds as sweet and mournful as life ever gets to be. There's music here that will make you laugh, some that might make you want to cry and all of it rich with soulful emotion."

This isn't klezmer! At least, so Katey Knapp thought. But Chava Alberstein teaches our reviewer a thing or two about klezmer traditions on End of the Holiday. "The music on this CD is a lesson in style," Katey admits. And what a lesson it is! Congratulations, Katey, on Rambles.NET review #50!

Vas serves up a Feast of Silence. Wil Owen favorably compares the music to Dead Can Dance and says the music "easily makes this one of the best CDs I've run across this year."

Bonga explores African and Brazilian roots in Kaxexe. "There is great beauty in Kaxexe, as well as sadness and violence," says Dave Howell. "It is a highly recommended window into another world."

Debbie Koritsas has a couple of performance reviews to share -- Jools Holland & His R&B Band and John McCusker -- from York and Yorkshire in Merry Olde England! (And don't forget to check out even more gig reviews in our live music section!) Coming soon, reviews of Gillian Welch, with David Rawlings & the Old Crow Medicine Band, and Scottish supergroup Wolfstone, as well as an overview of Falcon Ridge Folk Festival!

Justin Goldberg supplies the skinny with The Ultimate Survival Guide to the New Music Industry: Handbook for Hell. "This book is smooth as silk between your hands," Virginia MacIsaac reveals. "It's sensuously finished in a soft matte cover and contains stories, anecdotes and true-life experiences that will make you shiver with anticipation as you read of hard-working successes and cringe with horror as you realize how hit-or-miss the business is for artists in rock and pop music."

Karen Gernant fails to pass muster with Imagining Women: Fujian Folk Tales, Tracie Vida is sad to report. The collection "commits every error of bad folktale telling: poor writing, over-analysis and bad scholarship," Tracie explains. "If you want an interesting glimpse into Asian folklore, I would look elsewhere."

Tracie is not impressed by Being Human, a new age text by Solihin Thom, Alicia Thom and Alexandra ter Horst. "The Thoms and ter Horst give too much flower and too little intelligence in this piece of guru-seminar silliness," she explains.

A.L. Rowse explains a turbulent period in Britain in Bosworth Field & the Wars of the Roses. Robert Tilendis tackles this complex era and says Rowse "has presented a complex period of English history with clarity and precision, in a style that is vivid and fresh, with flashes of acerbic wit that bring the personalities, on which so much depended, truly alive."

Harambee Grey-Sun's The Black Ball is a narrative poem chronicling the thoughts and actions of discontented students at a small college, Jenny Ivor explains. "I admire the intelligence inherent in the words; I admire the tenacity and lengths to which the poet has pursued his creative goal," she says. Nevertheless, "neither the poetry of The Black Ball nor its subject remotely touch that part of my soul that is normally affected by poetry and gifted displays of language."

Stephen R. Donaldson returns to the Land with The Runes of the Earth: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. "Donaldson writes a convincing tale about the nature of self-sacrifice and fighting for what you believe in with as much passion as you can muster," says Mary Harvey. "If the rest of the series follows true, then this novel is for those who want their adventures thrilling and their heroes as human as they are engaging."

Alastair Reynolds crosses the Absolution Gap in this grand finale to his epic science-fiction series. "Absolution Gap puts a rather firm capstone on the story that's been unfolding since Revelation Space," says Sarah Meador. "Fittingly for a book so concerned with the future, it's an ending that looks ahead, to new challenges, with hope for the characters and for the readers, who may anticipate a new series."

Lyda Morehouse continues her look at the end of the world in Apocalypse Array. "Chalk up a large score for Morehouse's creativity," says Jean Marchand. "Her books reveal a new world. She looks at it with a balanced view of its absurdity and its truths."

Patrick O'Brian recurring naval hero Jack Aubrey tests his luck to the limits in Post Captain. "Post Captain is another excellent chapter in the Aubrey/Maturin saga, and O'Brian's luminous dialogue and careful explanation of nautical manuveurs make the text educational as well as fun," Tom Knapp says. "The series is proving impossible to put down!"

Marc Joel Levitt tells Tales of an October Moon in this audio collection of four stories that "have the feel of folktale told in autumn when the winds blow chill and the moon rises cold and clear," Debbie Gayle Rose relates. "It is quite enjoyable and scary enough without being too scary."

Sarah Meador takes Flight with this new work from Image Comics that breaks the boundaries of graphic art. "Within the simple, expansive theme of the title are collected a range of brief stories, between one and five pages long, that strike with the brevity of a butterfly's landing or sink into the heart with the inevitability of long, slow rain," Sarah says. "There are no boring autobiographical musings, no pumped-up steroidal heroes or pointless art house experiments, just the kind of imaginative wanderings and colorful narratives that comics happen to do better than any other art form."

John Bird sees How the Fiddle Flows in this film about the Canadian history and development of Metis fiddling and stepdancing. "I love this film," John says. "It captures a unique piece of Canadian cultural history whose story has gone unchronicled for far too long."

Miles O'Dometer goes undercover with British superspy Johnny English. "English (Rowan Atkinson) is a quick-thinking, sharp-shooting, stiff-upper-lip British spy guy who only has to look at a woman to have her. In his dreams, that is," Miles explains. "Johnny English is lampoonery at its most likable: a spy spoof for people who like secret agent films, but can't help feeling they need to be taken down a peg or two every once in a while."

William Kates likes -- but has some issues with -- The Bourne Supremacy. "Let's hope they enlist a better director and screenwriter before lensing The Bourne Ultimatum, the third and last Bourne novel by Robert Ludlum," he says.

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

4 September 2004

This will never be a civilized country
until we spend more money for books
than we do for chewing gum.
- Elbert Hubbard

It's a late-summer evening as I write this; the locusts have gone silent, replaced by crickets. My beautiful wife is sleeping in the next room, the kids are dashing about wildly in their rooms upstairs. It's an easy, peaceful evening -- I think it's time for me to switch off my computer and enjoy it! (Not you, though -- you have reviews to read!)

Glen Road has gone Round the Bend and left reviewer Sarah Meador "astonished. ... Glen Road is more than the sum of their parts. There is more to the band than fine playing or clever arrangements, an intangible effect not created with fiddle or flute or vocals alone."

Broceliande celebrates an annual change of seasons with Gathering May: Songs of the Season. "Even as pretty a time as May is often most appreciated when it's passed for the year," says Sarah. "Broceliande has kindly made the sounds of both season and players available for when they're most wanted."

Ben Sands is "one of Ireland's best writers and performers," Nicky Rossiter says. On Take Your Time, "the songs are superb, the performance first-class and the production flawless."

Mat Dickson opens The Keeper's Log for "just over an hour of ambient, soft rock-focused Celtic chill, which makes for very easy and undemanding listening," says Debbie Koritsas. "I feel these immensely lyrical tunes would sound so much more enjoyable, be positively energised even, if played on a full range of Celtic instruments, with far less reliance on electronica. It's a very enjoyable listen, nevertheless."

The Gaia Consort's music continues to Evolve. "Unlike most alternative or fringe music, Gaia Consort chooses not to mire the pagan, social and political messages interwoven in all their songs with a serious downtrodden sound," says C. Nathan Coyle. "In an odd manner, they're making you tap your toes while firing a few extra neurons about the world community."

Amy Fairchild says goodbye to Mr. Heart on a folk-rock album that "could easily find radio airplay," according to Wil Owen. "If you like Sheryl Crow, I do not see how you could not like Amy Fairchild," he says.

Stephanie Dosen sings of Ghosts, Mice & Vagabonds on a recording that reminds Wil of former Sundays singer Harriet Wheeler. "Stephanie has a light, airy, almost detached singing voice," Wil says. "Similarly, much of the music has a light folk-rock sensibility reminiscent of that band."

The Brindley Brothers are Playing With the Light on a recording that had reviewer Katie De Jong impressed "long before their debut album ever found its way into my hands. ... If you're looking to spend a magical half hour with two musical visionaries, look no farther than the Brindley Brothers. This is songwriting at its best."

Thomasina is Chasing Cloud Shadows. "The dulcimer is a living river of sound, by turns wild and placid, but always a natural force powering the songs," says Sarah Meador. "Only Thomasina's voice could steal its limelight, and does. Her simple, layered arrangements offer some confines to the breadth of the dulcimer, and she lets her vocals roam past those banks. There are no divaesque wailings here, only innocent explorations and harmonious play with the lyrics."

Bruce Piephoff is Good People, Nicky Rossiter says. "Piephoff is a singer-songwriter who is a credit to the profession. His lyrics are well crafted and arrangements make the message all the easier to accept. His subject matter ranges free and wide and never bores."

Norman and Nancy Blake are The Morning Glory Ramblers on this "splendid recording" reuniting two renowned bluegrass players, says Jerome Clark. "What makes Morning Glory a little out of the ordinary is that -- if I am not mistaken -- it is the Blakes' first all-song record."

Virginia MacIsaac says "each track deserves your full attention" on the compilation disc Flatpicking Favorites: Hot & Spicy. "You've hardly absorbed one great cut before getting caught up in another and another and another."

The Otis Brothers say Let's Go to Huntin' and play some down-home blues to boot! "Admittedly, it gives the CD a certain charm when the duo succeeds in capturing an 'authentic' sound for this melange of blues and party-play -- but it turns irritating when the recordings become plain unintelligible," says Carool Kersten.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet's Romare Bearden Revealed "should be part of every jazz lover's collection," Ann Flynt proclaims. "Marsalis takes his mighty musical talents and applies his own artistry to the unique art of Romare Bearden, a collage maker who could design pieces that would knock your socks off."

Kristian Blak and Yggdrasil work their Scandinavian blend of jazz on Broytingar. "It seems that the isolation of these islands has given the musicians here a unique sound, both unusual and sometimes a bit harsh, but having a beauty like the Faroes themselves," says Dave Howell. "If you cannot visit them across the sea, it is at least worthwhile to explore this CD."

Bebel Gilberto shares "a hypnotic, utterly seductive slice of Brazilian bliss," Debbie Koritsas says. "This self-titled album takes jazz right into the realms of mainstream -- a lot of these songs have 'summer hit' written all over them!"

Ensemble Pesnokhorki presents Traditional Songs of Cossacks, Vol. 1, music from a people "known more for fighting than music, although they had a culture that included folk songs," Dave Howell explains. "This is not something you will wish to pop into the CD for casual listening, but it is interesting for presenting a type of music rarely heard in the U.S."

Native American songs and dances are the focus of Utes: Traditional Ute Songs. "This is beautiful music and ranks among the finest available in Native American singing," says Karen Elkins. "This wonderful collection takes you inside the most important of the Ute ceremonies and may inspire you to welcome spring in your own way."

Andy Jurgis shares a broad range of live musical experiences with us this week. Enjoy with him the following concerts -- Oi Va Voi and Beth Nielsen Chapman, both in Manchester, England, Loonaloop, with Ellika & Solo in Derbyshire and Blazin' Fiddles, with Cristina Pato in Leicester -- and be sure to visit our live music section for even more! (Watch this space next week for some reports from the field by Debbie Koritsas.)

Robert Phillips explores The Madness of Art: Interviews with Poets & Writers. The biggest problem with the book is the title, says Julie Bowerman. "Overall the transcripts reveal hardworking individuals whose mental capacities remained lucid."

Diana Winston addresses issues of a growing religion in Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens. Tracie Vida says the book "teaches Buddhism's main principles with clarity, intelligence and an empathetic voice perfectly pitched to her adolescent audience."

Paul Slansky shines a little light where we don't want to look with The George W. Bush Quiz Book. "This is a book you're not going to find on the nightstands of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rupert Murdoch, while Michael Moore probably finds it a delightful little read," Tom Knapp says. "Certainly it's not going to change anyone's mind about politics; Bush supporters will remain Bush supporters, and his detractors will, at best, have some new ammunition."

Anita Diamant enters The Red Tent for a tale that draws on a small passage from the Bible and unfolds into a highly detailed tale. "Diamant has created a story of a life so enchanting, so believable, as to cast a question upon the true events, both before and after the one recorded incident," says Katey Knapp. "In a style that echoes the formality of the Bible and yet is conversational in a way to appeal to modern readers, Diamant winds her tale of loyalties, betrayals and redemption."

Connie Willis, it turns out, is one of Katey's all-time favorite authors. Although we've already reviewed quite a few of her books here at Rambles.NET, Kate bulled ahead with a thorough look at four of Willis's novels in one go. So for the skinny on a fresh sampling of novels -- Doomsday Book, Lincoln's Dreams, Passage and To Say Nothing of the Dog -- take a look at Kate's review!

Michael Vance takes a gander at Jim Vadeboncoeur's Black & White Images: Second Annual Collection. "The reason these influential illustrators were superstars is their art is stunning, and wise cartoonists seek out the best to emulate," Michael says.

Miles O'Dometer is witness to a Miracle -- the story of a stunning U.S. hockey victory at the Winter Olympics in 1980. "Miracle is more than a good story well told; it's an exciting story well shown," he says.

William Kates attended a showing of I, Robot with low expectations -- and was pleasantly surprised. "I am happy to say that I was thoroughly entertained by I, Robot, more so than at most of the science fiction/action/adventure blockbusters released in the last several years," he says.

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!

28 August 2004

To live a creative life,
we must lose our fear of being wrong.
- Joseph Chilton Pearce

The kids start school in just a few days; there is an amusing mix of glee (from the soon-to-be first-grader) and gloom (for the more experienced sixth-grader in the house! Is anyone else seeing this trend? (They seem to be approaching the idea of pre-school haircuts with exactly the same attitude!)

The Peatbog Faeries say Welcome to Dun Vegas from their studio on the Isle of Skye. "Plenty of neo-Celtic bands have tried -- and failed -- to make the electro-jazz blend work, but Scotland's Peatbog Faeries are here to prove it can be done with exquisite musical flair," says Tom Knapp. "The music is melded into jazzy, rocky style by a band with a very inventive collective mind."

Lancaster County Prison impresses reviewer Nicky Rossiter Every Goddamn Time he plays the new CD. "Aided and abetted by one Shane MacGowan (yes, the Pogue of various parishes), they give us new songs, old songs revamped and boring songs invigorated," Nicky says. "I can imagine a rollicking pub, a few pints and shouting for more from this band."

The Clumsy Lovers rock Irish and bluegrass sounds into a neat, tidy package called After the Flood. "This Vancouver band may be lousy in the bedroom (perhaps they chose the name to drive away the inevitable salivating groupies who stalk any band with talent!) but they're gifted in the studio," Tom Knapp says. "If you haven't spent some quality time with these Clumsy Lovers, you owe it to yourself to invite them into your home as quickly as possible."

Sylvia Woods reinvents an old Celtic legend through music with The Harp of Brandiswhiere: A Suite for Celtic Harp. "This is an awesome collection of tunes," Karen Elkins enthuses. "I fell in love with this CD and cannot praise it enough."

Flapjack dips into Old Time Bush Swing with this album of "happy, sprightly, yet often hard-driving tunes, too, drawn from the rich musical traditions of the Ottawa Valley, Quebec and Newfoundland," says Rambles.NET newcomer John Bird. "Even the band's original compositions sound like traditional pieces."

Sara Marlowe sings of Times Like These in her latest collection of "socially aware songs, protesting against war, poverty, hunger and political corruption," Jenny Ivor reports. "Whether your political views coincide or collide with Marlowe's, she presents her arguments lyrically, coherently and intelligently." Hoopla, Jenny, for #150!

Rick Fielding gives an Acoustic Workshop and we're the better for it. "He might as well have a Ph.D. in folk music," says C. Nathan Coyle. "Listening to Acoustic Workshop is like taking a survey course on roots/traditional folk music, even though most of the tracks are modified versions or Fielding originals."

Don Chaffer and Waterdeep join forces for a Whole 'Nother Deal. "Chaffer describes this informal recording session like an informal jam session," Karen Elkins explains. "However, this collection sounds like anything but an informal jam session. It is polished and meticulously layered."

Amy Speace "draws from her experience as a former Shakespearean actress and an English major who studied music theory" in the creation of Fable, Dave Townsend says. "Fable is full of good songwriting, a good voice and a nice variety of songs that range from reflective to witty and sometimes edgy. In these times when popular music seems to be often short on substance, an artist like Amy Speace is a welcome treat."

Jim Thackery and Tab Benoit join forces on Whiskey Store Live. Pamela Dow says it "is an incredible collection of performances by a guitar dream team. They presented this recording of electric blues in the spirit it's supposed to be played, in front of a live audience. Unlike many other live recordings, which sound tiresome and are nothing more than a string-bending extravaganza, Whiskey Store Live is completely top shelf."

Jacqui Dankworth points to a Detour Ahead with a jazz CD Debbie Koritsas recommends highly! "Her vocal range and pitch are dynamite; her voice weeps, smiles, swoops and bends with immense ease -- this is a highly assured, elegant album of both original and cover songs, and it shimmers with fine detail," she says.

Smooth jazz gets a romantic makeover on The Love Project, a new compilation disc from Narada. "Time to come up for air again," says Jenny Ivor. "This is the perfect seduction production!"

Prasant Radhakrishnan performs an Indian form of jazz on Swara Sudha. "The merit of Swara Sudha lies in the seamless merger of a respectable Indian musical tradition with modern western instrumentation," remarks Carool Kersten. "It shows that one can be a contemporary artist and at the same time draw inspiration from tradition by delving into the millennia-old treasure trove of Indic culture."

Les Yeux Noirs goes Live on this French recording that mixes Klezmer and Gypsy styles in "a musical riot. ... Unlikely as this mixture might seem, the result is an entertaining example of fusion music," says Carool Kersten. "With this kind of music Les Yeux Noirs is not only offering entertainment, but probably performing a vital function in drawing an increasingly diverse French society together through the medium of music."

R. Carlos Nakai finds Sanctuary in a flute-based recording that "serves up a powerful tribute to nature's beauty," according to Paul de Bruijn. "The music moves throughout the wilds, painting picture after picture of its grand majesty."

Gregory Maguire's book Wicked "tells the true story of the Wicked Witch of the West." Now it's a musical, too, and Valerie Frankel says the soundtrack "is entirely original, building on The Wizard of Oz but taking it in a new direction. The beautiful singers and incredible music guarantee this musical will be a classic."

For a live report, we go to the Judique Community Centre in Cape Breton, where Virginia MacIsaac tells us about Matt Minglewood and Rylee Madison. Read all about it!

David P. Szatmary dips into the past with Rockin' in Time: A Social History of Rock-and-Roll. "Originally published in 1987, ... the updated volume now includes discussions of such recent developments as the Internet's impact on the music industry and the influence of Ozzy Osbourne on nu-metal bands including Incubus and P.O.D.," says Gregg Thurlbeck. "But it's clear that the author's true passions lie with the music of the 1950s and '60s and with the punk movement of the mid- to late '70s."

James Riordan explores a rich world of lore in Russian Gypsy Tales. "Riordan avoids the academic pitfalls that often accompany folklore collections," says Tracie Vida. "By the end of Russian Gypsy Tales I had that rich and rare feeling of having discovered another place and another people, a people that hold fascinating views of the universe and their place in it."

Patrick O'Brian launched an incredible series of British naval tales with Master & Commander back in 1970. Now, Tom Knapp takes a fresh look at that first book, which he calls "an exhilarating voyage from start to finish. ... Master & Commander is a superior tale, evoking a true sense of the time while maintaining an edge-of-your-seat plot throughout and introducing some of the genre's most exceptional characters to boot. I have never read a better historical novel."

C.J. Cherryh's Fortress series is an elaborate construction of four novels. Robert Tilendis tackles the package with an elaborate and highly detailed review. "It is an exceptional fantasy, marked by the Cherryh blend of intrigue, politics, complex, layered plot and sharply realized characters, and graced by Cherryh's own masterful prose," he says. "For those familiar with Cherryh's other novels, the density in this one is not a density of events but a density of sensation and growth."

Michael Paul's "thrilling debut," Excelsior, is an example of high-quality self-publishing, Daniel Jolley remarks. "It has enough plot material to fill several books, but Paul has wonderfully crafted everything together in one tight package that keeps the reader completely mesmerized at all times."

Kathy Tyers combines a murder-mystery with science fiction and religion in Shivering World. "Although a bit slow in starting, Shivering World is a very entertaining read," says C. Nathan Coyle. "What else do you need? Oh, yeah -- a copy of this book."

Nancy Springer helped launch the modern age of fantasy with The White Hart and The Silver Sun. "The stories are strong, the writing is fluent and engaging, pacing is excellent and characters are admirable -- or heinous, depending on their role," says Robert Tilendis. "They do, however, illustrate the role of historical context in appreciating genre fiction; although they are substantial enough for readers of any age, by today's adult fantasy standards they are outlines."

Kate White supplies a new adventure for "plucky amateur detective and New York City magazine writer Bailey Weggins" in 'Til Death Do Us Part. Celeste Miller reviews the audiobook and says White "doesn't delve too deeply into most of her characters but still maintains the suspense throughout, offering up a few truly eerie moments and a very tense unveiling of the culprit. Her easy-to-follow, conversational style obviously isn't Tolstoy, but it's amusing and entertaining enough for a long car ride or a weekend at the beach."

Michael Vance says Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel is not the definitive work on the subject -- but says fans of the medium will appreciate this basic history.

Miles O'Dometer is off to The Big Empty. "The result is a kind of quirky comedy with a few genuinely scary moments, a cross perhaps between State & Main and Twin Peaks -- not as shrewdly humorous as the former or as scathingly ominous as the latter, but carefully designed to keep its audience off-balance and guessing for most of its 94 minutes," he says.

Skye: The Movie is "a 50-minute DVD depicting the landscapes, seascapes and people of the Hebridean Isle of Skye," Debbie Koritsas explains. The film "does seem to be aimed squarely at the tourist market, and some of its footage (for example, the opening scenes showing pipe bands and Scottish dancers) falls firmly into that bracket. However, there is also much of interest for those who enjoy nature, landscape and wildlife, and anyone who has visited Skye will find this an enjoyable reminder of their visit."

That's all for another day here at Rambles.NET. Hurry back!