Monthly Archives: October 2011

Music review: The Goat Rodeo Sessions

The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile.

Readers, meet my latest musical obsession.

My first encounter with The Goat Rodeo Sessions can be summed up in this short playlet.

SCENE: Me at the breakfast table, browsing the Arts section of The New York Times.

ME: (laughing) There’s an album coming out called The Goat Rodeo Sessions.
MUM: What?!
ME: It’s with Yo-Yo Ma and a bunch of other string players, but that is the funniest title ever! I have to hear this.

Of course, I was picturing an actual goat rodeo.

I forgot about the album until I started up my Spotify a few days later and found it featured on the front page. After the first track, I decided the album needed its own playlist. By the time I’d listened to it all the way through, I’d added it to my holiday wish list and set it on highest priority.

Because this album is seriously great. It’s technically classified as bluegrass, but it has a distinctly Celtic feel that tugs at all the right emotions and makes my heart sing. The songs are all so different (although you will hear variations on a theme through some of them), yet they all fit together and give the album a really nice arc from beginning to end. The first track, “Attaboy,” has a wonderfully celebratory quality, and the music continues to build in raucousness like a seisún in a pub until it resolves to its original theme. “Where’s My Bow,” the fourth track, is dramatic and mysterious all at once and reminds me of the score for a period drama. “Here in Heaven,” the fifth track, which features vocals by Chris Thile and Aiofe O’Donovan, has lodged itself so firmly in my head that I find myself humming it everywhere. And the final track, “Goat Rodeo,” is Nashville personified by strings.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions has turned into my go-to album: I listen to it while I work, I dance around the kitchen to it when I cook, I put it on when I just want something pretty playing in the background. If I had a car, I’d probably love having it on while driving too.

In an interview, the artists explain that they chose the title from the Urban Dictionary, which defines “goat rodeo” as a situation that order cannot be brought to at any time, and how anything could have gone wrong with the production of this album. I think it’s safe to say they got it right.

Here is said interview. Watch, listen some clips. My apologies in advance if you become as hooked on The Goat Rodeo Sessions as I am.

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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce #4)I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

It’s 1950 and Christmas has arrived in England, but instead of decking the halls of their sprawling family home, the penniless de Luces find themselves making way for a famous film director, who has offered them a handsome and much-needed sum of money to use the estate for his latest picture. Flavia, the precocious youngest de Luce daughter, is determined not to get swept up in the glitz and glamour like her sisters—she’s conducting a very important chemistry experiment on Christmas Eve to find out if Father Christmas really exists. All of that changes when the star of the film, Phyllis Wyvern, singles Flavia out for her history of assisting the police in certain high profile murder investigations. Little does Flavia know that she’s about to become embroiled in another one. One where almost everyone in town is a suspect, including Flavia herself.

I’m a little surprised that I’ve never read an Alan Bradley book before, particularly because the Flavia de Luce books have come up on my recommendation queue several times over the years, and so many of my friends raved about The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Needless to say, I am going to remedy that right away, because I absolutely adored this book. It reminded me so much of the classic mysteries of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, where the case is far from simple, but it’s handled simply and left to unravel without a hundred crazy twists (although there are a few). Much as I love suspenseful thrillers, it was refreshing to find a modern author who writes like this.

There’s a certain amount of whimsy in the book, and it comes from its wonderful heroine. You can tell that Flavia takes herself very seriously, and she states her opinions with a certainty that only an eleven-year-old can possess. Even though she’s smart and knows how to mix up a chemical compound that will essentially glue Santa to the chimney, the author never forgets that she’s a child who occasionally want to use her knowledge for childish things, like getting revenge for her sisters’ teasing by slipping a little something in their tea to make them nauseous (okay, so it’s a little macabre, but you know you’d have had the same train of thought at that age). The only thing about Flavia that gave me pause was that she noticed glaring things about the crime scene that the police did not. I’m not sure if this ability is explained in previous books, and, if I’m honest, it didn’t bother me all that much in the end, but I can see first time readers taking issue with that.

The setting only added to the whimsy, and in the best possible way. From the first page, I was transported to freezing, crumbling Buckshaw, and Bradley was very successful in creating the atmosphere of a small country town at Christmas. The household staff and village regulars added wonderful color, and I hope future books acknowledge why Flavia’s older sisters harbor such resentment towards her and reveal more about Dogger’s past.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great, old-fashioned mystery, and I look forward to reading it again around the holidays.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows was this month’s #EarlyBirdRead. Thanks to Random House for sending the book to me!

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My teetering to-be-read shelf…

Those are all the books in my to-be-read pile.

You’ll notice that in the right corner of the photo, there is another book with a bookmark in it. That would be what I’m currently reading (Vienna Waltz by Tracy “Teresa” Grant). Someone needs a mandatory freeze on her library card.

*ducks head*

On the bright side, I should be able to get a review or two (or several) out of these books.

Just two quick things from my last review:
First, I zipped through Faithful Place. I think this might be the best place to start if you’re going to attempt Tana French, because the case is extremely personal to the protagonist and, as a result, is a bit more fleshed out than the other two. It’s an incredible study on family life in The Liberties and how those bonds are tested, and it was the only one of Ms. French’s books where I was upset that she left things slightly ambiguous, because I really wanted to know how things played out. And I really liked learning more about Frank Mackey’s past, because he was a bit of a bollocks in The Likeness. I cannot wait for Broken Harbor to come out next summer (thanks to the folks at Viking for the heads up on that one). I’m curious whose story it will be—I have a few ideas.

Second, I also finished A Game of Thrones. For the most part, I enjoyed. It reminded me of Lord of the Rings, but I found it a little easier to relate to as far as parallels with our history are concerned (knights, kings, religion, etc.). Parts were a little dense, but there were also moments where the tension was so high that I wanted to scream. Perhaps the best part of all is being able to discuss it with all of my friends, who are addicted to the T.V. series and are reading the books after the fact. A Clash of Kings is next in the queue.

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In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French

Dear Tana French,

Thank you for making it impossible for me to pick up any of the other books on my to-be-read shelf because I have to get through all three books in your Dublin Murder Squad series.

Sincerely,
Farin
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