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SOUNDTRACK: FRANCES CARROLL & HER COQUETTES featuring VIOLA SMITH-“Snake Charmer” (1939).

Drummer Viola Smith died a couple of days ago at the age of 107.  ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN (a month shy of 108). That’s pretty fascinating in itself.  But even more fascinating is that she was an amazing drummer at a time when women didn’t play drums.  And not “amazing for a woman” or anything patronizing like that, check out the video of her playing “Snake Charmer.”

Check out her drum kit, check out the speed, check out the power.  Check out the arial toms and the way she hits them without it even seeming like she is. Wow, I wish I’d heard of her sooner.

Here’s some relevant quotes from an obituary in The Guardian

Smith took up drumming as a teenager in Wisconsin, when her father assembled the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra with his eight daughters. Her showcase was “The Snake Charmer,” a jazzy arabesque with explosive drum-fills.

Because she was the sixth daughter in the family, she said, her older sisters got the strings and brass.  “My dad said, ‘Now, we need a drummer!’ Thank God, I was it.”

In 1938, Smith formed another all-female orchestra, The Coquettes, with her bass playing sister Mildred. The band moved to New York in 1942, where Smith studied under the legendary snare-drum innovator Billy Gladstone.

In the same year, as men were being drafted to war and women taking their place in factories, Viola wrote a now-famous article for Down Beat magazine, arguing for the inclusion of women in the big bands of the day.

“Many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted,” she wrote, under the title Give Girl Musicians A Break! “Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their places?

“We girls have as much stamina as men. There are many girl trumpet players, girl saxophonists and girl drummers who can stand the grind of long tours and exacting one-night stands. The girls of today are not the helpless creatures of an earlier generations.

Smith found it difficult to lead the orchestra from behind the drums, so she turned over those duties to Frances Carroll.  But at the height of her success, Smith performed with Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb, as well as at the second inauguration for the 33rd president, Harry Truman, in 1949.

I haven’t even mentioned how good The Coquettes are.  They swing big time and this song is really fun.  The only thing worse than hearing about a great musician after they have died is realizing that there are almost no recordings of her playing.

Here’s another page from The Future Heart with lots of videos and interviews with Viola.

[READ: October 26, 2020] “Nettle”

I really enjoyed the way this story opened.  It is about Willie, who, as the story opens, is a young boy.  Willie’s teacher told the class that she would be guarding them and that “not one of them would be lost, except the one who was destined to be lost.”

When the boy told his mother what Miss Rita said, his mother replied,

That happens to be from the Bible… When people take words from the Bible and repeat them to young children, or to anyone, for that matter, they’re nuts.  Don’t pay any attention to her.”

She says that maybe when he’s older he can leave that school and go to the one his daddy went to.

He would visit his daddy often in his room. His daddy was always playing the same piece to music.  He told his daddy about a book he was reading in class. His daddy replied that he had read that same book when he was younger: rewrite the whole thing. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: MATTHEW CAWS-“When History Comes” (2020).

Recently Rough Trade released an online album Talk – Action = Zero, Vol. 2.  It was a collection of songs with the intent of giving money to get out the vote organizations like Spread The Vote.  There were some 90 songs on it.  One of them was from Matthew Caws from Nada Surf.

On the most recent Nada Surf album, the song “So Much Love,” featured a lengthy spoken sort of rambling section.  Caws’ voice works quite well for that fast spoken section and when I saw them play it live, he was able to recite (or read, he had the lyric sheet in front of him) the whole thing while still playing which was pretty cool.

So this new song follows in that model.  The song is a simple riff that repeats.  And the lyrics are probably not spontaneous, but are pretty close.  There’s also a chorus.  It’s really catchy, just like all Nada Surf songs tend to be.

My contribution is a protest song; a get out the vote song. Will any Republicans hear this song outside of my liberal music bubble?  I don’t know.  I want them to.  Maybe there is a way.

What should a protest song say?

I protest the dismantling of the Postal Service which right now means the dismantling of democracy.

I protest the denial and protection of systemic racism.

I protest the dismantling of regulations that protect public land.

I protest the dismantling of the trust between a country and its media.

Am I naive enough to think that naively expressing these things can change anyone’s mind?  YES

I’m naive and a dreamer but also ambitious.  I believe in people.  I believe in change.

I’ll say this I vote Democrat but I don’t hate republicans.  I just hate this administration.

When history comes and sticks out its thumb / asking you for a ride / I hope that you see how fast it can be / it goes by in the blink of an eye.
We’re stuck in this boat / it’s barely afloat / we’re watching the water rise / History’s ill / it needs some good will / and we’re so tired of the lies

We’re all canaries in the coal mine.  We have to say what we see.  We’re all the band on the Titanic.  Don’t stop when the ship goes down.

Let’s be cheerleaders for postal workers.   Cheerleaders for voters for braving the long lines of the maskless.

We implore that you nurture your inner artist.  That you make something for yourself so that you have fulfillment.  So that you don’t seek satisfaction in the hot flame of mockery, the perversity of trolling, the thrill of baiting and phishing.

I believe that we’re all made out of love and good things.  We just get sick

When history comes and sticks out its thumb / asking you for a ride / I hope that you see how fast it can be / it goes by in the blink of an eye.
We’re stuck in this boat / it’s barely afloat / we’re watching the water rise / History’s ill / it needs some good will / and we’re so tired of the lies
Come out of your shell / the country’s unwell / we really need you to fight.

[instrumental break]

I’m an atheist and I had a friend in college who was Christian.  He belonged to a Christian group, I can’t remember which one but he wore a lapel pin with his name on it.  Anyway, really lovely guy.  We were both in film class and we’d get together once in a while to study.

Then one day we were saying goodby before winter break in front of the library.  The sky was dramatic, a whirlwind of leaves was nearby.  He gave me the hard sell. He said, “think about it… eternal life.”  It was moving.  I knew he wanted the best for me and in that spirit I’d like to say to you:

Imagine that the left don’t want to destroy America, because we don’t.  We just want it to be more fair. We want it to live up to its promise and that’s because we love it so much.  Don’t be afraid, we;re all right.  I’ll tell you what’s fake news… it’s that we’re bad people.   We’re not.   [It’s] that we want trump to fail.

I didn’t want him to fail. I wanted him to do great.  He didn’t.  But I wanted him to.

He makes me feel bad.  He makes other people feel bad too.  That doesn’t set a good example.  Sometimes it just comes down to that: don’t make people feel bad. And for every decision think about how it affects poor people the most.  Think about how it affects children.

You know…

Alright go register go vote.

So simply stated.  so true.  What a great song.  I hope people outside his bubble hear it.

[READ: October 21, 2020] “Suffocation Theory”

This story started out rather strange and I thought it was going to coalesce into something enjoyable.  But it never really did.

Out of the blue Amanda told the narrator they were moving.  He liked their apartment just fine and don’t want to move, but she told him the movers were already outside.

He watches a lot of news and everything is terrible.  Killings with guns, bombs and cars.  He is amazed that people have the irresistible idea “that killing a bunch of strangers would solve whatever problem they thought they couldn’t solve any other way.”

The new place is terrible.  It feels like a giant warehouse with rooms and lots of empty space. The bathroom doesn’t have a shower.  The neighborhood is terrible.  They also have a roommate.

The roommate is a jerk.  He jokingly points a gun at the narrator. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: AURORA-“Thank U” (2020).

The Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series is soon to be releasing a record Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls.

Unfortunately, the site doesn’t list the songs on the disc (yet).

The first song from it that I’m aware of is Aurora’s cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U.”

 I don’t know that I’ve heard Aurora sing another person’s song before.  I kind of expected her version to be radically different–uniquely Aurora.  But in fact, her version is quite faithful to the original.

The music is understated (Aurora’s music is a little softer) and when Aurora starts singing, it almost sounds like Alanis.  The big difference comes in some of the vowels, in which Aurora’s voice glides through the sounds in a slightly different way (a little smoother, perhaps).

In the original, Alanis’ “thank you silence” line is a little harsh sounding.  Aurora’s is a little as well–it must be a very sharp note or tone to hit.

Alanis’s song is based around some thumping drums and bigger swells.  Aurora keeps the whole thing lower key and the cover works beautifully.

[READ: October 24, 2020] “Face Time”

This is actually the second story I’ve read about COVID.  As I was reading it I was surprised that it was about COVID–that it was so current.  The story even mentions Tom Hanks having COVID which happened in March.  This story was published in September and was clearly finished before then (I don’t know how much lead time a story needs). So that’s pretty quick.  And it’s pretty spot on.

There’s not a lot to the story, in a sense.  A woman, one of three adult daughters, is FaceTiming her father who is in a nursing home.  Her father caught COVID while in the facility.  He is now in an isolation room being monitored by nurses in full hazmat gear.

The daughters can only talk to him through FaceTime.  He is older and does not understand the technology, so the nurses have to set up the connection. Continue Reading »

[CANCELLED: October 24, 2020] Half Waif / Ian Chang [rescheduled from May 13]

indexIt sure seemed like five months of lockdown would be enough time to beat this thing.  The experts said it wasn’t long enough for live music.  And they were right.

I looked up this concert recently and there was no mention of it on the venue website. I wrote to Nandi Rose (thanks Instagram) and this is what she wrote back

yes I had a tour planned for this fall but with touring off the table for the foreseeable future, all shows are on hold 😦 We are still waiting to see when will be the right time to reschedule and perform safely. Thanks for your patience, can’t wait to come back to Philly.

Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: THE LAST BISON-“Switzerland” (2011).

The Last Bison is a band based out of Virginia.  They seemed to ride the wave of aggressive folk rock that came out with Mumford and the Lumineers.  They described their sound as “mountain-top chamber music” as they added classical elements (strings mostly) to their alt-folk.

This was the the first song I’d heard by them and I found it really compelling.

The song opens with a quiet melody played on an acoustic guitar or mandolin.  It feels pastoral and I loved that the melody was accented with a percussive banjo or guitar strum.

The vocals are high and rustic with nice harmonies.  After the introduction, a quick acoustic guitar propels the verse (in which singer Ben Hardesty sings high enough to be almost out of his range).

About half way through, tehs ong shifts gears to a minor chord and the heavy strings come in–deep cello and a soaring violin solo.  The song slows down to gentle strums and vocals as he sings the chorus once more before everything builds up one more time.

In 2018, The Last Bison released a new album with a new lineup and a reinvented sound with more keyboards and percussion.

[READ: October 20, 2020] “Switzerland”

The narrator’s family moved to Switzerland when she was 13. Her father was a doctor who wanted to specialize in trauma and Switzerland had the best hospital for trauma study (which was ironic given that Switzerland “is neutral, alpine, orderly”).  She was too young to live on campus, so she resided with her English tutor, a Mrs Elderfield.

Two other girls, both eighteen, were also staying there. The girls were Marie who came from Bangkok via Boston and Saroya who came from Tehran via Paris.  The older girls laughed at her naivete but they were always kind to her.

Marie and Saroya were sent to Switzerland because of their troubled past–sex, stimulants, and a refusal to comply.  Their parents hoped the school would “finish” them, but the schools knew they were finished already. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: GERMS-GI (1979).

In the middle of this graphic novel, the main character Bina says she is listening to the Germs.  Her friend Darcy says “classic.” 

Germs were a seminal LA punk band.  They released one album before their singer Darby Crash killed himself.  Their guitarist Pat Smear has since played with Niravana, Foo Fighters and many other bands.  Belinda Carlisle (yes of the Go-Gos) was briefly their drummer (she went by Dottie Danger).  She was replaced by Don Bolles.  And their bassist Lorna Doom, was one of the first women in the punk scene.

This album is 38 minutes long but that’s with a 9 minute live improvised song tacked on at the end.  Otherwise these songs are short and fast.

“What We Do Is Secret” opens the album with a statement of purpose.  It’s less than a minute of fast drumming roared vocals and the title repeated twice.  “Communist Eyes” plays a standard punk melody in the verses and an even faster chorus.  Pat Smear plays around with some scratchy noises but it’s mostly just fast fast fast.   “Land Of Treason” also has a simple catchy melody in the verses.  Even though Crash’s vocals aren’t always clear, they are mixed very well so if you listened, you could probably make out most of the words.

“Richie Dagger’s Crime” is the first song where Smear’s guitars really stand out.  He plays lead riff and then in the middle of the song, it’s only Lorna Doom’s bass holding the melody together while Smear plays some leads through the verses.

“Strange Notes” has some ringing guitars notes and quick little improv solos that keep this pummeling song nicely off kilter.  “American Leather” is just over a minute and Don Bolles’ galloping drums pretty much never stop.

“Lexicon Devil” was the name of their first EP.  The verses have a fun Ramonesy beat verse that feels especially punk.  “Manimal” is a slower more menacing song with a nasty lead guitar line.  This song even takes a breath before launching into the faster part full of Darby Crash’s snarls.

“Our Way” is another slower, more mancing song with a the bass sounding more prominent over smears chords.  “We Must Bleed” has a really fast descending guitar melody that introduces the song and serves as the chorus. It also hangs around at the end of the song. The song is 2 and a half minutes in total but the end is one minute of the band racing through that four note melody, sometimes falling  apart a little but plugging on.

“Media Blitz” starts side two abruptly has an abrupt opening with vocals and a brief pause before the song takes off nonstop for a minute and a half.  There’s some samples from TV in the song

“The Other Newest One” This chorus features a four notes and a pause as Darby’s voice rings out over the brief silence: “you’re not the first / you’re not the last”

“Let’s Pretend” is a bit more staccato in the bassline in and reminds me of a conga from the cartoons.  Five notes and a thump.  Once again darby stops singing early to let he band jam out the riffs for another 40 seconds to the end.

“Dragon Lady” has a short drum solo from Bolles as the intro.  It leads to one of the poppier melodies on the album. Then “The Slave” ends the disc (sort of) with a one-minute rumbling that’s all bass and jagged chords on top.  When Darby stops singing briefly, Smear’s guitar bursts forth as if Crash was in the way. Then it abruptly ends.

The disc ends properly with “Shut Down” a 9-minute live song that I have read was typical of how they ended their shows.  Lorna Doom plays a simple, slow bluesy riff on the bass. The drums follow along and Pat Smear makes all kinds of lead noises –solos, feedback, crashing chords while Darby mumbles, screams and rants about wanting your soul and wanting control and being an Annihilation Man.

Who knows what the Germs would have done next, but with one album, their legacy is secure..

[READ: October 21, 2020] All Together Now

This is a follow up to Larson’s book All Summer Long.  That book was a fun story about friendship, distance and guitar playing.

As this story opens, Bina and Darcy have been practicing with their band Fast Fashion [which is basically what Depeche Mode means], but they decide they need a drummer.  They meet up with a boy in their calls called Enzo.  He’s a drummer and very robotic.  He’s very good and he likes their songs, so they agree to be a band. But he hates the name Fast Fashion, so they change it to The Candids.

After a few practices, Darcy and Enzo start dating.  Then Enzo starts making some suggestions for changing Bina’s songs.  And Darcy agrees with him.  Now Bina’s losing her best friend to a boy, just like she lost her previous best friend Austin to a girl.

Then Darcy texts her that the band is moving on without her (even though it was her band!).  This new band gets the best band name yet: AC/Darcy.  But that means that Darcy and Bina have basically broken up and are not speaking to each other. Continue Reading »

[POSTPONED: October 22, 2020] King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard / Leah Senior [rescheduled from May 22; moved to October 23, 2021]

indexI was bummed when KGATLW had to postpone a show in May. I mean, come on, Coronavirus, would certainly be over by May, right?  Well, now it’s October and things are still crazy.  I really hope they can do this again next year.

Of course, knowing them, they’ll have three more albums out by then.

I have become a huge fan of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (are there any other kinds of fans of them?) since I first heard about them a few years ago.

I’m sad that I missed them on the tour just before the first time I saw them (at a smaller venue when newbies like me hadn’t heard of them yet), but I have seen them twice since.

In both cases, the band overcame somewhat unpleasant (to me) situations (obnoxious capacity crowds and unreasonable heat) to change my mind from swearing I’d never bother seeing them again (before the show), to hoping they’d come back really soon (after the show).

I’m not at all surprised that this show was postponed and they have already rescheduled the new date.  So we’re all good.  I just hope the damned air-conditioner works next time.

The last time I saw KGATLW, the two opening bands were kind of doom/psychedelic–perfect matches for KGATLW’s more recent sound.  This year’s opener is a singer named Leah Senior.

Leah Senior did the narration on KGATLW’s Murder of the Universe album.  But her music is a completely other thing.  She sings gentle folk songs with delicate guitar playing and her beautiful soft voice.

I can;t imagine how well she would go over with a rowdy KGATLW crowd and I also wonder if that means that KGATLW would play their more mellow stuff?  Nah.

SOUNDTRACK: A Clockwork Orange soundtrack (1972).

I’ve had the CD of this soundtrack since the mid 1990s.  I recall playing it all the time.  I hadn’t listened to it in a while and it all came back as I listened again.

This CD is a collection of classical pieces, a few odds and ends and a number of pieces by Wendy Carlos.

I don’t intend to review the classical pieces which are familiar and sound great.  But the Wendy Carlos pieces deserve mention.

Title Music from A Clockwork Orange” (2:21) (From Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary).  It is fascinating to realize that most of the carlos pieces on this soundtrack are actually classical compositions that she has arranged for the Moog (I assume she is playing the Moog on these).  This piece starts with swirling sounds which turn into a fast melody with drums that are probably low synth notes.  There’s a sprinkling of very odd sounds thrown in the mix which really give everything an unearthly feel.

“The Thieving Magpie (Abridged)” (5:57) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana)” (1:44) In the movie, the main character loves Beethoven.  So there are a number of pieces from Beethoven that Carlos has arranged here.  This one sounds amazing in this gentle piece with that otherworldly synthesizer music and of staccato notes and chords.

“Ninth Symphony, Second Movement (Abridged)” [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic] (3:48)

March from A Clockwork Orange (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement, Abridged)” [Beethoven] (7:00)  This is the most striking song on the disc with the synthesized “voices” singing the melody on top of a complex synthesizer pattern.  After two minutes it slows and changes styles dramatically becoming more of a march with whistles and chimes and again those haunting voices.  The end of the piece has a full choir of the haunting voices which sounds even more amazing.  I’m so curious how she did this.  Are there actual voices that she recorded and manipulated or are they generated from notes and manipulated to sound like voices?  It says articulations by Rachel Elkind [now Rachel Elkind-Tourre], so I guess she sang and was manipulated?

William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (1:17) [Rossini]  This piece opens with the familiar horns but as this incredibly fast paced track moves along you can hear the synth notes especially in the quieter middle part.  I wonder if those horns were real?

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. I” (4:28) [Elgar]

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. IV” (Abridged) (1:33) [Elgar]

Timesteps (Excerpt)” (4:13) This is the only fully original piece on the soundtrack.  It sounds like nothing else.  It is a gorgeous spooky composition of tinkling sounds, low gonglike sounds and celestial voices.  It grows somewhat menacing with lots of fast unique sounds skittering around a low throbbing bass.  She adds in sounds that seems sped up (which makes no sense really), but they do.  At one pint the two melodies seem to run counterpoint–low notes going in one direction, high notes in the other.

“Overture to the Sun” (rerecorded instrumental from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:40).  I have always loved this middle-ages sounding song, but I had no idea where it came from.  Turns out it is by the band Sunforest and comes from their only album Sound of Sunforest, 1969.  They were an English psychedelic folk group.  You can play some of the album on YouTube (which sounds a lot like Jefferson Airplane).

“I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” (rerecorded song from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:00).  This song is also on the Sunforest album, although it sounds very different here.  I’ve always assumed this was some kind of fifties song and had no idea that this is probably the only place most people know it from.  It’s a shame this album is so hard to find.

“William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (2:58) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Suicide Scherzo (Ninth Symphony, Second Movement, Abridged)” (3:07) [Beethoven] The perfect use of Carlos’ bouncy synths sounds.  It’s amazing to hear her layering sounds as the song gets very big and seems to get away from her into an almost chaotic conclusion.

“Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement (Abridged)” (1:34) [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic]

“Singin’ in the Rain” (2:36) [Gene Kelly].  This is a cute ending and seems to tie in to “Lighthouse Keeper” even though it clearly doesn’t.

This is a really fun soundtrack.  It is too bad that Carlos’s music is unavailable anywhere because it  is really quite eye-opening even fifty years later.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer”

This article is a book review of Wendy Carlos: A Biography by Amanda Sewell.

I don’t plan to read the book, but I found the summary to be quite interesting.

I’ve known of Wendy Carlos for many years, primarily from her work on A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.  I remember initially seeing that the music was recorded by Walter and/or Wendy Carlos and assuming that they were siblings or spouses.  It was certainly a confusing listing and once that, it turns out, was rather offensive to her.

So I know a little bit about her personal story, but this review added a lot of details to her life that I didn’t know.

Most importantly is that none of her music is available online pretty much anywhere.  Even when people post it, it is taken down quickly. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: beabadoobie-“Care” (2020).

This song has been getting a bunch of airplay prior to the release of beabadoobie’s debut, album and holy cow is it catchy.

It’s got a terrific 90s alt rock sensibility (Belly, Juliana Hatfield, etc).  Slightly distorted guitars, big drums and perfect use of silence to lead to a crashing continuation.

Beatrice Laus’ voice is gentle and soft as she sings the jangly verses.  The bridge then builds to the super catchy, two-beats-and-a-pause “care” chorus.  Her voice doesn’t get harsh or anything bit it does get a lot more powerful.

This song is hooky and memorable and instantly sing alongable.

I’d heard her earlier EPs and liked them, but nothing stood out as memorably as this song.  I hope the rest of the album proves to be as full of great songs.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “Time to Destination”

This is an excerpt from DeLillo’s forthcoming novel The Silence.  I tend to think that DeLillo’s novels are rather long, so I was surprised that this excerpt was only three pages.  (I realize an excerpt is a tiny piece, but it still seemed rather short).

I normally really enjoy DeLillo’s attention to quotidian detail, but this excerpt fell flat for me.

It is a man and a woman on a plane.  He wants to sleep but he can’t stop looking at the display that shows where they are and when they will arrive.

He reads many of these details aloud, but the woman (his wife) ignores him.  she is busy writing down all of the things they have done so far on th etrip.

While the talk, they challenge each other on some facts–Fahrenheit’s first name, Celsius’ nationality.  He mocks her for writing down all the details, like the rainy days–she wants to see the precision, the details.  He says she can’t help herself, but she replies that she doesn’t want to help herself.

Their conversation felt like airflight itself–automatically generated because of the enclosed space. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: PORTUGAL THE MAN-“Live in the Moment” (Weird Al Remix) (2018).

Portugal. The Man asked Weird Al to remix two songs. This is the second one.  This remix starts with the Weird Al polka medley treatment–lots of fast accordions.  The vocals sound a little different, although maybe that’s just because all of the proper music has been removed and replaced with the oompah bass, accordion and horns blasts.

The transition between verses is tackled with that Weird Al polka flourish, fitting perfectly.

The song definitely feels more frenetic with that intense bass thumping but the chorus is still just as catchy.

After the (serious) second chorus there’s a wild and silly polka instrumental break.  Then Al takes over lead vocals for the final verse.  Since Al’s voice is synonymous with funny, it’s a little strange to hear him sing straight lines–but his voice works operfectly.

[READ: October 10, 2020] The Wolf [excerpt]

K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City contained two excerpts from other books tacked on at the end.  The second is an excerpt from Leo Carew’s complicatedly named The Wolf: Under a Northern Sky: Book One.

The blurb says

In Leo Carew’s thrilling and savagely visceral debut epic fantasy, The Wolf, violence and death come to the land under the Northern Sky when two fierce races break their age-old fragile peace and begin an all-out war.

Roper surveys the scene.  At nineteen, this would be his first battle.  They are in a deluge of rain, which he imagines will shorten the battle–men fight less fiercely in the rain. Ropers father Lord Kynortas says they have no battle plan, they are unsure what they will face. But they have ninety thousand soldiers of the Black Legion marching behind them.

The Sutherners had amassed a similarly large army and threatened the balance of power in Albion.

Kynortas introduces Roper to Uvoren, the warrior that every young boy of the Black Legion aspired to be like.  Uvoren is kindly to the boy and tells him that his father is a lot of fun to watch in a parley situation.

Roper had never seen a Sutehrner before and he was shocked to see that the looked just like him, only smaller. They were childlike.

As the leaders approached, Kynortas announced that the Sutehrners had invaders their land. They had burned and plundered.  Kynortas towered over the Sutherner leader.  Kynortas told him to take his men and leave or he will unleash the Black Legion soldiers and show no mercy.

The leader of the Sutherners was named Earl William.  He was not intimated despite the size difference.  He told Kynortas that his men were very comfortable there and that they have a strong position.  He demanded thirty chests of gold for them to leave.

Roper knew that thirty chests was an absurd number. His kingdom did not have much use for gold and could never procure thirty chests.  Roper concluded that Earl William did not want his offer accepted.

Kynortas said that they neither had that much gold nor would they “satisfy your greed for things that are soft and impotent.”  Then he jumped forward and seized Earl William’s breastplate.  He pulled it off and flung it aside leaving Earl William exposed.

Earl William’s men stormed off.  Except for one named Bellamus.  He snorted at Kynortas and said “being blessed with bone-armor, I cannot imagine you know how it felt for Earl William to have his defences taken so contemptuously from him.  Before this battle is over, I will show you how that feels.”

When Roper asked if this was typical negotiation, Kynortas nodded.  Negotiation is just n exercise in intimidation

When Roper said that they weren’t serious about their gold request–Earl william was goading them into attacking.

Kynorta smiled assuming the Sutherners were overconfident.

I’m vaguely interested in this story, but with so many other books I want to read, I don’ imagine I’ll continue with this story.