From Mythic Stream Productions PO Box 2898, Asheville, NC 28802 Phone: 800-864-0299
"Chilling Tales for Teenagers and Adults." That is the blurb on the cover of this CD, and it is an apt description. Connie Regan-Blake tells her tales in a soft, quiet voice, with just enough inflection to avoid a monotone, but not so much that the telling draws attention to itself or disrupts the overall mood. Underlying it is a soft hint of mountain accent, lending flavor to the voice. With her tellings of these tales she weaves a delightfully eerie and chilling atmosphere.
The CD contains five tales, ranging from eight to seventeen minutes in length. Two of the tales are familiar classics: "Mr. Fox" and "Mary Culhane." Regan-Blake stays close to the familiar, traditional versions of these tales. But if she does not bring anything particularly new to these tales, she does keeps them fresh and interesting. Both are tales I have heard many times before, enough that they can easily bore me, but these tellings held me throughout. More importantly, I enjoyed them both. A third tale, "TwoWhite Horses," is described as a true story, which would seem to suggest a unique experience. It quickly turns out to be a version of yet another well-known, oft-told tale. That does not necessarily mean this version could not have happened, but, after expecting something else, that turn of the tale was a little disappointing. (Of course, the full description of the tale: "a true story of a Southern Appalachian mountain woman returning from the grave," gives a pretty strong hint a to what story we are about to hear. (And if the description does not ring any bells, I am not going to ruin things for you here.))
The remaining two stories are relatively new, at least to me. "Rag Doll" is a soft, gentle story from West Virginia. In parts, it weaves a definite eeriness, particularly with the music that heralds the ghost's appearances. But other than those moments, I found it the weakest story of the five. While Regan-Blake tells it with a wonderfully gentle chill, I found it all too obvious who the ghost was and how it could be laid to rest. I could not believe that it took so many years for anyone in the village where the story is set to figure those things out as well. The final story, "The Veil," was the oddest of the lot. Regan-Blake explains it as "from the Scottish tradition and from my own imagination." I know enough of Scottish fairy lore to recognize the traditional elements, and to notice those elements that varied sharply from tradition. Those variations kept distracting me; I kept wondering if they were the teller's own invention, or some aspect of the tradition that I just did not know. I suspect, however, that only a few people will be so bothered. Most listeners will simply enjoy the tale of one family's struggle with the malevolence of the fairy world.
In the end, all five stories work well. They depend, not on shock, surprise, or horror, but on a quiet, unhurried unfolding vision of the other world.
So pick a dark night. Turn off all the lights in the house, save for a candle or two. Slip Spirits Walk into the CD player, sit back, and let Connie Regan-Blake weave a soft and eerie atmosphere around you.
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