Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Woman Who Sold Winds & Other Tales of the Sea

By Ralph Chatham

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

Available from
Curmudgeon Story & Whistle Works
$10.00 + postage

I was particularly excited to listen to Ralph Chatham’s CD The Woman Who Sold Winds & Other Tales of the Sea, not only because it boasts a story that Ralph’s telling presented to perfection at March’s VASA Gathering, but because it was not recorded using the usual professional route. The stories on this CD were recorded with Apple’s Garage Band and imported into iTunes, all standard software with Macintosh computers these days.

The CD begins with an introduction detailing how “compost heaps and pounding in tomato stakes” directly led to the narrator’s love affair with the sea. That love is clearly evident as one listens to Thar She Blows, a whale hunting adventure sprinkled with humor that is generously provided by a cantankerous captain. Humor also reigns in Ma’am Hacket’s Compost Heap, in which a first mate tries, in vain, to take charge when an ailing captain with a heightened sense of taste takes to his bed. Both of these stories are told with a thick Maine accent that can be difficult to understand if you are not familiar with it. Also, sea terms are used that may not be understood by land lovers. I found it helpful to listen to each story twice.

The crown jewel on this CD is the story that was told at the VASA Gathering, The Kelpie’s Bride. This haunting story alone is worth the price of the CD and more. Using a wonderfully deep and silky voice, Chatham flawlessly spins this love story of the beautiful and spoiled Constance and her step sister Sarah, a young woman whose beauty takes time and effort. Showcased is the Cinderella theme without the Cinderella villains. Constance and her mother, we are told, are not cruel; only indifferent. Enter a king who puts his true love’s happiness above his own, and fairy tale magic is made. I listened to this story three times just for the beauty of its rich detail and breathtaking images.

The Yarn of the Nancy Bell is a story poem about cannibalism at sea. The Nautilus and the P-3, a funny story about a cultural exchange during the cold war, was recorded live at a story slam held during the 2008 National Storytelling Conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Chatham should be proud of the 8.5 score he received.

The CD’s title story The Woman Who Sold Winds is set in Maine, where a witch uses her wares to convince a local captain to bet that his ship will reach Boston ahead of a foreigner’s. Adventure ensues, as the witch works behinds the scene.

With a disclaimer that I have no technical recording expertise whatsoever, I must say that I am impressed with the sound produced by Apple’s Garage Band, coupled with iTunes. I saw no difference between the sound quality of this CD and that of others I have reviewed (though my husband did). This CD would have benefitted from some editing on a few of the stories to eliminate stray um’s and ah’s and the like. There is also too much dead space between stories. These, however, are minor details and, since Chatham churns these CDs out one at a time, can be easily fixed for your listening pleasure. His telling of The Kelpie Bride is now on my short list of haunting stories. This story will lurk in my mind and inspire me to work harder at my own art. Such excellence makes me proud to be a storyteller.

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