Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bobby Pins - CD Review

Following is a review of my new CD written by my good friend Joan Leotta. Be sure to read about Joan's blog and upcoming book at the end of the review.

Bobby Pins
A CD by Linda Goodman

Review by Joan Leotta

            This is the chocolate fudge sundae of storytelling CDs, except that it is even better than my favorite forbidden treat. You can listen to it without guilt. No added fat, just food for thought.

Linda shares stories from her heart, and her western Virginia mountain roots.

            Three of these stories were new to me. "Pearl" is adapted from one of the stories in Linda's book, Daughters of the Appalachians. The three personal tales delve deeply into Linda's own childhood. She says they are recalled "through the dim smoky haze of my mind's eye."

"Nickels and Dimes" explores the relationship with a younger sister. Mustard Seed shows us the truth of the great powers of faith as Linda lived it in her childhood in the mountains. The last, "Bobby Pins" shows us Linda and her own mother in a relationship and leaves us on the positive thought of the positive effect that the little things we do have on others, especially those we love.

            Linda’s lilting presentation is flavored expertly with the cadence and laconic rhythms of her mountain origins. She delivers each tale through the ears directly to the listener's soul. Linda is as fine a writer as she is a teller. The arc of each tale flawlessly rolls to a fully satisfying end bolstered by superb choices of word dialect and the use of classic literary devices such as repetition, and parallelism.

            Listen to it for the pure pleasure of the experience or use it to teach yourself about story, Appalachia, people, families, dialect. This tape is appropriate for all ages and for men as well as women. Use it in schools if you want to tell of life in Appalachia or just explore family relationships.

            At the finish, I was tempted to shake the CD case to see if more stories would fall out. I suppose I will have to wait for Linda to open more of her heart to us.

Joan Leotta is a published author and an accomplished storyteller in her own right. Her new ebook, Guilia Goes to War, will be available in July. Visit her blog at or mail her at

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yankee Ingenuity

CD Review

Written and performed by Jo Radner; $15, including shipping and handling. To order, email Also available on CD Baby.

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

            I became a fan of Jo Radner at the New England Modern Storytelling Festival in Windsor, Maine in 1997, when I heard her tell a story about outhouses. On that cold (thirty degrees), rainy September Saturday, I also fell in love with the people of Maine. There they stood, bare-footed and wearing shorts, listening in rapt attention to the stories being told. I was reminded of my own Appalachian kinfolk. No amount of rain or cold was going to keep them away from what they loved. Can you blame me for being thrilled when I found Yankee Ingenuity, a CD by Jo Radner about real Mainers, in my post office box?

            I listened to this CD during a four hour drive home from a performance in Roanoke. I listened the entire four hours, savoring each story multiple times. They are that good!

            Wimble Betty, set just after the Revolutionary War in Norway, Maine, is the story of Elizabeth “Betty” Stevens, a headstrong, smart, outrageous woman who was given her nickname after she used a wimble (hand drill) to drain a barrel of rum that was causing the men of the town to carouse a little more than their women folk could tolerate. Betty’s cohorts abandoned her once the angry men found out about the deed, leaving Betty to take the heat on her own. Mainers, it seems, never forget; but a clever peddler who stretches the truth gives Betty the opportunity to redeem herself.  Pitchforks and coconuts are prominently featured in this story.

            The Man Who Proved the Earth Was Flat tells about Joe Holden, the “old astronomer” who in the 1800’s proved (to his own satisfaction, at least) that the earth was flat and stationary, while the sun and moon moved. In his honor, to this very day, folks in East Otisville, Maine ( a town so stubborn it seceded from Cumberland County less than forty years ago), enjoy strawberry ice cream, peanuts, and popcorn at the Joe Holden Picnic ever year on the last Sunday in August.

            Lion Maker is a powerful tale that begins with a parable about three scientists who scoff at a farmer who warns them not to bring a lion back to life. As the farmer climbs a tree to safety, the resurrected lion does what lions are born to do. This segues nicely into the story of Hiram Stevens Maxim, a boy genius who at age eleven developed the first mouse powered mousetrap. Beaten to the punch at the patent office by Thomas Edison, Maxim moves to London, where someone suggests that he develop a device to help Europeans kill one another. His responds by inventing a machine gun that fires more than 660 bullets a minute and, as a result, is knighted by an appreciative Queen Victoria. “If it had been anything but a killing machine,” Maxim attests, “nobody would have paid any attention to it.” When the English use this weapon in Sudan, more than 20,000 Sudanese are killed in a single battle.  Maxim did not live to witness the devastation the gun wrought in World War I.  “What lions are we making now” Radner wonders, “and where are the trees for the rest of us to climb?”  I had to pull off the side of the road after this story, stunned to realize that the “trees” truly are gone.

            Feet First features Henry Edwards, a man who loved Hiram Walker’s Coffee flavored brandy and who had his own unique way of doing things. It takes an ornery pig with a mind of its own to make him see the light.

            In Eccentricity, Radner shares humorous memories of her eccentric uncle, Horace Greeley Adams.  Not until after his death does she discover that his eccentricity came at a terrible price.  Instead of escaping to a place where he could be anonymous, however, he chose to “stay where he (was) known.”  After hearing this story, I had to pull off the road for a second time to pay silent homage to the “characters” I have known.

            Stories like those included on Yankee Ingenuity are the kind of stories that made me want to become a storyteller. Everyone, especially our young people, should hear them. While it may be too late to turn back the clock, stories shared can teach hard lessons in such a way that wisdom may yet prevail.