Archive for the ‘Canadian Folk Music’ Tag
Maria Dunn’s exceptional Piece by Piece is released this coming Tuesday, September 17. I thought the album had been released weeks ago as Maria sent me my copy in mid-July, but after searching Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue for a gift copy without success Saturday, I learned Outside Music has it on its way to store shelves only this week.
My review of Piece by Piece was published here last month http://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/maria-dunn-piece-by-piece-review/ , and I can’t imagine a finer folk album being released this autumn. Maria has a series of concerts upcoming, beginning this Thursday and Friday in Sherwood Park and Calgary; see http://www.mariadunn.com/home/ for details.
I missed/forgot her appearance on CKUA this past Friday, but the new edition of Penguin Eggs (Autumn 2012 with Dan Mangan on the cover) has a well-written article by Tim Readman that allows the always thoughtful and well-spoken Maria to expand upon the Piece by Piece experience while providing additional insight by Readman. Pick it up at find newsstands and music stores including Edmonton’s very nice Permanent Records, where I purchased mine yesterday.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
I was pleased to have Maria send me her new album this summer; it was actually the first album to arrive at the new house. I’ve been listening to it all summer. Gorgeous stuff, as always.
Maria Dunn Piece By Piece www.MariaDunn.com
Alongside John Wort Hannam, Maria Dunn is Alberta’s most highly regarded folk music artist of the singer-songwriter variety. Since 1998, she has released albums of tremendous depth. Her music, her words come from the hearts and souls of the lives she imagines. Using the English folk tradition as her foundation, Maria Dunn has most recently created a thoughtful and illuminating examination of the struggles of female garment workers; while focused upon the experiences of those at the Edmonton GWG factory through the 1900s, the songs are universal.
As she did with We Are Good People, in which she looked at the early labour movement and history of Alberta and western Canada, for Piece By Piece Dunn has immersed herself within her subject matter to find inspiration. Through interviews with the women who worked in the factory (which closed in 2004 after 93 years) as well as examination of archival footage and documentation, Dunn has captured the lives, the hardship and the pride, of women who completed ‘piece work’ for the jeans and work wear company, both before and after Levi Strauss bought the works.
Dunn’s ability to connect the reminiscent memories and phrases of the interviewed women who worked in the factory into a cohesive narrative is nothing short of impressive. As within We Were Good People, Dunn has illuminated the continuing history of Alberta, informing us of a story we didn’t know to appreciate.
On her fifth album of original material, Dunn ties the hardships faced by the factory workers- often the family’s only breadwinner in difficult times, as often an example of the sacrifice made by the newly arrived as they built a life in Canada- to the dignity they achieved for themselves in performing labour that many other Alberta workers would never have considered for themselves.
As specific as the connections are to the Edmonton GWG factory, the album has universal appeal. “I Cannot Tell You (The Whole Story)” may be the story of one Vietnamese woman coming to Canada to find a greater life than her homeland will allow, but the phrases and experiences captured mirror those who left eastern Europe for Canada a century before.
The album’s most affecting song captures Dunn’s interpretation of the words and thoughts of Lillian Wasylynchuk, a worker who died of lung disease. “Blue Lung” looks at the health concerns of the women working within an environment filled with the blue dust from the jeans material, and makes a comparison to the fate of mine workers. “Speed Up” is a snappy song that shares the spirit of “Sixteen Tons,” another connection to other labourers.
Dunn’s voice is beautiful, and quite indescribable- I’ve been attempting to do so for a decade and always fail. Joining Dunn is long-time collaborator and producer Shannon Johnson, she of clan McDade. Johnson’s fiddling adds atmosphere and verve to the songs, never more apparent than on “Shareholder’s Reel.” Sharmila Mathur providers sitar and this colours the songs in a lovely manner, providing connection to those who came from Asia to work in Alberta.
The songs of Piece By Piece work both as a cohesive portrait of shared experience and as stand-alone slices of contemporary folk art.
The dreams of immigrants, the impact of World War II, passionate labour negotiations, lullabies sung after days of toil, and the associated challenges fill each of Dunn’s songs. As richly, they are populated by the realities of strong women. In sharing the stories and insights of these women- some of whom traveled from rural areas to find work in the city, others immigrants from Italy, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, and elsewhere- Dunn has created a memorable and dynamic collection of songs that will undoubtedly extend her renown as Alberta’s finest folk singer and writer.
I spotted copies of Piece By Piece at Edmonton’s Blackbyrd Myoozik this weekend, but I don’t see it at iTunes yet. Just as well- the packaging is quite nice and adds to the listening experience. Buy the hard copy.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Gordie Tentrees North Country Heart www.tentrees.ca
Writing about his Yukon surroundings- the natural land as well as the people- has taken Gordie Tentrees to the next level.
Firmly entrenched in the same singer-songwriter mode as Corb Lund- especially on the talking blues of “Sideman Blues” and “Hill Country News”- Tentrees’s forthcoming album North Country Heart is his strongest yet. And that is a fairly high bar as his previous efforts Mercy or Sin and Bottleneck to Wire were fairly marvelous.
Recorded in Whitehorse with Bob Hamilton, start to finish North Country Heart is likely the finest collection of songs that Tentrees has recorded. While individual lyrical pieces capture the attention of listeners (“Blessed and bestowed bitten from the start, there’s nothing out there like a North Country heart” and “This is not another tune for you, wrote enough of them to see me through” from “Last Word”), the melodies capture the moods as accurately as his words.
On “Lone Sparrow,” the melody holds the lyrics close. The instrumentation- including lonesome pedal steel- punctuates the melancholy. The sagely worded “Black Seeds” is another standout track, as is the album’s lead number “Gypsy Wind.”
Tentrees has created a cohesive collection of images and sounds that hits emotional marks without resorting to manipulation. Heard without advance warning, one could be convinced that this is the new Corb Lund or Hayes Carll album and not be a bit disappointed. Tentrees has learned from the best: Fred Eaglesmith, John Wort Hannam, Ray Wylie Hubbard.
North Country Heart is evidence that he hasn’t just learned the tricks of the trade: Tentrees has become a stellar songwriter and roots vocalist.
Maria Dunn, Shannon Johnson, and Sharmila Mathur- GWG: Piece by Piece Snell Gallery, Red Deer
Last night, Maria Dunn, accompanied by a pair of musical companions, delighted a small gathering in the basement of the Red Deer Public Library.
Dunn, well-regarded as a singer-songwriter, is always a delight to hear live. Searching back in the memory, I believe the last time I experienced a live Dunn performance may have been eight years ago when she was first showcasing her Troublemakers: Working Albertans feature although I would be surprised if there hasn’t been a festival set in the intervening years; eight years seems like a long time for me to have gone between Dunn performances.
Searching for ‘something’ to do this weekend, I stumbled across a mention of this performance on the CKUA events page. Being somewhat connected to the Red Deer roots music scene I was both delighted and disappointed to hear of this little concert: delighted because my wife and I were almost certain to enjoy an evening of song from one of Alberta’s most consistent folk performers, but also disappointed that such an event almost passed by without notice.
Dunn is currently touring the province as part of the Alberta Federation of Labour’s Project 2012, a celebration of the AFL’s 100th anniversary. She is performing the Troublemakers show and- in select locations- GWG: Piece by Piece. It was this latter multi-dimensional, multi-media show that was featured on Saturday in Red Deer.
I was a bit nervous suggesting to my wife that we take in a performance built around the experiences of female labours within Edmonton’s GWG factory from 1911 to 2004. Considering our collective knowledge of the Great Western Garment Company consisted of wearing GWG denim jackets throughout our childhood and a faint recollection of a GWG advertising campaign featuring Wayne Gretzky- and even that could be a mental creation- I wasn’t sure exactly what we were in for as we strolled into the Snell Gallery.
If nothing else, Maria Dunn has built a reputation I trust. Her 2004 album We Were Good People brought to life a history of western Canada of which I was mostly ignorant, and the images captured within Troublemakers added so much to her already fully-nuanced stories of Canadians creating everyday history. Given my many experiences with Dunn and her music, I was happily willing to take a chance.
We weren’t disappointed once the show (which started late due to a double-booking of the facility, not the fault of the performers- amplified by a rather extended introduction) began. Dunn was joined by long-time collaborator Shannon Johnson (fiddle and vocals) and Sharmila Mathur (sitar, percussion, and vocals). Dunn and Johnson served as their own opening act, performing three (too few) songs from Dunn’s considerable repertoire.
Staying true to the labour theme of the evening, Dunn opened with a fiery rendition of her telling of “The Lingan Strike,” giving voice to the Scottish miners who, having travelled from their homeland to Cape Breton only to find that they were to serve as scabs, refused to go underground. One of Dunn’s early numbers, “Shoes of a Man,” allowed her to share family history, while the tale of desperate train-bound job seekers “How Do You Do, 1935?” concluded the all to brief opening set.
As solid a little appetizer this trio of performances was- and it was a very nice introduction to Dunn and her craft- the real magic began when she introduced GWG: Piece by Piece. Running at about an hour, this collection of film, interviews, images, and song- all composed by Dunn- in collaboration with filmmaker Don Bouzek and Catherine Cole, a writer whose recent book GWG: Piece by Piece serves as an illustrated history of GWG- was simply breathtaking.
Dunn’s ability to connect the reminiscent memories and phrases of the interviewed women who worked in the factory into a cohesive narrative is nothing short of impressive. As she did within We Were Good People, Dunn has illuminated the continuing history of Alberta, informing us of a story we didn’t know to appreciate; doing so in such an incredible manner that only the hardest didn’t have tears of appreciation cresting by its conclusion is only one measure of the success of Dunn’s vision.
Dunn tied the hardships faced by the factory workers- often the family’s only breadwinner in hard times, as often an example of the sacrifice made by the newly arrived as they built a life in Canada- to the dignity they achieved for themselves in performing labour that many other Alberta workers would never have considered for themselves.
In sharing the stories and insights of these women- some of whom traveled from rural areas to find work in the city, others immigrants from Italy, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, and elsewhere- Dunn has created a memorable and dynamic collection of songs that will undoubtedly extend her renown as Alberta’s finest folk singer and writer. These songs are to be released on an album that is anticipated next month, Piece by Piece: The Songs.
I especially appreciated the contributions of Sharmila Mathur. The sounds of her sitar further informed the performance, bridging the international roots of many of the interviewed workers with their experiences in the Edmonton factory. She also contributed a brief vocal interlude that was more than a little moving. Shannon Johnson’s fiddle playing was of course stellar, and it was nice to hear some ‘old world’ sounds sneak into a song that had a definite Italian flavour. Together, they added texture to the immigrant experience of the GWG factory.
Maria Dunn and friends next bring the GWG: Piece by Piece production to Hinton and Grande Prairie May 25 and 26. Troublemakers has additional performances in June and August. www.MariaDunn.com should have the details. Additional information at http://www.gzpedmonton.org/projects/view/gwg-piece-by-piece
As an aside, as we left the theatre with a warm glow, we decided to extend our evening of music and went crosstown to catch a few songs from Dave McCann at The Hideout. With his Firehearts, Dave was in loud form performing his identifiable blend of Americana infused rock ‘n roll. Noisy, but still quite enjoyable. We had to leave before the band returned from an extended break (are breaks getting longer, or is it just me? This one seemed to have been 45 minutes before we finally left) because we’re old.
In this week’s Red Deer Advocate, I review the upcoming Cowboy Junkies release Wilderness. Latst time out, it was Steve Coffey’s turn, and that review is posted below. Steve has additional shows upcoming- check out his website for details.
Steve Coffey & the Lokels Bovine World Rail Self-released http://www.steve-coffey.com/
Steve Coffey- painter, songwriter, singer- is a complex man, one who has placed the stability of home and family ahead of the vagrancies of the road, perhaps to the detriment of his standing within the Canadian roots marketplace.
With five albums of excellence recorded over little more than a decade, Steve Coffey should be a more familiar name. He has chosen to remain close to his Vulcan home, painting and writing, only touring with his stable line-up of Lokels sporadically.
Always gifted, Coffey’s skills as both singer and songwriter have demonstrably developed over the years. His vivid descriptions, selectively within narratives, but more frequently casually poetic, are full of life and inspiration. It is impossible to hear his words and voice and not begin visualizing the descriptions as light-infused, impressionistic paintings. The album’s third track “Closure,” featuring beautiful vocals from Tobi Malloy, opens with this verse- just try not to see the brush strokes:
I look out my early winter window
to the pale hue of the sneaking morning sun
dancing on the frost a glinting glow
such is your memory of which I am not done
I can vaguely trace the moon through my breath
on this kitchen’s rippling window pane
like the borders of the city that buried you
back in the summer’s ground soaked with rain.
The album’s deepest song, certainly the most personal-sounding is “Fighting Days.” With both his father and grandfather having military backgrounds, Coffey bridges the challenges of love in times of war- the fear and sacrifice- and the horror that remains in mind.
And that voice. God, it is something special without a hint of prettiness about it. Steve Coffey has an identifiable voice; in places it aches (“Times, When”) and in other places it playfully flirts (“Ten Pin”), but most times it just flows- with honesty, truth, and tempered realism (“Logging Towns,” “Once From an Island”). Coffey has never delivered anything less than a masterpiece, and Bovine World Rail continues where Twirlin’ Girl Boogie left off: well-written, clever, and original country- and folk-based music.
Recommended if you like Jim Ford, Nick Lowe, and Warren Zevon.
Rose Cousins We Have Made a Spark Outside Music
This coming week sees the release of Halifax-based Rose Cousin’s third album We Have Made a Spark. While exploring similar sounds to her previous releases, this outstanding recording serves as a considerable forward step for the dual 2011 East Coast music Award winner (Songwriter and Solo Female Recording).
Produced by Massachusetts’ Zackariah Hickman (Josh Ritter, Barnstar!), Cousins and her team have negotiated the difficult waters of independence to create a well-paced album of lyrical and musical depth. Similar in some ways to more overtly commercial artists including Kathleen Edwards and Serena Ryder, Cousins piano- and guitar-based music has smoky depth that lends itself to considerable contemplation.
With darkness- loneliness, vulnerability, depression, frustration, and other challenges- as a unifying theme, this set could have become bogged down in self-recrimination and anger. Rather, and while the mood is certainly is not boisterous, the disc isn’t without considerable light charm in no small part because of the environment in which it was created. We Have Made A Spark was recorded in and inspired by the inclusive and collaborative music community of Boston: Kris Delmhorst, Jennifer Kimball, Charlie Rose, and Mark Erelli are among the better known names who gathered in-studio with Cousins to work up this collection of songs.
A multi-layered set, the album has a seemingly infinite bottom-end with drummer Billy Beard and bassist Hickman running herd on the studio collective. The relationship that ends in The Shell is as delicate as the sentiment of Go First. Each of the eight new Cousins originals are songs you can just crawl into and wrap around yourself. As a bonus, Cousins revisits two songs from her previous album The Send Off, All the Time It Takes to Wait and White Daisies.
The first song received what I thought was an ideal performance on The Send Off, but Cousins manages to outdo herself here. With a more hollow sound than on the previous recording, and with the addition of her choir of Boston ladies adding harmony, All the Time It Takes to Wait is given a performance that is all the more impactful. Charlie Rose’s steel elevates White Daisies to some strange- but effective- amalgam of downbeat jazz and classic country.
An inspired performance of Springsteen’s oft-covered If I Should Fall Behind is included. Sung with should-be-folk-superstar Mark Erelli and a chorus of voices, the emotional threads of the song are again revealed, this time in a new way with the melancholy romantic shades of the original replaced by a gentle assuredness of faith in a wider community.
A brilliant album that gently unfolds as it plays, Rose Cousins’ We Have Made a Spark is available February 28 and has worked its way into my Polaris Music Prize Top 5.
A free download of Darkness is available at www.RoseCousins.com and a 20 minute video that takes viewers into the sessions is also posted at her site.
The (brief) version of my review of Fred Eaglesmith’s new album 6 Volts has been posted at Country Standard Time. For those of you who are not familiar with Ontarian Fred Eaglesmith, it is high time you become so; in my opinion, no one- not Buddy Miller, not Jim Lauderdale, not Alejandro Escovedo- has produced as solid a string of roots music over the past twenty years. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4822 will get you to the review.
Question? Why do American editors/writers so often refer to Canada as if it is one big ol’ mass o’ land without differentiation between our various provinces and territories? A review of any group’s latest album would never be identified as being from an “America-based” band; the descriptor would be localized as Texas-, California-, or Arkansas-based. When I’m writing for a Canadian audience, I will always refer to the outfit’s state, never simply as “an American band.” But for articles published in American publications, Canadian bands, often have their province specific description- such as Fred as an “Ontarian,” that is a person from Ontario- revised to “Canadian.”
I ask all American-based editors to consider beginning to identify Canadian acts with reference to their province or territory of origin. It isn’t really that big of a deal- I think most Americans can understand that a “Saskatchewan-based” band is indeed Canadian. We can trust that, right? It won’t horribly confuse most American readers, will it?
And heck- if it really confuses someone, they can always Google Nova Scotian.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
O, forgot- here is the ‘long’ version of my 6 Volts review:
Fred Eaglesmith 6 Volts A Major Label
From the opening notes of “Cemetery Road” it is obvious that the classic Fred Eaglesmith sound we fell for in the mid-90s is back. Absent this time out are the experimental revelations of recent albums, and as enjoyable and appreciated as those were it seems high time that the Fred of lonely gravel roads, lonelier women, frustrated Saturday evenings, roadside artistry and junkyard Americana paid a return visit.
In Ontarian Eaglesmith’s dark world, the “Dangerous” man, living on the corner of Stupidity and Recklessness has as much appeal as the broken hearted, drugged-out long hauler of “Trucker Speed.” Eaglesmith doesn’t attempt to provide answers; he is an observer, a writer of domestic history- through his acute writer’s eye, he captures the stories of the people we pass without notice.
Within his character studies, the details of Eaglesmith’s brilliance is revealed. Describing a multi-faceted breakdown within the title cut, Eaglesmith sings, “My clutches are slipping, the carbon gets in my throat. You get out on the passenger side, I swallow my pride. The radiators raging like a murderer, only God can bend tempered steel.” Is Eaglesmith describing the death of a relationship or a vehicle? Really, it doesn’t matter- those images work no matter the interpretation.
Eaglesmith’s characters are seldom obviously heroic; they are flawed, often lost. One example can be found within the wrong-eyed, farmer justice of “Katie,” in which a landowner holds out under pressure of residential expansion because he buried his unfaithful wife under the hickory tree…and there’s another grave down by the creek. A new classic is born, one waiting for a bluegrass interpretation from James King, James Reams, or Junior Sisk.
Elsewhere, Eaglesmith eviscerates those who ignored Johnny Cash prior to his Rick Rubin-driven comeback. Perhaps most poignant is “Stars” in which Eaglesmith reflects on his own legacy, the one in which “Willie played the mandolin, he jumped around the stage; we thought that it would never end.” Of course, everything fades and now Eaglesmith finds himself admitting, “My hands hurt from playing my guitar. Every night in all those bars, we played like we were stars.”
With a less elaborate sound than his previous Cha Cha Cha- mostly guitars and drums with pedal steel, banjo, and organ mixed in- Eaglesmith is more focused this time out but no less fierce in his determination to capture the sounds of the past within modern songs that will be as relevant in twenty years as they are today.
If Fred Eaglesmith lost you in recent years, it is time to get back on board. 6 Volts is a welcome return for Canada’s premier roots road warrior.
In today’s Red Deer Advocate I reviewed the recent Guy Clark tribute, This One’s For Him. I’ll post that in a few weeks, but for now here is the overview of Alberta releases that ran a couple weeks back.
Wonderful roots music came out of our province this past year, and today I take a look back on my favourite Alberta roots music albums of 2011.
The rootsy-pop of another era returned this summer with the release of Idyl Tea’s first album in sixteen years. Once a fixture of Edmonton clubs, the Idyl Tea trio surprised with the strength of their double album Song That’s Not Finished Yet- The Unthology. Infectious pop melodies with more than enough country overtones for roots rock- heck, if Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers are considered roots, Idyl Tea certainly qualify. On this double album, Idyl Tea combines that which connects country and power pop: bright melodies, devastating confession through lyric, and the breezy ability to convey unmistakable melancholy. ”A Guitar and A Broken Heart,” “Just a Road”- an Americana gathering in hell-”Penitent Song,” and “Dark Day in Edmonton” are simply wonderful while the companion collection of outtakes and demos reveal the group’s unrealized, original potential.
Edmonton’s Mark Davis continued his ascension as one of Canada’s critically lauded roots artists. Eliminate the Toxins was even more adventurous than his previous releases but retained the intense focus and introspection one has come to expect from a singer-songwriter whose best works can be appreciated on a poetic level while also serving as impetus to dance, albeit dance slowly. Davis’s music has a cinematic quality that cries out for visual interpretation. In the year we lost Jackie Leven, Mark Davis filled the chasm admirably. Multi-layered, Eliminate the Toxins is so all-encompassing that listeners will find themselves sinking into its warmth.
Captain Tractor’s Famous Last Words was largely ignored at radio but served as a welcome return for the Edmonton collective. Lively stuff, based in tradition (Celtic sing-alongs including “Diamond Joe” “Johnny’s Ghost”) but with no lack of originality and creativity. The songs possesss universal appeal with lots of Alberta references- hockey games, cannibalism (an epic song from Australia sure, but the events described could have just as easily happened on western Canadian prairies), open highways, and local rebellion. This well-played album benefited greatly from the contributions of fiddler Shannon Johnson.
Previously unknown to me, on Valley Home Joe Vickers documented the history of the Drumheller Valley with a focus on the stories and impact of the coal mining experience. Utilizing a variety of approaches, sounds, and tempos, Vickers created a compelling and insightful account of his home community. His music was rustic with acoustic guitar, fiddle, and banjo coming through the neo-traditional mix. More than a history lesson, Valley Home was an engaging set of lively folk-inspired music touching on a broad cross-section of tales: pit ponies, the flooded Red Deer River, Allan Cup champions, ghost towns, miners, and madams.
Collecting 14 seamlessly brilliant offerings, this spring Ben Sures released his most fully-realized recording. Gone to Bolivia opened with a pair of absolutely devastating songs including “American Shantytown” and “High School Steps.” “The Boy Who Walked Backwards Through the Snow” deserves to become a Canadian folk standard. Creating wonderful, fully realized songs of depth with lyrical gems hidden throughout, Sures remains an invigorating voice within the crowded Canadian folk market.
Murray McLauchlan Human Writes (True North)
More than twenty-five years removed from radio hits, one could be forgiven for overlooking the first album in fifteen years from Murray McLauchlan. Forgiven, but not excused. One of the true legends of Canadian folk and country music, McLauchlan still possesses ‘that’ voice- one forgets how individual and distinct it is until given the opportunity to hear it again
Whether appreciating the simple pleasures of a life well-lived (“Pickin’ Up Mary Lou”) or considering the challenges tossed our direction (“Bad Times” and “Start Again”), McLauchlan has the creative ability to make each sentiment universal. Who doesn’t feel “Almost Constantly Confused” or felt overwhelmed by an “Ambitious Life”?
For McLauchlan, the answers to challenges are before us, even if we have to paint ourselves a door to escape. A beautiful package- initial copies of which come with McLauchaln’s signature scribbled inside- serves as a tidy little bonus in these days of minimal adornment and digital downloads.
(Originally published in the Red Deer Advocate, December 16 2011)
Several weeks ago, in my Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column, I reviewed the latest from Natalie MacMaster. A delightful album, one that I intend to advocate for Polaris Music Prize consideration. The review follows:
Natalie MacMaster Cape Breton Girl eOne Music
How can one not love Natalie MacMaster?
With her soul and music essentially entrenched in the culture and history of Cape Breton, it is inconceivable that Natalie MacMaster be viewed as anything but a Cape Breton Girl.
Her recording output has been impacted in recent years by domestic concerns and extensive touring and collaborations with artists including Thomas Dolby and Yo-Yo Ma; as such, Cape Breton Girl serves as only the third set of new music from MacMaster in the last decade.
Fortunately, while the quantity of her music has not been great, the quality has remained unmistakably stellar.
With fiddle and piano at its core, Cape Breton Girl serves as a welcome return to the fabric of her music. While a dozen different musicians have their talents woven throughout the recording, the focus is firmly on MacMaster’s interpretation of timeless reels, airs, and jigs.
As always, her playing is lively and impassioned. One hardly needs to be a student of fiddling and Cape Breton music to feel an electric connection to these sounds. “Alex MacMaster’s Jig”- written for her father and incorporating “Janet Beaton” and “Miss Ann Campbell”- is a spirited set of fiddle and piano sounds with just a flavouring of guitar. “Stoney Lake Reels” follows a similar theme but has more embellishment with the addition of some solid bass playing.
MacMaster has a knack for finding tunes that complement each other. “F Medley” is comprised of seven old melodies brought together to reveal the intricacies and shades of traditional Cape Breton sounds. The album’s only vocal track is a brief reading of “Our Father” featuring Jeff MacDonald.
Whether performing jigs in G (“Jimmy MacKinnon of Smelt Brook”) or something more emotive based on traditional tunes “(Pretty Marion”, “The Methlick Style”), MacMaster reveals- much as does Alison Krauss- that beyond the buoyant personality and ‘ah, shucks’ demeanor, there beats the heart of a passionate and focused artist who lives to breathe beautiful life into ancient tones.