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NATALIE MacMASTER - Cape Breton Girl

NATALIE MacMASTER - Cape Breton Girl
MacMaster Music MMACD5559

Intriguingly branded Irish Celtic by RealPlayer, this Scots fiddle sensation from Atlantic Canada has admittedly added a dash of Canuck Irish since her marriage to fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy, but Cape Breton Girl sees Natalie reaffirming her Nova Scotian roots. How many Irish fiddle sleevenotes would contain phrases such as, “I just love playing tunes in F,” and, “There are a lot of great tunes in B flat”? Natalie does include a few Irish favourites here - Carnie's Canter was recorded by Ciaran Tourish, Butcher's March is a popular session jig, and there are a couple of classic Irish reels - but apart from that, it's pretty much all Cape Breton Scots. Strathspeys and reels, airs and marches, jigs of course: great examples of all these forms, but mostly dance music, played at a dancer's tempo. Natalie has fantastic technique, but she's not bound by it: she can let rip on Stumpie or Tarbolton, showing that Cape Breton rhythmic drive and lift which keeps the dancers warm and willing. Her own tunes have a combination of technical brilliance and bouncy spirit: the hornpipe Christine Deagal's Flight is both impressive and uplifting, while Alex MacMaster's Jig follows compositions by Angus Chisholm and Dan R in fine style.

Natalie's sense of family is expressed again in My Brother Kevin, a set of 4/4s featuring Kevin MacMaster on tasteful electric guitar. Her adopted Leahy relatives also make an appearance: husband Donnell for his composition of the showpiece reel Stoney Lake, and sister-in-law Erin on piano accompanying the delightful air The Methlick Style. Mac Morin powers the piano on all other tracks, with a variety of guitarists on about half of them, providing that hallmark Cape Breton sound. Other notable additions are Matt MacIsaac on pipes for two sets of blistering reels, and singer Jeff MacDonald who ends this album with a sublime arrangement of the Gaelic prayer Ar nAthair. With attractive and informative notes, spotless production, and material by Marshall, Gow, Skinner, Cunningham, MacDougall, Cranford, Milne and others, plus many traditional treasures, this recording is an instant winner. But you needn't take my word for it: has samples and more details, plus the chance to experience the fiddling dancing blonde bombshell on video! This Cape Breton Girl is not to be missed.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 97 of The Living Tradition magazine.