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DAN MACDONALD - Rural / Urban 

DAN MACDONALD - Rural / Urban 
Private Label DMMCD01 

Dan MacDonald is a Cape Bretoner from a well-known musical family, but he and his fiddle have been living for well over a decade in Toronto. Though Cape Breton is to the fore in his way of playing and the style of his accompaniments, living in Toronto for many years has also opened up the opportunity to play in different styles and settings. Some of these are reflected here, along with other pieces that are much more Cape Breton in their approach.

There are several tunes learned from family members (including his father Lloyd MacDonald) and other well-known Cape Breton writers and players. These are played with the great life and swing that we have come to expect from that part of the world, and the piano playing of Mac Morin, in particular, really shines along with Dan’s fiddle on these tracks – this is Cape Breton music at its best. Elsewhere, there’s a slightly stronger Irish influence than one might expect – from the opening The Drover Lads / The Old Grey Goose to a fine Coleman set and the brilliant Tommy Peoples tunes, The Broken Pledge and Black Pat’s. The ‘different settings’ include a Gordon Duncan tune played with two Highland pipers, an Eb set with a swingy, almost Shetland-style guitar backing, and two Nollaig Casey tunes accompanied by a vast range of percussion by musicians from Cameroon and Ghana. Throughout, Dan shows that he is equally at home playing the big ballsy sets, or the gentler tunes such as the emotive Irish air, Bruach Na Carraige Báine, where the solo fiddle is sweet and clear, or a Nathaniel Gow lament arranged for fiddle, viola and cello.

There’s much variation here, and lots to love, but it’s always all about that fiddle. In rural or urban settings, it’s the highlight.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.