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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Douglastown: Music And Song From The Gaspé Coast

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Douglastown: Music And Song From The Gaspé Coast
Private Label DOUG001

The point of this album may be missed by those ‘folkies’ lovingly crafting their new ‘product’ so that it can be best positioned for take-up by the Music Biz looking for the next best thing to market - they may well find it rough, unrefined and a bit difficult to listen to. They'd be totally missing the very important point.  This CD consists of a large number of recordings; some made fairly recently, others from the late 50s and early 60s, of a community.

The Gaspé peninsula, between Canada's New Brunswick and the Gulf of St Lawrence is home to Douglastown, a village on the coast just south of Gaspé itself.  Founded by the English, over the years it became a centre of Irish immigration and found itself more isolated from the modern world than many other areas of Quebec, resulting in a thriving and varied music and dance scene, both in public and at home. This CD is a snapshot of this scene lovingly compiled by Glenn Patterson and Laura Risk.

A lot of good fiddling (and throughout the unmistakeable ‘stepping’ of the musicians), songs and spoken memories give a patchwork impression of the village's remarkable cultural identity, of which Gaspésians are justly proud.  Glenn Patterson has noted that some of the leading fiddle players in the 50s and 60s “made dozens of cassettes of their music and then shared them with family and friends across the continent” - there can't be many places that could boast that sort of a thriving and loved tradition at that time! Minor quibbles are that some items fade out, others rather lurch into life with a poor tape edit, but these points are indeed minor.  This CD contains considerable riches and it comes with a lengthy booklet giving fascinating background information and the record is crammed with interesting performances.  Hopefully this will be snapped up by people interested in the music and song, the history and the traditions of this area. All in all an important and wonderful thing - chapeau to Glenn and Laura - more please!

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.