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Private Label  LMDCD001

The “aires” of the title are what we more commonly refer to as slow airs on this side of the Atlantic, but never mind what you call them, Cape Breton fiddler Lloyd MacDonald is a master of their playing and presentation. Born in 1931, Lloyd not only absorbed the blend of Scottish, Irish and Acadian music which permeates his homeland, he also studied under the classically-trained “Professor” Jimmy MacDonald, which gave him a wider range of bowing techniques to call on when interpreting the music he so obviously loves. No danger of the classical influences getting in the way of the traditional styles, as can sometimes happen – this has tradition written all the way through it.

As the title suggests, slow airs feature more than other tempi here, with selections from the likes of Scott Skinner, Phil Cunningham, Ronan Hardiman and Turlough O’Carolan, so plenty of scope there for Lloyd to feature his controlled and measured approach to their interpretation, which allows for many shades and nuances to enhance the melodies. Put this alongside sympathetic accompaniments including piano, fiddle, viola, cello, guitar, low whistle and Irish pipes, and there’s a lot going on here. Nor does his preference for the slower numbers mean that Lloyd is a slouch when it comes to the faster sets – reels, hornpipes and strathspeys all get their turns as well, and all are tackled with the same aplomb as the aires.

When he turned 80, Lloyd received an honorary doctorate for outstanding services to culture in Cape Breton, and this release is a fine example of his work.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.