Sunday, January 06, 2008

now playing: Cape Breton Live



Set in the far northeastern part of Atlantic Canada with the outer Hebrides of northern Scotland the next isles to the east. Cape Breton Island was a natural spot of the nurturing of a unique sort of music. Natural in more ways than one, as the sparsely populated, windswept forest and sea landscape of an island reachable only by water until a scant fifty years ago gave people the chance to turn to their own resources for entertainment and community building. Those resources, in many cases, were musical.

With names like Beaton, MacIsaac, MacMaster, MacGillivray, MacNeill, Campbell, Chiasson, and Fraser among those joining their talents, you know you have the cream of the crop of Cape Breton players on Cape Breton Live Take 01. The disc opens with ten minutes of Beaton’s Delight, a kitchen party jam if ever there was one amongfiddle playing father and daughter Kinnon and Andrea Beaton with mother Betty Beaton handling piano. This was recorded during a house party at Andrea Beaton’s place in Judique, Cape Breton. Warm and engaging with razor sharp musicianship included. it opens the door to the variety of tracks that follow. Though some of them were recorded in more formal settings, the family feeling and the ambiance of friends and neighbors sharing music stays on, a tribute to the musicians, to producers Cheryl Smith and Andrea Beaton, and to the music itself.



Set in the far northeastern part of Atlantic Canada with the outer Hebrides of northern Scotland the next isles to the east. Cape Breton Island was a natural spot of the nurturing of a unique sort of music. Natural in more ways than one, as the sparsely populated, windswept forest and sea landscape of an island reachable only by water until a scant fifty years ago gave people the chance to turn to their own resources for entertainment and community building. Those resources, in many cases, were musical.


The lives of Cape Bretoners are shaped by mountain and sea, by their Irish and Scottish heritage, and by their isolation from the rest of Canada, and indeed the rest of the continent. So is their music. Shared in house parties and around kitchen tables over decades, bits of the two cultures influenced each other, and in turn were influenced by the mountains to the ocean landscape that is like and yet not like those two Celtic lands. A tradition based on fiddle music and encompassing fiddle and piano duos, guitar, pipes, step dancing, and singing developed, a tradition that in recent years artists such as Buddy MacMaster, Mary Jane Lamond, Natalie MacMaster, The Men of the Deep, The BarraMacNeils, Tracey Dares, The Cottars and Kimberley Fraser have taken to stages across the world. It’s a style that lends itself to percussion and energy, to laughter and connection, and to the friendly warmth of tales told around the kitchen table. Cape Breton Liveis one place on the world wide web where this music is shared (Celtic Colours is another), and this recording adds dimension to that.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

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