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The Dances Down Home

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Album Review

Not all of them will admit it out loud, but American folk musicians tend to regard the fiddlers of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island with a certain degree of awe. Part of it is the seriousness of the tradition — there is probably no region in North America where good fiddlers are more highly prized than Canada's Maritime Provinces, and no region where the standard by which they are judged is so high. And part of it is the tunes themselves that come from the region, which are often readily identifiable within a few measures and tend to be uniquely beautiful. Joe Cormier, a Cape Breton expatriate who has made his home in suburban Boston for the past four decades, is one of the legends of Nova Scotia fiddling, and the latest volume in Rounder's Heritage series is a celebration of his remarkable career. The centerpiece of this album is Cormier's The Dances Down Home, an LP originally released in the 1970s; to the original program are added eight previously unreleased tracks. Accompanied by longtime partners Eddie Irwin on piano and Eddie Boudreau on guitar and bass, Cormier is at the top of his form on these sets of dance tunes; if the sound quality isn't always perfect, the playing is. Particular highlights include the gorgeous, lilting "Sheehan's" reel set, a lovely air entitled "Hillside Echoes," and a stomping set of jigs that includes "Clay Pipe," "Sandy M'Gaff," and "The Champion." Those who love Cape Breton fiddling already know that they need this disc; those looking for a good introduction to the tradition will find it here.

The Dances Down Home, Joe Cormier
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