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Fine, Thank You Very Much

Ashley MacIsaac

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Album Review

Collective eyebrows were raised with the release of 1995's Hi How Are You Today? and its subsequent tour. And in the wake of that album, fans and critics alike awaited the 1998 arrival of the follow-up Fine Thank You Very Much with eager anticipation and wariness, respectively. Although it clearly states "a traditional album" on the cover, suspicions weren't fully quelled until an actual listen took place. After all, MacIsaac could be pulling a fast one. Well, he did and he didn't. Yes, this is a traditional recording that few expected, and no, he didn't engage in false advertising, despite some who felt duped by his change of direction from traditional fiddler on his debut, Close to the Floor, to alternative rocker on Fine Thank You Very Much. This album begins with the three-minute slow air "The Rosebud of Allenville," but after that, MacIsaac shows no signs of slowing down. It's midtempo to uptempo jigs, reels, hornpipes, and strathspeys for the remaining 50-plus minutes. With the exception of John Allan Cameron's aggressive acoustic guitar on "Athole Cummers," this record is all MacIsaac. In addition to his exemplary fiddle playing, he accompanies himself on piano in the unique and oft-alluded-to Cape Breton style. For those expecting more thumbing of the nose by MacIsaac, it should be noted that his eccentricities wouldn't have received nearly the attention they did if he hadn't first established himself as an excellent fiddle player. [The 2004 Special Edition reissue features alternate album art and the enhanced CD video "The Devil in the Kitchen."]


Born: 24 February 1975 in Criegnish, Cape Breton, Nova Scot

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Ashley MacIsaac is, in a sense, the musical representative of the pre-millennial generation of Atlantic Canada. An ardent traditionalist (and cousin of international Celtic performer Natalie MacMaster) with a penchant, nevertheless, for experimentation, this young Nova Scotian native has been taught to play the fiddle the working-class, pub-stomp Cape Breton way: fast, furious, and with phenomenal precision. Alternately considered a rebel, taking the old fiddling conventions in newfangled directions...
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