The niece of influential Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster, Natalie MacMaster has turned the music of Cape Breton, an island off the east coast of Canada near Nova Scotia, into an international phenomenon. Whether performing with her band, featuring guitar, piano, bass, drums and percussion, or with a classical orchestra such as the Edinburgh Symphony, MacMaster has thrilled audiences with her exciting fiddling and dynamic stage persona.
Inspired by the musical members of her family, MacMaster began playing fiddle at the age of nine on an instrument given her by a great-uncle. She took formal lessons along with her cousin, Ashley MacIsaac, with whom she played often as a youngster.
After releasing two self-produced cassette-only albums -- 4 On the Floor in 1989 and Road to the Isle in 1990 -- MacMaster expanded her following with her first release in the United States, Fit as a Fiddle, which received a East Coast Music Award as Best Roots/Traditional Album of 1992. Tracks from MacMaster's first two albums were reissued by Rounder as A Compilation in 1997. MacMaster's first album released by Warner Brothers Canada, No Boundaries, included "Drunken Piper" (featuring vocals by Cookie Rankin of the Rankin Family), and established her as one of the top musicians in Canada. In addition to hosting the East Coast Music Awards, MacMaster received awards as "Female Artist of the Year, Roots/Traditional Artist of the Year and Instrumental Artist of the Year. MacMaster was also named Fiddler of the Year by the Canadian Country Music Association. The album was dedicated to the memory of MacMaster's grandmother, Margaret Ann Beaton, who would often sing Gaelic lyrics to songs that MacMaster was learning on the fiddle.
MacMaster has maintained such a busy schedule as a performer that she had to turn down an invitation to be a featured musician in the Irish music and dance production Lord of the Dance. In 1995, MacMaster performed for more than 80,000 people as the opening act for Carlos Santana in Chattanooga, TN. The following year, she spent four weeks as the opening act for the Chieftains on their tour of the United States. MacMaster's fiddling has also been heard on television commercials for Tim Horton Donuts and General Motors Pontiac.
MacMaster released her second album for Warner Brothers Canada in 1998. In My Hands arrived a year later, followed by the U.S. release of My Roots Are Showing in 2000. After 2002's Live, MacMaster's put out the ambitious Blueprint, a progressive celtic juggernaut that employed a full drum kit, numerous co-arrangers and session musicians. It was followed in 2006 by the similarly themed Yours Truly.
~ Craig Harris