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Cape Breton Tradition

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Album Review

Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster is not as famous in the lower half of North America as his hotshot niece Natalie, but for those who prefer the undiluted, hardcore traditional music of Cape Breton, this recording will feel more like the real thing than Natalie MacMaster's more modern excursions. Buddy MacMaster's style is cleaner and perhaps more "pretty" than that of some of his contemporaries, but it still packs plenty of vinegar, and his rhythmic energy is tremendous. When he digs into a strathspey like "The Lass O'Corrie Mill" or "The Highlands of Banffshire," or even the more stately "Farewell to the Glen," the effect is electric. Interestingly, he tends to play hornpipes with a straight rhythm rather than the lilting implied triplets that typify the English or Irish approach; his renditions of "Upper Denton Hornpipe" and "Catching Rabbits" are especially fine. And his settings of the "high bass reels" "Bridge of Bamore" and "Marquis of Tullybardine" (named for the unusual tuning in which they are played) are no less exciting. Throughout the album he is accompanied, in traditional Cape Breton style, by his daughter Mary Elizabeth MacMaster MacInnis on the piano. She plays expertly but in a tastefully supportive mode; nothing she plays will distract you from the fiddler, but when you do stop and take note of what she's doing, it's always inventive and lovely. Very highly recommended overall.


Born: October 18, 1924 in Timmins, Ontario, Canada

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Buddy MacMaster has been called "the dean of Cape Breton fiddlers." Although MacMaster was little known outside of Cape Breton, an island off the coast of Nova Scotia, until retiring as an agent operator from the Canadian National Railway (C.N.R.) in 1988, his subsequent tours of the United States and the United Kingdom, and his two albums -- Judique on the Floor in 1988 and Glencoe Hall in 1991 -- enabled him to share his waltzes, jigs, and reels with an international audience. Although MacMaster...
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Cape Breton Tradition, Buddy MacMaster
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