The Colours of Cape Breton
Celtic Colours Vol. 6 - 2002

Compilation CD featuring Phil Cunningham, Liz Carroll, Jerry Holland, The Rankins, Daniel Lapp, The Barra MacNeils, Andre Marchand, Margaret Bennett, Joe Derrane & Frankie Gavin, Dave MacIsaac, Joe Peter MacLean, Fine Friday, Shawn MacDonald, Colin Watson, Carlos Nunas, John MacLean, Cucanandy, Alison Brown, Sharon Shannon

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Complete CD Notes

1. Phil Cunningham

The Colours of Cape Breton (Phil Cunningham, MCPS/PRS) 

Phil Cunningham: Accordion, whistles, cittern, and keyboards
Composed and recorded for Celtic Colours festival
Courtesy of Phil Cunningham
Produced and arranged by Phil Cunningham 
Recorded July 2002 Inverness-shire, Scotland 

The "slow air," often referred to as a "pastoral air," has its origins in the ancient piping and harping traditions of Scotland and Ireland. Composers, ranging from Neil Gow (1727 - 1807) through to James Scott Skinner (1843 -1927), cultivated a new "Golden Age" of composition in Scotland. Today, present-day composers have continued the tradition of writing slow airs.

Accordion player Phil Cunningham, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, is one of those composers. A former member of Celtic bands Silly Wizardand Relativity, Phil has written many fine airs throughout his career. In 1984, he released an album of pastoral music entitled AIRS AND GRACES. Many of his airs have become popular in Cape Breton. Recently, Phil composed "The Golden Tooth" for Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster. Natalie recorded this air on her most recent LIVE album. Another of his airs, "Tondor," is a tribute to the prestigious Danish music festival, and was featured on last year's Celtic Colours compilation, THE ROUTES OF THE WORLD. Phil composed "The Colours of Cape Breton" last October during the 2001 Celtic Colours festival. Inspired by a spetacular early morning view of St. Ann's Bay, Phil dedicates this air to the people of Cape Breton and the new friends he made at last year's festival.

2. Liz Carroll

The Silver Spear (traditional)
The Earl's Chair (traditional)
The Musical Priest (traditional) - Arranged by Liz Carroll

Liz Carroll: Fiddle
John Doyle: Guitar
Chico Huff: Bass
Zan MacLeod: Bouzouki 
Jackie Moran: Percussion 
Seamus Egan: Percussion

From the album LOST IN THE LOOP 
Courtesy of Green Linnet Records 
Produced by Seamus Egan 
Recorded 2000, Philadelphia

As emigration from Ireland to America grew to staggering proportions in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago all became popular destinations. Irish historian Lawrence McCaffrey called the Irish the "pioneers of the American urban ghetto." The city of Chicago received many Irish immigrants, beginning in the 1830s, and by the turn of the century, the number of Irish in Chicago had swelled to over 200,000. There, during what is known as one of the most dangerous periods of Chicago's history, the Irish music and dance thrived. Through repeated waves of Irish immigration, by the 1950s, Chicago had become a cradle of Irish Gaelic culture. Fiddler and composer Liz Carroll was born on the south side of Chicago in 1956. Her parents were both Irish

immigrants. Liz drew much of her inpiration from the local community. Sessions at the Irish Traditional Musicians' Association gave Liz a direct link to the music of early Chicago. A gifted improviser, Liz's approach to traditional music is highly innovative. Liz is also a noted composer of new Irish music, and throughout her career, many of her tunes have become standards of other musicians' repertoire on both sides of the Atlantic.

3. Jerry Holland

Reichswall Forest (Dan R. MacDonald)
Easter Elchie (traditional)
Winston in the 50s (traditional)/ Mrs. Gordon of Knockspoch (traditional)

Jerry Holland: Fiddle
Dave MacIsaac: Guitar
Hilda Chaisson: Piano

Courtesy of Fiddlesticks Music
Produced by Jerry Holland and Dave MacIsaac
Recorded 1982, Halifax

During the1970s, the media's revival of Cape Breton fiddle music led to THE JOHN ALLAN CAMERON SHOW, a weekly national television broadcast. Canadians heard legends Angus Chisholm and Winston Fitzgerald, alongside an intriguing young fiddler named Jerry Holland. With his long hair and sideburns, Jerry looked out of place standing next to his mentors. There, Jerry served his apprenticeship.

Jerry was born in Brocton, Massachusetts (near Boston), in 1955 and came to Cape Breton music through the influence of his father, Jerry Sr., who was a fine fiddler himself. Boston was a cradle for Cape Breton Gaelic culture. Jerry began to play at the age of six and eventually performed at dances on a regular basis with Bill Lamey and Angus Chisholm. In 1975, Jerry finished high school and soon headed for Cape Breton, making it his home. Jerry took immediately to the dance circuit and began to refine his ideas on piano accompaniments and arrangements. In 1982, together with Hilda Chaisson and Dave MacIsaac, Jerry heralded Cape Breton fiddling into a new era with the release of MASTER CAPE BRETON FIDDLER.

This album instilled in "the music" a gripping and youthful quality, without altering the "trio" format established by Winston Fitzgerald more than fourty years earlier. This success was achieved through a stunning command of chord substitutions and dynamics and a balanced repertoire of traditional and newly composed tunes. The album went on to become the new standard for Cape Breton fiddling.

4. The Rankins

O Tha Mo Dhuil Ruit (traditional)

Raylene Rankin: Lead vocals, percussion
Cookie Rankin: Background vocals
Heather Rankin: Background vocals
Jimmy Rankin: Background vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion
John Morris Rankin: Background vocals, Piano, and percussion
Gordie Sampson: Guitars
Viktor Krauss: Acoustic bass
Scott Ferguson: Drums and percussion
The Rankins: Hand-claps

Arranged by The Rankin Family
Published by Rankin Family Inc. (SOCAN)
From the album UPROOTED
1998 EMI Music Canada Courtesy of EMI Music Canada 
Produced by George Massenburg 

Recorded Oct. 1997, Nashville 

In the 1980s, Cape Breton gave birth to an unprecedented movement of traditional music. By this time, the home-tape network had been firmly established throughout Cape Breton and North America. Cape Breton fiddlers had already been traveling to Boston, Detroit, and Toronto for more than fourty years to perform at dances. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, prestigious festivals, such as Newport, Smithsonian Folklife, and Mariposa, all featured Cape Breton music. The 80s saw Cape Breton musicians take their place on the world folk circuits.

The Rankin Family, comprised of five sisters and brothers, paved the way to innovative styles of music, eventually establishing a status previously unheard of within the realms of traditional music. Although they did not officially form The Rankin Family until the late 1980s, the Rankins had been performing as a family in their community of Mabou for many years. With a rich repertoire of songs in Gaelic and English, and impeccably arranged instrumentals, The Rankins met with chart-topping success. One of the most impressive elements to the sound of The Rankins is the voice of Raylene Rankin. Her stunning and crystal-like voice is unmistakable in the world of folk music. Today, The Rankins have retired as a band, but Raylene and her two sisters continue to perform.

5. Daniel Lapp

Sweet Reunion (Daniel Lapp / SOCAN)

Daniel Lapp: Fiddle, trumpet, percussion
Kathryn Tickell: Fiddle
Tony McManus: Guitar
Mary MacMaster: Harp
Julian Sutton: Melodeon
Norman Holmes: Flute

From the album REUNION
Courtesy of Daniel Lapp
Produced by Daniel Lapp
Recorded 2001, Edinburgh, Scotland


St. James Bay (in northern Canada) was an early destination in the new world for Celtic music. The Hudson Bay Company was founded there in 1670, the same year coal was first mined on Cape Breton Island. Eventually, the music would pass along the voyager routes, settling in the Métis culture of Manitoba and eventually, throughout northwestern Canada and Alaska. The fur trade, lumber camps, gold rushes, and eventually, the building of the railroad would mold and shape this music all along the way west. Like Cape Breton, British Columbia would provide an industry-based social fabric for sustaining traditional music. 

Today, there is a rich repertoire of indigenous BC fiddle tunes. BC fiddler Daniel Lapp collected many of these tunes in 1990. One year later, he performed these rare tunes at the University College, Cork in Ireland, during the Fiddlesticks Festival. It was a long way home for this music. This year, Daniel traveled to Edinburgh to record his new album. There, he was reunited with piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell for the first time since the 1989 Shetland Folk Festival. Daniel, who is also a trumpet player, is known today as one of Canada's finest fiddlers and performs regularly with his band Lappelectro, a west-coast based "jazz electronica" quartet. He also performs in Bowfire, an ensemble of eleven diverse fiddlers.

6. The Barra MacNeils

Kantara to El Arish (traditional)
Hoch hey Johnny Lad (traditional)
Doug MacPhee'sStrathspey (J. Campbell)
Hamish the Carpenter (traditional)
Margaree Reel (traditional)

Kyle MacNeil: Fiddle
Lucy MacNeil: Fiddle
Carl MacKenzie: Fiddle
Hector MacKenzie: Fiddle
Hughie Campbell: Fiddle
Michael Anthony MacLean: Fiddle
Sheumas MacNeil: Piano

Courtesy of The Barra MacNeils
Produced by Declan O'Doherty
Recorded 1999, Irish Cove, Cape Breton

Directly across from the former summer home of Alexander Graham Belle on Baddeck Bay, lays the community of Washabuck. There, in the shadow of this great inventor, fiddler Vincent MacLean, a friend of Belle's, raised a family of twelve, several of whom invented highly personal styles of fiddle playing. Most famous was Joe MacLean, who recorded duets with Bill Lamey in the 1940s. Joe went on to have a prolific recording career, and his music is now available on the Rounder Records label. His brother, Michael Anthony, is featured on this track. Although now in his eighties, Michael Anthony still plays the fiddle with a remarkable youthful quality. His sister, Theresa, recorded two albums for Rounder Records in recent years.

Another prestigious musical family from Washabuck is the MacKenzie family. Carl MacKenzie has recorded several albums since his own 1970s Rounder Records release. His brother, Hector, is also a noted fiddler and composer. Another brother, Charlie, was a well-known singer. Their sister, Jean, raised her own musical family, The Barra MacNeils. During the early 1980s, The Barras brought east coast music to a wider audience. The foundation of the sound of The Barras is the Washabuck accent of fiddlers Kyle and Lucy MacNeil. For a 1999 Christmas album, The Barras brought together Washabuck's fiddlers for this tribute to an unmistakable accent within the mosaic of Cape Breton music.

7. Andre Marchand, Lisa Ornstein and Normon Miron

Le batteux (traditional)
Le Petit cheval rouge (traditional)

Andre Marchand: Feet 
Lisa Ornstein: Fiddle 
Normand Miron: Harmonica 

Courtesy of Mille-Pattes Productions 
Produced by Andre Marchand 
Recorded 1995, Quebec 

Amongst the first Irish and Scots to arrive in Quebec were servants en route to Virginia, who were captured by French warships. During the famous Plains of Abraham (1759), the battlefield included landless Irish and dispossessed Scots.

Throughout the 19th Century, the Irish became the most numerous Anglo- immigrants in lower Canada. In Quebec, there were Irish who developed distinct ethnic identities, yet most intermarried with French people and adopted the French language. It was a cultural exchange that would have a profound effect upon traditional music in that province. One of the richest fiddle regions in Quebec surrounds the town of Joliette, north of Montreal. In this French speaking district, Irish music heroes, such as Michael Coleman and James Morrison, are admired alongside Joseph Allard and Jean Carignan, heroes of the Québécois tradition. It was this region that gave birth to La Bottine Souriante. Andre Marchand, Lisa Ornstein, and Normand Miron were all members of La Bottine Souriante (Andre, a founding member), and today, they play as a trio. Their sound harkens back to those early La Bottine days. The two reels on this track might well have started their lives as Irish reels. The irregular measure structure betrays French adaptation. It should come as no surprise that in recent years, these two reels eventually found their way to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. Traditional music often finds its way back home.

8. Margaret Bennett

Oran Chaluim Sgaire (traditional) - Arranged by Martyn Bennett

Margaret Bennett: Vocals
Hamish Napier: Accordion and flute
Findlay Napier: Guitar and vocals
Gillian Frame: Fiddle and vocals
Martyn Bennett: Fiddle, viola, flute, whistle, and vocals (bass)

From the album IN THE SUNNY LONG AGO|
Courtsey of Footstompin' Records
Produced by Martyn Bennett
Recorded 2000, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Scottish singer and folklorist Margaret Bennett has unique connections with Canadian folk history. She authored Oatmeal and the Catechism: Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Quebec, (McGill- Queen's University Press) and The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions of Newfoundland (Breakwater Books), which are two important documentaries on isolated Gaelic cultures. The latter focuses on the Codroy Valley of Newfoundland and its unique Gaelic customs. The Codroy Valley is located on the extreme southwestern corner of the province, in near proximity to Cape Breton. From 1825 - 1845, the valley was settled by Scottish and Irish people who had travelled to Cape Breton first looking for a new home. The scarcity of land in Cape Breton led them across the water to this fertile valley. 

For THE LAST STRONGHOLD, Margaret collected numerous recordings of rare Gaelic songs, along with fiddle and pipe music. Margaret was brought up on the Isle of Skye, moved to the Shetland Islands, and eventually emigrated to Newfoundland in 1968. There, Margaret studied at Memorial University in St. John's, which led to her extensive field work on Gaelic traditions in that province. Her new album is a tribute to the countless kitchen sessions she experianced in Newfoundland. 

9. Joe Derrane, Frankie Gavin and Brian McGrath

Peter Feeney's Dream (Joe Derrane)
The Flower of the Flock (traditional) 

Joe Derrane: Button Accordion 
Frankie Gavin: Fiddle 
Brian McGrath: Piano 

From the album IRELAND'S HARVEST
|Courtesy of Mapleshade Records 
Produced by Paul MacDonald 
Recorded Oct. 2001, Maryland, USA 

The streets of Chicago would seem an unlikely place for the largest archival project in the history of Irish music. Yet, near the end of the 1800s, flute player and Chicago police chief Francis O'Neill collected and compiled several volumes of Irish dance music. As O'Neill once remarked, "The time was opportune then and will never occur again." Chicago was then home to musicians from all the counties of Ireland and host to a stream of visiting musicians. An excellent biography of O'Neill's extraordinary life is entitled A Harvest Saved (Ossian) by Nicholas Carolan. The legacy of O'Neill's work can be heard throughout the first 78RPM recordings released in America. Michael Coleman, James Morrison, and The Flanagan Brothers were all prolific recording artists during this period, and O'Neill received credit as the source of much of their repertoire. The impact of the 78RPMs reached around the world. When Joe Derrane prepared for his first 78RPM recording sessions in 1947, he turned to O'Neill's Collection. Thirty years later, on a visit to New York City, Frankie Gavin, a young Galway fiddler, heard these discs for the first time. He found a new hero. Frankie eventually recorded many of Joe's settings with his band DeDannen. In 1993, Joe returned to "the music" after a hiatus of over twenty-five years. Again, he turned to O'Neill's Collection to learn the current repertoire. It has been a new career for Joe since returning to "the music" with three albums and concerts around the world. Joe and Frankie first played together at the 1997 Tondor Festival. Last year, Joe and Frankie recorded IRELAND'S HARVEST as a tribute to the great masters from "The Golden Age of Irish Music in America."

10. Dave MacIsaac with Mary Jessie MacDonald

Johnny Galbraith (Nathaniel Gow)
The Tweeddale Club (traditional)
Miss Campbell of Menzie (Daniel Dow)
The Merry Lads of Ayr (traditional)
The Marquis of Queensbury (traditional)

Dave MacIsaac: Guitar
Mary Jessie MacDonald: Piano|

From the album FROM THE ARCHIVES
Courtesy of Dave MacIsaac
Produced by Dave MacIsaac
Recorded 1999, Halifax, N.S.

During the 1940s, a young piano player named Mary Jessie MacDonald often sat in the balcony of the Strand Theater in New Waterford, Cape Breton. There, she would listen to The Gibb Whitney Orchestra, a popular Sydney jazz band. Mary Jessie was drawn to the sound of the acoustic bass. The bass player, "Wooden Allan" MacDonald, would have a profound effect on this young piano player and her style of piano accompaniment for traditional music. She introduced walking bass lines to Cape Breton music. In the early 50s, when Mary Jessie moved to Boston, she would carry that style with her.Mary Jessie became the "fiddler's choice" for piano accompaniment. There, she would make numerous home-recordings. Mary Jessie's left-hand bass lines distinguished her from the other piano players.

In Halifax of the 1970s, guitarist Dave MacIsaac gleaned these bass lines from his archives of home recordings of Winston Fitzgerald, Angus Chisholm, and Joe MacLean. Dave also emulated Mary Jessie's syncopated rhythms and seamless marriage of harmony and melody. Through this adaptation, Dave MacIsaac would become an innovative pioneer of the Celtic guitar. Dave and Mary Jessie would eventually perform together on many occasions, including Expo '86 in Vancouver. In 1997, he recorded, along with Mary Jessie, on Natalie MacMaster's album, MY ROOTS ARE SHOWING. Two years later, Dave recorded with Mary Jessie, as his accompanist, on his latest album, FROM THE ARCHIVES.

11. Joe Peter MacLean

Òran Mór MhicLeòid (traditional) 

Joe Peter MacLean: Fiddle, Gaelic vocals
John MacLean: Highland pipes

Courtesy of Joe Peter MacLean 
Produced by Paul MacDonald 
Recorded 2002, North River, N.S.

Along the shores of the Bras d'Or Lakes of Cape Breton, lay the communities of Boisdale, Beaver Cove, and Christmas Island. During the 19th Century, these communities all had "rear lands" that were home to an isolated Gaelic culture. These communities were known as "rear of Boisdale," "rear of Beaver Cove," and "rear of Christmas Island." There, before the age of the railway, the settlers braved the harshest of winters. Yet, they responded to their hardships with poetry, Gaelic songs, fiddle music, and pipe music. However, the coming of the railroad along the Bras d'Or Lakes was the beginning of the depopulation of the rear lands. Many residents moved inland to work closer to the railroad. Coal and Steel industries also attracted people away from all the isolated communities. Today, all that remains are rock piles and old apple trees, yet the music and Gaelic songs have adapted to the new centuries.

Joe Peter MacLean was raised in McAdam's Lake, near the rear of Bosidale, in a Gaelic speaking family. Today, he is one of the few remaining Gaelic speaking fiddlers on the entire island of Cape Breton. He is recognized in Scotland and throughout the Celtic world for his unique talents. A Gaelic singer as well, Joe carries on the age-old tradition of community musician and performs on a regular basis throughout the Christmas Island district and throughout Cape Breton. On this recording, Joe blends the three traditions from his community heritage: Gaelic song, the fiddle, and the pipes.

12. Fine Friday

Cold Blow (traditional) (arranged by Fine Friday) 

Kris Drever: Vocals and guitar
Anna-Wendy Stevenson: Fiddle 
Nuala Kennedy: Flute and vocals 

From the album GONE DANCING 
Courtesy of Footstompin' Records
Produced by Ian Carr 
Recorded 2002, Penicuik, Scotland 

Edinburgh of the mid-18th Century gave birth to an intellectual and artistic flowering that is often referred to as the "Scottish Enlightenment." Classical music and traditional music thrived in Edinburgh during this period, and many composers were involved in both realms of music. In the Scottish Highlands, this period was also known as the "Golden Age of Fiddle Music" Edinburgh would play an important role in the publishing of traditional music from the Highlands. Many of the great collections were published there. With the coming of Irish immigrants, Edinburgh would become one of the important crossroads for musicians throughout the British Isles. Today, Edinburgh still hosts a vibrant sub-culture of traditional music. There, paths cross for musicians from Scotland, Cape Breton, Shetland, Orkney, Ireland, and many parts of Europe.

The Edinburgh night-life consists of an ever-changing lineup of Celtic bands, duos, and trios. In fact, many of Edinburgh's musicians play in several bands. This intermingling is true of Fine Friday. This Edinburgh-based trio of session musicians includes singer and guitarist Kris Drever, who was born in Orkney, Scotland. Flute player Nuala Kennedy is originally from Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland. In 1995, Nuala moved to Edinburgh as a student and has been a regular session player since that time. Edinburgh born fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson studied classical music and toured in America before returning to Edinburgh and to traditional music.

13. Shawn MacDonald

The Weeping Birches (J.S. Skinner) 

Shawn MacDonald: Fiddle 
Mary Jessie MacDonald: Piano 

Courtesy of Shawn MacDonald 
Produced by Paul MacDonald 
Recorded 2002, Lingan, Cape Breton 

The Scottish composer James Scott Skinner remains a controversial figure in the history of Scottish fiddle music. This fiddler rose to fame in the late 19th Century, bridging a gap between traditional and classical music. Perhaps this controversy has been due in part to the rather large opinion Skinner held of himself. Indeed, Skinner deplored ancient trademarks, such as the "doodle," a bowing grace note called a "cut" in Cape Breton. All arguments aside, Skinner's music stands on its own. Seventy-five years after his death, Skinner's music has made a home alongside the traditional repertoire. In Cape Breton, countless Skinner tunes are part of the daily repertoire of Cape Breton fiddlers and are played in front parlors, on dance floors, and in concert halls.

Shawn MacDonald is a unique fiddler in the Cape Breton tradition. As a young boy in the early 1980s, Shawn traveled to Scotland to study with Tom Anderson at Sterling University. There, he would learn much of the Aberdeen repertoire, which, of course, included Skinner's music. Shawn also studied with Aly Bain. Forging his own unique style, Shawn was drawn to the great Scottish tradition of pastoral airs. On this recording, Shawn performs Skinner's air, "The Weeping Birches." This air was popular during the 1940s and 50s with Winston Fitzgerald and Angus Chisholm.

14. Colin Watson

Ged A Sheòl Mi Air M'Aineol (traditional)

Colin Watson: Gaelic vocals

Addtional milling singers include: Mary Jane Lamond, Maxie MacNeil, Jim Watson, Hector MacNeil, Frances MacEachen, Peter MacLean, Jeff MacDonald, Joe Peter MacLean, Beth MacNeil, Allan MacLeod, Jamie MacNeil, Rod C. MacNeil, Seamus MacNeil, and Angus MacLeod.


Courtesy of Féis an Eilein
Produced by Wendy Bergfeldt
Recorded April 2002, Christmas Island

In the early 1950s, Cape Breton Gaelic singing was a curiosity to an influential group of folklorists in New York City. This tight-knit group of folklorists included Moe Asche, Sidney Robertson Cowell, Diane Hamilton, and Ralph Rinzler. Cowell and millionaire-folklorist Hamilton independently came to Cape Breton during the summer of 1953 to conduct field recordings, and each published their recordings in 1955. In 1964, after reviewing the work of both Hamilton and Cowelle, folklorist Ralph Rinzler followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and recorded many of the same Gaelic singers.

Rinzler returned in 1966, and eventually, he compiled more than fourty audio reels of traditional Gaelic music. All of these important recordings mark a period of transition for milling songs within the Gaelic tradition. By the 1950s, the role of milling frolics in the community already began to change from the necessary task of shrinking wool to an evening's entertainment for the community and for tourists.

The North Shore Gaelic Singers grew out of this period, and they gave much inspiration to Gaelic singers and communities throughout the island. One of these communities is Christmas Island, which hosts Féis an Eilein (Festival of the Island), an annual program of workshops and concerts. This year, they released an album of Gaelic songs entitled CÒMHLA CRUINN (GATHERED TOGETHER).

The lead singer here, Colin Watson, is the youngest singer on the recording, yet he was raised with Gaelic as his first language. He is also a member of a new Cape Breton group called Triskele.


Jigs and Bulls (C. Nunez)

Carlos Nunez: Gaitae and bagpipes 

Donal Lunny: Bodhran and bouzouki 
Juan Manuel Cañizares: Flamacoe guitar 
Carles Benavent: Bass and percussion 

From the album OS AMORES LIBRES 
Courtesy of BMG Canada 
Produced by Donal Lunny 
Recorded 2000, Dublin, Ireland 

Galicia and Asturies, located in the highland regions of Spain, host a mysterious traditional music, a blend of ancient Celtic repertoire with flamenco rhythms. There are also elements of Andalusian music (from the north of Morocco) amongst the many connections of this music. During Franco's rule of Spain (1939 - 1975), flamenco traditions overshadowed northern traditions, and it was not until the 1970s that Celtic-based traditions came to light. As piper Carlos

Nunez said, "In Galicia, our Celtic connections came out, and we looked north." He also looked west. Carlos found that the music followed the immigration routes to places such as Venezuela and Cuba, where there is Galician pipe music today. His research into traditional music also took him to North Africa. Reconstructing the Galician piping tradition, Carlos took inspiration from Scottish and Irish pipers.

Carlos was thirteen years old when The Chieftains came to his village to play. He pointed out the similarities between the Galician and the Irish music to piper Paddy Maloney. Eventually, Carlos became a guest member of The Chieftains, with whom he has toured the world. Today, his music has taken its place within the Celtic realm and on the world stage. Carlos recently recorded on Sharon Shannon's album THE DIAMOND MOUNTAIN SESSIONS.On his latest album, Carlos involved numerous Irish musicians, including Donal Lunny and Frankie Gavin. OS AMORES LIBRES includes more than eighty-one guest musicians and unravels the mysteries of Galician music and its unique connections to a variety of world music.


16. John MacLean

Hey Johnny Strathspey (traditional)
Hey Johnny Reel (traditional)
Mary Jane Currie's Reel (traditional)
The Bird's Nest (traditional pipe setting)

John MacLean: Highland pipes 

Courtesy of John MacLean 
Produced by Paul MacDonald 
Recorded 2002, North River, N.S. 

One of the great strongholds of pipe music during the 18th Century was the Scottish island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Many of the immigrants from South Uist to Cape Breton settled in the communities of East Bay, Frencvale, McAdam's Lake, and Boisdale. There, they nurtured strong piping traditions well into the last century. A fire-tower watchman from this district, who worked throughout the 1930s and 40s, remarked that he could often hear pipe music in all directions. Actually, in this district, the pipes were the featured instrument for step-dancing and set- dancing.

One of the most notable piping families of that era was the Currie family. Brothers Paddy and Alex Currie were outstanding pipers in their day. They played for dancers throughout their long careers. Alex Currie, one of Cape Breton's great improvisers, never gave up the old-time pipe style learned as a young boy. He would become a hero to the old-time piping revival and gave his last performance during the 1997 Celtic Colours festival. Alex's nephew, John MacLean, continues this tradition. His father was Johnny MacLean, another noted fiddler from Washabuck. Johnny "Washabuck" hosted numerous house parties in his Toronto home during the 1960s. There, young John met the likes of Winston Fitzgerald, Johnny Wilmot, and Bill Lamey. Returning to Cape Breton in the early eighties, John made visits to Alex's home in Frenchvale, adopting much of his repertoire. Today, John is recognized as one of the finest exponents of old-time bagpipe music.

17. Cucanandy

The Wounded Hoosier (traditional)

Jasan Cade: Fiddle 
Mike Casey: Flute, dulcimer, and guitar 
Malke Rosenfeld: Flute 

From the album HE DIDN'T DANCE 
Courtesy of Cucanandy 
Produced by Pete Sutherland 
Recorded 1999, Charlotte, Vermont

Much of what is known today as "old-time" American music began its life with the Irish and Scottish immigrants who took routes in the southern Appalachian Mountains throughout the early 1800s. The music did not remain trapped in the mountains. Rather, the changing forces of politics and the labor movement would ensure a life stream for old-time music. The American Civil War played a great role in dispersing this music throughout North America. For example, one Confederate company alone, from the Barksdale's Mississippians, was comprised of ninety men, seventy-five of whom were fiddlers. Eventually, old-time fiddle music became culturally embedded in nearly every state of America. The traditional music landscape of America would become a kaleidoscope of regional styles.

A few old-time tunes even filtered their way up to Cape Breton during the early part of the last century. Today, even though the original melodies have been transformed many times over, strains of the early fiddle and bagpipe music can still be heard throughout the current American old-time repertoire. "The Wounded Hoosier" is a fine example. Cucanandy learned this air from a 1940 acetate disc of fiddler Marcus Martin (1881-1974), who lived in North Carolina. On this recording, Cucanandy brings this plaintiff air back home through a distinctively Celtic interpretation of early American heritage. Based in North Carolina, Cucanandy specializes in Celtic music and dance from Ireland, Canada, Scotland, and the American South.


18. The Alison Brown Quartet

Lorelei (Alison Brown) 

Alison Brown: Banjo and guitar 
John R. Burr: Piano and keyboards
Garry West: Bass 
Kendrick Freeman: Drums

From the album REPLAY
Courtesy of Compass Records
Produced by Gary West
Recorded 2000, Nashville 

Eventually, "old-time" music converged on large cities in the American heartland. String bands were firmly entrenched by the early 1920s, an era that saw the birth of live radio broadcasts. Nashville, Tennessee, of course, is considered the birthplace of country music, and there, the GRAND OLE OPRY featured America's early string bands. The expansion of the recording industry during the 1920s brought this music to a national audience. From the 1927 BRISTOL SESSIONS, a collection of more than seventy-six 78RPM sides, the Victor Recording Company would fulfill the public's fascination with this new genre of music. In 1939, mandolin player Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys joined the Grand Ole Opry. 

The style known today as "bluegrass" was born. Country music would go its own way. Determined to carve out a sound of his own, Monroe gave new life to great old music. The banjo, which had its meager beginnings as a "gourd" type instrument brought to America from Africa, became the foundation of the "high lonesome sound." Nashville-based banjo player Alison Brown is at the forefront of contemporary bluegrass music. For the banjo, Alison has championed a "mellow" sound and has introduced the banjo to a much wider audience through her genre-bending excursions. Alison began playing the banjo at age ten, and, as a teenager in San Diego, performed as a member of several bluegrass bands. She toured as a member of the Alison Krauss Band before founding the Alison Brown Quartet in 1993.

19. Sharon Shannon with Natalie MacMaster

Union Street Session (Paul Cranford / SOCAN)
The Primrose Lass (traditional)
The Gravel Walk (traditional)

Sharon Shannon: Button accordion
Mary Shannon: Mandolin
Natalie MacMaster: Fiddle
Dounough Hennessy: Guitar
Trevor Hutchinson: Bass
Mathew Foulds: Congas

Courtsey of The Daisy Label
Produced by Paul MacDonald
Recorded October 1997, Point Aconi, Cape Breton

The great Donegal fiddler John Doherty once said, "There is only a paper wall between Irish and Scottish music." The same can be said of Irish and Cape Breton music. This close relationship in music was the case in 1997, when fiddler Natalie MacMaster joined Sharon Shannon for a Celtic Colours festival performance and for this rare recording. They had met several years before in Washington, D.C., and their paths had crossed just a few other times in their careers. Yet, when they got together for this recording, there was an instant rapport. They cut two tracks that afternoon, "The Magic Foot" and "Union Street Session." "The Magic Foot" was released on the 1998 Celtic Colours compilation and on a compilation of Sharon's music, THE BEST OF SHARON SHANNON.

Paul Cranford composed "Union Street Session" for fiddler Kyle MacNeil of the Barra MacNeils. Sharon had learned the tune previously that year from Natalie, who was visiting Galway during Easter. On that visit, Sharon's brother, Gary, played the second reel on the flute. "The Gravel Walk" is a tune shared by both traditions and Natalie recorded it on her last CD, LIVE. Sharon played "Union Street" as her opening number during the 1997 Celtic Colours festival, which was her first visit to Cape Breton. It was the beginning of a week of magic. The reel immediately became the most popular tune of the week during the after-hours sessions until it was eventually replaced by "The Magic Foot." 

Also Available

Vol. 10 2 CD set
Live at Celtic Colours - $25.00
compiled from recordings made on festival stages from 1997-2005

 Other Recordings

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