Howie & Ashley

Howie MacDonald & Ashley MacIsaac
Cape Breton Fiddle Music -Not Calm



01. Intro, Ashley
02. Old Time Wedding Reel Medley
03. Mocking Bird Medley
04. Buttermilk Mary Medley
05. Constitution Breakdown Medley
06. River Bend, Mason's Apron Medley
07. Tulloch Gorm Medley


Feet Stomping Wild.....

 Two of Cape Breton's finest fiddlers team up for their first recording together..... Howie MacDonald and Ashley MacIsaac...and if that is NOT enough...it was recorded live with all the energy found in a typical Maritime Pub. Cape Breton Fiddle Music NOT CALM is Howie's 9th album and Ashley's 7th. Both appear on numerous compilations including the new " more Bridges 2 cross " coming this summer 2001. There are tons of tunes here for you to stomp your feet to and maybe have a swing around the kitchen...


Don't expect to sit back and relax! It's anything but calm! This one gets the heart racing- and the china bouncing off the cabinet! The whole album is very raw and exciting, giving you ten times more pleasure than you paid for.

Absolutely amazing players -I was delighted to hear my own personal all-time favourite tune "Welcome to the Shetlands" by Willie hunter, performed by Howie and Ashley, probably the best rendition I have ever heard. The piano on "Mocking Bird Medley" is absolutely outstanding; On this album Howie plays guitar and piano, as well as fiddle, beautifully, and in true Cape Breton style, multi-talented to say the very least, He was awarded Roots/Traditional Artist of the Year Award, 1991 (E.C.M.A.); and nominated for several others.

Fellow "Caper", Ashley MacIsaac, is a step - dancing explosion of energy, drive and talent; an outstanding player; it's difficult to believe he is only 26. I was not surprised to learn he is a cousin of Nova Scotia's Natalie MacMaster. It figures!

You'll be tapping your feet from beginning to end of this hour-long fabulous performance of almost 70 well-known fiddle tunes, and then you will want to play it again and again.

'NOT CALM' was inspired by the death of a close mutual friend of Howie and Ashley's - John Morris Rankin. It was recorded live 'off the floor', in various pubs throughout Nova Scotia in spring 2000 but wasn't released until spring 2001. The tunes are very off- the-cuff and spontaneous - as you can tell! The fact that it falters at times and the odd mistake here and there, prove that it is live and unrehearsed - this makes it all the more special. You can hear the audience cheering and the sound of feet stomping on the floor, you can feel the energy, and it's almost as if they are playing in your own living room! Although Ashley and Howie have played gigs together on and off for many years, this is their first recording together, NOT CALM is Howie's ninth recording and Ashley's seventh, Both appear on numerous compilations including the new " more bridges 2 cross" coming this summer 2001, personally, I can't wait! On the last track, it comes to a very abrupt end as it cuts out mid-tune - I can only assume the tape ran out and the cut was too good to lose! Have you ever heard a CD end in mid air…………..?

This will be a favourite for decades to come.

They are definitely my "New Hero's"


Kirsty Robson

Review From www.livingtradition.co.uk




Mon Oncle - Best Fiddle On The Trail

Natalie & Buddy MacMaster
Traditional Music From Cape Breton Island



01. The King George Medley
02. The Little Pickle
03. Scourdiness
04. The Red Shoes
05. The Dougall Creature
06. Primrose Lasses
07. Iona House (Buddy solo)
08. The Stage
09. The Leg of the Duck
10. The Warlock
11. The Bonnie Lass of Headlake
12. Wilfred's Fiddle
13. The Ten Pound Fiddle (Natalie solo)

Tradtional Music from Cape Breton Island is a straight-ahead recording of classic Cape Breton medleys played a s duets by two of Cape Breton 's finest fiddlers.

There is a cassette tape I often listen to of uncle Buddy and John Morris Rankin at the firehall in Mabou in 1986.
It’s not of studio quality as it was recorded on an old cassette machine, but it is magic. I often play along with it.

It occurred to me one day that Buddy and I should record some of those tunes together in a studio, as we had never done so before. The music would be a keepsake for our family and we could have the option of using a track or two on one of our own future solo recordings.

After playing some of these great “Buddy tunes” together, we both felt quite good about the music and reached the conclusion that this recording should become its own CD – a permanent imprint of a family tradition passed down from uncle to niece. This tradition also includes my aunt (Buddy’s sister), Betty Lou Beaton on piano.

I have predominantly listened to Buddy’s fiddling throughout my life –on home recordings, at square dances and live at family gatherings and parties. He has influenced my fiddling immensely. This recording is a tribute to his music, our family traditions and to Cape Breton Island. ~~ Natalie MacMaster

Thank you to all the wonderful and generous people involved with this project, especially: Jennifer and Bob Quinn, Joe Whalen, Wally Hayes, Cheryl Smith, Shelly Campbell, Frank MacDonald, Andrea Beaton, Paul MacDonald, Linden MacIntyre, Donnell Leahy, Scott Lake, Minnie MacMaster, Barbara Battaglia.

A special thanks also to:

Betty Lou Beaton and Dave MacIsaac for their wonderful accompaniment, and to Genevieve Whalen and Alex MacMaster whose presence and opinion at the recording session meant more than they’ll ever know.

Thanks always to God for the beautiful gift of family and music.

Cape Breton Fiddlers 

Until the recent revival, fiddling had always been an amateur pursuit. Typical of the older generation of fiddlers was Dan R MacDonald (1911-76) who is credited with composing over 1,000 tunes; because he learned to read and write music, he was able to publish them. Bill Lamey (1914-91) lived much of his life in Boston, but established an outpost of Cape Breton life there, becoming President of the of Cape Breton Island Gaelic Foundation, promoting visits from fiddlers to Boston, where he ran regular dances. Jerry Holland (1955-2009) began playing at these dances, going on to perform regularly on the John Allen Cameron TV show, and publishing several collection of tunes. Though not a native, he lived on Cape Breton from 1975.

Buddy MacMaster was born into a Gaelic speaking family and the lilting of “mouth music” was his first introduction to the tunes played in Cape Breton. It is said that there is a strong link between the language and the true Cape Breton fiddle sound. Before he was given his first instrument as a child he would rub two sticks together in imitation of a fiddle. From 1943 he worked on the Canadian National Railway as a station agent and telegrapher. When working the night shift he would practice his fiddle between trains, and other agents would often tune in their radios to listen to him. Whilst he was a popular fiddler at dances for many years, it was not until later life, from the 70’s onwards, when he got the international recognition he deserved. He played in Scotland and England and in the US, and appeared on TV, radio and on albums.

Buddy’s niece Natalie MacMaster, born in 1972, had the benefit of much wider musical opportunities from a young age. As well as fiddling, she was singing Gaelic, step-dancing and playing piano from an early age. She was already recording and performing in her early teens, and in 1995 signed to Warner Brothers. Her good looks, charm and sunny personality, along with her simultaneous fiddling and step-dancing, made her an ideal figurehead for Cape Breton music in the wider world. Her 2002 album Blueprint was produced by fiddle maestro Darrol Anger and, with an interesting twist to her Cape Breton/Scottish roots, used some of America’s finest bluegrass players (they don’t come much better than Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Edgar Meyer!). Her albums draw on a variety of “outside” influences but remain very much rooted in the jigs, reels, strathspeys, airs and hornpipes of her native tradition. Typical of the welcome and generosity of that tradition is that on her website you will find free sheet music to most of the tunes she has recorded. She is married to fellow fiddler Donald Leahy, and though they have two separate musical careers they are often able to guest with one another’s bands. 

On a personal note:
Listen & rush out to buy all Canadian Fiddle records you can find!
I did and it was the best thing I did lately!

You need to hear some more?
Just hop over to my favourite blog lately who started the Fiddle Fever in me again:

Don't forget to say "Hello" and thanks for his labour of love : )

I shut up now.
and you


A mi me gusta la Plena!

Plena Libre - Mas Libre


01. La Plena Bien Sabrosa
02. Maria Luisa
03. El Bravo
04. Tema De Luis Gabriel
05. Chiviriquiton
06. Somos Diferentes
07. Malcria'o
08. Quiereme
09. A Mi Manera
10. Dos Ojos
11. Pa'qui Pa'lla

Plena Libre es:

GARY NUÑES - Bajo "baby" y eléctrico, coro y arreglos musicales, productor y direción musical
ISRAEL VELEZ - Pandero Seguidor 
ANGEL SANTIAGO - Pandero Seguidor
PABLO GONZALEZ - Güiro y percusión menor
VICTOR MUNIZ - Cantante, coro y punteador
RUBEN ROMAN - Cantante, coro y percusión menor
CARLOS "KALIE" VILLANUEVA - Cantante y Percusión menor
RAFAEL TORRES - Piano y teclados
EDWIN CLEMENTE - Timbal, batá y campana

Músicos Invitados:

JOSE ALBERTO "El Canário" Cantante en "Somos Diferentes"
NESTOR TORRES Flauta en " Tema de Luiz Gabriel"
PEPE LUCAS Piano en "Malcria'o"
CHARLIE SEPULVEDA Trumpeta en "El Bravo"
JORGE LABOY Guitarras en "El Bravo" y " Quiéreme"
FREDDIE DIAS Percusión brasileña en "El Bravo"
JUAN CASTILLO Sinfonía de mano en "Mária Luisa"
GEORGIE SALGADO Batería en "Quiéreme"
HECTOR PEREZ Güiro cubano y maracas en "El Bravo" y "Somos Diferentes"



 Founded by bassist Gary Nunez in 1994, Plena Libre reclaimed the long-ignored Puerto Rican folklore-derived plena style from the obscurity following its brief '50s/early-'60s popularity. Contemporary dance arrangements were all that was needed to return the style to prominence; the group's debut album, Juntos Y Revueltos, was recorded on a shoestring budget, but proved an instant sensation on the island. Subsequent recordings included an eponymous 1998 album, Plena Libre's first for the international market. Mas Libre followed two years later. 

Plena Libre revives the best of Puerto Rican musical traditions
By Jesse "Chuy" Varela

TALKING TO bassist Gary Nuñez, leader of the Puerto Rican ensemble Plena Libre, you realize he's on a mission to modernize some of the island's oldest beats with a new outlook. Born out of the island's Afro-Caribbean experience, the sounds of bomba y plena are what musically identify the African-Spanish heritage so prominent in its culture. Sometimes messing with tradition is not looked at favorably, but not with Plena Libre. "We're considered one of the top orchestras regardless of genre," says Nuñez in Spanish from his home in San Juan. "Yes, Plena Libre is a bomba y plena band, but people don't see us as that. We're like any other artists interpreting our music."
They are considered youthful revivalists who rescued a genre that fell into obscurity after its reign of popularity in the 1950s with pivotal figures like Rafael Cortijo and Ismael Rivera. Since its formation in 1994, Plena Libre has unclogged the cultural logjam against these folkloric forms and scored a hit with "El Party." As a result, the band has inspired many salseros and young Puerto Rican jazz artists to explore these traditional rhythms.    

The bomba y plena garnered a foothold as a popular expression in the late 1800s. During the Spanish-American War, the idiom served as the newspapers of the people as troubadours sang about events and prominent figures. It was largely a guitar and hand-percussion sound with soulful, tearful voices. In the 1920s, it migrated to New York City, and troubadours like Rafael Hernandez and Manuel Jimenez ("Canario") became the voice of the people. The essence of bomba y plena lies in its communal form as a percussive act of call and response. Plena Libre makes strong use of these rudiments, including the handheld panderetas, to pound out infectious beats on tambourinelike hand-drums without the metal shingles.
"We put the panderos back in fashion," Nuñez explains. "They disappeared with the music of Rafael Cortijo, who was the first to begin using conga drums to play bomba y plena. The panderos were forgotten. They are instruments that were invented to be played with this music. That's why we use them." From its 1995 self-produced debut CD, Cogelo, que ahi te va!, the 13-piece Plena Libre has stayed largely intact with virtuosic performers like conga-drummer Gina Villanueva and singer Giovanni Lugo. The band's latest album, Mas Libre (RykoLatino), features the prolific songwriting skills of Nuñez.
"For our generation, thematic subjects from a bygone era about sugarcane and trains don't connect," Nuñez says. "Our reality has to do more with cellphones and beepers. We're another generation that bring a different point of view which I try to reflect in the themes Plena Libre touches. I believe that we need to show who we are today as Puerto Ricans. So we do songs that touch on the question of Vieques and that articulate the sentiments of our people--in principle, we are still troubadours." 
 ...Whereas bomba is purely African origin, plena blends elements from Puerto Ricans' wide cultural backgrounds, including music that the Taíno tribes may have used during their ceremonies. This type of music first appeared in Ponce about 100 years ago, when performing the plena became a hallmark of Spanish tradition and coquetry.
Instruments used in plena include the güiro, a dried-out gourd whose surface is cuts with parallel grooves and, when rubbed with a stick, produces a raspy and rhythmical percussive noise. The Taínos may have invented this instrument. From the guitars brought to the New World by the Spanish "conquistadores" emerged the 10-stringed cuatro. To the güiro and cuatro added the tambourine, known as panderos, originally derived from Africa. Dancing plena became a kind of living newspaper. Singers recited the events of the day and often satirized local politicians or scandals. Sometimes plenas were filled with biting satire; at other times, they commented on major news events of the day, such as a devastating hurricane.

Bomba y plena remain the most popular forms of folk music on the island, and many cultural events highlight this music for entertainment. ...



Riley Baugus - Life of Riley


01. Cumberland Gap
02. Pretty Polly
03. John Brown's Dream
04. Big Liza's Christmas Holiday
05. Country Blues
06. June Apple
07. Sally Ann
08. Little Maggie
09. Cider
10. Half Shaved
11. Fortune
12. Little Satchel
13. Lost Lover Blues
14. Pouring Out Your Love

 hot platter!

High energy Old-Time clawhammer banjo from North Carolina with an emphasis on Round Peak style, featuring songs and tunes learned from great Old-Time players such as Tommy Jarrell, Dix Freeman, Fred Cockerham and Dock Boggs.

Riley Baugus is a second-generation banjo player and builder who spent many an hour in his youth visiting the great old-time musicians of Surry County, NC and Grayson County, VA, learning tunes from the likes of Fred Cockerham, Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Wade Ward, Dock Boggs and others. More than a little of the right stuff has rubbed off on this player; this self-produced collection of 14 sparkling tunes and songs -- chestnuts like "Cumberland Gap," "Pretty Polly," "Sally Ann," "Little Maggie" and more -- bears the definite imprint of these masters, and shows that these distinctive regional styles are in good hands for another generation.


"Most old-time musicians were not doing it to make a living," Baugus says. "Most of this music was played because people needed entertainment. It was a hard life: Quite often, you know, you'd go out and work in the fields all day, and when nightfall comes, you're tired and you want something different."


Riley Baugus represents the best of old time American banjo and song. His powerful singing voice and his expert musicianship place him squarely in the next generation of the quality American roots tradition.

Riley first came to music through his family. His father had left his roots in the mountains of North Carolina in the search for work, settling near Winston-Salem and bringing with him a love of old time music and a record collection that included, amongst others, the works of fellow North Carolinian Doc Watson, which touched the young Riley on a molecular level.

His family’s attendance at Regular Baptist church gave him early exposure to the unaccompanied singing that is a time-honored tradition for ballad singers throughout the Appalachians. Starting on the fiddle, Riley quickly moved on to the banjo, building his first instrument from scrap wood with his father.

With friend and neighbour, Kirk Sutphin, Riley began honing his musical skills. Together they visited elder traditional musicians throughout North Carolina and Virginia, learning the Round Peak style at the knee of National Heritage Award winner Tommy Jarrell and other traditional musicians of the area, including Dix Freeman, Chester McMillian and former Camp Creek Boys members Verlin Clifton and Paul Sutphin.

Over the years, whilst working as a weldor and a blacksmith by day, Riley played with many old time string bands, including the Old Hollow String Band and the Red Hots. His self-produced recording, "Life Of Riley" (Yodel-Ay-Hee, 2001), showcases his masterful, elegant banjo playing and his rich, raw boned singing voice.

One fateful day, Riley got a call from longtime friend and collaborator Dirk Powell. Dirk was involved in the music direction for the Academy Award-winning film "Cold Mountain" and had convinced the producers that they needed Civil War era banjos made in the Carolina hills, specifically Riley’s handmade banjos. They also needed an authentic acapella ballad singer for the voice of Pangle, played by Ethan Suplee. Riley put the hammer down on the anvil and didn’t look back. A whirlwind Hollywood experience ensued, culminating in a place on the star studded "Great High Mountain" tour.

From there, Riley has made his own path, building in-demand instruments and performing at festivals all over the world. He made musical contributions to the Appalshop film, "Thoughts In The Presence of Fear", and to a film by Erika Yeomans; "Grand Gorge: No God But Me". He has worked with the Lonesome Sisters as producer and performer on their recording "Going Home Shoes". Riley collaborated with Laurelyn Dossett and Preston Lane of Triad Stage on theatrical presentations featuring original and traditional southern Appalachian music.

His next recording, "Long Steel Rail" (Sugar Hill Records, 2006), produced by Tim O'Brien and Dirk Powell, appeared to critical acclaim, with Billboard Magazine heralding it as "..quintessential American old-time music. The instrumental component is impeccable, while Baugus' vocals sound like they've been echoing through the Appalachian Mountains for about 150 years."

In 2008, a call from T-Bone Burnett put Riley back in the studio in Nashville, this time as a contributor to the Grammy award winning Album Of The Year, "Raising Sand" - the multi-million selling album by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Two years later, Riley's banjo playing was featured on Willie Nelson's Grammy nominated recording "Country Music".

Riley has taught at camps and festivals around the world, including Augusta Heritage Festival and Augusta Old Time Week, Mars Hill College's Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week, Midwest Banjo Camp in Lansing, MI, the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA and Sore Fingers Week in the UK.

When not teaching or building banjos, Riley can be found out on the road performing. He plays with the Dirk Powell Band and with Kirk Sutphin. He is a frequent guest of Polecat Creek and of Tim O'Brien with Dirk Powell. With Ira Bernstein, he presents the show "Appalachian Roots", a unique showcase of Appalachian music and dance.


On Bulls, Art & Life

A Bull
Bull at night, Egypt
Mountains, Ararat
Old Tblisi
Seller of greens
October in Yerevan
Fruits on the blue plate

Martiros Saryan

Martiros Saryan (1880-1972) was an Armenian painter regarded for his masterful selection and use of color.

Inspired by the likes of Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse and Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin, Saryan captured a sentimental slice of Armenian life in his minimal landscapes, meticulous still lifes, and bold, honest portraiture.

Saryan studied at the Moscow School of Arts and traveled throughout the neighboring region before returning to live in Armenia in 1921. After spending the second half of the 1920s in Paris, Saryan returned to the Soviet Union, tragically losing most of his work from that period at the fault of a fire on board his homeward bound vessel.

Among praise in the Moscow press, Saryan received the Order of Lenin on numerous occasions, as well as a role as a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet. 


Nature's ways are wonderful and unfathomable. The grain swells in the soil, the sprout grows and flowers when the time comes and then it bears new fruit and so does not die. We are like grain. We never die because we are One with Nature. To understand this is to comprehend Immortality—the Apotheosis of the Human Race. It is with this conviction that I have lived my Life. My Life is a store of my experience, a Life of aspirations, sorrows, joys and triumphs. 
(M. Saryan)

Life is an island. People come out of the sea, cross the island, and return to the sea. But this short life is long and beautiful. In getting to know nature man exalts the wonder and beauty of life 
(M. Saryan)