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

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