Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, The Heart of Cape Breton

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A place where traditions remain, Scotland and Canada meet and history is a tale of the present.

Cape Breton, on Canada's Eastern coast, was home to a lot of Scots immigrants, who brought over the tradition of house dances, as well as their music. Both remain largely intact, as this live album recorded at different small venues along the Cape attests. The family names — Beaton, MacIsaac, MacMaster — have been here for generations, and the ceilidh music they make with fiddle and piano is a glorious invitation to dance. Buddy MacMaster (uncle and teacher to Natalie) is a standout on "The Way to Judique," but everything is jubilant and played with glee. The tunes all have their roots quite firmly in the old country, but there's a definite New World brashness to the playing, assertive and muscular (as it would need to be to entertain a dancing crowd). This is a place where the traditions have remained long after the wave of immigrants has died, where Scotland and Canada meet and where history is very much a tale of the present.