various artists,
Failte: A Cape Breton Welcome
(Celtic Music Interpretive
Centre Society, 2006)

What better way to open up a new building that's focused on the preservation and promotion of Cape Breton's Celtic music than to compile a sampler CD of some of the finest Cape Breton/Scottish-Canadian musicians who are active in the Cape Breton music scene right now?

That's what Kinnon Beaton, the music director at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique, did. Because of the generosity of many musicians who donated a track to the CD (and all who were asked gave unhesitatingly, Kinnon said), a compilation CD called Failte: A Cape Breton Welcome is a warm welcome to all, encouraging them to come to the centre, to Inverness County and to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The musicians are all established players ranging from ages 80 (Buddy MacMaster) to nearly 18 (Isaac Fraser), while the rest fall somewhere in between.

The fiddle is king, and Buddy opens the CD with a lilting set of tunes cut from The Judique Flyer album called "E Minor Jigs" and graced with the accompaniment of Mac Morin and Gordie Sampson. The artist list continues: Ian MacDougall, Glenn Graham, Robbie and Isaac Fraser, Natalie MacMaster, Karen Beaton -- wait 'til I catch my breath -- while Ryan MacNeil provides the sole piping track and Mac Morin and Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac produce fantastic piano cuts from each of their own albums.

Raylene Rankin sings "Oran Chalum Sgaire," Troy MacGillivray does his own fiddle and piano superbly on a few "Hornpipes." Andrea Beaton and Kinnon Beaton each deliver dance music that virtually flows from their fiddles, respectively "C for Corona" and "Fit for Life."

Rodney MacDonald comes across with a waltz and Howie MacDonald plays mainly clogs with his usual acumen; Mairi Rankin joins the group with "Hey Johnny M," a medley from her album First Hand. Shelly Campbell and Wendy MacIsaac bring on the final two tracks. Shelly's is a live recording from West Mabou Hall called "G Jigs: A Nod to Stephanie," while Wendy's is "The Studio Square Set" from the album That's What You Get. Luckily, there's a list inside the liner notes of the albums each cut comes from, and the names of many accompanists are noted there, too.

Quick thinkers will realize that Troy MacGillivray is from the mainland, over Antigonish way, but there's a shared connection in that area of Nova Scotia to the origins of the music, and Troy enjoys that heritage. The MacDonald blood travels well and remembers from whence it came.

Here's a real taste of great Cape Breton music for you with a mixture of styles and types of traditional music. Fiddle tunes make up a major portion of the CD, but the piano and piping and Gaelic singing selections are strong enough to make you appreciate their inclusion and, as you will hear in Cape Breton, these often add another dimension to the fiddle, as accompaniment.

Inverness County, on the western side of Cape Breton, is filled with music all summer long. In the fall (October) the whole island wakes up to the sound of music with the Celtic Colours International Festival. This CD is a good one to introduce you to the Cape Breton sound or, if you're a native CB-er, take you back home in music.

I have to admit that this is music from my home area and, though I've tried to be discerning, a love for this type of music makes me enthusiastic about it all. The reader can take this review from there and decide its worth.

by Virginia MacIsaac
30 September 2006