Tee & Tunes
at Wagmatcook Cultural & Heritage Centre, Wagmatcook, Cape Breton
(12 October 2013)

As always, I'm so excited to be back in Cape Breton for Celtic Colours. This is my 10th year attending the festival, and with the lineup this year, if you're a Celtic music enthusiast, you'll understand why I keep coming back as you read my reviews.

Emceeing this show was none other than Dan MacDonald. He volunteers at the festival every year and is someone I look forward to seeing each time I'm here.

To open the concert were Cape Bretoners Mairi Rankin, Mac Morin and Matt MacIsaac. This only magnified my excitement. The three of them all tour with different groups now, but to hear them as a trio is a treat. They have done a wonderful job of spreading and sharing Cape Breton tradition, and tonight was no different, with lively fiddle and pipe tunes, accompanied with the fun bass runs and syncopated rhythms on the piano. The group's music and humor are very engaging for the audience. They played a mix of old tunes and ones they composed. I really enjoyed the waltz that Rankin and MacIsaac wrote for Veronica MacIsaac, Matt's sister. To end their set, Rankin and Morin wowed the crowed with some fancy footwork. They were so in sync, if I wasn't looking, I'd have thought it was just one dancer. They got the audience clapping as Matt went into some upbeat pipe tunes. In their short set, the trio put on a fantastic show and gave the crowd a good dose of Cape Breton music.

After a nice introduction from MacDonald, the group Dry Bones took the stage. They are a folk song/bluegrass band from Winnipeg. The group includes Nathan Rogers, Leonard Podolak, J.D. Edwards and Gilles Fournier. From their first note, they looked like they were having fun. Their music is totally not what I would associate with Celtic music, but they added a lot of variety to the mix in this show. Their music shows how Celtic music has spread, changed and become new styles. They have some very good singers in the band and they're creative writers. A song that Nathan wrote, called "The Turning," was beautiful. It was about being away from home and missing it. Their vocals included some really nice harmonies, as well. To top it off, and for something totally different, they did a song from the 1920s, complete with hand jiving and an instrument that sounds like duck calls. I enjoyed them.

After the intermission was the amazing trio, The Teetotallers. The group includes John Doyle, Martin Hayes and Kevin Crawford. They're all incredible musicians individually, so as you can probably imagine, they fit together beautifully as a trio. They began with lilting reels and I immediately heard toes tapping along. They followed with some equally as lilting jigs and then a song called "Wicked Belfast Man," which highlighted Doyle's fancy finger work on guitar and clear vocals. Hayes introduced the next set as "a Clare set. Therefore it's slow." He went on to say, "The slower and sadder the tunes are, the happier we feel." The audience loved his humor before the "sad" tunes, which actually ended up being slow, but lively and driving. All three of them were bobbing their heads in time with the music. I was blown away by another set of reels Hayes played, which received a standing ovation. Doyle and Hayes were moving so much, I thought they might actually take off. I could see that they were really enjoying playing together. The Teetotallers put on a great show.

I have come to several concerts in Wagmatcook over the years and I've loved every one of them. As the festival program says, "It'll take a strong cup of tea indeed to stand up to such a formidable collection of performers. So, off I go to Tim Horton's to take that on.

review by
Kaitlin Hahn

23 November 2013

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