Chrissy Crowley,
The Departure
(independent, 2010)

My week in Cape Breton, already filled with great music, became immeasurably better once I bumped into Chrissy Crowley in a hall at the Gaelic College one night during the 2012 Celtic Colours International Festival.

Chrissy, a native of Margaree, is one of the best and brightest among Cape Breton's fertile field of rising young fiddle stars and, during our conversation there, she dug into her bag and produced a copy of The Departure, her second and most recent CD. (A new one, she assured me, is in the works and likely to be released early in 2013.)

Let me tell you, I was in Cape Breton, and that meant a lot of fiddle music was coming my way. All of it was good -- most of it, very good -- but not one CD I heard this week provided me with the pure listening pleasure that Chrissy gave me with The Departure.

It's an obvious pun, and yet I can't resist stating that this album is a departure from the norm. There are certain standard ingredients to any Cape Breton fiddle album, and Chrissy here proves her mastery of the technique time and time again. But at the same time there are intriguing stylistic shifts and nontraditional variations here that proclaim a new generation's desire to take those traditions in exciting new directions.

Besides Chrissy's fiddle, the album features Jason Roach (one of the island's most muscular piano players and Chrissy's brother-in-law) on keyboards, Ian Hayes on guitar, banjo, fiddle and ude, and, on one track, Pepito Pinto on steel pans.

Yeah, the pans add a different kind of island sound to the recording -- a departure that is not overused, but adds a hint of Caribbean spice where needed. There are touches of funk here and Latin music there, and Chrissy's brief but lively notes in the liner help connect the listener to the origins of her tune selections. Throughout, her playing is tight and fluid, her arrangements inventive, the overall package a treat.

Yes, Virginia, you'll find plenty of the jigs, reels and strathspeys you expect on a Cape Breton recording. But Departure proves that a traditional fiddler can listen to other styles of music and even incorporate a few unusual permutations into her music and make it sound fresh, exciting, invigorating and just plain fun.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

24 November 2012

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