Wendy MacIsaac,
Timeline
(self-produced, 2003)

Despite her high profile as one of two fiddlers fronting Beolach, one of Cape Breton's best congregations of musical talent, Wendy MacIsaac also remains one of the island's top young solo fiddlers. So the release of a new solo CD, Timeline, is cause for celebration.

Of course, Timeline is a solo album in name only; in the Cape Breton tradition, MacIsaac gets a lot of help from her friends. Her friends, mind you, are a Who's Who of local talent, including Patrick Gillis, Dave MacIsaac and Gordie Sampson on guitar, Tracey Dares, Howie MacDonald, Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac, Mac Morin and Stephanie Wills on piano, Ryan MacNeil on pipes, Ed Woodsworth on double bass and Matthew Foulds on snare drum. Dunn-MacIsaac and Wills add some additional fiddles on one track, and Mary Jane Lamond, in whose support band MacIsaac played for years, lends Gaelic vocals on "An T-Alltan Dubh." MacIsaac of course supplies fiddle throughout, but also adds piano and banjo here and there.

You expect fine fiddling from MacIsaac, and it's here in spades. The CD is packed with great traditional tunes, as well as pieces from contemporary Cape Breton scribes. MacIsaac, a strong and emotional fiddler, captures the freshness of a live performance with her studio work.

The album also has a number of nice, personal touches. Some can be found in the liner notes, from the sleepy-eyed cover photo to the collection of family pictures, including MacIsaac as a young girl and her brothers -- two of them, Glen and Blaise, died young and are commemorated here. Foremost among the personal touches are found on the CD itself; her grandfather, diddling along with the jaw harp on track 1, her grandmother "jigging a tune" while her mother stepdances on track 8, and Baby Wendy, all of 3 years old, awkwardly singing a few jigs with youthful enthusiasm to end the recording.

Wendy MacIsaac is one of the best Cape Breton fiddlers on the circuit, and Timeline is a wonderful new collection from this fantastic artist.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 1 November 2003

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