Minnie White,
The Hills of Home
(Singsong, 1994)

This is the fourth recording by Minnie White, who is known as the "first lady of the accordion" in Newfoundland. The talented Mrs. White was born in 1916 and grew up playing accordion, fiddle and mouth organ. She took a bit of a musical lull to raise her family and then in the late 1960s she returned in full force to the music scene.

I was aware that she had been regaled with many awards in the latter part of her life. She received the Harry Hibbs' Award for East Coast Music and the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Association, and was inducted into the Order of Canada and the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council Hall of Honour for her contributions to the music culture of Canada and Newfoundland.

She had a regular gig for 13 years at a Newfoundland hotel, she hired back-up bands and she composed many tunes. On this CD are 22 tunes she had never recorded before and five of them are her own compositions. These are "Rambling Jig," "Waltz to The Hills of Home," "Coastal Memories," "Viking Jig" and "Rock Island Waltz."

The rest are traditional tunes. Minnie lived for a while in the Codroy Valley of Newfoundland, an area that was well populated by Cape Bretoners of Irish and Scottish descent, where she accompanied many fiddlers at community dances. The list of traditional tunes includes the likes of "Polly's Jig," "Dance With the Girl with the Red Dress On," "Blue Skirt Waltz" and "Rock the Baby." "My Mother Won't Let Me Marry" is a vocal number that fits right in with a cheery, lively melody.

There's not one of these that I'd remove from the CD. They are all excellent renditions in a dynamic playing style. If you're not a big fan of the accordion, this is the CD that could actually change that. The band accompanying Minnie on the arrangements are worth mentioning for that reason: Rick Hollett does piano, flute and tambourine; Fergus O'Byrne adds banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, 12-string guitar, bodhran, tabletops, spoons and a variety of sticks; Dave Panting adds bass and mandolin; and Jim Payne plays guitar and mandolin.

If you haven't heard Minnie White play accordion, you are missing out on hearing one of the most accomplished players of that instrument. If you are a fan of traditional Scots-Irish fiddle, you will like this CD because she makes her accordion produce music that sounds much like that of a fiddle.

What else I pick up from this CD is the notion that, similar to Cape Breton's Buddy MacMaster, Minnie White plays music for dancers and dancing. Even her waltzes have a good swing to them.

Minnie's music is the real thing and right up there in the best Celtic tradition of the Atlantic Provinces. Though Minnie White died in 2001, she leaves a gallant legacy. For proof of that, take a listen to this recording. I can't even say I don't like listening to accordion music any more.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 22 March 2003