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Natalie MacMaster at Glenn Gould Studios
Dec 2 1997

Natalie McMaster made a flying visit to the CBC's Glenn Gould Studios on Tuesday night to bring her Cape Breton style of fiddling to a sold out house - an audience that was probably more used to Anton Kuerti's interpretation of Beethoven than to Miss Lyall's Strathspey. Natalie's material was closer to home than her latest album No Boundaries - most of the tunes were new, but chosen from the Cape Breton repertoire.

The current lineup of the band includes multi-instrumentalist Dave MacIsaac, who chose to stick to acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard player Joel Chiasson, bass player Bruce Jacobs and percussionist Tom Roach.
Natalie's fiddle is in fine form, and she chooses to let it do most of the talking. She was clearly a little nervous to be recording for national radio (the show will air on Sunday Jan 25 at 2:05 on CBC Radio 2, and at 8:05 on CBC Radio 1), but her playing did not suffer.

When Natalie and Dave MacIsaac play Cape Breton tunes together, magic happens. Dave is a phenomenal guitar player who knows how to get the Cape Breton cadence in his playing. He and Natalie share a sense of timing that is seen in the great jazz artists. I would have liked to have heard more of this!

Natalie has not yet had time to develop the almost telepathic rapport with Joel Chiasson that she had with her previous keyboard player Tracy Dares, and I got the feeling that as a newcomer Joel was keeping things in check a little, but one of the highlights of the evening for me was a "kitchen set" of strathspeys and reels featuring Joel Chiasson stepdancing.

Natalie is trying to stretch the boundaries of Cape Breton music by mixing in other influences. Sometimes this succeeds, sometimes not. Her rendition of an Irish tune (Maudabawn Chapel, by Ed Reavy) influenced by the Irish fiddler Eileen Ivers (lately of Riverdance fame), was tremendous, except for the jarring overuse of the chimes by the percussionist. Her use of a reggae beat behind a Sharon Shannon tune, on the other hand, was incongruous. The Cape Breton fiddle tradition has used the fiddle and piano or guitar to supply the danceable beat; adding a bass and drumkit can muddy that sound, and needs to be done carefully, if it is not to sound like a bad graft of Nashville onto Mabou.

Copyright 1997 by Wil Macaulay.