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North America on RootsWorld



  • Enoch Kent
  • James Keelaghan
  • Joseph Cormier and J.P. Cormier
  • Matapat

    La Bottine Souriante (Canada)
    Mary Jane Lamond (Canada) Bill Lamey (Canada) Daniel Janke
    The McGarrigles
    Toronto Tabla Ensemble
    Bourque, Bernard, and LePage
    Fine Crowd
    The Fables
    Mary Jane Lamond
    Silk Road Music
    Prince Edward Island Fiddling
    Oliver Schroer
    Natalie MacMaster
    Natalie MacMaster (1999)

  • These regional sections are merely a guide, are usually somewhat out-of-date, and are not the only content on the site. You will find much more by searching the site:

    Bourque, Bernard, and LePage
    Matapat - Musique Traditionnelle du Québec
    Borealis (

    In the 60's, Québecois artists made concerted efforts to preserve their French heritage for future generations. In the 90's, the trio of Bourque, Bernard and LePage are making culturally rich music to be enjoyed by future generations as well. Many of the selections are public domain gems, or were written or popularized by noted figures such as Louis Boudreault, Allan Mills or fiddler T-Jean Carignan. Another bevy of tunes was penned by accordionist Benoit Bourque, who like soulmate Daniel Thonon of Ad Vielle Que Pourra, crafts beautiful originals that feel like they've been around forever.

    Regardless of their source, Bourque, Bernard and LePage use tradition as a baseline before taking it further with their individual artistic touches. The trio achieves gliding, uplifting harmonies while their infectious melodies are exquisitely played on accordions, fiddles, and mandolins that are underlined by LePage's arty funk-folk bass lines. Additionally, Bourque is a renown instructor of Quebec folk dancing and uses his quick-heeled step dancing as a percussive accompaniment on "Valse Clog"/"La Valse de Cesny." On other tracks, Bourque maintains a steady clackety-clack rhythm that ties in the folk dancing aspect by rapping spoons and bones or simply by using his feet (while seated). Matapat is a sheer delight of a disc. - Dan Willging

    Fine Crowd
    Sucker for Good Company
    Growler Music, 1998

    The Fables
    Tear the House Down
    Self-produced, 1998
    both distributed by Tidemark ( For a province of just over a half million people, Newfoundland has carved itself a distinctive place in the world of Celtic/British traditional music. Since the mid-1970s, this reputation has been fuelled by bands like Figgy Duff, Red Island, the Wonderful Grand Band, Tickle Harbour, the Punters and the Plankerdown Band (to mention only a few). However, like other Celtic hotspots, Newfoundland has also had its share of questionable knock-off bands doing the Irish/Nashville/pub thing.

    But the last few years have been productive ones for the local music industry, as evidenced by these two fine releases. Fine Crowd is a quartet from the St. John's area who began playing the traditional scene a few years ago. This is their second release. They play mandolins, guitars, whistles, bodhran, mandola and bass, and they all sing and share leads. This adds variety to their sound, as several of them have very different vocal qualities and dynamics, from a growling Dubliners-type ("Donald MacGillavry") to a high, clear female lead ("Banks of Newfoundland").

    Sucker for Good Company has 14 tracks -- four traditional, nine band originals and a cover of Garth Brooks' "Ireland." Highlights include their original chorus song, "Chanty," and a great version of "Cunla," playing the five-part jig with high spirit and technical mastery. Throughout, Fine Crowd invigorates their material with high spirits and just a bit of an edge.

    A couple of years ago, D'Arcy Broderick left the Newfoundland-based pop-country band, the Irish Descendents. Since then, many people have been anticipating his next project. Clearly, the Descendents' loss is our gain in The Fables. Other members include Glenn Simmons (formerly of the Wonderful Grand Band), Clyde Wiseman, Billy Sutton and Dave Fitzpatrick.

    This first release from the band provides some of the finest arrangements of Celtic music to come out of Newfoundland in a long time. The band shows the extensive influence of Irish traditional material, but there are also some British sounds (following Fairport or Steeleye), some rock ethos, even a bit of country-pop (palatable and in short doses). One of the highlights is the fine integration of tunes and instrumental hooks into the songs. Indeed, on a couple of tracks, it is the instruments that rescue the song from sinking into an ordinary pop-country warp.

    The Fables have a strong vocal presence (all five of them sing), and they play guitars, fiddle, mandola, mandolin, accordion, bouzouki, banjo, drums and bass. They recorded this release on their own terms, and splendid terms they are. Of the 14 tracks eight are traditional. Chestnuts like "Old Woman from Wexford," "Sam Hall," "Spanish Lady" and "Peter Street" get the full treatment. There are a few sets of tunes, to show off their traditional pedigree (such as the sprightly "Rose in the Heather/ Julia Delaney"). With instrumental prowess, arranging skill and vocal power, this is the kind of brilliant debut that only a group of veterans of the music scene can create. - Ivan Emke
    The Fables web site: (

    Mary Jane Lamond
    Suas E!
    Wicklow (

    In a world hell bent on "modernizing" the music of the various Celtic-speaking cultures of the world, it's a relief to occasionally find a recording that is both deeply rooted in tradition and yet intelligently brought into the 21st century. Canadian singer Mary Jane Lamond and her team of musicians and producers have managed to bridge that gulf between pop and tradition with grace, beauty and technology. This album of traditional Scots Gaelic songs from Cape Breton is charming because the voice (and ultimately the songs) are clearly what matters, and the drum kits, synthesizers and electric guitars remain part of the mix instead of the whole point. Lamond's voice is spared the Enya-wash of reverb and multi-tracking, and the bagpipes, fiddles and flutes of the tradition are never processed into oblivion, but rather rest comfortably beside the technology. There are rich traditional touches (an a capella duet with Margaret Mclean of Boisdale, Cape Breton, is a highlight), but there are marvelous fusions. On the fusion side, kudos go to "A Love Song," where a very contemporary arrangement is produced using cellos, drums, electric bass and guitar, but utilizing recordings of weavers at work on their looms as the basic rhythm track of the piece. A number of tracks include this kind of field recording, and they work nicely to convey the work-related spirit of these old songs without ever becoming so dominant as to seem merely cute. A well made recording, a great voice and a sensitive and wide ranging production make this one of the better "new Celtic" albums of the year. - CF

    Silk Road Music
    Jericho Beach Music (via Festival,

    Can three Chinese Canadians play Brazilian roots music on traditional Chinese ruan, erhu and pipa? Can the banjo-like ruan take on Irish fiddle tunes? From their own sense of cultural interaction, three Chinese master musicians Qiu-Xia He, Shirley Yuan, and Zhi-Min Yu plus guest performers from Ireland and Brazil make a try at it on this album. The group plays Chinese melodies without a hitch, and there are too few masters of that as it is. The Chinese songs are rich and have a light depth that is hard to duplicate in Western music.

    However, that depth may be the cause of the problem with the crossovers. They come off stiff and formal, as if the players were still getting used to each other and didn't want to step on each others feet. Rhythm is the problem. Chinese music is known for its dedication to the exact notes of the piece. Brazilian music can take off at any minute into many complex rhythms, and that's what's missing here. I wonder what would have been the result if the Brazilians had written the percussion/rhythm and the Chinese had done the instrumentation.

    On "Suite Popular Brasileira" the guitar and ruan try to coexist in a Brazilian melody. The ruan has a difficult time keeping up with the rhythmic guitar. The Irish tunes like Clouds - Irish Impressions come off better. The Chinese instruments are more relaxed and the Celtic instruments are made to behave. The result still sounds Chinese, but with an Irish brogue. The shades of jazz advertised in several songs end up just that - shady.

    This album ends up being a welcome compilation of Chinese music with some interesting twists. I would recommend the Chinese musicians spend more time in Sao Paulo or even Chicago getting to experience rhythm and roots in real time. - Brian Grosjean

    Natalie MacMaster
    No Boundaries
    Rounder (

    Yet another corner of the world heard from. This time it is Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and the ambassador is the red-hot fiddler Natalie MacMaster. Taking the title of her debut disc quite seriously, MacMaster successfully keeps one foot in both the traditional and modern worlds without stumbling. Overall, this mostly instrumental album revels in its Scotland-via-Cape Breton heritage, but MacMaster also shows off with some East Texas swing and even adds some Little Feat-ish funk and Capercaillie-like hiphop to her repertoire. Neo-trad fans with an ear for something a bit different should love this. - Marty Lipp

    The Prince Edward Island Styles of Fiddling
    Rounder (

    CD cover

    Prince Edward Island is the smallest Canadian province, located in the Atlantic Ocean between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Prince Edward Island Styles of Fiddling anthologies testify to a still-living tradition of fiddling as an integral part of the culture.

    The albums are divided into Western (#7014) and Eastern (#7015) styles and repertoires. The former evinces the influence of Franco-Canadians living to the south of the Island in New Brunswick, while the latter has more of a Scottish bent, probably due to nearby Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. The French impact manifests in syncopated bow rocking. The Scottish fiddle style sets slower tempos with more ornaments.

    Listen! None of the approximately 25 fiddlers on these recordings are professionals. This is certainly not concert music, but it cannot be beat for dancing. The bowing fairly explodes off the strings on occasion, seemingly aided by the rhythmic stomping of musicians. Each album contains fascinating local versions of war horses like Saint Anne's Reel, East Newk of Fife, Money Musk, and Liberty as well as a cross section of Canada's fiddle repertoire. There are a total of 61 cuts on the two discs, mostly reels with some jigs, waltzes, strathspeys, and two steps

    These albums are a continuation of Ken Perlman's Master's Thesis that led to an excellent book of transcriptions of Prince Edward Island music with accompanying cd (distributed by Mel Bay Publishing). The book documents the Perlman's collecting in the early 1990's. The albums described here are the result of a more recent excursion. It features some of the same tunes but different versions of them and performed by other fiddlers.
    (Sound sample is "St. Ann's Reel." Dennis Pitre plays the fiddle, with Vincent Doucette on guitar and Irene Gallant on piano. Song is public domain.)

    Canadian fiddler OLIVER SCHROER and his band STEWED TOMATOES (Big Dog Music,Canada) promise "full fiddle flavor with our own secret spices" and deliver an aromatic mix of tunes that would make the Mustaphas envious. Cajun and Arcadian, pop humor and global verve keep every tune on this record fresh and table-ready. Take the fiddle, add a dash of sax, a dollop of dumbek, a hot chile of trumpet and a filé of bass and drums and somehow you end up with "The Yodeller From Guadalajara." It all down hill from there as this Irish dance band plays a Jewish wedding, play a square dance in Soweto and go how-down with a sur-reel called "Hello Dali." Such disrespect doubtlessly will not go unpunished in the crazy world of Oliver Schroer, but let's hope it's in another lifetime, because I want to hear more before the final judgement. "Love them crazy little things!"

    Kate and Anna McGarrigle
    Matapedia Rykodisc

    Matapedia is just what we've come to expect from the sisters McGarrigle, a dreamy set of songs, punctuated by pain and angst that never slides into the maudlin, try as it might sometimes. This is an adult album, in every sense of the word. It is sexy and sexual, tender and mature, nostalgic to a fault. It is not the youthfulness of earlier records. They are older, alive and still kicking with a defiance, and the themes of the songs show that there is life after twenty-something, and it can be the stuff of stirring music. They investigate their longing for youth and their coming to terms with middle-age without remorse. They study relationships with the wit that only comes from adulthood, and look to death for the first time without a glossy romanticism. Their songwriting is precise and measured, as always making each word count, each note ring clearly. I admit to a total bias when it comes to these women and their music. Matapedia is everything I love about a McGarrigle album, which is in fact everything I love about music. (Read Bob Franke's excellent in-depth review of this album, too.)

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