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Natalie MacMaster


Country of origin:

Canada

Type of music generally:

Violin-based traditional Celtic, folk/pop/rock

Status:

Most recent release, One (with Donnell Leahy, 2015)

See also:

Natalie MacMaster's site

Wikipedia's entry on Natalie McMaster

Comparisons:

Mary Jane Lamond? Ashley MacIsaac?

Covers/own material:

Traditional, traditional-based songs, and covers. Some own compositions. Natalie co-wrote the lyrics to the song "In My Hands."

General comments:

I actually have all of her CDs except the latest one, and I highly recommend her more traditional efforts, especially A Compilation, which takes her first two tape-only albums and puts them on CD, and My Roots Are Showing. (mcurry@io.com)

Natalie is one hell of a fiddler. She's from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I was only introduced to her music through her most recent album, In My Hands, and I generally have a greater liking for more pop/rock influenced Celtic music than other ectophiles. I like the mix on this album enough to go look for her earlier and more traditional work. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Comments about live performance:

woj and I had seen her once before, at the Philadelphia Folk Festival a couple years ago, and she blew me away then with her goofy energy. Last night there was plenty of that, but I wasn't as impressed as the last time—I think she's got too much rock stuff going on in her band now (full drum kit, electric guitar and bass, Hammond organ). She's still one hell of a fiddler, though, and judging by her between-song banter and all the bouncing around she was doing while she was playing, she is indeed an incurable goofball. I'm still not moved to buy any of her albums, but it was good to see her play again. The drum solo sounded like a reel if you paid attention. That was really the only "rocking" element to the entire show that I thought was cool. (11/99, meth@smoe.org)

I'm glad it wasn't just me, the purist, who found some of the rock elements annoying. The full drum kit pretty much bugged me constantly, but when the drummer actually did a full-fledged extended drum solo...aagh! When the guitarist was using his electric that didn't work very well either. Actually, what I found most annoying were the parts of the concert where the band would just go off on some cliche rock digression. If you must add rock elements it would be nice of they were at least somewhat original and creative.
     Having said all of that, Natalie herself rules. She's a brilliant fiddle player, and when she was really going it was easy to more or less ignore the rest of the band. She is also, as Meredith said, quite a goofball. :) (11/99, mcurry@io.com)

At the Denver show, the drum solo led directly into Natalie's big dance number. She started dancing as his solo wound down. She danced to no music, then he starting drumming again. I found the drum solo amusing—was wondering what was happening, but I liked it as a segue to her big dance number with kicks and all.
     I think she's going for the crossover audience, just as her former school chum, Ashley MacIsaac, did. I personally thought that she was more "up" on this tour than on previous ones. (I think this show was my 8th time seeing her live. It's not that she's been shy the other times; she just seemed more "up" and ready—perhaps it's the choreography. I'd not seen her rush the audience before, for example.) (11/99, silme@ix.netcom.com)

Natalie is a Cape Breton fiddler who is always a joy to watch and listen to. She's traveling with a great band that seem to really enjoy playing together, as well as step dancing and goofing around with her. She seemed in a particularly silly mood, which was fine with the sold out crowd. I picked up her latest disc (My Roots Are Showing), which apparently focuses on more traditional elements of the Cape Breton style. If you like Celtic music at all, you are bound to enjoy this show. (neal)

Sunday night Natalie, backed by a 4-piece band (drums, keyboard, acoustic & electric guitar, and bass) gave a high energy show at Seattle's annual Bumbershoot festival. She danced around a lot during the songs and in between talked a bit about Cape Breton fiddle traditions and history, as well as her own history (she started dancing at 5 and fiddling at 9). Occasionally the band broke into smaller groups: duos, trios, even a solo piece by Natalie. At one point the band played by itself while Natalie replaced a popped string. Natalie also let the band members showcase their own talents. The bassist, who has an album of jazz standards, sang and led a respectable 3-piece combo version of "Autumn Leaves" which Natalie joined at the end. The guitarist sang and played a 3/4 version of "Danny Boy" with Natalie accompanying at times. Natalie also did a solo, a song written by a classically trained Scot who lived in the 1700s, or possibly early 1800s. At one point 2 young girls came on stage doing traditional step dancing. They danced for a song and came back later in the show for another dance. On her last song Natalie ran off the stage and let the band play. She returned in her socks and showed off her own step dancing skills. Then she left the stage again and returned, shoed, with her fiddle to tap dance and play some more. They got a big standing ovation and came back for an encore which kept most of the audience on its feet, myself included. (9/04, JoAnn Whetsell)

Recordings:


A Compilation

Release info:

1998—Rounder Records—7021

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natalie MacMaster—fiddle

Guest artists:

John Morris Rankin—piano, synthesizer, bass (5, 8, 12)
Dave MacIsaac—guitar, bass mandolin
Betty Lou Beaton—piano (5, 8, 12)

Comments:

I highly recommend her more traditional efforts, especially A Compilation, which takes her first two tape-only albums and puts them on CD. (mcurry@io.com)

No Boundaries

Release info:

1996

Availability:

Canada

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Natalie MacMaster or traditional fiddle fans

Group members:

Natalie MacMaster—fiddle

Guest artists:

Dave MacIssac—guitar
Tracey Dares—piano
Bruce Guthro—vocals
Brian Leonard—drums
Michael Francis—guitar
Tom Szezesniak—bass, piano
Brian Leonard—drums
Scott Alexander—acoustic bass
Doug Reily—piano
Steve Smith—pedal steel guitar
Ray Parker:—keyboards
Marie Berard—violin
Paul Zevenhuizen—violin
Ann Armstrong—violin
Dominique Laplante—violin
Krista Buckland—violin
Diane Talt—violin
Annelee Patipatanakoon—violin
Doug Perry—viola
Sylva Lange—viola
Bryan Epparson—cello
Paul Wilder—cello

Comments:

No Boundaries is by far my least favorite of her albums. (mcurry@io.com)

My Roots Are Showing

Release info:

1998

Availability:

Canada

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of traditional music

Group members:

Natalie MacMaster—fiddle

Guest artists:

Buddy MacMaster—fiddle
Tracey Dares—piano
Joel Chiasson—piano
Mary Jessie MacDonald—piano
Dave MacIsaac—guitar
Paul Mills—guitar
Gordie Sampson—guitar, bass, synth, "water guitar"
Matthew Foulds—snare drum

Comments:

It's a very fun disc. (neal)

it is a great CD...very like her first two albums but with slightly better sound quality and even Natalie playing ever skillfully! (mcurry@io.com)


In My Hands

Release info:

1999—MacMaster Music Inc.—2-28398

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natalie MacMaster—lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric fiddles, arrangements, stepdancing on "Mom's Jig"

Guest artists:

Gordie Sampson—guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, Hammond organ, percussion, acoustic guitar, hand clapping, programming, bass, mandolin, DADGAD guitar, arrangements, music
Al Cross—drums
David Direnzo—percussion
Joel Chiasson—piano
Scott Alexander—bass
Margaret Ann (Cameron) Beaton—intro voice on "Gramma"
Chris Sampson—acoustic guitars, Hammond organ
Kevin Breit—electric guitar, guitorgan
Aaron Davis—piano, Rhodes, string arrangement on tracks 4 and 10
Marie Berard—violin
Fujiko Imajishi—violin
Douglas Perry—viola
Paul Widner—cello
Sharon Shannon—accordion
Mary Shannon—mandolin
Laoise Kelly—harp
James Blennerhasset—bass
Jesse Cook—guitars, hand clapping
Bruce Dixon—bass
Charlie Cooley—drums, hand clapping
Art Avalos—percussion, hand clapping
Matthew Foulds—hand clapping
Rick Tate—trumpet and horn arrangement on track 6
Chase Sanborn—trumpet
Phil Dwyer—saxophone, trombone
Terry Promane—trumpet
Jamie Foulds—programming on track 7
Denis Keldie—Hammond organ
Mark O'Connor—fiddle
Brent Mason—guitars
John Jarvis—piano
Glen Worf—bass
Harry Stinson—drums, hand drums
Brian Leonard—drums, percussion
Scott MacMillan—string arrangement on track 9
Alison Krauss—vocals on track 10
Matt Rollins—piano
Victor Krauss—bass
Ray Fean—drums
David MacIsaac—guitar
Howie MacDonald—piano
George Kohler—bass

Produced by:

Gordie Sampson

Comments:

More gorgeous and wonderful than I would ever have imagined! It's really lively and imaginative. The 2nd song is really cool, the way it progresses from this relatively simple, undistinguished Irish lilt into a really lively tune and then into a kick-ass rocker. The title track, with vocals, shows the most pop/rock/electronic influences, but it's a really good song. And "Flamenco Fling" is fun and different, Latin-flavored. And the rest of the album, mostly instrumental, is wonderful to boot. I can't compare this to Natalie's previous work because I haven't heard any of it, but I really like this album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

While I like jigs and reels quite well live they don't work so well on disc for me. Something about being there. So this means that I like the non-traditional tracks on this disc better, and my favourite is the first. I don't have her more traditional earlier discs, but I like this. At least, I like the first couple of tracks on this, then lose interest. (Neile)


Blueprint

Release info:

2003—Rounder Records-11661-7056-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natalie MacMaster—fiddle, tenor banjo, arrangements, background vocals and narrations (4)

Guest artists:

Tracey Dares—piano, arrangements
Brad Davidge—guitar, arrangements
Jerry Douglas—dobro
Bela Fleck—banjo, arrangements
Matt MacIsaac—bagpipes, small pipes, electric pipes, whistle, arrangements
Victor Wooten—bass
Edgar Meyer—arco & pizz bass, arrangements
Gordie Sampson—guitars, arrangements
Sam Bacco—percussion
Darol Anger—octave violin, arrangements
Sam Bush—mandolin
John Cowan—vocals (4)
Bryan Sutton—guitar
Viktor Krauss—bass
Larry Atamanuik—drums
Philip Aaberg—piano
John R. Burr—synth schmear, synth
Byron House—bass
Alison Brown—banjo
Todd Phillips—bass, pizz bass
Mike Marshall—mandolin, guitar
Alaisdare Fraser—arrangements
Matt Flinner—mandolin
Bob Quinn—piano (13)
Kate Quinn—vocals (13)
John Chiasson—bass
George Hebert—guitar

Produced by:

Darol Anger and Natalie MacMaster

Comments:

Blueprint showcases Natalie's versatility; there are ballads with achingly beautiful melodies, bluegrass, rollicking dance tunes. If that sounds like a lot for one album, it isn't for this one. Natalie is able to tie everything together with her fiddle playing, which is steeped in tradition. This is the most contemporary and experimental of Natalie's albums to date, and perhaps also her best yet. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Yours Truly

Release info:

2006—Rounder Records—11661-7065-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natalie MacMaster—fiddle, jigging, step dancing, vocals

Guest artists:

Brad Davidge—guitars
John Chiasson—bass
Miche Pouliot—drums
Allan Dewar—piano
Rushad Eggleston—cello
Matt Mac Isaac—bagpipes, pipes, electric pipes, whistle
Denis Keldie—Hammond organ, mini moog, keyboard
Michael McDonald—vocals on "Danny Boy"
Erin Leahy—piano on "Danny Boy," "Cape Classico," and "Interlude"
Betty Lou Beaton—piano on "Traditional Medley"
Natalie Haas—cello on "Cape Classico" and "Julia's Waltz"
Jens Krüger—banjo
Alexander Sevastian—accordion
Tom Jackson—drums and vocals on "Mother Nature"
Mary Frances Leahy—coos and cries on "Interlude"

Produced by:

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

Comments:

Yours Truly, Natalie's latest studio offering, could be said to have two parts. The first (tracks 1-6) are high energy, her most rocking work ever, with wailing electric guitars and bagpipes. I love Natalie's ability to showcase the musicians in her band without overshadowing herself. In the middle, separating the two halves is "Danny Boy," sung by Michael McDonald. I don't think I've listened to the whole thing even once, but it should be noted I've never cared for this song. The second half (tracks 8-11) is somewhat gentler and quieter than the first half, and generally more traditional. It ends with "Interlude," on which Natalie thanks her fans and collaborators, etc., over a pleasant fiddle playing. A nice thought, but rather sentimental. However it's short, and she did have the good sense to put it last (though it would have been even better off as a hidden track). Overall, an excellent and highly engaging album; the two missteps hardly mar it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

The Collection

Release info:

2007—Foreign Media—5044

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

This 2-disc retrospective of Natalie's first 7 albums doesn't offer much new for fans (there are 2 tracks from the album she made with her uncle Buddy MacMaster), but it's a nice collection. Especially for newcomers, who can sample a range of Natalie's music for the price of a single disc. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Cape Breton Girl

Release info:

2011

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Natalie returns to her roots with an energetic album that's better than the traditional albums she was making at the beginning of her career. A joy to listen to. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

World Wide Fan Club: RR#1, Port Hastings, NS, BOE 2T0, Canada.

The instructional video Natalie MacMaster—A Fiddle Lesson is available from Natalie MacMaster's site. In 2005, Natalie released an album with her uncle: Natalie & Buddy MacMaster—Traditional Music from Cape Breton Island.

The book, Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Aire: The Story of a Musical Life and Place, was published in 2010.

Collaborations with other artists include:

  • a cover of Sinéad Lohan's "No Mermaid" with Shaye on their album The Bridge (2003)
  • "A Christmas Jig/Mouth of the Tobuique Reel" with Yo-Yo Ma on his collaborative album Songs of Joy & Peace (2010)
  • "The Wexford Carol" with Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma on Ma's album Songs of Joy & Peace (2010)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2016-06-05 15:03:49.
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