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World Music CD Reviews Celtic & Irish

CAPE BRETON FIDDLE & PIANO MUSIC

By Paul-Emile Comeau
Published September 9, 2005

The Beaton Family of Mabou
Smithsonian Folkways

In 1978 the Beatons of Mabou released a ground-breaking album on the Rounder label. The album, simply called The Beatons of Mabou, documented a strong family tradition of music-making and brought it to a new audience. Over the years the Scots Gaelic culture from Cape Breton underwent major changes, as it did in Scotland, with the language and parts of the piping tradition almost disappearing. The Mabou Coal Mines fiddle tradition, however, is still thriving. Besides being the home of the famous Rankin Family, the small town of Mabou is a direct link to Scotland. The Beaton Family now includes members of a new generation, including Buddy MacMaster's youngest sister, a superb pianist, and Glenn Graham and Rodney MacDonald, a couple of well-known fiddlers in their own right. As expected, they play plenty of reels, jigs, marches, strathspeys, and hornpipes, a couple of them featuring stepdancing, and all performed with impressive lift and energy. Most of the sets are played in duo or trio settings with the syncopated piano playing driving the music, the left hand playing vigorous bass patterns and the right hand playing dancing chords.