Howie MacDonald,
Howie's Celtic Brew
(self-produced, 2002)

Howie MacDonald is one of Cape Breton's finest fiddlers and pianists. He also has a very odd sense of humor, which manifests itself wickedly on Howie's Strange Brew, a live recording of his music and comedy revue that toured the Maritimes provinces of Canada in 2000-01.

The music is, of course, excellent, if often not what you'd expect. Sure, there is the usual diet of Cape Breton fiddle tunes to sate your appetite, including "Willow Tree Medley," "The Little Cascade," "Guitar Jigs" and the excellent "Tullochgorum Set." But the meal is seasoned with a little gospel ("Keep Walkin' On") and a couple of jazzy lounge-style songs ("Misty," "Here in the Moonlight").

But the main course is Howie's irrepressible humor, which is unleashed with reckless abandon in a series of skits featuring Roddy, his feisty old man character, and Roddy's sharp-tongued wife.

The jokes are groaners, but they still make you laugh. The only problem with this album is that, once you've heard them all a time or two, the surprise is gone and repeated listenings fall flat. Still, sit the album by a while and come back to it later; you'll surely find Howie's antics worth a few guffaws each time you listen.

The "Gaelic" song "Hyundai Sonata" is a riot every time.

Lending Howie a hand on the album, both musically and comically, are Allie Bennett, John Chiasson, Tracey Dares, Matthew Foulds, Patrick Gillis, Cheryl MacDonald-MacQuarrie, Dawn MacDonald-Gillis, Helen MacDonald, Marilyn MacDonald and Mac Morin.

Take a big gulp of Howie's Celtic Brew to tide you over 'til his next album hits the shelves. Knowing Howie, there's no predicting what it will be.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 12 April 2003

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