various artists,
Cape Breton by Request
(Stephen MacDonald Productions, 2001)

Cape Breton, that island in the stream, known around the world for its songs and people. Wouldn't it be nice to have some of the best-known songs on one CD? Stephen MacDonald must have been reading music fans' minds as his company has just released Cape Breton By Request.

This 14-track collection is going to be a treasured CD of mine for years to come. Compositions by some of the island's greatest writers and composers appear on this CD, including Kenzie MacNeil, Buddy MacDonald, Allister MacGillivray, Jimmy Rankin, Rita MacNeil, Dan R. MacDonald, Howie MacDonald, Bob Quinn, R.J. MacEachern and Leon Dubinsky. The songs speak of the island, the people, the culture.

"Working Man" sung by Men of the Deeps talks about the miners in the coal industry. "Song for the Mira" sung by Matt Minglewood is about the well-known Mira River, which runs along the east side of the island (a great place for fishing and swimming). The Barra MacNeils bring "The Island" to life, spotlighting Cape Breton and the common occurrence of residents leaving to find work. Raylene Rankin's version of "Rise Again" has become almost the unofficial anthem for Cape Breton, about having faith in the children and hope for the future. And every time she hits the high-note at the end, chills run down your spine!

And what's a Cape Breton album without some fiddle tunes? Buddy MacMaster and Howie MacDonald provide some high-energy tracks to get you up and dancing! And Howie's song "Scotch Music" will have you laughing as well -- just listen to the lyrics!

All of the songs on this CD are featured on the individual artists' CDs except for one: "Fare Thee Well Love." True, it does appear on a CD by the original writers/performers, the Rankin Family. Being as the Rankins are one of my favourite artists, if someone redid one of their songs it would have to be done pretty near perfect. And this is one of those cases! 11-year-old Fiona MacGillivray was approached to do the only remake on the CD, a very high honour indeed. This tells you something about the singer from the start. She wasn't even born when this song was first released! Fiona and her 13-year-old brother Ciaran (who accompanies her on background vocals) are going to be part of the next generation of talent to come out of Cape Breton. Considering their background (father Allistair is one of Cape Breton's best known songwriters, with a couple of his compositions appearing on this CD), it's no surprise his children are in the music spotlight!

Like Sounds of Nova Scotia, Volume 3, not much information is given on the artists, so you'll have to visit the artists' websites to find out more!

If you or someone you know is from or loves Cape Breton, get them this CD as a present. They'll thank you for it!

[ by Kimberley Marie ]
Rambles: 29 September 2001

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