Country of origin:
Type of music generally:
Violin-based traditional Celtic, folk/pop/rock
Most recent solo release, Cape Breton Girl (2011)
Natalie MacMaster's site
Natalie MacMaster's Facebook page
Wikipedia's entry on Natalie McMaster
The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy
Mary Jane Lamond? Ashley MacIsaac?
Traditional, traditional-based songs, and covers. Some own compositions. Natalie co-wrote the lyrics to the song "In My Hands."
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. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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, email@example.com)
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, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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, email@example.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)
John Morris Rankin—piano, synthesizer, bass (5, 8, 12)
Dave MacIsaac—guitar, bass mandolin
Betty Lou Beaton—piano (5, 8, 12)
I highly recommend her more traditional efforts, especially A Compilation, which takes her first two tape-only albums and puts them on CD. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recommended for Natalie MacMaster or traditional fiddle fans
Tom Szezesniak—bass, piano
Scott Alexander—acoustic bass
Steve Smith—pedal steel guitar
No Boundaries is by far my least favorite of her albums. (email@example.com)
Highly recommended for fans of traditional music
Mary Jessie MacDonald—piano
Gordie Sampson—guitar, bass, synth, "water guitar"
Matthew Foulds—snare drum
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! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1999—MacMaster Music Inc.—2-28398
Natalie MacMaster—lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric fiddles, arrangements, stepdancing on "Mom's Jig"
Gordie Sampson—guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, Hammond organ, percussion, acoustic guitar, hand clapping, programming, bass, mandolin, DADGAD guitar, arrangements, music
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
Jesse Cook—guitars, hand clapping
Charlie Cooley—drums, hand clapping
Art Avalos—percussion, hand clapping
Matthew Foulds—hand clapping
Rick Tate—trumpet and horn arrangement on track 6
Phil Dwyer—saxophone, trombone
Jamie Foulds—programming on track 7
Denis Keldie—Hammond organ
Harry Stinson—drums, hand drums
Brian Leonard—drums, percussion
Scott MacMillan—string arrangement on track 9
Alison Krauss—vocals on track 10
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)
Natalie MacMaster—fiddle, tenor banjo, arrangements, background vocals and narrations (4)
Tracey Dares—piano, arrangements
Brad Davidge—guitar, arrangements
Bela Fleck—banjo, arrangements
Matt MacIsaac—bagpipes, small pipes, electric pipes, whistle, arrangements
Edgar Meyer—arco & pizz bass, arrangements
Gordie Sampson—guitars, arrangements
Darol Anger—octave violin, arrangements
John Cowan—vocals (4)
John R. Burr—synth schmear, synth
Todd Phillips—bass, pizz bass
Mike Marshall—mandolin, guitar
Bob Quinn—piano (13)
Kate Quinn—vocals (13)
Darol Anger and Natalie MacMaster
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)
Natalie MacMaster—fiddle, jigging, step dancing, vocals
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"
Tom Jackson—drums and vocals on "Mother Nature"
Mary Frances Leahy—coos and cries on "Interlude"
Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy
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)
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)
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)
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.