This disc is a volume in the Rounder label's North American Traditions Series, which documents, by means of field and studio recordings made over the last three decades, the rural musical heritage of that continent. In this case the music comes from Cape Breton, and the featured performer is a master of the traditional Celtic fiddling style indigenous to the region. On these recordings, Donald MacLellan plays sets of jigs, strathspeys, reels, and airs in much the way he would for a dance, accompanied in traditional Cape Breton style by only a piano (played by the wonderful Doug MacPhee). Newcomers to this repertoire may initially be put off by the 85-year-old MacLellan's scratchy tone, and there are actually moments when his intonation is suspect as well (in particular on the reel set that includes "Sir Alexander Don," "The Ewie with the Crooked Horn," and "Country Hall"). But his phrasing, his tastefully elegant ornamentation, and the energy and "lift" with which he plays are a joy to hear. Particular highlights include his renditions of the jigs "Road to Skye" and "Off to Donnybrook," and the carefully transcribed autobiographical musings that fill the generous liner booklet (along with those by MacPhee) are almost worth the price of the CD by themselves. Recommended.
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