The Cape Breton Post
The first thing that you will notice is the picture on the CD cover, a sea of green with a pair of striking redheads, fiddles in hand. The CD is Taste of Gaelic and the redheads in question are Dawn and Margie Beaton, sisters with musical roots that go deep into Mabou and its music.
Taste of Gaelic is a terrific CD that gives us a dozen cuts, some clearly traditional and some stretching the point a bit. It’s the little things that make this recording stand out including the wonderful tune selection and some different arrangements.
I would describe their sound as being very ‘Mabou’, and at times I can hear the influence of Donald Angus Beaton’s Coal Mines style coming through. Another aspect that stands out is their fiddle harmonies reminding me of the MacLellan Trio at its best. Overall, they maintain a characteristic lift and drive designed to get the dancers on the floor.
There are some local compositions here, including one from Margie and a half dozen from Dawn, as well as well-known works from Scottish writers like Walker, Gow, Marshall, etc. You will also find a wonderful collection of well-known traditional material, often in different combinations, tunes learned from travels abroad or from tapes of local artists or from sessions with older players such as Fr. Angus Morris (the local parish priest who joins them on one group.)
In addition to Fr. Angus, the girls are also backed by pianists Tracey Dares and Jason Roach, guitarists Sandy MacDonald and Ewan MacPherson, Kenneth MacKenzie on pipes and the step dancing of Mary Janet MacDonald. The closing cut even begins with a Gaelic song from their late great-uncle, Finley Cameron, with their grandmother and great-aunt singing the chorus. Skillful work blends fiddle and piano seamlessly into the mix.
I’m hard-pressed to pick out favourite cuts, although Thanks for the Drive (the opening cut that was included in this years Celtic Colours compilation CD) is right up there. I’m also taken by The Manjo, a group of Dawn’s jigs that she plays on mandolin and banjo in combination with MacPherson guitar work. Perhaps the most striking cuts on the CD are Sir James Baird, a solemn slow strathspey with the haunting bagpipes fusing with fiddles, mandolin and piano, and Ewan, Me And Yourself, something with a jazzy start and a powerful finish.
The Beatons produced the CD with the assistance of the Celtic Colours Drive’ers Association, a volunteer group that donates money to aspiring young Celtic musicians to help them with their first recording. This money is then matched by studio time from Lakewind Sound Studios in Point Aconi, allowing these young players to get that all-important first CD on the market as easily as possible.
This may be the first CD from Dawn and Margie Beaton but it certainly shouldn’t be their last. Skillfully crafted and wonderfully played, Taste of Gaelic is a recording worthy of note.
Dan MacDonald (BA Celtic Studies, Cert. Heritage Studies) is a former Inverness County resident who now resides in the Sydney area. Involved in the Cape Breton music scene for more than 20 years, he operates his own company, Creignish Hills Entertainment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org