November/December 1996 Issue
Buddy McMaster: "Judique on the Floor" & "Glencoe Hall"
by Bob Borcherding, caller and Fiddler in St Louis
I first heard of Cape Breton fiddling in July 1987, at Elkins, West Virginia, when an Irish fellow was telling me, late one evening, about how much better Cape Breton fiddlers were than Irish fiddlers. Although I wouldn't agree that any style of fiddling is better than any other, Cape Breton fiddling has indeed come to be my favorite. Of those capable fiddlers playing this style, I place Buddy MacMaster on top of the heap, even above his talented and well-known niece, Natalie MacMaster.
Cape Breton is an island of Nova Scotia, Canada, settled by Scots. Their heritage runs deep and strong. Old tunes, long forgotten in Scotland, are part of the extant repertoire in Cape Breton. The finest living player of those old tunes, as well as new tunes, is Buddy MacMaster. Buddy is a supreme dance fiddler, having been in demand for dances for well over fifty years, but he is not limited to dance music. He plays airs, marches, strathspeys, reels, clogs, and jigs with feeling and mastery. But it is his dance music--fiery, energetic tunes, played with verve and excellence, accuracy and energy, that I find sets him apart. Although recording techniques cannot do him justice, I totally recommend Buddy's album, "Judique on the Floor," as well as his second recording, "Glencoe Hall."
"Judique on the Floor" features ten medleys, each containing from three to six tunes. Five medleys start with a slower piece, such as an air or march, progressing to a strathspey, then finally culminating in one or more reels. Four medleys feature jigs, but my favorite selection is the King George the Fourth medley, a strathspey which starts off with fire and blazes throughout. Other favorites are Da Slockit Light, The Lasses of Stewarton, The Devil in the Kitchen, and virtually every other piece--the quality of playing on this recording is phenomenal.
"Glencoe Hall," his second solo recording, also features ten selections. Favorites include: Hills of Glenorchy, Beauties of the Ballroom, Brenda Stubbert's, The Resting Chair, West Mabou, Fingal's Cave, The High Reel, and many other fine tunes.
Unfortunately, I don't know of any local sources. One source is Fiddler's Crossing, PO Box 92226, Pasadena, California 91109-2226. (818) 792-6323 ($16 for CD, $11 for Cassette, plus shipping and handling.) They also carry a large catalog of other hard-to-find Irish and Scottish books, videos, and recordings.