By Dan MacDonald - The Cape Breton Post
The CD looks like an old 45, big hole in the centre, yellow label, grooves and all. The content is mostly memories and stories, crafted with care by a dozen of Cape Breton’s best writers. The singer is a veteran performer whose distinctive voice will bring back as many memories as the songs themselves.
Titled “Songs of Home: A Personal Tribute to Cape Breton Songwriters,” it’s the first solo project from Max MacDonald, famous for a long career as a member of Buddy & The Boys, the Rise & Follies of Cape Breton Island and the Cape Breton Summertime Revue. Max has been away from centre stage since 1994 and since that time he has occupied his time as one of the principles with Rave Entertainment and one of the founders of the highly successful Celtic Colours International Music Festival.
It’s a long, long way from his first gig in 1972 but the urge to sing is strong and (luckily for us) Songs of Home is the result. If anything, his voice is as good, or better, then it was, with a mellow maturity and no rough edges.
Max has carefully chosen 12 of his favourites; songs from his performing past and his contemporaries; songs from artists that he has helped to nurture; songs from today’s new generation of writers. Each has been given a fresh treatment, often with an eye-opening instrumental arrangement that may surprise you but will leave you smiling and singing along. Only three are from different stages in Max’s career while he never performed the others before recording.
Perhaps the most unique thing about the CD is not the song selection but the way they are presented. In each case the writer is doing vocal harmony or joining in on the chorus. Couple this with some amazing work from J.P. Cormier (who plays darn near all the instruments) and you have quite the package. Produced by J.P., the CD was mostly recorded in his studio in Cap LeMoine with small parts done in Sydney, Halifax and Denmark.
And just which songwriters did Max choose? Rita, Sam, Gordie, Jimmy, Steven, Leon, Matt, Bruce, J.P., Buddy, Duncan and Ronnie! And I don’t need to say any more because you have already filled in the last names.
Every cut is wonderful but my personal favourites include Old Man and Midnight Angel and I enjoy the bluegrass versions (yes, bluegrass) of Girls of Neils Harbour and Me & The Boys. I am perhaps most taken by the utter simplicity of Go Off On Your Way, a song we all know so well, which ends the CD with the combined voices of all the writers joining in for the last chorus.
Songs of Home is something for music lovers to enjoy, something for yourself and something you will want to share with those away. It’s also something for Max to look at with pride.
Excerpted from & copyright © 2008 The Cape Breton Post All Rights Reserved