I love to sing. It’s a totally liberating way to connect with and express who you really are. At its best (for me), it is done with no conscious thought and is driven by trust in some inner part of yourself to guide you through the limitless possibilities of expression. The reward is the emotional exhilaration felt when you get it right.
Like all forms of art, it also creates the possibility of others connecting with and being moved to experience something that is meaningful for them. I think of all music as soul music, music that touches the soul.
I forgot all of this for many years. Maybe the road beat it out of me or maybe I didn’t trust what I might find if I went to that place that music can take you. Maybe it was stage fright. Whatever the reason, I stopped singing in 1994.
For some years leading up to this decision, I found myself thinking more and more about what an unnatural act it is to expect people to pay to watch you work. What if it all went horribly wrong during a performance? What would I do? This can eat you up and it did. The strange thing was that as soon as I stepped on stage, it all went away.
For a couple of hours each day I experienced the joy of collaborating with the wonderful artists I was always fortunate to work with. I owned that stage; felt a peace in the knowledge that I belonged there, that is was my calling.
Then, in the quiet that followed, I would start to think about the next night... and so on. The scales had tipped. The two hours of joy had become overwhelmed by the other twenty two hours of angst. For the good of my health, I simply had to stop.
I’ve been fortunate to be around and be influenced by music all my life. My father worked at CJCB Radio and would bring home the records they wouldn’t play on the radio, for whatever reason. As a result, I was exposed to some wonderful and wacky music of all genres.
This early exposure, to all sorts and styles of music, provided a great backdrop as I began to work with artists from a variety of experiences and styles. I was able to respect and appreciate the different influences that people brought to the table and never felt that music had any boundaries.
This was also an exciting time (early ‘70s) because there was a growing confidence in the Cape Breton artist community that it was, not only OK, but incumbent on us to tell our own stories.
There was an unspoken need to write songs, paint and create theatre, where the subject matter was the stories influenced by Cape Breton’s social and cultural history. The only examples we had were the comedy of Hughie and Allan, the songs of Charlie MacKinnon and the Cape Breton songwriting contest of the ‘50s and our traditional music. The cool thing was that artists of different backgrounds and styles began to look to these influences and then to expand on the themes they touched.
This shared need to express who we are as an Island people created an umbrella under which many of the people on this CD gathered. Others have grown up with the resultant work and have added their important voices to this evolution.
I’ve been blessed to work with some really gifted artists over the years. I’m proud of the work we all produced with Buddy & the Boys, The Rise & Follies of Cape Breton Island and the Cape Breton Summertime Revue. I’m also grateful that I was able to figure out a way to continue working with artists, albeit in a different capacity, with Rave Entertainment and the Celtic Colours International Festival.
However, I’ve been feeling the need to sing again and this has led me to this project. I hope I have been able to bring something fresh to this great collection of songs. I have so much respect for these artists and the difficult bit was deciding which songs to include of the many they have created.
It feels really good to sing again!
Max MacDonald, Sept.’08
!- Added classes and spans ************************************
1. Old Man (Rita MacNeil)
I first met Rita back in the old College Pub days. We were all trying new things and experienced tremendous support from the audiences there, which gave us the courage to continue to create. Old Man is a song that always raised the goose bumps on me when Rita sang it... and goose bumps are good!
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Rita - support vocals
2. Girls of Neils Harbour (Sam Moon)
I grew up with Sam Moon in the Shipyard area of Sydney. His love for music came early and it has never left. Girls of Neils Harbour is one of those songs that puts a smile on your face... just like Sam does.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Sam - support vocals
3. Joseph (Gordie Sampson & Bruce Guthro)
Gordie Sampson ... Big Pond ... Nashville ... Grammy ... yeah, he’s got a story to tell all right. He might be writing hit songs for country music superstars these days but, when you hear him play a set of jigs and reels, you know that he knows where home is. Gordie, thanks to you and Bruce for writing Joseph. Let’s dedicate this one to Frank.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Gordie - support vocals & atmospheric guitar
4. Midnight Angel (Jimmy Rankin)
I met Jimmy Rankin through working with his sisters on the “Follies” and “Revue” shows. Midnight Angel speaks to me of those interior conversations that we have, sometimes in moments of uncertainty, with a part of ourselves that is missing. In that regard, the song is beautifully written, universal and timeless.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instrument;s Jimmy - support vocals
5. Spanish Bay (Steven MacDougall)
Steven MacDougall is the front man and songwriter with the band, Slowcoaster. He is part of a newer generation of Cape Breton writers and has the ability to create great songs without being limited by genre. The song is the thing. Spanish Bay is remarkable in its telling of a story in such an economical manner.
Max - lead vocal;s JP - all instrument;s Steve - support vocals
6. Josephine (Leon Dubinsky)
I first met Leon in 1972 when he gave me my first paid acting job. We’ve gone down a lot of roads together since then. Leon’s passion for exploring Cape Breton’s social and political history through the arts has been a tremendous inspiration to me. Josephine first came to light because we wanted to have a girlfriend for the “Buddy” story. Somehow, this arrangement still has her getting her man... but it doesn’t seem to be Buddy. Go figure...
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Leon - support vocals
7. Me & the Boys (Matt Minglewood)
I was a fan of Matt Minglewood before I met him and still am. Getting to sing a bit on his “Red” album was a huge thrill for me. Me & the Boys captures that spirit of innocence that we all had growing up. It also reminds me of the late, great Enver Sampson Jr. who was a dear friend of Matt and mine.
Max - lead vocals; JP - darn near all instruments; Matt - support vocals & blues guitar
8. Songsmith (Bruce Guthro)
I first worked with Bruce Guthro during the 1995 ECMA’s in Sydney when he brought forward the idea for the Songwriters Circle. This concept has done a lot to highlight the wealth of talented songwriters on the East Coast of Canada. Songsmith is an illuminating peek behind the scenes of the solitary craft that all the writers represented on this CD share. Here’s to Sydney Mines, Bruce!
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Bruce - support vocals
9. Gilgarry’s Glen (JP Cormier)
Gilgarry’s Glen is the first song I ever heard JP sing on the first day we met in the mid ‘90s. I was blown away by the imagery, melody and how it spoke to the brave souls who settled here. I never imagined life’s delightful twists and turns would lead me to record it with him.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments & support vocals
10. We Remember You Well (Buddy MacDonald)
Buddy MacDonald and I have shared stories and laughs in a lot of places on the East Coast and as far away as Milwaukee, Glasgow and back. Buddy is a modern day bard whose songs are the community’s story. We Remember You Well is more than just a song. It’s a shared, often unspoken, part of who we are.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Buddy - support vocals
11. Small Town Wind (Duncan Wells)
Small Town Wind explores the push and pull of emotions that the economic reality of Cape Breton brings to so many families. Duncan Wells is an enormously gifted writer whose songs are like short films. This song has kept me in touch with my own voice over the past number of years while I have been off on other adventures.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Duncan - support vocals
12. Go Off On Your Way (Ronnie MacEachern)
Go Off on Your Way was written in 1974, at a time when Cape Breton was experiencing a high level of out migration because of the economic climate of the day. Hmmm... maybe that’s why it seems as if the song was pulled from today’s newspaper. Ronnie MacEachern has been a good buddy for many years and it’s a real pleasure to sing one of his songs here. I’m really pumped to have all the writers come together to sing on this one. Think of it as a postcard that we’re sending from home.
Max - lead vocals; JP - all instruments; Ronnie - support vocals; The CB Songwriters Choir - Leon, Duncan, Sam, JP, Rita, Matt, Jimmy, Gordie, Buddy, Steve, Bruce & Ronnie
Produced, Engineered & Mastered by JP Cormier
Recorded at Cormier Sound Studios*, Cap LeMoine, Cape Breton (May-August, 2008)
*Gordie recorded at Soundpark Studios, Sydney Engineer - Jamie Foulds
*Bruce’s vocals recorded at Birdland Studio, Denmark Engineer - Kristian Gislison
*Jimmy, Ronnie & Sam’s vocals recorded at Fortress Studio, Halifax. Engineer - Brad Stevens
Back Cover Photography - Katheryn Gordon (gordonphoto.com)
Design - Chad Aucoin (iconzone.ca)
Thanks: Wayne MacIntosh, Kirk MacRae, Terry Smith & the ICON Communications Team, Warren & Katheryn Gordon, Lobsterpalooza, Stephen MacDonald, Ralph Dillon, Dave Mahalik, Sam MacPhee and the Celtic Colours Clan
Special thanks to Barbara, JP, and all the wonderful writers who embraced this project.
We acknowledge the financial support of Canada's private radio broadcasters.
Max MacDonald has been at the forefront of Cape Breton music through his role as a founding member of Buddy & the Boys, The Rise & Follies of Cape Breton Island, The Cape Breton Summertime Revue and the Celtic Colours International Festival.
This CD features the songs and support vocals of: J.P. Cormier, Leon Dubinsky, Bruce Guthro, Buddy MacDonald, Steve MacDougall, Ronnie MacEachern, Rita MacNeil, Matt Minglewood, Sam Moon, Jimmy Rankin, Gordie Sampson and Duncan Wells.