A journey through the lyrics of Cape Breton

By Frank MacDonald - Inverness Oran

A journey through the lyrics of Cape Breton: Max MacDonald releases Songs of Home

This month marks the release of a song collection containing a dozen favourite Cape Breton songs chosen and sung by Max MacDonald. Songs of Home: A Personal Tribute to Cape Breton Songwriters, celebrates a handful of the countless storytellers who have been penned over the decades by a very diverse and gifted number of songwriters. What makes these particular choices historically significant is that they have been gathered together under a single and original voice.

Not only is the selection an important sampler of what Cape Breton musicians do when they don’t play the fiddle, it also brings back, for the length of this album at least, one of the most influential voices in Cape Breton over the past four decades. Whether with The Rise and Follies or fronting the popular band, Buddy and the Boys, Max MacDonald’s voice has been an integral part of the Cape Breton soundtrack.

In his personal tribute to songwriters, MacDonald has chosen 12 songs by 12 different songwriters, rendering them with his own unique style. The songwriters are Rita MacNeil (Old Man); Sam Moon (Girls of Neil’s Harbour); Gordie Sampson and Bruce Guthro (Joseph); Jimmy Rankin (Midnight Angel); Steve MacDougall (spanish Bay), Matt Minglewood (Me & the Boys); Bruce Guthro (Songsmith); J.P. Cormier (Gilgarry’s Glen); Buddy MacDonald (We Remember You Well); Duncan Wells (Small Town Wind); and Ronnie MacEachern (Go off On Your Way).

Max MacDonald’s choices reach way back and into the recent past to offer listeners a sense of how wide- ranging s o n g - wri t i ng on Cape Breton has been over the years. “I think of all music as soul music, music that touches the soul. I forgot all that 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.... “However, I’ve been feeling the need to sing again and this has led me to this project,” MacDonald writes in his liner notes.

While he wasn’t singing, Max MacDonald was never far from the stage, was, in fact, instrumental in setting the stage for some of the most exciting music to take place on or off this island. In the mid-`90s he joined forces with Joella Foulds to form Rave Entertainment. Together they mounted memorable Cape Breton airings of the nationally televised East Coast Music Awards and have produced the acclaimed Celtic Colours International Music Festival, which begins its 12th season this weekend.

But with Songs of Home Max MacDonald himself comes home in the company of a dozen songwriter friends who will, if we are lucky, not let him escape from his talent again.

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