Young Cape Breton fiddlers release their first CDs (Cape Breton Post, March 13, 2015)

I want to highlight a pair of young fiddlers who have recently released their first CDs, Kristen Shaw and Gillian Head. The former grew up in Margaree Valley, the latter in New Waterford, and both have been playing for the past few years.

Shaw teamed up with well-known pianist Hilda Chiasson, an experienced hand at both studio and stage work, and she is also joined by her father, fiddler Kelly Shaw, on at least one cut. She has a distinctive sound with a nice swing to her music particularly on the strathspeys and reels.

Much of the music on the self-titled CD is well-known traditional material but she does include a cross-section of newer tunes, mainly from local composers spread across all 10 cuts.

Head’s CD "Spirit" is also bright and lively, featuring a good variety of tunes and arrangements. She’s someone who has an interestingly mixed heritage — her great-grandfather was Tom Marsh (a well-known fiddler in his day), while her grandfather is William (Bull) Marsh, a noted labour leader. Head is joined by Jason Roach on piano, David MacIsaac on guitar, Ryan J. MacNeil on whistle and Steven Wilton on drums.

Both young women have done well with their first recording efforts. They are young and it shows in a few spots but both recordings have a lot to offer.

Shaw’s opening cut, "In Memory of Johnny Tompkins," is a real barn burner and I particularly enjoy Head’s version of "Lonesome Eyes," a lovely air written by her former teacher, the late Jerry Holland.

In both cases the recording were done by Mike Shepherd at Lakewind Sound Studios in Point Aconi. Look for these CDs, as I expect that you will be hearing a lot from both fiddlers in the years to come.

By: Dan MacDonald

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