Friday and Saturday this past week-end I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Colin Grant, Adam Young, and Jason MacDonald play at a house party in Lebanon (New Hampshire) and at the Canadian-American Club’s monthly Cape Breton dance (although the calendar said it was 30 April, the dance counts as the May dance, since the April dance was on 9 April with Andrea Beaton and Janine Randall). I first heard these three play together at a concert at the Skye Theatre on 2009 May 3, reviewed here, and had not heard them together since. The house party was very similar in nature, though not identical in content, to that concert, where Jason’s rôle was much larger than at the dance; I failed to take either notes or photos, so will say no more about it here, except that I very much enjoyed it.
I first ran into Colin and Adam at the Louisbourg Playhouse, probably in 2005 or 2006, where they were both key personnel in the long-running music and comedy production, Cape Breton Lyrics and Laughter (memorialized in a 2006 CD of that name), that had its beginnings in 2002 and ran through 2009 (I am unable to confirm the exact dates as the web sites with that information are not currently available), presented Monday through Friday during most of the summer season. Colin was on fiddle and acted in unforgettable comic rôles, deploying his tongue to side-splitting effect, while Adam was on keyboards and kept things going smoothly on stage. Anyone who attended any of those productions during those years surely had a full share of laughs and fine music.
Since then, I have seen Colin a number of times in several different contexts, as a fine traditional fiddler in both the Scottish and Acadian traditions and in larger somewhat less traditional, though roots-based, groups such as Pogey and The Colin Grant Band; he is also a very interesting composer. I have much less often heard Adam play, though I was lucky enough to hear him one night at a dance in West Mabou. Colin, of course, now has two CD’s to his credit, Colin Grant and Fun for the Whole Family, while Adam is the pianist on Dara Smith-MacDonald’s new Connections CD. Except for the aforementioned Skye Theatre concert, I had not heard Jason play before.
The dance got under way with a jig set, inviting dancers to the floor for a square set, but, as is frequent at the Canadian-American Club, there were no takers. A waltz followed and then two more sets of jigs and then a slow air followed by more tunes. Finally, about 21h, two sets of four couples took to the floor for the first Boston set, prompted by Bill Luoma. After some remarks by Peggy Morrison, Colin next played a waltz, with several dancers on the floor. A Mabou set, with two sets of five couples each, followed. After a short break, another set (including Marcel Doucet’s Space Available) was played. Fiona Black on accordion then joined with Colin and Adam in another fine set of tunes. Another Boston set followed. Jason then sang his version of Loch Lomond. More jigs followed, but, while there were couples dancing on the floor, there weren’t enough to form a set, so Jason sang another song, Storm on the Way, which he had written about a lovely red sunrise on the water that led to a later violent storm, reflected in the music (Jason is a deckhand on a lobster boat out of Fourchu during lobster season). Another Mabou set, though with fewer dancers, followed. After a longer break (there are always delicious refreshments in the kitchen at the Canadian-American Club, contributed by members), the musicians returned to give us some Antigonish polkas. At Joe Cormier’s request, Colin played the slow air Miss Laura Andrews and followed it with some other tunes. Then, it was strathspey time, and four different step-dancers took the floor. To finish off the evening, the final set was a super group of E-minor tunes.
There was a good turn-out for the dance, though I had the impression that many were not all that familiar with Colin’s playing. Those present were certainly very happy with what they heard and treated all the musicians to sustained applause on several occasions. I was particularly intrigued with Adam’s piano accompaniment; I have been searching for the proper adjective to describe it and haven’t found one: if his sound were light, bright and sparkling would certainly be appropriate, but not flashy: it fits perfectly with the fiddle, adding depth, solidity, and a joyful forward motion to the music, with an individual touch that distinguishes his playing from everyone else’s. Jason’s guitar accompaniments were also quite fine; he knows this music well and complemented Colin and Adam’s playing effectively.
This was the first time that Colin, Adam, and Jason played for a Canadian-American Club dance; I hope they will be able to return in the future. That they were able to play this time was due to the tour on which they had just spent the past week, with appearances at three locations in Maine as well as the house concert in Lebanon. Those of us who love hearing Maritime musicians live continue to owe a significant debt to Phill McIntyre at the Skye Theatre, whose promotion of the music and of the musicians enables such fine performances as those to which we were treated this past week-end. Thanks are also due to Peggy Morrison and the Canadian-American Club board for an especially fine series of dances this season.