MacMaster free to do what she wants 

Cape Breton fiddler an eclectic opening act for Faith Hill

Who: Natalie MacMaster (opening for Faith Hill)

Where: Base II — Blackcomb Mountain

When: Saturday, August 7

Tickets: $65/$86/$118

Vivacious fiddle virtuoso Natalie MacMaster has played Carnegie Hall alongside Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and more.

She’s shared other stages with Pavarotti, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, The Boston Pops and a host of symphony orchestras.

When she felt drawn to the sounds of bluegrass she didn’t quench her thirst with a Dolly cover or two. Not Natalie. She rounded up some of the most esteemed pickers in the genre including Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer who were more than happy to collaborate on the acclaimed album that came to be 2003’s ‘Blueprint.’

She harbours a secret ambition of playing fiddle in a funk band a la the P-Funk Allstars under deep cover of an alter ego — think Garth Brooks’ rock ’n’ roll fantasy character Chris Gaines only MacMaster claims she wouldn’t tell a soul.

And she dreams of collaborations with R&B icons like Prince and Stevie Wonder – the melody from Isn’t She Lovely would sound especially sensational played by her fiddle, she enthuses.

Amidst all the funk band alter ego scheming, R&B legend dreaming and bluegrass, country, pop, jazz, rock and classical collaborations rest assured - Natalie MacMaster knows exactly who she is.

"Here’s the deal: I’m a Cape Breton fiddler," she declares from her home in Ontario’s lake country, punctuating the statement subconsciously with a tenacious regional accent that’s held fast after years on the touring circuit and the move to central Canada.

"Even if I play a tune that’s not traditional Cape Breton, it doesn’t matter. It might as well be – I’m a Cape Breton fiddler.

"I just play my style. If I play a bluegrass tune it’s still going to sound like my style. Let that be known."

MacMaster’s unshakeable foundation in traditional East Coast Celtic music has grounded her through her experimentation with a myriad of musical styles. "If you love something set it free" goes the familiar saying. MacMaster has applied the concept to her sound.

Her current band consists of a jazz bass player, pop guitar player, and country drummer.

"You put us all together and we just play music," MacMaster says. "We go where the music leads us, not where we think it should be, not where we think people expect it should be. We let it breathe on its own. What that ends up being is a combination of my Cape Breton fiddling and a band of players that sometimes can take on a bit of a funk overtone, or go a little bit poppy, or a little bit jazzy, or a little bit Irish, or a little bit whatever.


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