Cassie and Maggie bask in JUNO nod

GERMANY: A traditional music duo with Antigonish roots is receiving national recognition for their most recent album.

Cassie and Maggie MacDonald have received a JUNO nomination for Traditional Roots Album of the Year for their recording, The Willow Collection.

“This is our first JUNO nomination. It’s so exciting!” said Cassie MacDonald in an e-mail last week while the duo was in Germany for a 34-show tour.

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The sisters perform a blend of traditional and contemporary music that features fiddle, piano, and guitar arrangements, as well as vocal harmonies in English and Gaelic.

MacDonald says the sisters’ Antigonish roots have had a strong influence on their music. Their parents were born and raised in Antigonish and they spent summers in a cottage near Morristown, Antigonish County.

“Our parents were so good to bring us to all the musical events and dancing that were happening all around, so we were exposed to live music our whole lives,” said MacDonald. “The cottage had no electricity or running water, so the summers were our chance to practice and play tunes all day as a form of entertainment.”

The Willow Collection is Cassie and Maggie’s third album and is inspired by the willow tree, which MacDonald says is a symbol commonly used in folklore-based traditional music.

“The idea for the album came to me one day as we were singing a beautiful ballad, ‘Down in the Willow Garden,’” said MacDonald.

“It took a bit of convincing to get Maggie on board with doing a theme album, but once she was into the idea she really did a lot of incredible research to find some lesser-known willow songs to make the album feel complete and well-rounded.”

MacDonald added that she was very pleased to work with fellow musicians Dave Gunning and Alex Meade on the project.

It has been an exciting year for the duo. The Willow Collection was also nominated for four Canadian Folk Music Awards, winning Traditional Album of the Year, and three Music Nova Scotia Awards, picking up the award for Roots Album of the Year. The recording also received nominations for two East Coast Music Awards and two Independent Music Awards. They have been very busy touring in the United Kingdom in January and February, and will continue their tour in Germany until the end of March.

“We were just in the studio in Glasgow for two weeks at the beginning of January working on our fourth album,” said MacDonald.

“We’ve got such a busy touring schedule for the next year that it’ll be tricky to find time to get it all finished, but we’re hoping for a spring 2019 launch.”

The sisters do not plan to slow down anytime soon, and their calendar is quickly filling up.

“We head home to Nova Scotia at the end of March and then we’ve got a very exciting tour of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with the Paul McKenna band from Scotland in April,” MacDonald said.