HALIFAX: Two musical sisters from Antigonish County are looking forward to sharing their signature blend of vocal harmonies and Celtic instrumental work with local audiences.
Cassie and Maggie MacDonald are bringing their second album, The Willow Collection, to a pair of release events in the Strait area this coming weekend. The siblings will hit the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique at 7:30 p.m. on March 4, before performing at St. James United Church in Antigonish at 3 p.m. on March 5.
“We’re so excited to be home,” Cassie MacDonald told The Reporter in a phone interview from the duo’s current home base of Halifax.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve toured on the East Coast… It’s kind of like we’re making a new first impression so everyone can see what we’ve been up to these last couple of years.”
Recorded at veteran singer-songwriter Dave Gunning’s Wee House of Music studio in Pictou, The Willow Collection is the first new recording for Cassie and Maggie since their 2014 debut Sterling Road. The new disc’s 11 tracks are designed to further cement the siblings’ ability to seamlessly shift from colourful fiddle medleys to sweet-voiced vocal harmonies.
“Growing up, we listened to a lot of country music, and Maggie’s a really big fan of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton, so she has a little bit of that country twang just naturally in her voice,” noted Casssie MacDonald, who credited Gunning for the overall sound of The Willow Collection.
“Recording vocals is still kind of a new thing to us, so he really mentored us in that way. He helped with the arrangements and helped to feature our vocals in a way that wasn’t overpowering – the instruments were still allowed to have their own space, but the vocals took centre stage in [those] songs.”
While she suggested with a laugh that touring North America and the United Kingdom with her sister has helped the duo determine “exactly what buttons not to push,” Cassie MacDonald praised her sibling’s efforts in building up the duo’s repertoire.
“Musically, Maggie has recently become very focused about singing and finding these old folk songs and really bringing them to the table, and then we arrange them together and put our own spin on it,” MacDonald enthused.
“She’s really passionate about digging up the archives of the old folk collections, so she sort of looks after the singing aspect and I’m more of the instrumental side, bringing tunes to the table and that sort of thing.”
As a result, The Willow Collection represents Cassie and Maggie’s desire to blend several different angles of the folk-roots scene – including bluegrass and Appalachian – within a Celtic framework.
“We wanted to explore the influence of the Scottish, Irish and English settlers when they came to North America and they brought these songs with them,” Cassie MacDonald pointed out.
For more information, including tour dates and sound samples, visit Cassie and Maggie’s main Web site: www.cassieandmaggie.com, as well as their Soundcloud account: www.soundcloud.com/cassie-maggie. The duo also has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.