Natalie MacMaster keeping busy after JUNO nomination

PETERBOROUGH, ONTARIO: Fiddler and step dancer Natalie MacMaster has been nominated for yet another award.

The Troy native was among the nominees in the Traditional Roots Album of the Year category for her recording Sketches when the 2020 JUNO Award nominations were announced on January 28.

“It’s wonderful, I have a couple of JUNOs in my basement and they were from back when I was in my 20s and I’m 47 so it was exciting,” MacMaster told The Reporter about hearing the news. “I’m excited to get that national recognition.”

As for why she believes Sketches was so well received, MacMaster pointed to its stripped-down sound.

“I am always amazed at what people take to,” she stated. “This record was not meant really for anyone other than the fiddle music enthusiast because I just had stuff inside me I had to get out and I wanted to get it out simply and just bare-bones. That’s why it’s called Sketches. I didn’t want to make another big production.”

An accomplished step dancer who has been married for 17 years to husband and frequent collaborator Donnell Leahy, MacMaster has received seven JUNO nominations, including a win for Best Instrumental Album in 2000 for In My Hands. She has won 19 East Coast Music Awards and five Canadian Country Music Association Awards (as Fiddler of the Year from 1997 to 2001). MacMaster has earned multiple gold albums with overall sales exceeding 300,000 and won a GEMINI Award in 1999 for Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series.

MacMaster was also nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional Folk album category in 2000 for My Roots Are Showing, took a Canadian Folk Music Award for Instrumental Group of the Year 2015 with Donnell Leahy, and won the Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year and Instrumental Recording of the Year in 2016 with Donnell Leahy at the East Coast Music Awards.

Among the notable collaborations in her career, MacMaster played on Yo-Yo Ma’s Collaborations: Songs of Joy & Peace in 2008, which won the Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance, she performed with Johnny Reid on A Christmas Gift to You in 2013, and appeared with her husband on One in 2015 and on A Celtic Family Christmas a year later.

The 47-year-old has been putting out music since 1989 when she released Solo: Four On The Floor, then in 1991 it was Road To The Isle; Fit As A Fiddle in 1993; A Compilation in 1996; No Boundaries in 1997; In My Hands featuring Alison Krauss in 1999; My Roots Are Showing in 2000; Live in 2002; Blueprint in 2003; Yours Truly in 2006; and finally 2011’s Cape Breton Girl.

In her storied career, MacMaster has performed with Béla Fleck, Faith Hill, Carlos Santana, The Chieftains (who also invited MacMaster to join the group), Sharon, Lois & Bram, Buddy MacMaster, and Jesse Cook.

Looking back on this career, MacMaster is happy that her music will now reach a new generation with this latest nomination.

“Some people may not have been born when I first started,” she remarked. “It’s like, wow there’s a new crop of people to convert, shall we say.

“The older you get, and the more you realize life is such a gift, the more you just appreciate every little thing. I am so darn grateful to be able to play music and to have longevity. I’m telling you, I really think I love it now more than I ever did. I’m entering a bit of a new phase, with more writing. The world of writing is opening itself up to me and I just love it.”

MacMaster has also been bestowed with Honorary Doctorates at the School of Theology in Halifax, Trent University in Peterborough and Niagara University in New York. In 2016 she was inducted into the Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame.

The mother of seven also has a teaching degree and home-schools her children. She is a published author (Natalie MacMaster’s Cape Breton Aire, 2010).

In 2006, MacMaster was named to the Order of Canada.

As for the future, MacMaster said she is working on “a number” of recording projects, including Donnell Leahy’s solo CD, the re-release of A Celtic Family Christmas with new tracks, and a collaboration album with her husband.

“I have enough material to put out another solo record too but I just put out one a few months ago so I think I’ll wait a bit,” she added.

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