Home Read Classic Album Review: Ashley MacIsaac | Ashley MacIsaac

Classic Album Review: Ashley MacIsaac | Ashley MacIsaac

The loose-cannon Canadian fiddler finally gets ahold of himself — for the most part.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


It has taken Ashley MacIsaac a decade to get around to making a self-titled album. Maybe that’s because it’s taken him that long to get ahold of himself.

After bursting on to the scene with 1995’s Hi How Are You Today and its followup Fine Thank You Very Much, the Cape Breton fiddling sensation spent years proving he was anything but fine — he flashed his privates on TV, warred with his labels and managers, spewed obscenities at fans, declared bankruptcy and lost his home in a fire. Lately, though, MacIsaac seems to have vanquished his demons and found solid footing with a new label, a new album and — most importantly — a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose.

This 13-song comeback captures MacIsaac’s most coherent, consistent and satisfying work in nearly a decade, with a well-balanced set list clearly designed to showcase his wide-ranging talents and unite his segmented fanbase. For the old-school crowd, there’s traditional fare like Chorus Jig/The King’s Reel and Bob An Login. For the pop charts, there are radio-friendly numbers like the rootsy guitar ballad Lay Me Down, the bouncy I Don’t Need This and the funked-up Grapes, all with MacIsaac’s throaty, unvarnished vocals front and centre. For fans of Sleepy Maggie, there’s To America We Go, a Celtronica reunion with chanteuse Mary Jane Lamond. For the roots lovers, there’s the country-rock Save Me From Tomorrow, with Ashley’s sis Lisa singing, and the bluesy Captain America. For the underground geeks, there’s a swirly upbeat cover of Nick Drake’s Cello Song. For Paul McCartney fans, there’s even a remarkably reverent take on Mull of Kintyre featuring Default’s Dallas Smith.

If it sounds a tad unfocused, perhaps it is. Then again, for somebody as squirrelly as MacIsaac, this is about as pointed as it gets. And about as good as it gets. Welcome back, Ashley. Nice to see you’re feeling fine again.