Kenneth MacKenzie
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Kenneth MacKenzie


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"Album review: Kenneth and Angus Mackenzie: Piob is Fidheall"

GAELIC culture is in the genes, and so is the split-second duet playing in this fine recording by the fiddling and piping MacKenzie brothers, raised in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, of piping-rich South Uist stock, and currently resident in Scotland. Kenneth, on fiddle, and Angus, on Highland and Border pipes and whistles, are joined by a tight little team, largely of fellow-Cape Bretoners, including nimble pianist Mac Morin (another MacKenzie brother, Calum, takes a dexterous solo piano excursion), Patrick Gillis on guitar and Boyd MacNeill on bouzouki and banjo, as well as seasoned Highland guitarist Ross Martin. They crack their way through marches, strathspeys, jigs and reels, riding that churning Cape Breton piano with irresistible drive and impeccable timing. Listen, for instance, to the driving Irish-flavoured reels of Mutt's, or the nicely poised flight of the Skye Jigs, while the air Tuireadh Bàrd Thùrnaig offers tender respite. - Jim Gilchrist - The Scotsman


Any recording of traditional music that starts with the march Captain Carswell already has my attention and the way it is tackled by Kenneth and Angus MacKenzie, I know I want more! On Pìob is Fidheall (pipes and fiddle) Mabou’s MacKenzie brothers take us on a musical ride with tunes old and new, woven together seamlessly in that closeness that musical siblings seem to accomplish so easily. Sons of Ronald MacKenzie of South Uist and the late Maureen Rankin of Mabou, they bring influences from both sides of the ocean. On one cut, Currie Cousins, they play tunes associated with their ancestor Duncan Currie of South Uist and the late Alex Currie of Frenchvale, Cape Breton. I would hope both departed souls would have a broad smile and take to the floor upon hearing Kenneth and Angus play together. This is an instrumental album and is loaded with drive and joy (Captain Carswell, Coal Mines Tunes) humor (When Harry Met Shelly), and emotion (Slow Drive, Moladh Maureen). Pìob is Fidheall is another in the series sponsored by the Festival Volunteer Drivers Association and Lakewind Sound. The MacKenzies are joined by brother Calum and Mac Morin on piano, Ross Martin and Patrick Gillis on guitar, Shelly Campbell on fiddle, Boyd MacNeil on bouzouki and banjo and Matt Foulds on drums and was produced by Angus and Kenneth and Mike Shepherd. Angus plays the pipes and whistles and lives in Portree. From there he travels worldwide with his band, Dàimh. Kenneth lives in Mabou and does a lot of musical collaborations with Dawn and Margie Beaton, and other Inverness Co. musicians. It should be noted that the brothers are proficient on each others’ instruments and brother Calum also plays the fiddle. Pìob is Fidheall by Kenneth and Angus MacKenzie is the real thing.

John Ferguson for Celtic Life
April 19, 2011
- John Ferguson - Celtic Life Magazine

"KENNETH & ANGUS MacKENZIE - Pìob Is Fidheall"

Fiddling and piping brothers Kenneth and Angus are from the Gaelic speaking community in the Mabou area of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Angus MacKenzie moved over to Scotland a few years back, and is well known as the piper with the group Dàimh. Kenneth stayed home in Canada, gaining a reputation as a fine fiddler on his most fiddler-rich native island. Now they've joined forces for an impressive duet album, backed by some of the best accompanists either side of the Atlantic.

The fiddle style of Cape Breton is very much based on dancing, step-dances and square-dances. This is the music on Pìob Is Fidheall, with Angus playing a very free and driving style on the pipes. It's what Cape Bretoners call "close to the floor", meaning it affects the dancers' feet. In Europe, we talk about "lift", the ability to keep the dancers light on their feet: when the MacKenzie brothers get going, they generate enough lift for a jumbo jet.

Plenty of familiar melodies from the Scottish and Cape Breton repertoires are supplemented by a surprising number of Irish tunes. Lisnagun by ace uilleann piper Brendan Ring, Mick O'Connor's by the celebrated London Irish banjo-player, Reel Of Rio and Over the Moor To Maggie: these are great fiddle tunes, but not so common on the Scottish pipes. Angus MacKenzie has earned a reputation for playing and setting such unexpected tunes, fitting the fiddle style onto the admittedly limited highland chanter, and on this recording he pulls off a few more feats of adaptation. He also gets composing credits for one of the most striking tunes here: Stormy Hill, a rattling good modal jig well worth learning.

There's so much good music on this CD, it's hard to know what to mention. One track which particularly impressed me was the pairing of O'er Bogie with Liz Carroll's Air Tune as sumptuous slow reels. This is an excellent example of the close-knit unison which Kenneth and Angus achieve, making it hard to distinguish between duets and solos. In fact, the only true solo here comes from the youngest MacKenzie brother, Calum, who tickles his way effortlessly through a demanding medley on the old Joanna: Laoidh Chalum Chille, Julia Delaney, Oogly Googly and The Bush Administration. Elsewhere the pipes and fiddle are unchallenged on Sandy McIntyre's Trip To Boston, Jerry's Pipe Jig, Pretty Marion, Katy Ness of Kinnyside, The Man With Three Thumbs, and the soulful air Moladh Maureen. The brothers end with a very spirited rendition of the grand old reel The Contradiction, a fitting finale to an outstanding album.

Alex Monaghan - Alex Monaghan - Living Tradition Magazine

"Piob is Fidheall CD Review"

If I were to arbitrarily invent a recipe for a mouthwatering CD of piping and fiddling, I might come up with the following:

2 siblings (the musical, Gaelic-speaking variety)
1 Border pipe (Highland pipes and low-whistle can be substituted on occasion)
1 fiddle, with bow
1 Mac Morin
Choicest old Scottish and Cape Breton tunes
Choicest freshly composed tunes
Talented guest musicians
Marinate siblings in a rich combination of Cape Breton-Rankin and South Uist-Currie genealogy. Make sure both can play each others’ instruments as well. Let cure for 20-30 years. Mix with choicest tunes. Add Mac. Season with guest musicians, to taste. Place mixture into a good studio, with a lid on tight. When a CD has formed, preheat stereo volume to #11, spin for one hour, and serve with a cold bottle of Schooner.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, I have happy news for you: this recipe is for real, and you’re invited to the meal! Indeed, Kenneth and Angus MacKenzie, two exceptionally talented brothers from Mabou, Cape Breton, have produced a tremendous album of piping and fiddle music. The album is aptly named, Pìob is Fidheall (Pipes and Fiddle).

Angus and his remarkable piping will be familiar to many of you, as he is the piper for the well-known folk band, Daimh. Angus, who happens to play fiddle as well (but not on this album), is prominently featured on both pipes and whistle. His playing, as usual, is some of the best you’ll hear anywhere—it is deadly accurate, and he manages to “drive” tunes better than any other piper I’ve yet heard.

Kenneth, who happens to play the pipes as well (but not on this album), offers some superb fiddling to equal his older brother’s piping; and that is no small feat. There is a maturity to his playing that is rare among many younger fiddlers, a depth which may have something to do with his strong piping background and 20-odd years of being steeped in unprocessed Cape Breton music.

The sets these two have chosen are an inspired mix of lesser-known tunes, with the dance tunes being delivered in the fiercely energetic style that is so typical of Cape Breton musicians. Further, Mac Morin—the pianist for both Natalie MacMaster and Beòlach—is their main accompanist, and has added his characteristically ingenious and skillful support for the two brothers. Other musicians sprinkled on the album include their youngest brother Calum (piano), Ross Martin (guitar), Paddy Gillis (guitar), Shelly Campbell (fiddle), Boyd MacNeil (bouzouki, banjo), and Mattie Foulds (drums).

The CD itself is very nicely packaged, complete with detailed liner notes about all the tunes and their sources. All tracks were expertly recorded, mixed and mastered by Mike Shepherd of Lakewind Sound Studios. With this in mind, I would encourage you to get a hold of the actual, physical CD, rather than downloading compressed and information-less mp3s.

If I were forced to make any criticism of this album—and it would have to be at gunpoint—it would be that we’re deprived of any of Kenneth’s skillful piping on this album. I’ll just assume he’s saving that for the next course…

In short, this is a very rich, complete, and unusually successful record, one that belongs in the home of every piper and anyone interested in fine Scottish and Cape Breton fiddling. It is also a superb resource for anyone looking for both inspiration and new repertoire. As Iain MacDonald wrote in the liner notes, “…this is as good as it gets.” I rarely get this excited about a CD, and recommend it unhesitatingly.

Pìob is Fidheall is available from for North American listeners, and both and for listeners in the UK, EU, etc. For digital downloads (and again, I’d encourage you to go for the real CD), go to - Tim Cummings - Alternative Pipers of North America

"The Younger Generation"

I’m not saying I am old, but, I might be getting older. The music scene on Cape Breton Island now operates with what I look upon as a very fresh, up and coming, group of young (very talented) musicians. They are good people too. The encouraging fact is that a number of this younger generation of contributors, are for the most part, very respectful of a beautiful Gaelic culture. As a matter of fact, some of these “kids” are even fluent Gaelic speakers. It is a healthy scene.

One of the individuals I have come into contact with just a few times over the past few years is Kenneth MacKenzie of Mabou Coal Mines, Cape Breton. He is a top-shelf musician, and a gentleman to boot. He is a locally grown fluent Gaelic speaker, piper, fiddler, and step-dancer. Additionally, I would only guess that he likely plays the piano, guitar, and whatever other instrument he puts his hand to. He is a multi-talented guy who is the son of two fluent Gaelic speakers.

Recently, Kenneth was the recipient of the 2010 Celtic Colours Festival Volunteer Drive’er Association Frank (Big Sampy) Sampson Award for recording. This award grants studio time to a young, up and coming artist who excels in the Celtic vain. What an appropriate choice. Kenneth has already contributed immensely to the Gaelic and Celtic culture of Cape Breton Island, and we hope he will continue to do so as years move forward. Featured on the CD along with him are his brothers Calum and Angus. Keep your eyes and ears posted for this new release…… will be a must for your collection! - Tracey Dares - Celtic Heart of North America

"Kenneth & Angus MacKenzie, Piob is Fidheall"

Any album that comes with a recommendation from one of Glenuig’s three piping MacDonald brothers has to be worth consideration, and this is no exception.

Iain MacDonald is right: Cape Breton-born Kenneth and Angus MacKenzie play the pipes and fiddle referred to in the title with a closeness that makes them sound like one super-rich hybrid instrument, and the sense of long family musical tradition shines through in the quality, richness and sheer expressivity of their playing. The menu and accompaniments here are varied, with mobile marches, exuberant jigs and swinging strathspeys joined by slow airs thick with the atmosphere of the family’s South Uist background. Moladh Maureen, for the boys’ late mother, is at once respectful and celebratory, and there’s real joy in their tribute to piping genius Gordon Duncan on William Marshall’s The Contradiction. Look out, too, for another sibling, Calum, whose percussive solo piano feature is another treat on a superb collection. - Rob Adams - The Sunday Herald, Scotland

"Album review: Kenneth & Angus MacKenzie"

Nature and nurture come together beautifully in a dozen tracks and an hour of music on pipes and fiddle by two Cape Breton musicians. The striking sibling sensitivity, in a Uist/Lochaber family upbringing in which Scots-Gaelic music continues to maintain a central tradition, gives the album a rare power and authority, and there's a palpable sense of joyfulness in this recording by the two lads and their pals.

Tasteful, assured, and really well played, it's guaranteed to inspire the feet and leave a smile on your lips. - Norman Chalmers - Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman


"Pìob is Fidheal" - Released December, 2010. Mabou Coal Mines Records.
"Oirfeid Uibhist" (Track 11) - Released 2007. Independent.
"Ceòlmhor Ostaig" (Tracks 5 & 13) - Released 2003. Independent.

Kenneth also appears on:
"Tunesmith" by Kinnon Beaton (Track 3) - Released 2010. Independent.
"A Taste of Gaelic" by Dawn & Margie Beaton (Track 4) - Released 2008. Independent.
"Cape Breton Live Take 01" (Track 3) - Released 2006. Independent.
"Cape Breton Live Take 02" (Track 3) - Released 2008. Independent.
"The College of Piping Sessions" (Track 3) - Released 2003. Independent.
"Ri Taobh Loch Tatha" (Tracks 8 & 15) - Released 2005. Independent.

Angus also appears on:
"Diversions" with Dàimh - Released 2010. Greentrax Recordings.
"Crossing Point" with Dàimh - Released 2007. Greentrax Recordings.
"Pirates of Puirt" with Dàimh - Released 2003. Goat Island Records.
"Moidart to Mabou" with Dàimh - Released 2000. Goat Island Records.
"Air Chall" with Rachel Walker - Released 2010. Skipinnish Records.



Pìob is Fidheall [Pipes and Fiddle] is the debut album from brothers Kenneth & Angus MacKenzie. Hailing from Mabou, Cape Breton Island on Canada’s east coast, they were raised in a Gaelic-speaking household and immersed in traditional and Gaelic music from a young age. They learned the pipes and fiddle at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia, joining the World Champion Gaelic College Pipe Band. Over the years, Kenneth and Angus have won many prestigious awards on the competitive piping circuit, but have always favoured the traditional side of their music.

Kenneth has gained a reputation as being one of the finest fiddlers and pipers playing in Cape Breton today. His lively, musical playing has him much in demand for sessions and dances, and he has performed and recorded with artists such as Beòlach, Mary Jane Lamond, Dawn & Margie Beaton Band with whom he has toured North America and Europe.

Since moving to Scotland more than ten years ago Angus has become very involved in the traditional music scene of the West Highlands. He is a founder member of west coast-based supergroup Dàimh with whom he has toured extensively and released four critically acclaimed albums, and also plays regularly with The Rachel Walker Band and Na Trì Seudan. He is a much sought-after music tutor and session musician, touring and collaborating with acts such as Breabach, Dannsa, it’s jo and danny and the mighty Galician Anxo Lorenzo Band.

Together, some of their performance highlights include the Ceòlas Summer Music School in South Uist, the Blàs Festival in the Scottish Highlands and the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton as well as dances, sessions and ceilidhs on both sides of the Atlantic.

“...they play together with a closeness and understanding rarely found outside of families. For me this is as good as it gets.” Iain MacDonald, Glenuig