Max MacDonald
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Max MacDonald

Band Folk Celtic


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"Max MacDonald’s first solo CD would be a great addition to any collection"

The CD looks like an old 45, big hole in the centre, yellow label, grooves and all. The content is mostly memories and stories, crafted with care by a dozen of Cape Breton’s best writers. The singer is a veteran performer whose distinctive voice will bring back as many memories as the songs themselves.

Titled “Songs of Home: A Personal Tribute to Cape Breton Songwriters,” it’s the first solo project from Max MacDonald, famous for a long career as a member of Buddy & The Boys, the Rise & Follies of Cape Breton Island and the Cape Breton Summertime Revue. Max has been away from centre stage since 1994 and since that time he has occupied his time as one of the principles with Rave Entertainment and one of the founders of the highly successful Celtic Colours International Music Festival.
It’s a long, long way from his first gig in 1972 but the urge to sing is strong and (luckily for us) Songs of Home is the result. If anything, his voice is as good, or better, then it was, with a mellow maturity and no rough edges.

Max has carefully chosen 12 of his favourites; songs from his performing past and his contemporaries; songs from artists that he has helped to nurture; songs from today’s new generation of writers. Each has been given a fresh treatment, often with an eye-opening instrumental arrangement that may surprise you but will leave you smiling and singing along. Only three are from different stages in Max’s career while he never performed the others before recording.

Perhaps the most unique thing about the CD is not the song selection but the way they are presented. In each case the writer is doing vocal harmony or joining in on the chorus. Couple this with some amazing work from J.P. Cormier (who plays darn near all the instruments) and you have quite the package. Produced by J.P., the CD was mostly recorded in his studio in Cap LeMoine with small parts done in Sydney, Halifax and Denmark.
And just which songwriters did Max choose? Rita, Sam, Gordie, Jimmy, Steven, Leon, Matt, Bruce, J.P., Buddy, Duncan and Ronnie! And I don’t need to say any more because you have already filled in the last names.
Every cut is wonderful but my personal favourites include Old Man and Midnight Angel and I enjoy the bluegrass versions (yes, bluegrass) of Girls of Neils Harbour and Me & The Boys. I am perhaps most taken by the utter simplicity of Go Off On Your Way, a song we all know so well, which ends the CD with the combined voices of all the writers joining in for the last chorus.

Songs of Home is something for music lovers to enjoy, something for yourself and something you will want to share with those away. It’s also something for Max to look at with pride. - Cape Breton Post


Still working on that hot first release.



I love to sing. It’s a totally liberating way to connect with and express who you really are. At its best (for me), it is done with no conscious thought and is driven by trust in some inner part of yourself to guide you through the limitless possibilities of expression. The reward is the emotional exhilaration felt when you get it right.

Like all forms of art, it also creates the possibility of others connecting with and being moved to experience something that is meaningful for them. I think of all music as soul music, music that touches the soul.

I forgot all of this for many years. Maybe the road beat it out of me or maybe I didn’t trust what I might find if I went to that place that music can take you. Maybe it was stage fright. Whatever the reason, I stopped singing in 1994.

For some years leading up to this decision, I found myself thinking more and more about what an unnatural act it is to expect people to pay to watch you work. What if it all went horribly wrong during a performance? What would I do? This can eat you up and it did.

The strange thing was that as soon as I stepped on stage, it all went away. For a couple of hours each day I experienced the joy of collaborating with the wonderful artists I was always fortunate to work with. I owned that stage; felt a peace in the knowledge that I belonged there, that is was my calling.

Then, in the quiet that followed, I would start to think about the next night.... and so on. The scales had tipped. The two hours of joy had become overwhelmed by the other twenty two hours of angst. For the good of my health, I simply had to stop.

I’ve been fortunate to be around and be influenced by music all my life. My father worked at CJCB Radio and would bring home the records they wouldn’t play on the radio, for whatever reason. As a result, I was exposed to some wonderful and wacky music of all genres.

This early exposure, to all sorts and styles of music, provided a great backdrop as I began to work with artists from a variety of experiences and styles. I was able to respect and appreciate the different influences that people brought to the table and never felt that music had any boundaries.

This was also an exciting time (early ‘70’s) because there was a growing confidence in the Cape Breton artist community that it was, not only OK, but incumbent on us to tell our own stories.

There was an unspoken need to write songs, paint and create theatre, where the subject matter was the stories influenced by Cape Breton’s social and cultural history. The only examples we had were the comedy of Hughie and Allan, the songs of Charlie MacKinnon and the Cape Breton songwriting contest of the ‘50s and our traditional music. The cool thing was that artists of different backgrounds and styles began to look to these influences and then to expand on the themes they touched.

This shared need to express who we are as an Island people created an umbrella under which many of the people on this CD gathered. Others have grown up with the resultant work and have added their important voices to this evolution.

I’ve been blessed to work with some really gifted artists over the years. I’m proud of the work we all produced with Buddy & the Boys, The Rise & Follies of Cape Breton Island and the Cape Breton Summertime Revue. I’m also grateful that I was able to figure out a way to continue working with artists, albeit in a different capacity, with the Celtic Colours International Festival.

However, I’ve been feeling the need to sing again and this has led me to this project. I hope I have been able to bring something fresh to this great collection of songs. I have so much respect for these artists and the difficult bit was deciding which songs to include of the many they have created.

It feels really good to sing again!

Max MacDonald