Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac has been often referred to as controversial. While that may, at times, be accurate, the thing that gets lost in all the hubbub is the music. Ashley is one hell of a fiddler.
He plays traditional tunes, in sometimes traditional arrangements. But, more often than not, he pushes the edges of what defines traditional music.
While still a teenager, Ashley released two albums of traditional music, Close To the Floor (1992) and A Cape Breton Christmas (1993). Then at the ripe old age of twenty, he took a huge leap forward, fusing hip-hop, rock, dance, and traditional Celtic music on Hi(tm) How Are You Today? (1995).
The album took a while to hit, but when it did Ashley had a good dose of fame in his native country, and with it the controversies began. Giving the audience a little too much of a show while performing on TV, dropping the F-bomb at an all ages show, etc. etc.
Whatever. It doesn't change the fact that the music is fantastic.
Since the big breakthrough, Ashley has jumped back and forth between traditional albums, and modern (for lack of a better term) ones. On his latest, Pride (2006), he has abandoned the fiddle all together, forming a rock band, and singing lead vocals.
My honest opinion, he's not as good a singer as he is a fiddler, and it's certainly not my favorite of his albums, but I give him respect for trying something new.
Ashley MacIsaac discography:
Close To the Floor (1992) (buy)
A Cape Breton Christmas (1993) (buy)
Hi(tm) How Are You Today? (1995) (buy)
Fine(r) Thank You Very Much (1996) (buy)
Helter's Celtic (1999)
Ashley MacIsaac (2003) (buy)
Fiddle Music 101 (2005) (buy)
Pride (2006) (buy)
For your listening pleasure, try these out:
"Sleepy Maggie" (with Mary Jane Lamond) from Hi(tm) How Are You Today?
"Andy Renwick's Ferret" from Helter's Celtic
"Save Me From Tomorrow" (with Lisa MacIsaac) from Ashley MacIsaac
and, of course, a couple of harder to find gems:
"Daddy Go Down" - David Byrne with Ashley Macisaac
"Bog a Lochain" - Mary Jane Lamond with Ashley MacIsaac
For more information try this wiki. For even more info, and some mp3s from Pride, check out Ashley's official site.