DOUG GALLANT: Dad’s Tunes shines the spotlight on PEI’s talented musical family.

Throughout this region, there are families for whom playing traditional fiddle music comes as naturally as breathing.

That deep-rooted affection and, dare I say, reverence for the jigs, reels, stratspeys and tunes that filled church halls, community centers and festival stages long before I was born was passed down lovingly from generation to generation.

And inevitably, each generation adds another chapter to the book of melodies from which their parents and grandparents drew, whether these communities are rooted in Scottish, Acadian or Irish cultures.

There are several families in Prince Edward Island who have long been drawn to the fiddle and the bow, but it would be difficult to name one more closely tied to traditional fiddle music than the Chaissons.

Several generations of this Kings County family have captured the hearts of traditional music lovers here on the island and around the world.

And you can clearly see why on Dad’s Tunes, an inspired and utterly delightful new recording of original fiddle tunes by supremely gifted musician and composer Kevin Chaisson.

Accompanied by his sons Tim and Brent, both of whom enjoyed widespread success at their own expense, Kevin recorded nearly 30 tracks for this album at Brent’s Studio Dimanche in Miscouche.

There’s a solo entry, a lovely slow piece titled Memories of Herbie and Agnes Cheverie, while the remaining tracks are spread over six sets.

Spirited jigs and reels guaranteed to make your toes tap and your heart pound dominate the album, and there are some really good ones, like Peter and Doreen Chaisson’s Reel, Darla’s Jig, Darren James’ Reel, Mary Hughes’s Jig and the Closing track of the album, Moulinet by Mary Katherine MacIsaac Chaisson.

If those tunes don’t get you on your feet, someone better check your pulse.

But jigs and reels aren’t the only offerings here.

There’s a strathspey dandy called Climbing The Banks and a beautiful march called Chloe LeBrech’s March, both included in Neela’s Set.

Dad’s Tunes was definitely a labor of love for everyone involved.


Fast facts

  • In addition to sheet music, Kevin Chaisson’s Collection of Fiddle Tunes features an article about the Chaisson family, the love of music they all share, and the common desire to share their music with others. There are also beautiful pictures
  • The article explores the evolution of Kevin Chaisson as a player equally at home on the piano, guitar and fiddle as well as a creator of melodies, creating his own melodies, melodies that many other fiddlers have included in their sets. Moreover, he evokes his generosity of spirit and the efforts he made to encourage and support the generations of players who followed him.
  • The book also contains a foreword on the process of getting pieces into print.
  • Looking ahead, a CD launch is scheduled for August 26 at 7 p.m. at the Pourhouse in the Old Triangle in Charlottetown.

The concept for the record was born with sons Tim and Brent seeing it as a way to share their father’s music, and when they told him what they wanted to do, he was more than willing to pitch in.

While Kevin was writing these tracks, he chose to play the piano here and have Tim play the violin while Brent played the guitar.

Together they are a force to be reckoned with. I won’t say that the kind of chemistry you see here only comes from growing up together in a home where the joy of making music is shared almost from the first breath, but it’s definitely a major contributing factor.

Father and son draw from the same well of inspiration from which several generations of Chaissons drew before them. That, combined with a skill set honed over decades of gigs, dances, festivals and family reunions, has produced three formidable players.

The only musician outside the family to appear on the record was Pastelle LeBlanc from Vishten, who unfortunately is no longer with us. She played wonderful accordion on the album.

If you like this record and play the fiddle, you should consider picking up a copy of Kevin Chaisson’s Collection of Fiddle Tunes, a book of tunes for the CD which contains sheet music not only for the tunes on the record but for all Kevin’s original compositions.

It also includes sheet music for nearly two dozen songs that Kevin particularly likes and that have been composed by other players. This mix includes tracks from Tim Chaisson, Brent Chaisson, Koady Chaisson, Ward MacDonald, Marlene Gallant, Rannie MacLellan, Darren James Chaisson, Peter Chaisson, Elmer Deagle, Carolyn Drake and Andrea Beaton.

(Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)

Doug Gallant is a well-known freelance writer and connoisseur of a wide variety of music. His On Track column will appear in The Guardian every second Thursday. To comment on what he has to say or offer suggestions for future reviews, email him at [email protected].