Andrea Beaton, Biography

December 31, 2009

One of Cape Breton’s most promising young fiddlers, Andrea Beaton comes by her music honestly. Listen to her play, the power of her bow, the drive and swing of her timing, the crispness of her attack. She’s making a name for herself in dance halls, concerts, pubs and festivals. Like the compelling tradition she represents, her reputation is growing, spreading beyond the island. Andrea Beaton seems destined for great things.

She’s the youngest of generations of Beaton musicians. Her father, Kinnon, is one of today’s most influential Cape Breton fiddlers, and you can hear some of his timing in Andrea’s playing. Her mother, Betty Beaton, is one of the great piano accompanists of her generation, contributing to that remarkable Beaton timing.

Her paternal grandfather, Donald Angus Beaton, was one of the strongest and most popular players of his generation, and you can hear some of his power in her playing. Her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Beaton, is a strongly rhythmic piano player, with a great love of the music.

Her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, is the most revered fiddler on Cape Breton Island. Her cousin, Natalie MacMaster, is an enormously popular entertainer. And so it goes, back and across the generations. Cape Breton is an extraordinarily musical place, and Andrea is increasingly in the forefront of her generation. Her music is at once her own and deeply rooted in the tradition associated with the Mabou Coal Mines. And, like her father and grandfather, she is a composer in the tradition, adding fine new music to the island’s repertoire.

Born in 1979, Andrea grew up surrounded by music and dance. She was playing a little at ten; at thirteen she took lessons from Stephanie Wills, a very fine traditional player. But it was some years later, when, missing home while doing a two-year course on Prince Edward Island, that she began playing in earnest. And it seems she never looked back.

Her first CD, “License to Drive ‘Er,” led to a nomination as Roots Traditional Solo Artist of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards. Her spring 2004 release, “Cuts,” features many of the island’s finest musicians on its fourteen tracks, and her love for the music, her enthusiasm and humor, and that forceful beat add up to a very compelling recording. “Cuts” was nominated for the 2005 Instrumental Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards. Andrea recorded her latest release, “The Tap Session,” live at a pub during a tour of Scotland. With Troy MacGillivray on piano, and a track featuring Fin Moore on smallpipes, the album has high energy and a very natural feel. Andrea also appears on two of Kinnon’s recordings, “Saturday Night Lively” and “Eoghan Dubh,” which she produced. In 2004, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released “Cape Breton Fiddle and Piano Music: The Beaton Family of Mabou,” and she is featured there with members of her extended family. Andrea is also featured on a live track with Kinnon and Betty Lou on “Cape Breton Live: Take 01”, recorded at a house party at Andrea’s house. She was also co-producer of that album.

“A friend of mine told me that she’d once listened to an Aretha Franklin greatest hits CD, followed by a tape of Andrea playing for a local dance. “Andrea”, my friend told me, “has all the power and drive that she heard on Aretha’s recording. There’s something indefinable about music’s power to make people move. It’s nearly impossible to talk about it. But you know it when you hear it. And Andrea Beaton has it. – Burt Feintuch, University of New Hampshire


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