Updated Sept 27, 2023
J P Cormier Heart & Soul
by Ryan Thomson
J P Cormier fits into the category of "virtuoso fiddler." Many professional musicians can play easy pieces and make them enjoyable to listen to. J P (may I call him that?) plays difficult pieces and makes them enjoyable to listen to. To the average listener the technical difficulty of a violin piece is irrelevant, as long as its enjoyable to listen to. The reason I'm dwelling upon this distinction though, is that J P Cormier should get public credit for his exceptional proficiency on the violin.
In this collection he presents mostly Cape Breton Canadian tunes, but also some United States style bluegrass and "contest fiddling." He acknowledges influence from Kenny Baker and Bill Monroe with some fine fiddling on the tunes: Twinkle Twinkle; Calgary Polka; and Rawhide.
He plays a number of lively Canadian tunes that he uses for square dances, including the jigs: Angus Chisholm's; Little Judique; Betty Anne's jig; Max MacDonald's jig; and Sheldon MacNeill's Reel by Raymond Ellis.
I'm assuming that he comes from a strong classical violin background due to several clues on this CD: his violin technique; the inclusion of J. S. Bach's Prelude in A minor as an introduction to the tunes The Earl of Hyndford and Everybody's Hornpipe; and the kind words in his liner notes about Martin Hayes in which he describes him as "just one more of the many fine people I've met through trying to be a fiddler." (J P plays a couple of tunes from Hayes's repertoire: The Whistler from Rossiea; Connor Dunn's; and the Good Natured Man) I've had many classically trained musicians who have become interested in fiddle music tell me that they are "trying to be fiddlers." Well, J P has obviously arrived, and then some!
Again, this may not have particular relevance to the average listener, but since the reviewer is a serious fiddler and fiddling teacher himself, I study the ways in which musicians get from point A to point B in their playing ability. Fiddle students pay attention! Listen to this CD. Of course any listeners to fine fiddle music will want to add this album to their collection as well.
Did I mention that J P Cormier also plays great banjo and guitar? He plays a piece entitled "Banjomusk," in which he does a medley of the Cape Breton tune Dinky's, and an uptempo version of the Scottish tune Money Musk in a way similar to how we play it in New England for contra dances. His fingerpick guitar playing shines in his treatment of a Sharon Shannon accordion medley which he has transposed over to fiddle and guitar. The piece is entitled Fleetwood Macinnis and includes the traditional tune Cry of the Eagle, and Never go Back Again by Lindsay Buckingham.
There's more good stuff here: the french Hangman's Reel, strathspeys, pretty waltzes, and some original reels, but you'll just have to get this CD to find out for yourself!
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1999