Allie is pleased to announce the birth of his second granddaughter, Larken Ivy Bennett. A second daughter for son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Meaghan.
Allie will officially release his new CD "Full Circle" on Sunday, January 19, at The Old Triangle in Halifax from 5pm to 8pm. Also appearing with Allie is guitarist Bruce Timmins.
Allie will be operating a fiddle camp in Cole Harbour, NS. The dates are from July 29th to August 2nd. Three levels will be taught, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. The classes will be from 9am to 12pm each day. The location is the basement of the Forest Hills Fellowship Baptist Church, 915 Cole Harbour Road. The cost is $75 for a total of five one-hour sessions. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allie wishes to inform his friends that he has moved to the Halifax area.
Allie is back in the recording studio working on a new CD. More details to follow.
Allie is pleased to announce the birth of his granddaughter, Neelie Kathleen.
Allie is pleased to announce his son Jonathan and fiancé Meaghan Grant will be married on October 8th.
Allie will be touring the Maritimes the first two weeks of November with Nathan Rogers. The tour is dubbed Nathan Sings Stan - The Rogers Legacy Continues. Nathan will be honouring his dad's memory with a tribute show featuring the songs of Stan Rogers, as well as a few of his own.
March 21, 2009
Allie will be performing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at the Dollywood Theme Park from March 27th to April 27th as part of the Festival of Nations. He is one of five Cape Breton musicians chosen to represent Canada. The others include Jennifer Roland, Buddy MacDonald, Adam Young and Keith Mullins. They will be doing three shows a day, six days a week during the Festival. The shows will have a definite Cape Breton theme, mostly featuring the fiddling of Jennifer Roland and the songs of Buddy MacDonald. Allie will be playing bass, as well as one fiddle feature each show.
August 21, 2008
Allie is pleased to announce that he will be the "back up band" for the "Hard Workin Hands" Maritime Tour featuring singer-songwriters Dave Gunning and Ron Hynes. The tour is scheduled for the last half of October. See schedule page for exact dates and locations.
The song "Hard Workin Hands" was co-written by Dave and Ron and recently won first place in the folk category of the Indie International Songwriting Contest.
Allie has been busy around Cape Breton this summer teaching fiddle at the Gaelic College and doing concerts as a solo artist, as well as playing bass and fiddle for Bruce Guthro. He will resume working at his private music school in early September.
Allie has received four MIANS Award nominations for the upcoming Nova Scotia Music Week Conference to be held in Halifax September 21-25. He is nominated for Educator of the Year, Folk/Roots Artist/Group Recording of the Year, Musician of the Year, and Album of the Year.
Allie is currently in the studio producing Jennifer Roland's new CD, still untitled, to be released this summer. Recording should be completed the last week of April.
It is a fortunate individual, who reaches mid-life, knowing they have achieved great success doing what they enjoy, most especially in the music industry. For Sydney Mines, Cape Breton, native, Allie Bennett, dedication to personal and professional goals have allowed him to attain a quiet calm in a life filled with interesting twists and turns. He is one of the most sought after musicians, of our time, and a most respected addition to any stage, whether as a lead fiddler, or as an accompanying bassist, his name almost certainly guarantees a first class event.
"Some of my earliest memories of childhood, are listening to my folks’ collection of 78 records, I can still see the dozens of them stacked beside the record player.” He says these would have covered every type of music under the sun. “These were a very important part of my youth. When I started to play music, I of course would play along to those records; that was all part of the learning process for me.”
When Bennett was about 9 years old, his father, who played guitar and mandolin, began to teach him, “but I didn’t really do anything with my music til around age 12.” He picked up the fiddle at 15, and bass at 17. “It’s funny, how the last instrument I took up would become my bread and butter over the years.” At the end of high school, Bennett also took a few months of violin lessons, with Prof. James MacDonald, of North Sydney.
Without hesitation, Bennett sites Winston Scotty Fitzgerald as one of his earliest musical heroes, with Fitzgerald’s library of tunes among the Bennett record collection, “he was a great fiddler, and my Dad was very familiar with his style.” He recalls as well, that John Allan Cameron, became a very good friend of the family. “John Allan has always been very supportive of my career, and I spent a lot of years out on the road with him.”
Looking at the list of successful performers to come out of Cape Breton, a great number have hailed from Bennett’s hometown of Sydney Mines. People like Bruce Guthro, the Barra MacNeils, so one would wonder just how important community support plays in cultivating and promoting talent. “Besides the world renowned artists that everyone knows, there are also back up musicians like myself, who grew up in Sydney Mines, there’s pianist Ross Billard, who has played with Minglewood, and Sam Moon, and has toured more recently with John Gracie; and a guy by the name of Danny Sutherland, who is one of the top bass players in Halifax right now.” Bennett also nods to some younger musicians, like Kimberly Fraser, and the younger Barras, (Ryan and Boyd MacNeil, of Slainte Mhath). Bennett believes it was that sense of a supportive community environment that has helped to develop local talent through the years. “There always seemed to be a concert to do, even in high school, we put on our own shows, and we learned from each other, and each time you took part in something, the bar was raised a little higher, making it a challenge.” He sees this as the case with music in general in Cape Breton. “People even thinking of getting into the music business full time today, know that they have to have something of quality to offer, or it is just not going to happen for them.”
Making a living as a full time musician certainly places Bennett at the forefront in terms of local success stories. Throughout the past 28 years, his name has been synonymous with some of the most respected exports that Cape Breton has produced. From the aforementioned MacNeil siblings, and Cameron, Allie Bennett also spent considerable time on the road with the likes of Rita MacNeil, and the Rankins, not to mention his contributions to countless recordings as a studio musician. “I have been very fortunate over the years, with the chance to work with most of the well known artists on their way up.” He has been asked why he did not strive to remain in one situation over a longer period, as opposed to the ever changing pace he seemed to cultivate throughout the decades. “Each situation was a unique experience and circumstance, but always interesting for me,” explains Bennett,” to work with different artists, not only on tour, but as well in the local area.” He places high regard for his time with Rita MacNeil. “To have been involved in her career for the better part of 10 years, and to have seen how she progressed, and when it finally did happen for her, I was there, it is kind of neat to be able to look back and realize you had first hand knowledge of that period in time.” He then went on to spend the next four years split between two of the most celebrated celtic bands, first the Rankins, then the Barra MacNeils, two years with each on the road. “I have been most fortunate to have been able to maintain my home here on the island, doing what I do, going into my 29th year!” In order to do that, he says it takes a certain amount of diversification to accomplish goals in his particular situation. “When I stopped traveling a few years ago, I started teaching, basically as a means to a steady income, and I felt myself moving away from the bar scene, so I have become very comfortable teaching, working as a studio musician, and producing.”
His latest venture is the long anticipated release of his first CD, aptly tiled It’s About Time. “It is a bit of a new adventure,” says Bennett, “over the years, friends and colleagues have been urging me to record on my own, hence the title, so I’ve really decided to put it out there, with no expectations, just gratefully accept whatever happens.” He actually began the recording process a couple of years ago, with sessions scattered where time allowed over that period. “I had not actually played the fiddle for about 10 years while I was on tour through the 80’s. Certain artists or groups either played fiddle themselves, or had a fiddle in the band. So that’s basically why I didn’t play except for at the odd party. When I decided to try my hand at teaching, that’s when I got back at it and I almost had to relearn it and break old bad habits. Again after teaching it for 10 years, I kind of got the confidence to try recording and so if it wasn’t for teaching, I don’t think I would have tried it, because my ability on the fiddle would not have been at the quality even I would like for recording. When you have it on your hands for almost 6 hours a day I suppose it comes back to you.” Of particular note, is Bennett’s incredible amount of time spent in choosing, and thoroughly studying the origins of both the composer and history of each of the individual tunes that make their way onto this debut CD.
The rewards have already begun to pour in, with Bennett having been nominated in two categories for the project, Best Roots/Traditional, and Best Instrumental in the 2005 ECMA’s held in Sydney. The unassuming performer was also in hot demand for the duration of the 4 day event, performing at his showcase with long time collaborators, Tracey Dares-MacNeil, Dave McKeough, and Paddy Gillis. Bennett was also asked to plan the entertainment segment of the Awards Brunch, as well as the Pre-Awards concert, which preceded the live broadcast of the awards.
With close to thirty years of musical history behind him, Bennett is asked to recall a couple of standout periods in his career. He immediately recounts a memorable tour with Rita MacNeil. “This was quite an experience, as we literally went around the globe back in 1988, as she was invited to Sweden for Stora Industries’ 700th industry anniversary (they are the oldest registered company in the world). Rita was invited as a representative of Cape Breton as a good will gesture and so we were over there for about 2 weeks and it was wonderful, and following Sweden we played at expo 88 in Brisbane Australia, so flying over the Atlantic to Europe and then from there, gong down the southern hemisphere, from London , Bombay, Singapore and to Australia, and that was basically for the Canada day weekend, each country got their moment in the sun, it was ourselves and the RCMP concert band and a couple of other Canadian artists, so to go from the Northern hemisphere that time of year, late June, to have all of this daylight and then to go to the southern hemisphere where it’s their winter, not cold, although it would get dark at 5:30 (like our winter now), that was really interesting and then coming home it was the other way, so that was amazing, literally around the globe in the space of about 2 – 3 weeks that was definitely a highlight of my career.”
Bennett can also look at the past 12 months with a great sense of accomplishment as well. “I’ve had a great year, 2004 was very good to me. Having come through a very difficult time in 2002, I lost my wife to cancer, and to reach such a positive time in my life right now, means a lot. Last summer I had the opportunity to be a part of the Acadian congress in Cheticamp, with Scott Macmillan arranging the music and a guy by the name of Paul Gallant, who wrote the show and it basically traced the history of the Acadian people from 400 years ago to now. You could tell it was very emotional for the Acadian people; the audience had tears in their eyes the entire night and it was a very realistic portrayal of all the good and bad. I played second Violin in an orchestra for that show, so that was definitely an honor to be included in that particular event.” In October Bennett was part of an illustrious segment of Celtic Colours International Festival, titled Unusual Suspects, which was arranged by Gordie Sampson, and Scotland’s David Milligan, and Corrina Hewit, which he sites as an outstanding experience of the past year.
When he is not performing, Bennett can be found teaching Monday to Thursday to regular students who range in age from 8 to 80 years. He’s also part of the teaching staff of Mackenzie College in their Applied Music Technology program, and tries to keep the weekends open for gigs. “I teach mostly fiddle and quite a few guitar students so I try and concentrate on those instruments.” He as well teaches at the Gaelic College in St. Anne’s during the summer sessions.
Bennett is confident that the traditions he has helped to nurture over decades, is sure to stand the test of time.
“We are in great shape with our music, and not just with celtic. It’s been getting stronger through the years there are some great bands with great material, like Cape Breton’s own Slowcoaster.”
He has recently had the chance to judge a portion of the Soundoff Cape Breton competition (where the winners were to be showcased during ECMA weekend), “and to see how these kids are not afraid to get into their own stuff, you don’t really see that in a lot of other areas, they always do covers but now it’s almost expected that you’ve got to get your own original thing happening. So in that light, I think we are doing really well with our younger musicians. The caliber seems to be getting better, when you think of kids like the Cottars, they are very seasoned musicians for being kids and they work hard at it, always developing their skills they aren’t afraid to work at it and that’s nice to see.”
Most of all, Bennett confirms his sense of satisfaction at being able to stay in Cape Breton. “There was a time in the 80’s, when I thought I was going to have to relocate to Toronto or Halifax but I’m really happy to have been able to stay here, raise my 2 kids, and work at something I love doing.”
Allie was the recipient of this year's East Coast Music Association "Musician's Achievement Award". The award was presented by long time friend Fred Lavery, of Lakewind Sound Studio, during the Industry Awards at the Membertou Trade & Convention Centre. Allie's website designer, Cheryl Smith of OutFront Productions, also won the 2005 ECMA for "Graphic Designer of the Year".
THE EAST COAST Music Awards' annual Industry Awards Show and Brunch is always an intriguing mixture of music, laughter and tears, and nowhere in Atlantic Canada do you find all three in such abundant supply as Cape Breton.
Held Friday morning in the stunning new facility of the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, on the Mi'kmaq reserve in the heart of Sydney, the 2005 version of the event offered several moments of sober reflection on the state of the music industry in the region as well as nostalgic looks back for those who helped build that industry in the form of the Stompin' Tom Awards.
The show was hosted by Cape Breton comedienne Bette MacDonald, who remarked that "it's tough for the industry people. They have to handle the business end of things and deal with musicians. They have to make sure they look and sound their best . . . and make them sound intelligent.
"I'm not in the music industry, but I dated a few musicians, many of whom are on this stage right now. It's gonna be a bit awkward . . . isn't it Allie?" she remarked to a red-faced bandleader Allie Bennett, who had further cause to blush later in the program when the veteran Cape Breton sideman was the surprise recipient of the musician's achievement award.
As soon as presenter and longtime friend Fred Lavery announced that the mystery honouree had been a vital part of Cape Breton music for 30 years, and was born in Sydney Mines, the assembled crowd of East Coast music movers and shakers leapt to its feet for a thunderous standing ovation. "That about says it all doesn' t it?" smiled Lavery, who listed off Bennett's accomplishments as a vital part of the careers of John Allan Cameron, Rita MacNeil, Mary Jane Lamond, Natalie MacMaster, the Rankin Family and many others.
"I was resigned to the idea I'd never get one of these," said a touched Bennett, also nominated for two ECMAs for his debut CD - after 30 years of playing music! - called, naturally, It's About Time.
"As a studio musician, the only way you can become good at it is by getting in there and playing, so my thanks go out to everyone who'se given me that opportunity... I'm quite floored by this."
CBC Radio was also a multiple winner, named radio station of the year, with Atlantic Airwaves named broadcast of the year. First time winners included ATV's MairiAnna Bachynsky for media person of the year, well-known Cape Breton drummer Cheryl Smith's OutFront Productions for graphic designer of the year and Sydney's Jamie Foulds for engineer/technician of the year, a good omen on the eve of opening his own recording studio.
Acclaimed Cape Breton folk festival Celtic Colours also picked up its first ECMA for event of the year, allowing co-director Max MacDonald to quip that they're "no longer the Susan Lucci of the category" which has traditionally been the territory of Canso's Stan Rogers Folk Festival. MacDonald and Rave Entertainment partner Joella Foulds dedicated the award to the 900 volunteers who keep the island-wide extravaganza running like clockwork every autumn....
December 16, 2004
has been nominated for two East Coast Music awards for his album 'It's
ECMA's take place February 17-20, 2005 in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova
NORTH SYDNEY - In a region where music is a key part of everyday life, Cape Breton player Allie Bennett is one of the busiest people around.
From his early days playing bass for Celtic Godfather John Allan Cameron in the '70s and '80s through stints with Rita MacNeil and The Rankin Family to backing up local fiddlers in concert halls and local pubs, Bennett's sturdy skills on bass and guitar have been a crucial element in the development of the island's musical community.
And after nearly 30 years of playing, recording and touring, the North Sydney native has finally decided to take the plunge and step into the spotlight himself, launching his debut CD It's About Time on Friday night at the Sydney Curling Club at 9 p.m.
As for the title of the disc, it was pretty much a no-brainer.
"When I started talking to people about doing the CD, that was the reaction, consistently," chuckles Bennett on the sofa of his comfortable North Sydney home. "So I went with it."
Recorded at Lakewind Studios in Point Aconi, familiar stomping grounds from the number of album sessions Bennett's played on, It's About Time focuses on his skills as a fiddle player. It's a sound that's been part of his repertoire for as long as he's been providing bass and guitar backup, and one he's been teaching to students privately at home, as well as at the Gaelic College in St. Anns.
Eventually, Bennett says he got so many requests from both students and audience members, that he decided to make his longtime dream a concrete reality.
"It became a very consistent question, the interest seemed to be there for me to have a recording," he says. "I'd always wanted to try one on my own, although at this point in my life I'm not looking for a solo career.
"I'm going to toss this one into the stream and see what happens, whatever comes from it will be great. I expect to break even on the project, and I'm pretty happy with that."
As for Bennett's in-depth exploration of fiddle tunes, it's a passion that goes back to his younger days and the revival of interest in the island's native musical heritage that followed the airing of the Ron MacInnis documentary The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler.
Bennett also played in the pioneering Cape Breton rock band Road in the late '70s - with Fred and Charlie Lavery and Bruce Timmons - and has been the musical director for The Cape Breton Summertime Revue, but tradtional fiddle playing remains one of his longest running passions.
"I got back at the fiddle 14 years ago, after not touching it for 10, while I was doing all my travelling with different musicians," he recalls. "I was starting to teach fiddle, and I practically had to relearn the instrument.
"The technique came back the more I played, but I really did have to relearn the instrument because I had a lot of bad habits from when I first learned to play. But I broke myself of all those, and around two years ago I realized my playing was probably up to the point where I could try recording."
Bennett's playing on It's About Time has just the right amount of back road grit and highland hills sweetness to tackle both driving dance tunes and contemplative airs. Then again, having backed up so many fiddlers, from Celtic veterans to young hotshots like Natalie MacMaster and Jennifer Roland, Bennett has the luxury of being able to pick and choose stylistic sources.
But as far as a primary influence goes, there's no doubt who he reveres above all else.
"Without a question, Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald," says Bennett. "He was the king, in my mind, and a lot of people share that opinion. Winston was the first fiddler I ever really paid attention to. I remember my dad always told me about him when I was very young, and we had all the records at home, so from a very early age I was familiar with him.
"He was so good that it's almost impossible to emulate his style, and very few come close. He was the guy that introduced a lot of the tunes from the old Scottish and Irish collections to Cape Breton, and the East Coast for that matter. People like Winston and Angus Chisholm and Joe MacLean, they were into the old collections and playing the tunes on recordings, at dances and parties, and over the years people started taping the house parties, and the tunes became part of the aural tradition."
Bennett didn't just grow up with their music; he also played with many of these fiddling legends while he was bassist for John Allan Cameron in the '70s and '80s.
"John was touring a lot in connection with his television series, so he'd bring along some of the fiddlers to his shows. I'd play with Winston and (John Allan's) brother John Donald, so I got to know them quite well at the end of the '70s.
"But besides listening to Winston, the CBC documentary The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler got me playing the fiddle. Anytime I've seen (filmmaker) Ron MacInnis, I've told him that a lot of people in the early '70s thought he was right about the decline of Cape Breton fiddle playing. People in Inverness County might disagree, but that's the only place where it was strong in any way. Growing up in Sydney, it was dying out there for sure.
"That documentary sparked something in me, and a lot of other people as well. It was not cool to play the fiddle at that time, and I remember going to that first big gathering in Glendale in 1973. By the next gathering in '75, I was just jumping aboard doing group fiddling, and was even more into it by '77."
Bennett credits MacInnis's film with spurring the creation of The Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, still going strong, involving young musicians who include many of Bennett's students.
Besides instructing them in the history and range of Cape Breton traditional music, Bennett also stresses the importance of reading music off the page - rather than simply learning by ear - a discipline he had reinforced during his time playing with Cape Breton Chamber Orchestra.
"It's a unique style, in that there are so many different styles of fiddling within the main one. It's something I have to explain to the adults I teach at the Gaelic College every summer. Some of them come from all over the world, and they're good or excellent players to begin with. Some of them are even in orchestras, but they still have to learn about style. They wonder how we can hear a recording and know whether it's Buddy MacMaster or Carl MacKenzie, but that's what's so unique about Cape Breton fiddling. The better known fiddlers have all developed their own style."
A big part of what makes Bennett's own playing unique on It's About Time is his selection of tunes that even the most devoted aficionados will be unfamiliar with. There are a few self-penned numbers, and a healthy selection of off-the-beaten-path compositions that deserve wider appreciation.
"Since I've been teaching fiddle, if I come across an interesting tune that hasn't been recorded - at least in this part of the world - I kinda file it away," he explains.
"A lot of the tunes that are different on there I picked just by going through some of the old collections and some of the newer ones that have been released in recent years. I think it's important if you're going to do a fiddle record, because there are so many on the market at the moment, to do something different, and I think most of the ones on here will be new to fiddle fans."