Multilingual singer-songwriter Mary Beth Carty’s second solo album, Crossing the Causeway, is available now.
The Canso Causeway is a bridge deep enough to touch the ocean floor. With this album, I want to show how deep our cultural causeways are.
In this Q&A, we learn more from the Antigonish-based artist.
This interview has been edited.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m a multilingual singer from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who plays accordion, guitar, and a collection of pocket-sized instruments. I write songs, sing traditional songs, and I also love playing tunes that make people dance. In addition, I’m mildly obsessed with sing-alongs, cats, and vegetarian cooking, particularly how to sneak vegetables into baked goods (ask me about my zucchini brownies).
How do you describe Crossing the Causeway?
Recorded with a cast of Cape Breton and Antigonish’s best trad musicians and many group-vocal singers from all over, my second solo album is a collection of songs to take you on a little trip. The liner notes are meant to be read along with a map by your side.
I grew up in Antigonish County and lived in Sydney on Cape Breton Island from 2017 to 2019, where I played so many shows for visitors to Nova Scotia. I wanted to make an album that represents the cultural richness and diversity of the area to celebrate this amazing part of the world.
The album includes two Acadian songs from the Chéticamp area, instrumental jigs and reels, my original songs Dear Island, Tow Truck Song, and Blueberry Mountain, and a range of Gaelic pieces – mouth music, a milling song, and an air. There are also two cover songs, a Rita MacNeil song and a Ronnie MacEachern song.
It’s got a range of emotions, so you will feel like you are riding the highs and lows of a rocky ocean as you listen.
Why did you choose Crossing the Causeway as the album title?
The Canso Causeway is a bridge deep enough to touch the ocean floor. I want to show how deep our cultural causeways are with this album. I am also inspired by Mi’kmaq culture and am happy to include my friends Morgan Toney, Shawnee Paul, & Jonathan Andrews among the guest singers and instrumentalists on this album.
There is this excited feeling of anticipation for adventure you get when you cross the Causeway, too. Anyone who has been across knows what I am talking about. It’s an Island on the edge of a continent, sticking out into the Atlantic. It’s on the edge of the earth, in a way. Where I am from in Antigonish forms a bay with the Island’s west coast. These are all very special places with magical energy. Hopefully, this album brings some of that magic in musical form.
What was the inspiration for the album? Is there a theme?
My first album is very personal and includes mostly original songs centring around themes of the heart, and was released on Valentine’s Day. For this second album, I wanted to make a mainly traditional album to scrape the surface of the vast repertoire of traditional songs and tunes I have been performing in my live shows over the past 12 years.
With so many different languages on one album, you might think it’s a bit scattered, but it honestly reflects my daily life in this area.
With so many different languages on one album, you might think it’s a bit scattered, but it honestly reflects my daily life in this area. I might go through a day speaking Gaelic to one friend, French at work, English at the stores and with my family, then visit a friend in Eskasoni where the family and neighbours speak Mi’kmaq around the kitchen table. I wanted to show how these cultures co-exist in my life, in my entourage of friends, and how, musically, they can all sound unified and coherent and awesome mashed up together. One love!
What is your favourite song to perform off the album, and why?
I love singing the Tow Truck Song and hearing folks holler “hashbrowns” at the right moment! I need to write more ridiculous songs like that because it lifts my spirits and everyone else’s.
My favourite track off the album is track seven, Òran Boisdale (Fail ì Fail ò). Having a video for that song has helped familiarize audiences with the vocable chorus. I hope that means they will be singing along. My cousin Heather MacIsaac and I did a Facebook Live show recently, she was singing along, and it sounded beautiful.
What’s next for Mary Beth?
I am looking forward to performing in Seaforth on December 10, New Glasgow on December 19, and watching a television performance taped in Moncton on Christmas Eve for the national French-language television program La grande veillée on ICI ARTV.
I plan to do more CD release shows around the Maritimes in the new year, so stay tuned. Also, I will be recording on mandolinist / step-dancer Dane George’s new album and on fiddler-composer Hayley Ryerson’s new EP. I am loving the collabs!