Bubbling beneath the surface, those polite, resilient Canadians maintain a loopy, near-neurotic relationship with their musical sons and daughters. They love it when fellow Canucks are nominated for Grammy Awards, but scream "Sellout!" when those artists reach a certain stature in the home and native land and then start courting the U.S. market.
But Natalie MacMaster is the exception. Though the effervescent, talented Nova Scotian has done the Grammy and Jay Leno thing -- and has a set of sexy promo shots with nary a fiddle in sight to help sell herself as some kind of wild, untamed sprite to those interminable Yanks -- she still prefers to spend as much time as possible on the bone-chilling Cape Breton coast curled up by the hearth with tea and chocolates, perusing books about chastity and the Bible.
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It's this strong sense of commitment to the land from which her Celtic folk music springs that has made her a national treasure, and one that Canadians don't mind sharing (heck, she's even been forgiven her Texan ex-boyfriend). A high-profile Canadian women's magazine once described her as "down-home with attitude." MacMaster took up the fiddle at nine and entertained her chums in the back of the school bus with jigs and reels. Unlike her distant cousin Ashley MacIsaac, who plays a psychedelic, Hendrix-meets-Highlander wah-wah fiddle (with mixed results), MacMaster hasn't changed a damn thing. She carries her own high-spirited Scottish Canadian attitude -- minus the spirits -- with her on stage, stomping and step-dancing while playing the same kind of untainted music her family would share by the kitchen wood stove.