Arts & Entertainment Column

Dan MacDonald                    Cape Breton Post                 February 9, 2019

I caught Carty at Governor’s in downtown Sydney last Saturday afternoon, part of an unusual trio that also included Bradley Murphy and Donnie Calabrese.

Calabrese provided backup on upright bass, while Carty played piano, accordion, guitar, and bones and sang in English, French, and Gaelic and Murphy played piano (which I knew he did), as well as fiddle and bodhran (which I didn’t know about). It was an impressive display of an eclectic and very accomplished variety of talents.

Carty makes her mark

Cape Breton Post           March 23, 2018

French may be her second language but music is her first, making Mary Beth Carty a formidable force in the world of francophone music.

The Lanark, Antigonish County native now lives in Sydney, where she often performs in local venues and works with fiddler Gillian Head. For years, she lived in Quebec and performed with Bette & Wallet, a duo that performed internationally and received nominations from the Canadian Folk Music Awards and the ECMAs.

While Bette & Wallet are no more, these days Carty promotes her debut solo recording, “Les Biens-Nommés,” when she’s not teaching music at Etoile de l’Acadie in Sydney.

“Les Biens-Nommés,” has been nominated for an East Coast Music Award for francophone album of the year and Carty couldn’t be more pleased about her upcoming trip to the East Coast Music Awards in Halifax in May.
“I’m very excited — I have two showcases and a nomination so I definitely won’t miss it.

Eight of 10 of the album’s songs are originals and named after people. Even though they’re sung in the first person, they are not autobiographical and come from Carty’s imagination.

“There’s one song in English about caravans and a protest and people going to prison but I’ve certainly never gone to prison — that song came to me in a dream and that one’s called “Dan.”

The songs usually involve romantic themes and to further add to the French flavour, Carty uses the accordion as a main voice, despite playing a plethora of other instruments. As a result, she reminds the listener of a French chanteuse from the 1930s and 1940s.

“On this one, I could show the diverse range of the styles that I like and I really wanted the accordion to be the focal instrument so I composed songs with the accordion as the main backup instrument. I play guitar as well but I really love the accordion so I wanted it to be the focus of the CD,” said Carty. “They sound like old songs that could have come from the ’30s or ’40s bal-musette.”

Carty, 37, enjoys singing in French and sees herself as a cultural warrior, pushing on to prevent sameness in the world surrounding her.

“I see the world turning into a monoculture and everyone singing in the same language and playing the same instrument so I want to be a rebel and sing in other languages and play instruments that are starting to be endangered like the accordion and the bones and the jaw harp — they were common around Cape Breton Island not even 50 years ago — but you don’t see them a lot these days. I just want to bring them into light.”

Carty’s work recognized

Cape Breton resident nabs ECMA nomination for francophone recording  

Dan MacDonald      The Cape Breton Post        March 7 2018

Mary Beth Carty is a native of Antigonish who now calls Cape Breton home. Well skilled on both the accordion and guitar, she is also a vocalist.

The combination is certainly good enough to get some notice as she’s been nominated for a 2018 East Coast Music Award for francophone recording of the year.

The CD, “Les biens-nommés,”contains an interesting mix of French songs, with some English vocals. There are also a pair of instrumentals included as well.

Eight of the 10 cuts were penned by Carty while one song is a traditional Nova Scotian number and one of the instrumentals, “Jules” (Le Clog à ‘ti Jules), is a traditional Québecois tune.

Carty has performed across Canada, in Europe and Africa, as a soloist as well as part of a previous duo, Bette & Wallet (a combinatoin that earned her a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award nomination).

“Les biens-nommés” was co-produced by Carty and Brendan Melchin, who also provides perscussion on the recording, and she is also joined by Greg Melchin on double bass and Donald MacLennan on violin and guitare manouche.

I’m really taken by the Québecois feel of “Jules” and “Clare” as well as the Parisian sound of “Yvon” and “Henri.” You could be in a Paris street café listening to the latter songs and in a comfortable Canadian house session with the first two. I also like the familiarity of “Malvina,” a Chéticamp song that I have often heard before.

“Les biens-nommés” is an eclectic mix of styles highlighted by Carty’s distinctive voice. It’s well mixed and well presented with the instruments weaving in and out and the skillful use of percussion.

This is an interesting CD and well worth the listen.

Strait Area well represented among ECMA nominations

The Reporter          By Melanie Holder            March 7, 2018

Several local musicians are looking forward to representing the Strait area at the 2018 East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) this May.

Mary Beth Carty of Lanark, Antigonish County said she was very excited to be recognized with a nomination for Francophone album of the year for her debut solo recording Les biens-nommes.

“It’s out of all the Atlantic provinces so I feel very, very lucky to be nominated,” said Carty.

The singer, songwriter and instrumentalist grew up in a family of musicians that includes well-known traditional performers such as Troy MacGillivray and Cassie and Maggie MacDonald. “It was definately a musical environment growing up,” said Carty.

Carty recorded most of the album in her flat in Lanark overlooking the Antigonish Harbour. Although she plays a great deal of Celtic and pub music, she says Les biens-nommes has a sound reminiscent of a French cafe. “I play guitar and piano, but my passion is the accordion,” said Carty. “I wanted to make an album that was based around that instrument. I kind of started my music career in Quebec, so I wrote alot of songs in French for this album.”

Carty now lives in Sydney and has just finished recording a new album with New Waterford fiddler Gillian Head.

New Music: Mary Beth Carty’s ‘Les biens​-nommés’

Alex Cook    The East Magazine      May 10, 2017

Mary Beth Carty (formerly of Bette and Wallet),  recently released her debt album ‘Les Biens​-Nommés‘ and she might not be just launching a solo career, but pushing herself into the forefront of the next big genre.

Remember when Mumford & Sons came out and all of a sudden the world exploded with banjos and suspenders? It was the soundtrack of beard oil, flannel shirts, and craft beer that gave birth to hipster culture. You might have groaned about it, but how many guys do you know who still have an undercut and sculpted moustache?

Accordion could be the next big thing. Soon we’ll all be indulging in sarmale, swapping out Pabst for Timisoreana, and plaid button-ups for open silk blouses. Which is fine. It’s about time that lumberjacks got their culture back. Better to spread the love around through a cultural Ponzi scheme. We’ll borrow a sound from Romania, throw in plenty of instrumentals, and sing it all in French.

“I almost put some Gaelic in it too so it was almost a trilingual album… A little too unfocused, though,” says Carty of her album-shaped melting pot. “I became fluent in French as an adult while living in an apartment in Québec City with a bunch of musicians and artists, where there was a clandestine bar and nightly communal meals. I associate French with good times, romance, and friendship.”

‘Les Bien-Nommés’ opens dramatically with ‘Yvon’, leaving you expectant like the first moments of a film. It’s ominous, but it’s also accordion. It’s not quite Star Wars, but serious enough that it’s not Space Balls either.

From there it takes a remarkable turn into something quirky and charming. It’s expressive to the point that it’s easy to forget that Carty is singing in French for most of the album, with the accordion easily taking centre stage as its first language.

As per the album’s name, the song titles ramble off a cast of characters like someone turned a Yann Tiersen soundtrack on its head. Suddenly it’s the story trying to keep pace with the music, but Carty doesn’t care to elaborate much. She playfully uses the ambiguity (not to mention how poorly I remember French immersion) to tell tales about what she suggests may or may not have been going on in her personal life.

“I’m shy so I like it when people don’t understand my little stories… These are code names, sometimes loosely based on real people’s middle names, obscured details, exaggerated, sometimes psychedilified.”

Regardless of the language ‘Les Bien-Nommés’ is one of the most fun and exciting albums we’ve heard this year, and an example of how the accordion might have been the most underutilized instruments in pop music.

Carty creates a cast of characters for solo debut album Les biens-nommés

The Antigonish accordionist and singer launches her new opus at the Anchor in Halifax on Saturday.  

Stephen Cooke          The Local Xpress

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers wondered why fools fall in love, so what better time to release an album devoted to l’amour than April Fool’s Day?

On Saturday, Antigonish musician Mary Beth Carty heads to the Anchor in Fairview to launch her first solo outing Les Biens-Nommés (The Well-Named), whose title is also a French play on words, sounding like Les Biens-Aimés (The Well-Loved). In this case, either title fits, as the track list is a roll call of names, like a series of short stories about characters from the wellspring of her imagination.

“Within a song, there’s a romance sparked, and by the time the three minutes of the song are through, the romance has died away,” says the former member of Halifax trio the Johnson Sisters, and Quebec duo Bette et Wallet.

She also notes that the project started with a different kind of love affair, one with an instrument whose sound happens to equate with continental romance as well as earthy folk music. But there was also a platonic practicality to Carty’s choice of main squeeze.

“I wanted to focus on the accordion, ’cause after playing in Bette et Wallet, where I played many instruments, I tried to imagine a tour where I didn’t have to haul a whole bunch of gear around,” she says with a chuckle during a break from teaching music at Etoile de l’Acadie in Sydney.

“So I consciously decided to make an accordion-heavy album, with one song played on guitar at the very end. But I started off with one name song, and thought I’d make a trilogy, as if it were a film. But then I just kept going with it, and voila!”

Carty’s musical crew for Les Biens-Nommés included Antigonish-area players like violinist Donald MacLennan and the Melchin brothers, Greg and Brendan, on double bass and percussion. With these well-rounded, like-minded musicians, Carty’s songs build on a foundation of French and Celtic, with a mix between traditional folk and jazz. The combo blurs lines even further as Quebecois and Acadian styles blend with French Manouche cafe music, all driven by a variety of dance tempos, from waltz and tango to a lively two-step.

“The French/European continental style is not so much mainstream in the folk world, so we’re a little bit weird in that respect,” she explains. “But Donald and I are both from the eastern end of the province, and instrumental fiddle and traditional dance music have been a big part of our upbringing.

“I love to dance, and music you can dance to, even electronic dance music, because it has that similar feel of pumping you up and getting you moving and jumping. So I don’t find that much of a difference. One of my favourite artists is (B.C. hip-hop MC/producer) Socalled, and he mixes electronic and acoustic instruments, he plays accordion, in a klezmer style, so we have that in common.”

The trick here is making all the sounds fit, and Carty ties them together with a plaintive voice that rings with passion, wit and coy asides. But she also notes that disparate sounds already come out of a musical diaspora with long entrenched connections that make the job easier than you’d think.

“As a listener, I like an album where everything fits together, and it’s kind of jarring when you listen to something and it’s a patchwork of sounds and ideas that don’t correlate. Although there are so many influences here, I think there is still a coherence to it all,” she says.

“And it goes even further, even in the golden age of this music, there was a lot of song styles coming from a South American tradition, so it’s not that far-fetched to combine French with Brazilian or Argentinean influences. Ultimately, polkas and waltzes, rumbas and horas, all have something in common by being danceable.”

Les Biens-Nommés is currently available on CD and Bandcamp, and will appear on iTunes and other platforms on April 21. Show time on Saturday is 7:30 p.m. and there is no cover charge. To reserve a table at the Anchor, call 902-495-3097.

Carty Here to Party

By Marc Jackson           Underground Press                    February 23, 2017

Down East musical marvel Mary Beth Carty brought her show to the Snow Lake Motor Inn on the evening of Friday, February 10th and the 60 or so in attendance were not disappointed.  Right from the opening salvos of her sound test, the toes were tapping and heads were bobbing, and this continued till the close of her second set around 11:00 p.m.

An accomplished accordionist, Carty hails from Antigonish, Nova Scotia.  She brings many of the songs from her Irish and Acadian roots to her show, and on this night, those songs along with her eastern brogue and wit endeared her to the numerous transplanted east-coasters in the audience.  Not to say the same wasn’t true for the flatlanders in the venue… there is something about a pretty girl who keeps time like Stompin’ Tom and squeezes an accordion like Katie McConnell that captivates everyone.

Carty has a tremulous voice that lends well to her repertoire of Scottish, Irish, and Quebecois tunes.  In addition to playing the accordion, she plays the guitar, piano and is masterful with the ‘bones’, which are a musical folk instrument consisting of a pair of animal bones, or pieces of wood that are placed in the hand and have a sound reminiscent of someone playing the ‘spoons’.

The young singer songwriter went through her two sets of mostly original songs, but interspersed these with several Polkas and an amazing version of Melanie’s 1971 classic, ‘Brand New Key’.  All the while bantering with the audience and giving in-depth summaries and many times humorous background to her catalogue.

The concert was brought to the Motor Inn via the Manitoba Home Routes Concert Series and others planned for the coming months are: March 11th – Scott Nolan, who is an Alt-Country, Contemporary Folk, Roots, Singer Songwriter and Storyteller, as well as  April 9th – Daniel Gervais who is a Master Fiddler playing Canadiana.  All shows have a $20 cover charge, which goes in its entirety to the musician.

Mary Beth Carty bringing East Coast energy to Home Routes

Kacper Antoszewski            Thompson Citizen              February 3, 2017

East Coast Canadian Mary Beth Carty will be performing at the next Home Routes concert Feb. 9, for a night of traditional Acadian singing, accordion and guitar work, tempered in the quintessential Nova Scotian city of Antigonish.

Traditional Acadian music was an integral part of Carty’s life from the outset, often accompanying the bounty of local fiddle players found in her hometown. But she didn’t pick up her signature instrument, the accordion, until she was 20 years old. “It’s kind of like an orchestra in itself: you have the bass notes on the left hand, the melody on the right hand, and if you throw some foot stomping in there, you have a drum! It’s a different instrument.”

While the accordion is the centrepiece of Carty’s performance, she is also sought-after as an accompanying guitarist to Celtic fiddle music. Despite the regional roots of her music, Carty has taken her act to much of Europe, including France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. She also had the opportunity to perform in Rwanda and Congo as part of a Canadian francophone women’s envoy, where she found satisfaction for a lifelong love of Congolese music. “A lot of traditional Canadian music is dance music, and it’s the same in central Africa; a lot of their rhythms are close to jig rhythms.”

For Carty, the Home Routes tour has been a great opportunity to see a variety of small communities, and meet individuals and families she otherwise would have never known. “It’s really fun.”

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