Miscellaneous Ramblings

Mac-Using Troubadour Launches Comeback CD, Music Industry Software

Charles Moore - 2009.05.12 - Tip Jar

An old friend of mine, Nova Scotian musician Max MacDonald, recently released his first solo CD in his varied career as a singer, actor, songwriter, and entertainment manager.

Max was front man for the Cape Breton, NS based rock band Buddy and the Boys back in the '70s and early '80s, a mainstay in the touring music and comedy repertories "The Rise and Follies of Cape Breton" and "The Cape Breton Summertime Revue" from 1977 until 1995, and, as a principal in the entertainment promotion firm Rave Entertainment, founder and organizer of the fall Celtic Colours music festival from 1997 to 2008, which grew to an event featuring more than 400 performers.

Shared History

Max and I go back farther than that. Although he was born and raised in - and strongly identified with - Cape Breton Island throughout his professional career, Max has roots in the eastern mainland Nova Scotia community where I still live. His brother, sister, and niece all still own summer homes within sight of my living room window. During our respective teenage years, he summered here where his maternal grandmother hailed from - a delightful lady who lived to age 101, sharp as a tack til the end.

At the time, in the late 1960s, Max was already something of a musical guru, his tastes (as I recall) running to rhythm and blues and soul artists like James Brown. Max's father worked at CJCB Radio in Sydney, NS, and used to bring home records they wouldn't play on the radio for whatever reason, so Max was exposed to a variety of off-the-beaten-track music that no doubt contributed his eclectic musical tastes.

We spent a lot of time those summers tooling around in my old Austin Cambridges, just hanging out, and Max introduced me to Cape Breton culture during visits to his family's home in Sydney.

Diverge and Converge

Our worlds diverged onto different tracks in the 1970s. We would touch base occasionally over the years, but it was a common interest in Apple computers that caused our paths to cross again in cyberspace, my having become something of a Mac notebook computer pundit and goto guy in Web journalism, while Max actually began using Apple hardware before I did, buying an Apple IIGS in 1985. More recently, he owned a 14" 1.42 GHz iBook used for business and communication purposes, although for heavy graphic arts lifting he hired professional graphics and web folks.

Marcato Digital

Max MacDonaldAfter 12 years managing the Celtic Colors organization, Max concluded it was time for a change, resigning last November to begin in a new position with the Cape Breton based music industry productivity software developer Marcato Digital last December 1st. "Two days seemed like enough of a break," Max observes dryly, adding that he's enjoying working with new colleagues he describes as "young and smart . . . smart enough to know that it is in their best interests to have an experienced old fart around . . . I love that it's a private company, no boards and other BS that slow things down."

Rock on, Max.

Founded by Darren Gallop, himself a performer, road manager, booking agent, artist manager, and recording engineer, Marcato Digital produces Web-based solutions for managing and organizing music festivals, bands, other artists, and managers so they can spend less time attending to routine tasks and more on creative development. The software is multiplatform - all you need is a web browser - and transforms the pattern of project management by allowing staff members to collaborate on projects and make plans in a common forum. After running the Celtic Colors festival for two years using an early version of the Marcato Digital software, Max says he felt compelled to spread the word to his fellow music industry professionals hunched over late night coffee pots lamenting "if only there was an easier way!"

The "easier way" is The Marcato Suite, consisting of two products:

Festivals

Marcato Festival keeps all the essential festival data collected by various team members in one online location. You can then use this information to automatically generate routine tasks, such as contracts, website updates, artist reports, program and brochure copies, technical info, soundcheck schedules, and much more.

This eliminates the bottleneck effect caused by waiting for information, meaning team members can complete their work faster. It also means that you are dealing with the most up-to-date and, therefore, accurate information at all times.

Artist Management

In addition to the benefits of Marcato's Project Manager, Marcato's Artist Manager keeps all the information required to manage the live career of a performing artist. Performances are booked in the system, generating automatic contracts. This information is automatically forwarded to those who need to know. Once confirmed, the show is pushed automatically to the band's website. The system even allows band members and management to generate tour itineraries.

If a you need to make a change to a show time, just make the change on the system and the software will notify the team and update the itinerary and website.

The Artist Management Solution comes in bundles designed for independent, self-managed artists and independent artist managers as well as larger artist management firms.

These days Max's Mac is an "inherited" MacBook Pro, although he notes that Marcato Digital also has a couple of new aluminum MacBooks at the shop, and observes, "They are sweet! Leave it to Apple to bring function and fashion together." He says he's liking the MacBook Pro and that his "aging eyes really like the increased screen real estate and backlit keys." I can identify, having recently transitioned in the opposite direction from a 17" PowerBook to a 13" Unibody MacBook.

Max also has a company-issue iPhone - "Holy smokes!" he muses, "When I think back to my Apple IIGS, things have sure come a loooong way."

A New CD

Songs of Home CDAnyway, last year, amid the turmoil of the career change, Max says he developed the urge to sing again, having not done so professionally since 1994, and somehow found the time to record that album I mentioned. It had been quite a while since the Buddy & The Boys album Buddy was released on vinyl in 1977 (reissued on CD in 1999 with several live bonus tracks), but the downtime obviously didn't hurt his performance chops, and the new CD, Songs of Home, was nominated for two East Coast Music Awards: Folk Recording of the Year and Male Solo Recording of the Year.

I agree with the ECMA nomination committee - Songs of Home is a splendid piece of work featuring Max singing the music of a who's who of Cape Breton songwriters and performers including J.P. Cormier, Leon Dubinsky, Bruce Guthro, Buddy MacDonald, Steve MacDougall, Ronnie MacEachern, Rita MacNeil, Matt Minglewood, Sam Moon, Jimmy Rankin, Gordie Sampson (writer of Carrie Underwood's blockbuster hit "Jesus Take The Wheel"), and Duncan Wells - who also all agreed to sing backup vocals and in some instances play instruments in on their respective tracks, which include:

  1. Old Man (Rita MacNeil)
  2. Girls of Neils Harbour (Sam Moon)
  3. Joseph (Gordie Sampson & Bruce Guthro)
  4. Midnight Angel (Jimmy Rankin)
  5. Spanish Bay (Steven MacDougall)
  6. Josephine (Leon Dubinsky) - a song that appeared on the 1977 Buddy & The Boys album
  7. Me & the Boys (Matt Minglewood)
  8. Songsmith (Bruce Guthro)
  9. Gilgarry's Glen (JP Cormier)
  10. We Remember You Well (Buddy MacDonald)
  11. Small Town Wind (Duncan Wells)
  12. Go Off On Your Way (Ronnie MacEachern)

Cuts that especially grabbed me on first and second listening are Matt Minglewood's "Me And The Boys", which evokes nostalgia for my grease-stained youth cruising in and working on old cars, and J.P. Cormier's Gilgarry's Glen, which has a Stan Rogers-ish vibe (I'm a Stan fan) without being derivative. One that has grown on me (a lot) upon subsequent exposure is Jimmy Rankin's "Midnight Angel".

One of the coolest things about this album is that the original songwriters are on board playing instruments and singing backup vocals on most cuts. The depth of talent concentrated in this collection is impressive.

You can sample some of these tracks and order a CD from maxmacdonald.ca.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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