From Cape Breton Island comes the magic of two internationally acclaimed performers; multi-award winning singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil and The Men of the Deeps, North America’s only coal miners’ chorus for a heart-felt performance of MINING THE SOUL. Far beneath the surface of the earth, some say, the heart and soul of Cape Breton beats. A Tumultuous industry has given character to this part of the country, character that is reflected in its people and their music. The island speaks of working class values, strong friendships, unfailing courage and unwavering faith. These emotions have found their voice in MINING THE SOUL.
The choir, worked with her in 1989 on the song Working Man. MacNeil caught a glimpse of what life underground was like when, just for fun, she toured the Princess mine. “I was thinking it would be a fun thing to do – duh.” Going down the mine shaft did something to her. It was as if the spirit of the workers spoke to her through the pitch blackness. The song Working Man came to her, practically writing itself she says. Indeed, Working Man is one of MacNeils’ most acclaimed recordings, and paved the way for the future appearances with The Men.“When I wrote the song, I was not thinking of The Men of The Deeps at that time – I was thinking of the experience I was having down underground. But someone had suggested ‘If you get a chance in some concert, you and The Men of The Deeps should do this song together.’ And that happened, and it sort of clicked, and they were on the Junos doing that song…”
They recorded the album in 2000, to that brings the pride, strength and resilience to life. The project was recorded entirely in Cape Breton over a one-week period; all band tracks were recorded in a studio in Irish Cove, while vocals were recorded on the stage of the historic Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay. Guest musicians include Lucy and Stewart MacNeil of The Barra MacNeils, and multi-instrumentalist virtuoso J.P. Cormier. Along with the popular MacNeil anthems Home I’ll Be and Working Man – featuring Men of The Deeps soloist ‘Nipper’ MacLeod – MINING THE SOUL includes Leon Dubinsky’s now classic We Rise Again, and the poignant Emigrants Eyes (Stannah and Clark) – a tribute to the emigrants everywhere who came to this country looking for a better life. The song recounts the humble beginnings of many of our ancestors and the priceless gift they gave the generations to come. In contrast is the upbeat whimsy of the Lee Dorsey cover, Working In A Coal Mine and Plain Ole
Miner Boy, with Rita trading-off vocals with the choir member ‘Yogi’ Muise. The album also delves into the spiritual, with MacNeil’s Sweet Jesus, and the closing track, Ben Harper’s I Shall Not Walk Alone; a song of faith and inspiration that pairs Rita with fellow Maritimer Kim Dunn for this haunting ballad. For MacNeil, this is a career milestone. She has long wanted to record an album and go on tour with The Men of The Deeps. Now she is doing exactly that, MacNeil is pleased to announce that the collaboration “clicks, primarily through mutual respect.”
“I’m just learning the total history of The Men of The Deeps. They’ve been together now, with members coming and going, for 35 or more years. And their dedication to what they do – the music – is an inspiration to anybody in the business. They love it, and they take it very seriously. A lot of them rest retired. It is amazing – quite unique.”
MINING THE SOUL is an emotionally uplifting marriage of two of Canada’s most unique and distinctive artists, a celebration of home, heritage and song – a celebration of all.