Fans of Creignish fiddler Ashley MacIsaac are probably wondering what the devil's gotten into him lately.
Last Thursday, after a concert in Fort Erie, Ont., he ended his five-year relationship with Halifax-based management company, Jones and Co., while according to reports from weekend shows in Charlottetown and Port Hawkesbury, concertgoers have been walking out in disgust at the 24-year-old's onstage antics, which have included obscene language and lewd behavior.
"Excellent," replied MacIsaac over the phone Tuesday, referring to the walkouts. "Was it because I told 'em to f--- off?
"That's part of my show now. It must have disturbed them."
It must have disturbed manager Sherri Jones as well, considering the Fort Erie show was part of the Friendship Festival, an outdoor performance attended by families. But all she would say was that she and MacIsaac were no longer working together.
Jones was crucial in helping to raise MacIsaac's profile and secure a deal with A&M Records, resulting in the pop/rock/Celtic hybrid album Hi, How Are You Today in 1995 and its traditional follow-up, Fine, Thank You Very Much, a few months later.
"I can't say it was any one thing," she said Tuesday of the parting of ways. "Obviously we have different ideas about how to proceed with things."
Lately, MacIsaac has proceeded to take things in the direction of rap and funk, even including a hip-hop DJ in his band, formerly the Kitchen Devils, now dubbed "the Nyanza Monster Bingo Players" by the bearded bowslinger.
But it wasn't the music that had people walking out on his Sunday night show at Port Hawkesbury's Granville Green. Brian Targett, a Sydney resident attending school in Port Hawkesbury, said he saw a "couple of hundred" people turn their backs on Cape Breton's homegrown talent after MacIsaac first told the crowd he "doesn't give a f---" and later added "stick it up your ass."
"It wasn't a family show," said Targett by phone. "I was disgusted."
"It wasn't meant to be a family show," answered MacIsaac, "it was an Ashley MacIsaac show."
MacIsaac also said he's being challenged on payment for his Charlottetown show, part of the city's Festival of Lights celebration, again because of profanity.
Talent buyer Campbell Webster booked MacIsaac for the show, and said, "there were raised eyebrows and discussions about redress with his agent."
No stranger to controversy, MacIsaac has earned no end of notoriety in his rise to pop stardom, from bowing out of a 1997 Montreal Celtic concert because he didn't want to be pigeonholed, to flashing the cameras in his kilt on the Late Night with Conan O'Brien talk show.
MacIsaac said he's talking to Vancouver's Sam Feldman to take over managing his career. Feldman is also the manager for the group that took MacIsaac worldwide, Ireland's the Chieftains.
"He's a brilliant musician," said Jones. "I know he'll go as far as he can."