Cynthia MacLeod,
(independent, 2010)

I can't help but feel a bit of proprietary pride in Cynthia MacLeod's rising fame.

The 26-year-old fiddler from Prince Edward Island was still in her teens when I first saw her perform in Cape Breton. She was relatively unknown beyond the bounds of the Canadian maritimes at the time, but I knew she was destined for big things -- following in the footsteps on PEI fiddler Richard Wood, perhaps, or Cape Breton sensation Natalie MacMaster to even greater acclaim.

I'm gratified -- and yes, a little proud -- that time has proven me right. And Cynthia's star is still rising. For proof, check out Riddle, her fourth and latest CD, a recording that demonstrates her growing talents.

A lot of fiddlers produce albums on which they go out of their way to be something other than fiddlers. Cynthia, however, sticks to her strengths here; she fiddles on every track (except for the last one, on which she does not appear at all) with a deft and delicate hand, and she provides occasional piano. She adds backing vocals to one track and, although I know she can dance extremely well, she lets someone else provide the foot percussion.

The music is drawn from across the spectrum of Cape Breton, Irish and Scottish traditions, with a few extras for good measure. There's one original song, "Red Sky," which Cynthia wrote with Dave Gunning.

She stretches her wings a bit with the arrangements, accenting her music with Irish-style lilting and Quebecois footwork, as well as a few non-Celtic tunes such as "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and "Orange Blossom Special." The CD ends with the Blue Rodeo song "Cynthia," performed for her by a host of talented pals.

Cynthia lets the spotlight shine on the other musicians on Riddle, but the fiddle is what stands out in every single track. She's a lively and passionate player whose energy cannot be restrained. Her talent is a PEI goldmine, and Riddle is a pleasure to hear.

For the record, I'd be happy to listen to Cynthia sing, dance or play the fluglehorn, if she likes. As long as she keeps playing that fiddle with this kind of talent, she has a fan.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

12 March 2011

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