Sierra Noble,
Spirit of the Strings
(Arbor, 2005)

When I met Sierra Noble after just missing her performance at the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton back in October 2007, she was friendly, gracious and, I thought, a bit shy.

Anyone who witnessed Sierra blasting through the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics -- along with the likes of Ashley MacIsaac, April Verch, Samantha Robichaud and Daniel Lapp, all decked out for some sort of post-apocalyptic powwow and ceilidh -- would probably not list "shy" as a likely attribute for this young Winnepeg fiddler. Neither would anyone who has encountered Sierra's various humanitarian efforts, which demonstrate a strength of convictions and action not often seen in someone so young.

That Olympic performance, though brief, was every bit as energetic as any skating, skiing or curling event we'd see over the next few weeks in Vancouver. And it made me dig out my copy of Spirit of the Strings, Sierra's debut album, which she handed to me in Cape Breton with self-effacing, almost apologetic reserve. It was released in 2005 and recorded when she was only 14 years old.

From what little I've heard of Sierra's more recent CD release, Possibilities, the new album reveals more of her pop-folk vocal skills while the fiddle takes a back seat. Spirit of the Strings, on the other hand, is an album to make fiddle fans sit up and sing with joy.

Canadian fiddle music is largely dominated by the the Celtic styles that have thrived on the east and west coasts. Sierra can handle a variety of styles, from classical to bluegrass, but her true calling is the Metis tradition -- a blending of European settlers with First Nations natives -- that is less well known but every bit as vigorous.

As she blasts through sets such as "Constitution Breakdown," "Gilbert's Duck Dance," "Red River Jig," "Lucky Trapper Reel" and an exceptional "Orange Blossom Special," you'll hear exactly why Sierra was one of the lucky half-dozen selected to represent her country's fiddle tradition in Vancouver. I'm not sure where Sierra's musical journey will take her, but this CD is a milestone along the way that should be preserved and treasured.

[ visit the artist online ]

review by
Tom Knapp

20 March 2010

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