Few countries love the fiddle as much as Canada, and few young Canadian fiddlers today can show off the breadth and range of North American fiddling like Adrianna Ciccone. A native of Northern Ontario, on her much-awaited debut album, The Back of Winter, she crosses back and forth across the continent with ease, showcasing Scottish reels from Cape Breton, crooked French-Canadian brandys from Québec, the rollicking rhythms of Ottawa Valley stepdancing tunes, all the way down to Southern Appalachian stringband tunes; she even incorporates Irish and Métis influences. Produced by world-renowned fiddler Bruce Molsky, The Back of Winter marks the introduction of Adrianna Ciccone to the world stage as a precociously talented fiddler. As she remarks, some of these tunes have been in her head and fingers for more than a decade while she attended school and built her career. Now at long last she’s letting them loose to tear around the house (and mind the dresser!). For this is dance music through and through – you can hear from the exacting rhythms of her fiddling that Adrianna is also an award-winning stepdancer.
With Molsky at the helm, Adrianna gathered some of her best musical friends in Boston, like innovative pianist Neal Pearlman, Scottish harpist Mairi Chambeul, Cape Breton pianist Kimberly Fraser, cellist Eric Law, Boston Scottish fiddler Jenna Moynihan, clawhammer banjo master Allison deGroot, guitarist Flynn Cohen, and bassist Nate Sabat. As a producer, Molsky looked to guide the arrangements and the shaping of the sound. As he says, “What makes Adrianna extraordinary is her gift of not just technical virtuosity, but the ability and desire to try new ideas, musical languages and make the instrument truly speak.” A recent 2015 nomination for Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year from the Canadian Folk Music Awards underscores the power of Adrianna’s fiddling and the range of her vision.
Raised in the Ottawa Valley fiddle tradition and greatly inspired by Québécois fiddling, Adrianna cut her teeth at fiddle camps across Ontario and Canada, and competed (and won many awards) in national and international fiddle competitions. A recent graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Adrianna took advantage of her time there to expand her dance fiddling to new traditions and to push her musical talent in new directions. She also made fine friends among the other young traditional artists at Berklee, and if you listen you can hear the camaraderie between the tunes in this album. Inspired by late night jam sessions in Boston, on the same ground where master Cape Breton, French-Canadian, and Ottawa Valley ex-pat fiddlers used to gather for dances, you can feel how comfortable each musician on the album is with each other, a comfort born of late nights and fine libations. What’s remarkable is that each of these musicians comes from very different backgrounds, but that’s also a hallmark of Adrianna’s work. Throughout the album she blends tunes seamlessly across traditions, with a Canadian fiddle showpiece like “Mouth of the Tobique” seguing tightly into an Appalachian fiddle tunes like “Horses on the Cane Break,” or a Danish polska slipping effortlessly into a mysterious fiddle tune from Québec. Besides traditional tunes, Adrianna also weaves in beautiful original compositions of her own that draw from a wide variety of traditions. The title piece, “The Back of Winter,” is a composition that evokes the refreshing feeling of first spring at the end of a long Ontario winter. It’s a full-bodied composition that takes the relatively simple and rigid structure of traditional fiddle tunes and expands it into something more akin to a statement.
Throughout The Back of Winter, Adrianna Ciccone shows that she’s thinking on a grander scale, and hungering to show the breadth of North American fiddling.