Mariel Vandersteel presents a montage album of old timey fiddle music and Norwegian folk music (played on a traditional instrument called a Hardingfele). Since I was unfamiliar with this instrument, I looked it up and discovered that it is an instrument somewhat like a fiddle but has more strings some of which vibrate in sympathy with the main strings. That explains the interesting drone notes in some of the tunes.
Mariel has a love of both kinds of music and while unusual to hear them on a collection they do fit and provide the listener with a very entertaining experience. To say that Mariel has mastered the violin and Hardingfele is an understatement. She makes the tunes come to life and drives your feet to dancing. Of course, there is a lot of great accompaniment including a couple more fiddlers, a harpist, a guitar player and bassist. In other words, a mini-orchestra.
The old timey tunes are reminiscent of the Southern Appellations and are also those heard in contra dances. There are several original compositions which reveal Ms. Vandersteel's creative talents.
The Norwegian tunes take a little listening to appreciate but after a few plays they also are appealing.
The band is fantastic with credits to Jordon Tice on guitar, Tristan Claridge, Duncan Wickel on fiddles, Maeve Gilchrist on harp, Dominick Leslie on mandolin, Samson Grisman and Matt Malikowski on bass. Mariel plays the fiddle or Hardinfele on all of the tunes.
Of the tunes on the album, Hog and Sheep Going to Pasture with its driving melody really stands out, not to minimize the title cut Hickory which is a great dance tune. Of the Norwegian tunes I liked Huldreslåt which starts out sounding like a string section tuning up but then pulls you in. From the album cover notes it is a tune about a banshee that lures men with her haunting melody.
The tunes composed by Mariel are very nice with Sitting on the Ridge having a very authentic "Old Timey" feel.
There is a lot of variety so you might have a different favorite. With the combination of "Old Timey" and Norwegian there is a lot to listen to over and over. An album well worth getting.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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