Mariel Vandersteel
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Mariel Vandersteel

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic




"USA TODAY: Traveling Fiddles"

The fiddle is one of the world’s more portable instruments. It is also one whose sound is often heard as recalling the human voice, and certainly often found in compliment to singers. Those are all reasons why travelers, emigrants, and players both classical and folk in many countries take to the fiddle. Have a listen.

Alasdair Fraser plays the the bright sound of the small fiddle. Natalie Haas is expert on the darker sound of the big fiddle. otherwise known as the cello. That combination was common in Scotland several centuries ago, but then became rare — until Fraser and Haas decided to see what they could do with the sound. They choose music both contemporary and traditional, both tunes they compose and ones they source. The title track on their album Highlander’s Farewell is a traveling tune itself, starting in the Highlands of Scotland, moving across Ireland and finishing up in the Appalachian mountains of North America. There are tunes from Cape Breton in Atlantic Canada, from Galicia in Spain, from France, and from all over Scotland in the mix, too.

Mariel Vandersteel knows a good bit about traveling, and fiddle playing as well. The California native studied at Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon fiddle camp in her native state, in Ireland, in Norway, and in Boston, where she’s now based. You may hear all those geographies in the music she chooses for Hickory. The title track is a fast paced tune from the old time song bag, which finds good company with Three Forks of the Cumberland, a tune written by Dirk Powell, whose influences include old time and Cajun music. There are Norwegian tunes both haunting and quickstepping, and a fine pair of Vandersteel originals as well.

Laurie Lewis is a world class, award winning singer and songwriter. When she was thinking about doing an album to honor the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, she could have easily chosen a program of his songs, but she took another tack: Lewis sought out the ideas behind his song choices and the sources he went to.

Her fiddle, guitar, and voice ring clear through music from the American folk and country songbook, several tunes from contemporary writers, and several of her own songs on her album Skippin’ and Flyin.’. It’s a selection you have to think Monroe would have approved. Linda Ronstadt and Tom Rozum are among those who sit on on songs including Pharaoh’s Daughter, American Chestnuts, and Blue Moon of Kentucky. Think you don’t like bluegrass? Give a listen to Lewis and friends and you just might change your mind. - USA TODAY - Kerry Dexter

"Joe Pszonek, WMSC"

"I am so impressed with the creative way that Mariel has melded styles on this project. What a pleasant surprise!"
- Joe Pszonek, WMSC

"Massimo Ferro (Folk DJ from Italy)"

"Incidentally I'm not only fond of American roots music but I also love Scandinavian folk music so that to find a young fiddler playing both of them, as so well then, is a pleasure for my ears.
As you may I immediately played a couple of tracks from "Hickory" in both my radio shows here." - Hearth Music

"Italian DJ Massimo Ferro"

"Incidentally I'm not only fond of American roots music but I also love Scandinavian folk music so that to find a young fiddler playing both of them, as so well then, is a pleasure for my ears.
As you may I immediately played a couple of tracks from "Hickory" in both my radio shows here." - Hearth Music

"‘Hickory’ the first solo album from Mariel Vandersteel"

Thread ancient echoes of Norwegian fjords around the shadows of Blue Ridge mountains and entwine Hickory them with a precise and measured talent – you’ll have ‘Hickory’ the first solo album from Mariel Vandersteel. This album ranges far and wide through the depths of its heritage and influences to provide a trip your senses will remember for a long time.

Rarely has such a dexterous touch on instruments emerged from a debut album. Encompassing the breadth of the traditional and Hardanger fiddles (or in Norwegian: hardingfele) Mariel directs their enchanting, haunting sounds to perfection. Listen to the engaging vitality of the intriguingly titled ‘Hog And Sheep Going To The Pasture’ as mandolin and fiddle joust their way through the tune. Absorb the rich and enduring wonderment of the self-penned ‘Sitting On The Ridge’ or the whispers of mystery and shadowy fjords in ‘Norafjolls’ to feel your senses stolen away by this album. There’s a gentle enticement to ‘Flannery’s Dream’ which is hard to resist, while Mariel’s treatment of ‘Three Forks of The Cumberland’ and the spritely title track ‘Hickory’ deliver an impossible-to-resist, infectious spirit.

Alongside Mariel on ‘Hickory’ are the superb talents of Maeve Gilchrist (harp) Jordan Tice (guitar) Tristan Clarridge (fiddle) Samson Grisman (bass) Dominick Leslie (mandolin) Duncan Wickel (fiddle) and Matt Malikowski (electric bass).

With this album, Mariel deserves attention, recognition and a huge amount of airplay. No question.

Reviewer: Dan Holland - FolkWords

"Quote from Natalie Haas"

"Mariel Vandersteel's first solo album 'Hickory' is a beautiful offering to
the new acoustic music scene. Her sensitive yet powerfully driving playing, along with gorgeous arrangements and stellar musicianship from all the guest musicians on the album, makes this one of the most exciting listening experiences I've had in a while. She has captured the essences of both the Norwegian & old-time fiddle traditions and turned them into something all her own that is a positive joy to listen to." - Natalie Haas

"Folk Alley at Folk Alliance International 2012: Just a Few of Those Who Impressed"

Mariel Vandersteel

Mariel is a soften spoken fiddler from California and a graduate of The Berklee School of Music in Boston. She can (and did) demonstrate a wide variety of skills. I heard her play in an old timey style backing banjoist Putnam Smith, Irish music as a member of Annalivia, and Norwegian music when she pulled out the Hardanger fiddle. She played this instrument as guitarist Jordan Tice backed her up in her own showcase. She also has a sweet singing voice. This diversity of skills can only help her find more work and more fans and she is a wonderful person to boot. - Jim Blum, Folk Alley


Mariel Vandersteel, Hickory (March 17, 2012)
Laura Cortese's Acoustic Project, TBD (2012)
Rousted, Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers (2010)



Somewhere between the fjords of Norway and mountains of the Blue Ridge, the fiddle-playing of Mariel Vandersteel intones the strains of elevation, clarity and tremendous feeling. It is uncanny that she hails from a very different set of mountains: those of northern California. Mariel came of age musically nurtured by the Bay Area's rich revivalist traditional music scene, receiving a cultural grant to venture to the traditional music archives in Dublin, Ireland, and attending Boston's Berklee College of Music for violin performance. After graduating, Mariel moved to Norway to study Hardingfele, the country's national instrument at Hogskolen i Telemark folk music school. Returning to Boston in 2009, Mariel continued to work with acoustic-roots conjurers Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers, exploring musical connections between Scandinavia and the United States.

On her new record, Mariel aims to bridge old and new worlds, organically melding the sounds, ornaments and accents of the fiddle communities in which she has delved; Boston and Norway, Ireland and California. In making the record, the goal was to give an aural snapshot of the textures of those communities. Collaborating with the Boston-area's finest acoustic musicians, including producer/composer Jordan Tice, Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist, Tristan Clarridge, Samson Grisman, Dominick Leslie and Duncan Wickel, Mariel's new music incorporates lush instrumental dialogues, playful timbral exchanges between fiddle and hardanger, and evocative interpretations of old-world melodies. The record endeavors to capture the incredible energy and ingenuity of the musical community Mariel has surrounded herself with: warmly inviting the listener to the fjord, the Sierra or the living room.

Along with her solo project, Mariel tours nationally and internationally with Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers, Laura Cortese’s Acoustic Project, Putnam Smith, Annalivia and a duo with Emma Beaton.