From the Cumberland Gap to the fjords of Norway.
Fiddle whiz Mariel Vandersteel offers up a diverse array of instrumental tunes on Hickory, her self-produced debut CD. Ranging from the bluegrass stomp of opening track "Hog and Sheep Going to the Pasture" to the Nordic "Norafjolls" and "Huldreslat", Vandersteel's playing is smooth and assured, her violin possessing a rich expressiveness and her dexterity more than a match for the high-energy tunes on display. "The Schoolhouse" and "On the Danforth" are both pretty, downtempo airs, but it's the faster numbers that make the most impression. The decidedly bluegrassy "Three Forks of the Cumberland" and the Celto-Nordic stylings of "Flannery's Dream" offer plenty of opportunities for Vandersteel to show off her impressive chops. With occasional backing musicians on guitar, bass, mandolin and other fiddles, the album's sound is rich and full, making this a satisfying, if not incendiary, album.