Mandolin Orange singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumental singer-songwriter Emily Frantz have spent years mastering the art of intimacy expressed through music deeply rooted in Americana and bluegrass.
And the duo’s fanbase has been growing exponentially: In 2018, the outfit racked up nearly 50 million streams from more than 5 million listeners on Spotify. They have played Red Rocks with the Avett Brothers, performed to sold-out audiences at the Ryman and played Bonnaroo and the Newport Folk Festival. Additionally, Mandolin Orange sold out all of their headlining U.S. shows while making many new fans throughout Europe.
The group’s 2019 Tides Of A Teardrop, which relays a recurring motif of death and loss, is their most masterful work yet.
“[Tides Of A Teardrop] is a little more cosmic, almost in a spiritual way – the space between the notes was there to suggest all those empty spaces the record touches on,” Marlin says. “There are many powerful ways of acknowledging loss; sometimes the most powerful one is saying nothing at all.”
Of course, silence doesn’t work well on an album. So in the opener, “The Wolves,” Marlin shows vulnerability alongside a weepy country-toned guitar: “Everything so great, makes me want to cry.”
Meanwhile, in “Mother Deer,” the unofficial apex of the record, Marlin sings, “In a land of endless spring/ No scavengers or machines, she’s free… somewhere in a field of clovers she waits for me.”
Then there’s a good old fiddle-fueled country tune, “Lonely All the Time,” that kicks through a wall of drinking cheap whisky and listening to Hank Williams Sr.
The “cosmic” shows its face on “Late September” in the lyrics: “Just beyond the borders of my mind, these rolling hills don’t bind me, they simply remind me.
“Our mother of such splendor, dies in brilliant colors/ thoughts once put together by a hospital room window.”
The album bookend, “Time We Made Time,” closes the mesmerizing work with more violin-led intimacy, a welcome transition from the cosmic to the personal.
“This was the longest that we’d gone – that we’d been able to go – between records,” Frantz says. “This time, for various reasons, we were riding it out a lot longer. But then we had so much more time to over-analyze. We’ve never been ones to sit down to figure out, ‘OK, what do we want this album to be?’ before we even start writing.”
MANDOLIN ORANGE WITH FRUIT BATS presented by Folkyeah 8pm Friday, July 5. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $40-$68. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.com