As we approach the end of the year, releases for 2019 start coming thick and fast, the Christmas songs slowly get tucked up tightly into their boxes for forced hibernation until next winter and thoughts of spring and the new year come along. At the start of February American duo Mandolin Orange release their sixth album and if you like harmonised vocals, thoughtful lyrics, fantastic musicianship and things a bit country, look no further, Mandolin Orange may well be your next favourite band.
This is the music to watch the flowers grow to, sit back and immerse yourself in sunrises, tall grass, summery dresses, stolen kisses and songs about love, loss, mourning and beauty because this is how the music is presented. It transports you from the rainy dark winter to the spring with new hopes and gentle melodies that are whispered into your ears like closely guarded secrets.
There are aspects of country music that just work and can spread out beyond the genre and appeal to fans of any kind of music, the vocals are beautiful conveying emotion and relaying heart-breaking moments but also becoming uplifting when needed and the mixture of guitar and mandolin seems to slot into the imagery of country music like boots bouncing upon wooden-boarded dancefloors. This isn’t the Stetson-wearing country music of late, the highly polished production levels of the modern country superstars, this is the intimate music of friends, words too painful to share through anything other than song and if you allow it to, it will draw you in and make you wonder how music can be this good yet be so under heard.
The strength of any album is the level of song writing, Andrew Marlin, the chief song writer, has pieced together a collection of songs centred around the theme of loss, but he takes the angle of being positive, taking steps to move on and letting go. His songs give enough space within the composition to allow the other half of the band, Emily Frantz, the freedom to weave and enhance the music, she brings sometimes subtle – yet no less effective – harmonising vocals that only comes about through years of trust and a musicality that you would struggle to find in another duo.
At times the music reminded me – albeit slightly – of Fleetwood Mac, how it includes the differing voices so well and sets the music against the finger-picking guitar playing and it’s little surprise that Mandolin Orange have found a loyal following, but, if like me, this is your first time listening to this band, give it a few listens, let it share it’s secrets and it might just be a great start to 2019.