"The musical tapestry of Blindfaller is delicately woven with lush threads of acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin and pedal steel, all ever-present without ever overplaying. However, it's the vocal interplay of Frantz and Marlin that is the band's most distinctive calling card. Opening track 'Hey Stranger' crystallizes all of Mandolin Orange's unique qualities into one three-and-a-half minute heart punch that both soothes and aches."
- Rolling Stone, "40 Best Country Albums of 2016"
“Blindfaller just further establishes…Mandolin Orange as one of the most talented acts making music today. Unrestrained and boundless brilliance. Blindfaller [is] a gold mine of lyrical honesty and musical simplicity."
- No Depression
“Together, Marlin and Frantz manage an effortlessly unaffected vocal merging that lies rooted in their bluegrass roots, yet carries traces of both country and contemporary folk...there’s an earnestness to the duo’s delivery and approach that imbues the music with a rustic honesty and simplicity that belies the complexity of the harmonies and instrumentation.”
- John Paul, Pop Matters
"From album, Such Jubilee, the folk duo returns with a ballad - short, simple and sweet - about holding close what's precious..."Old Ties and Companions" is full of graceful ease that subtlely pulls you in."
- Linda Fahey, NPR Music & Folk Alley
"Mandolin Orange has been quietly gathering local and faraway fans since its debut album was released back in 2010. The North Carolina duo's music -- laced with bluegrass, country and folk -- is often wistful and contemplative without being somber, and always firmly grounded in the South."
- WNYC Soundcheck
RECENT NEWS AND HIGHLIGHTS
The band released their fifth studio album, Blindfaller, in September 2016. Upon its release, the album received chart placement on four different Billboard charts, including a #3 spot on Billboard's Bluegrass Album chart.
Blindfaller received press coverage from notable outlets including: NPR’s Heavy Rotation, Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy, Rolling Stone, Paste, Huffington Post, Mother Church Pew, AllMusic, The Bluegrass Situation, No Depression, Pop Matters and Glide Magazine, among others.
Blindfaller made several year-end lists including: Rolling Stone's "40 Best Country Albums of 2016," Glide Magazine's "20 Best Albums of 2016," Red Line Roots' "Best Things I Heard in 2016," and NPR's "Heavy Rotation." Blindfaller was also nominated for "Album of the Year" and "Country/Americana/Folk Album of the Year" by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM).
Major festival and concert appearances this summer including: Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Forecastle Festival, Pickathon, Fayetteville Roots, Edmonton Folk Festival, Merlefest and a sold-out show at the NC Museum of Art. Previous festival appearances include: Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Vancouver Folk Music Festival and MeadowGrass Music Festival among others.
After releasing Blindfaller, the band embarked on a seven-week tour throughout the US with nearly half the shows sold-out in advance. Since then, the band has toured Europe and the UK, and will have another major US tour this fall.
- Fall 2015 and spring 2016 TV placements on Nashville, Secrets and Lies, and the Deadliest Catch.
ABOUT MANDOLIN ORANGE
Lean in to Mandolin Orange’s new album, Blindfaller, and it’s bound to happen. You’ll suddenly pick up on the power and devastation lurking in its quietude, the doom hiding beneath its unvarnished beauty. You’ll hear the way it magnifies the intimacy at the heart of the North Carolina duo’s music, as if they created their own musical language as they recorded it.
“We talked about the feel of each song and pointed out loosely who was going to be taking solos, but it was mostly a lot of fresh takes, a lot of eye contact, and a lot of nods and weird winks,” says Andrew Marlin, who anchors the band with fellow multi-instrumentalist and singer Emily Frantz.
Released on Sept. 30 on Yep Roc Records, Blindfaller builds on the acclaim of Mandolin Orange’s breakthrough debut on the label, 2013’s This Side of Jordan, and its follow-up, last year’s Such Jubilee.
Since then they’ve steadily picked up speed and fans they’ve earned from long stretches on the road, including appearances at Austin City Limits, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Newport Folk Festival, and Pickathon. It’s been an auspicious journey for a pair who casually met at a bluegrass jam session in 2009.
As the duo’s songwriter, Marlin sharpens his lyrical prowess here, touching on broad themes of growing older and feeling helpless in a world torn by injustice. Sure, the album sounds classic, but it is rooted in the here and now of our daily headlines.
Take “Gospel Shoes,” a gimlet-eyed critique of how politicians have used faith as a weapon. “Freedom was a simple word, so reverent and true/ A long time ago, it meant the right to choose/ Who you love and how to live, but now it’s so misused/ And twisted by the politics of men in gospel shoes,” Marlin sings.
“When we finished ‘Such Jubilee,’ I started writing these songs with a different goal in mind. I thought about how I would write songs for somebody else to record,” Marlin explains. “I ended up with a bunch of songs like that, but we chose ones that I still felt personally connected to.”
“We really chose everybody who played on the record, because we trusted them,” he adds.
They found kindred spirits in Clint Mullican on bass, Kyle Keegan on drums, Allyn Love on pedal steel, and previous collaborator, Josh Oliver, on guitar, keys and vocals.
“We’ve always liked to record fairly live,” Frantz says, “and it’s pretty easy to do that when it’s just Andrew and me. So it was fun to hone in on the guys who played on this record.“We really jelled as soon as we got into the studio, and everyone's playing was driven by intuition instead of details orchestrated in advance.”
Holed up at the Rubber Room studio in Chapel Hill, N.C., they laid down the tracks in a week between touring. They’ve always been keen on the notion that drawn-out recording sessions don’t necessarily yield better results. A good song, and just one good take, will always shine through any studio sorcery.
For Frantz, Blindfaller, which Mandolin Orange produced, was something of a turning point.
“Now that we’ve put out quite a few records and toured so much, I think a standard has been set and people expect a certain thing,” she says. “But you don’t want to get into a place where you’re just making the music you’re expected to make. You have to push yourself a little bit.”
The passage of time, and the regret that often accompanies it, courses through these songs. “When did all the good times turn to hard lines on my face/ And lead me so far from my place right by your side?” Marlin ruminates on “My Blinded Heart.”
In fact, there’s heartache by the numbers on Blindfaller. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear “Picking Up Pieces” is a tearjerker George Jones or Willie Nelson sang back in the early 1970s. It’s a Mandolin Orange original, of course, and also a poignant reminder of the economy and grace with which Marlin imbues his songs – say what’s important and scrap the rest.
A country dirge with soulful washes of pedal steel and mandolin, “Wildfire” details the the lingering, present-day devastation of slavery and the Civil War, with Marlin’s voice locking into close harmonies with Frantz on the chorus. “Take This Heart of Gold” opens with perhaps the best classic-country line you’ll hear all year: “Take this heart of gold and melt it down.” (Marlin admits it was inspired by a Tom Waits lyric he misheard.)
But there’s also room for detours. Straight out of a honky tonk, “Hard Travelin’” lets the band shift into overdrive. A freewheeling ode to life on the road, it had been kicking around for a while but never fit on previous releases.
As for the album title, it’s meant to evoke a sense of wonder, of contemplation. A “faller” is someone who fells trees, and in this case that person is blind to his/her own actions and those of the world. The spectral cover photo, by Scott McCormick, is open to interpretation, too: Either those trees are engulfed in flames or sunlight is pouring through them. It’s up to you.
“We wanted different vibes and different intuitions on these tracks,” Marlin says, “and I feel like we really captured that.”