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Mandolin Orange commands the room

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine, August 16, 2015

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

Mandolin Orange presents a simple picture: two members, sharing fiddle, mandolin and guitar and two powerful voices. As Mandolin Orange, Emily Franz and Andrew Marlin command the room.

The duo formed in Carrboro, N.C. a few years back, and have released an impressive series of CDs over the last few years, most recent "Such Jubilee" on Yep Roc Records. Mandolin Orange tours vigorously, but is relatively new to a Northeast audience. Their show at the cozy club was the last on a run through the upper reaches of the east,

Evoking Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Mandolin Orange distinguishes itself with Marlin's top-rank songwriting and vocal harmonies between the players. The instrumental licks solidly underscore the band's lyrical strength, but do no overpower.

Marlin takes the lead on most songs. His rich voicing is draws the listener into the soul of his musical creations. Franz, for her part, effortlessly seals the vocal deal, positioning herself slightly off-mic by design. It's a remarkable pairing.

Mandolin Orange presents smart, rich music rooted in the American experience. The band, as one would expect, featured the "Such Jubilee" selections. Standouts included "Rounder," "That Wrecking Ball" and the haunting evocation of the Newtown, Conn. shootings, "Blue Ruin." "The Side of Jordan," Mandolin Orange's powerful 2013 release was also well-represented, most notably by the infectious "Waltz About Whiskey."

Sam Moss, an accomplished Boston-based flat-picker, opened.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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