Blending the simplicity of Southern church music, the lyricism of ‘70s folk and the melodicism of traditional country music, Mandolin Orange make stunningly beautiful records that speak of modern experiences in mystical terms—replete with pictures of family gatherings and church socials. It’s Andrew Marlin, the duo’s guitarist/primary songwriter and the son of a church musician, who brings that imagery to life, distilling his musical background of The Beatles, Ricky Skaggs and Pantera (yes, Pantera) into songs as smooth as a back porch conversation on a summer night.
Emily Frantz, Marlin’s musical foil, is a Suzuki-trained violinist who dropped the instrument in her early teens, tiring of the regimented approach to classical music. A few years later, the collegial spirit of bluegrass jams brought her back to playing and, ultimately, a meeting with Marlin. It’s her delicate voice and tasteful fiddle that underpin a stunning yet simple sound that evokes the ballads of Robert Earl Keen and the ghostly spirit of My Morning Jacket. Even their band name has a mystical quality to its origin. “We like to play around with words,” says Marlin. “‘Mandolin Orange’ popped up one day and just stuck around.”