Mandolin Orange II 2019 Gladden House Sessions

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Gladden House alumni Mandolin Orange brought their lush, haunted sounds back to the stage Saturday afternoon for a secret show featuring a showcase of emotionally rich songs from over the course of their decade-long career.

The Chapel Hill, NC husband-wife duo, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, have crafted four albums since signing to esteemed independent record label, Yep Roc Records, in 2013. The most recent is 2019’s Tides of a Teardrop, which paints Marlin’s lifelong grief after losing his mother unexpectedly when he was only 18 years old with aching, quietly spiritual songs. Mandolin Orange was joined on stage by guitarist Josh Oliver, bassist Clint Mullican, and percussionist Joe Wusterland.

Upon assembling themselves onstage, Mandolin Orange sprang into “Lonesome Whistle” from their 2016 album Blindfaller, a song that artfully captures all the homesick glory of the old-time train songs it models itself after. That aching sentiment bled into the band’s rendition of “Lonely All the Time” off of the aforementioned Tides of a Teardrop, a surprisingly playful sonic meditation on wistful, bitter days, the tiring churning of time, and, worst of all, cold coffee.

Marlin then introduced “Buried in a Cape,” the title track of his 2018 instrumental solo effort (Mandolin Orange LLC) which he wrote in memory of American folk great John Hartford, whose body of lauded, often unconventional music greatly influenced Marlin. Hartford passed away in 2001at the age of 63 after a four-year battle with Hodgkins lymphoma and was buried wearing a Batman cape. Allegedly the cape was unintentionally thrown in with the clothes that were sent to the funeral director, but when his widow saw it, she thought it was fitting for her famously idiosyncratic husband.

Frantz then promised the audience that they only had one song left to play, joking that “it would be kind of unlike us to leave you on an upper,” before playing “Blue Ruin,” which Marlin wrote directly in response to the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Frantz said the band “almost never plays it live anymore,” but because of the continually intensifying debate over gun violence in the United States, the raw, heartbreaking sentiment of the song, which was originally released on 2015’s Such Jubilee, felt appropriate.

In response to the din of audience applause and demand for another song, Marlin said “we’ll rock one for ya,” before busting into “Hard Travelin’,” a song off Blindfaller, which tells the rollicking story of a nomadic musician, one that rings true to “blindfaller’s” definition, the “reckless and destructive nature in all of us.”