North Carolina duo Mandolin Orange (Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz) have released Such Jubilee on Yep Roc Records. The new album follows the duo’s well-regarded 2013 release This Side of Jordan, which was named one of NPR’s Top 10 Folk and Americana Albums.
Such Jubilee was written over the course of a year spent on the road. Marlin and Frantz recorded the ten original songs live, sitting face-to-face with just a vocal and instrumental mic each in Echo Mountain studio in Asheville, North Carolina. This setup seems to have captured the renowned chemistry of their live performances. All ten songs were written by Marlin and address a range of topics: finding comfort in relationships on the harmony-filled and delightfully accessible “Little Worlds,” rejection of gun reform in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting on “Blue Ruin,” a ghostly adaptation of Virginia folklore on “Jump Mountain Blues,” which is about home, both the place and the idea. Some days home it’s a safe, warm, loving refuge from the world outside. Other days it’s cold and empty and too quiet. Either way, it’s always waiting for you at the end of the road.
The pair makes music that radio station WNYC describes as being “laced with bluegrass, country and folk … often wistful and contemplative without being somber, and always firmly grounded in the South.” Magnet calls the duo’s music “magnificent” while American Songwriter insists they draw on an “unfakeable intimacy that bonds simpatico musicians like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.”
High praise with which I tend to agree. Such Jubilee hits on a gentle authenticity that is quite compelling. It takes a few listens, but the songs creep up on you and embed themselves with their richness and lyrical imagery, with just the right balance of warm harmonies and contemplation.
“All of these songs are definitely a product of being on the road,” says Frantz “but they’re not about the road.”
“They’re about home,” explains Marlin. “Not because we were missing it, but because when you’re gone so much, you start realizing what you have and what’s waiting for you. You realize there’s this place to come back to at the end of the journey, and that’s where a lot of these songs come from.”
“With all the touring and festivals, you look around and realize, ‘OK we’re actually doing this now,’” adds Frantz. “We’re not just trying to do it, it’s what we do, and that ties into a lot of the themes on the record.”
It’s at the heart of album opener “Old Ties and Companions,” which takes stock of such rewarding moments. “A good friend of mine and I were talking about this time in our lives – we’ve got all these friends playing music and everybody’s playing with everybody and trading songs and it’s really special,” explains Marlin. “But you don’t know how long that’s going to be around, so we don’t take this time for granted.”
He and Frantz sing in stirring harmony.
Old man give me endless time
Never let these ties sever
Cause heaven knows in all this foolin’ round
these times won’t last forever.”
“Usually for us, making a record is as much of a mystery as it is a creation,” say the duo. “We’ve never been able to successfully record demos because we’re very all-or-nothing in the studio. Such Jubilee came together super naturally — we had been touring as a duo all year when we started recording, so we fell right into that approach. There is a lot of variety in the lyrical content of these songs, but the way they came together in the studio eventually connected all the dots.”
Such Jubilee tracklist:
- Old Ties and Companions
- Settles Down
- Little Worlds
- From Now On
- Jump Mountain Blues
- That Wrecking Ball
- Blue Ruin
- Of Which There Is No Like