If Mandolin Orange has been on the periphery of my horizon for a while, they parked at the front door last night with a debut show in Birmingham. This duo from North Carolina have been hoovering up praise for quite a while and reside in good company since their last albums were released on the Yep Roc record label. The latest UK tour sees the pairing of Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin pay a visit to the usual Americana and roots haunts with the addition this year of a visit to Birmingh-u-m (no errors in pronunciation from the band). It appears that this was the same team that put the Bros. Landreth show on in March and similarly this event was also impeded by a venue change. While it is laudable that such fine artists are being brought to the area, surely word needs to get out more that great music is in town.
Those last few words are indisputable on the evidence of Mandolin Orange’s performance in the upstairs room of Moseley’s Dark Horse pub. Pouring their authentic vocals and harmonies into a single vintage mic, multi-instrumentalists Emily and Andrew delivered a stunning set of old time, bluegrass and country music, as rustic and rural as you can get. Yes, the mandolin was prevalent and Andrew’s spectacular playing extracted some searing sounds with the surprise of no broken strings. While Andrew was picking his magnificent miniature instrument, Emily supplied the rhythm from her acoustic guitar. Frequently roles were reversed when Emily reverted to fiddle and Andrew replaced the mandolin with guitar. Whatever the format, the results were smooth and rousing to the ear. Vocally, Andrew generally took control with the harmonies sprinkling parts of most songs. The live versions of their recorded songs adopted a living breathing role and accomplished the feat of enticing a string of album purchases.