Mandolin Orange, the duo of Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin, offers a gem with the release of their latest album. They have been touring regularly over the last few years, but this album whispers of the desire to be home. The last cut, “Of Which There Is No Like,” ends with:
The fiddle, guitar, and mandolin blend with the voices surrounding you like a comfy blanket in the chill so you can settle back into your rocking chair or porch swing and enjoy life as the sun sets over the horizon.
Hold me tight tonight my darling
Out of the dark, dark night
Home to see such jubilee
Of which there is no like.
Such Jubilee doesn’t celebrate the road, but rather resonates in the tunes of home, full of excitement and joy as well as the pain that can be experienced in those confines. Even when you are on the road, Mandolin Orange has discovered you can’t leave your home behind.
The tunes we’ve carried through the years will change
And man that’s just enough
To keep these ghosts around
When “Rounder” starts, a lament about the approach of the morning light and the character’s impending hanging, the music pulls me into the emotion of missed opportunities and lost love.
Some folks are guided by the love they share,
But darkness called and left me unaware
And now I’m just a lonesome old rounder.
“Blue Ruin” compares the killing spree in Newtown, Connecticut, with the birth of Jesus at Christmas: not themes we generally put together. The question raised in the lyrics, like the memory of a home lost, continues to haunt.
There’s too many people killing people,
To put an end to evil.
What can be done?
We live in a culture of guns, which seems to be on an endless spiral downward. Can we ever discuss what it really means to create a culture of safety?
These realities come uninvited into our homes, unsettling the calm and making us unsure about the one space we think we can control. “Daylight” follows, as if to renew us once again with the ending of night.
Blinded by hunger and fed to the night
Then darling you came to me
Like a dream in this endless plight
Such Jubilee isn’t stoked with passionate love songs or strident protests but instead settles into for the long haul. Marlin writes all of the music but the album is really a collaboration between these two: a multiple-instrument-playing-singing pair. The fiddle, guitar, and mandolin blend with the voices surrounding you like a comfy blanket in the chill so you can settle back into your rocking chair or porch swing and enjoy life as the sun sets over the horizon. What I enjoy about this music is that the enjoyment comes at several levels. The instrumental combinations and the tunes function well for just relaxing, without even paying attention to the lyrics. You get a full dose of the wistful longing, the steady joy, the foot-tapping steadiness of life. When you add the lyrics to your reflections, each tune lets you create an interesting narrative to accompany the hints contained in each line. What ends up happening is that you bring these tunes into your own space with the connections that are made to your life and then the music feels totally at home.
I haven’t considered before how taken I might be with the tale of someone who expects to be hung with the rising of the sun, but it happens with every listen when I get to “Rounder.” If you pay attention, “From Now On” may remind us that inside each of us a touch of loneliness.
There’s an awful lonesome feeling, concealed within our past.
To have a home is to be able to explore the edges of life and to always long to be home. Join me long distance for a glass of ice tea and a listen to Mandolin Orange.