Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 25, 2014
Artist: Mandolin Orange
From: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Online: Artist website; official SXSW page
SXSW showcase: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at Holy Mountain (617 E. Seventh St.)
About the artist
"If anybody appreciates a good Townes song, it’s going to be Austin, Texas," Mandolin Orange guitarist/mandolinist Andrew Marlin remarked to a full house at the Mohawk’s indoor showroom earlier this month, during the North Carolina duo’s second visit to Austin. They’d just finished playing "White Freight Liner Blues," a perhaps too-often-chosen staple of the Townes repertoire, but they gave it just enough of a personal spin that the song opened up into a moment of beauty.
Many such moments unfold when Marlin and his bandmate, violinist/guitarist Emily Frantz, take the stage together and begin to sing. Their voices are a natural match for each other; Marlin’s easygoing charm sets a foundation for Frantz’s beguiling higher flights. To their credit, they forsake the melodrama of contemporary acoustic duos such as the Civil Wars, letting the songs shine without overselling them.
After a couple of self-released discs, Mandolin Orange made its debut on the prominent indie label Yep Roc last fall with "This Side of Jordan," a graceful collection of 11 originals set to relatively simple country-folk instrumentation. On tunes such as the achingly beautiful lament "There Was a Time" and the pedal steel-soaked ballad "Waltz About Whiskey," they bring forth fresh material that stands up to their weighty cover choices.
When they visited the Cactus Cafe last fall for their first Austin gig, they marveled at the Van Zandt poster on the wall in which Townes’ signature declared it "my home club." Mandolin Orange’s music should have no trouble finding a home in Austin as well.
Could share a bill with: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Shovels & Rope, Jackson Browne, Infamous Stringdusters