Mandolin Orange Blindfaller

Mandolin Orange Blindfaller
8
It's difficult not to have at least a pleasurable listening experience with a Mandolin Orange album. The band might not make you rethink your place in the world or inspire you to rush out and purchase a set of German speakers, but they'll deliver high-quality songwriting and musicianship every time out.
 
In fact, it's difficult to fault them for much at all. Even more gifted or better-known musical acts seem capable of a stale lyric or an ill-advised instrumental from time to time, but this folk/bluegrass duo from North Carolina always seem to have the bed made, wrinkle-free. Precise instrumentation, sharp lyricism and ethereal singing voices and harmonization have become the hallmark of their sound.
 
Blindfaller is Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz's fifth album, and third since signing with Yep Roc records in 2013. The album is predictably heavy on the band's namesake and also the fiddle, acoustic guitar and the airy, subtle harmonies the two have become known for. They both play multiple instruments while Marlin handles the songwriting duties.
 
The album begins with standout track "Hey Stranger," a regretful, melancholic tune and one of only two album cuts that Frantz sings lead on. "Wildfire" takes a U.S. Revolutionary War historical narrative and weaves it into some of the race issues that the country is dealing with today. "Echo" may be the strongest track here, though. Opening with some enviable mandolin mastery, the song deals in nature and environmental metaphors with a reflective, meditative air. The album ends on a tranquil, untroubled note with "Take This Heart of Gold," a fitting fadeout to a captivating album.
 
There really isn't a second-rate song on Blindfaller. It moves fluidly from track to track, taking the listener on a contemplative, soulful trip through the minds and instruments of these esteemed musicians. It's a warm and inviting album for the colder months ahead. (Yep Roc)