An Americana album which is powerful through precision and compelling from start to finish, what more could you wish for?
As popular country merges ever further into the mainstream, the question of authenticity has become something of a moot point for the genre. Those in pursuit of the genuine article know to look in the margins and as with The Stray Birds, their Yep Roc labelmates, Mandolin Orange present a convincing alternative with their precise and folk-nourished Americana.
The fifth record from North Carolina’s Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin is their fullest sounding yet. Frantz’s fiddle and Marlin’s mandolin are enhanced by the addition of a full backing band, which amplifies things without taking away from the honeyed duo at the album’s core.
There is also plenty of great songwriting. Wildfire is the loosest jam on Blindfaller, a rambling rumination on the segregation still rife in the South with “hatred passed down through the years.” A constant delight is the way in which Marlin’s instrument brushes against every track. It is never self-indulgent or showy, even when given free rein, as on Echo.
Hard Travellin’ provides the necessary tempo shift as it honky-tonks things up a notch. It is one of the most overtly fun moments on the album and comes before Gospel Shoes, complete with stunning harmonies from the duo, turns attention back to the current troubles being faced by America.
From the mellow opener Hey Stranger right through to the album’s last guitar note on Take This Heart Of Gold, there’s a hidden strength and timeless nature to Blindfaller which improves with every listen.
Verdict: A healing antidote