Have you ever seen the plains of the Deep South, or the Appalachian mountains? No? This record might bring you a little measure of them. Mandolin Orange is an American, North Carolina-based folk-duo, consisting of Emily Frantz (vocals, violin, guitar) and Andrew Marlin (vocals, mandolin, banjo, guitar) who released their album Tides of a Teardrop in 2019 with Yep Roc Records. It’s pure Americana, with bluegrass and rockabilly folk sensibilities. In terms of sound, acoustic instruments dominate.
These tunes contain several topics that make the record even more colourful and valuable. Human relationships are the focus. In ‘Golden Embers’, ‘Mother Deer’, ‘Suspended in Heaven’ and ‘Time We Made Time’, the loss of a mother and the lyricist’s earlier relationship with her appear as truly personal and intimate subjects that everyone can relate to.
‘The Wolves’ is a delicate track and its sound is totally in harmony with the lyrics, which are about happiness and feeling cheerful. ‘Into the Sun’ is about travelling and feeling free, a track with a sense of the Appalachians and mid-western American life.
‘Late September’ is about masculinity and manhood, which are really relevant topics these days, especially since masculinity is thought to play such a major part in everyday life in the American Midwest and Deep South. This makes the album even more of a gem. Of course, there are other songs on the record like ‘When She’s Feeling Blue’, ‘Like You Used To’, and ‘Lonely All The Time’ with love and loneliness as their main subjects. It wouldn’t be Americana without some romance, right?
Song Structures & Arrangement
Mostly, these songs use pop music structures like verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus and verse-pre-chorus-chorus-verse-pre-chorus-chorus-bridge-chorus. However, you may also hear typical folk structures in tracks like ‘Lonely All the Time’, which uses an only-verse or A-A-A-A structure, where the verses are only linked instrumentally. This structure is used exclusively in folk music and strengthens the sonic identity of the album.
Acoustic instruments are used almost exclusively, reflecting bluegrass roots and Nashville influences, although the elements of other sub genres are also evident. In the songs ‘The Wolves’ and ‘Like You Used To’, the use of drums gives these tunes more power and adds a sort of folk-rocky and rockabilly tone as well.
Sonically, this album gives the listener tastes of the Midwest and Deep South, especially Nashville, Tennessee. Meanwhile, elements of Appalachian bluegrass, rockabilly and folk-rock can also be heard on the record, which makes it truly versatile and colourful.
Tides of a Teardrop is a really decent record from Mandolin Orange, not only sonically but lyrically too, and represents a world of American folk music that still resonates with people. This is perhaps because the themes of love and freedom that occur in this kind of music are the most relatable to human existence. Whether you listen to this album while driving on a straight, long highway or while at home in a lockdown, I’m pretty sure it will bring you comfort with its sunny sensibilities.
Album Rating: 4.7/5