Today, songwriter and mandolinist Andrew Marlin of the acclaimed folk duo Mandolin Orange — who’ve “redefined roots music for a younger generation” (Washington Post) — announces a new pair of solo instrumental albums that emerge from the solitude of COVID lockdown with emotive melodies and impeccable arrangements. Both albums — Witching Hour, out February 5, and Fable & Fire, out February 19 — serve as showcases for Marlin’s casual musical mastery and his sophisticated ability to summon a wide breadth of emotion from his instrument.
The first album, Witching Hour (February 5), is redolent of American roots music soundscapes, rich with fiddle and mandolin and powerful, coursing tunes that are both philosophical and playful as they reflect on new parenthood and the swaying beauty of day-to-day life. Listen to lead single “Woodland Star,” which is a late-night lullaby in D-Major that Marlin composed to help lull his daughter to sleep and named for a painting of California wildflowers sitting above her crib:
Witching Hour found Marlin and his band returning to The Butcher Shoppe studio — originally founded by the late legend John Prine — which had a long history and reputation as a proving ground for great Nashville sessions. It was where Andrew had recorded his first instrumental album Buried in a Cape. “The Shoppe’s recording engineer Sean Sullivan called me up saying the studio was closing and being turned into a condo,” Marlin says. “He asked if I wanted to make a record before they closed. We went in there and kind of went for it. It definitely felt like a last hoorah kind of vibe.” The studio’s history echoes throughout Witching Hour, which buzzes with an electric energy, whether it’s on the raucous and jubilant “Hawk Is A Mule” or the atmospheric, meditative passages of “Fireflies and Fairydust.”
Coming out on February 19, Fable & Fire — despite being an instrumental record — is as emotionally raw as anything Marlin’s done before. Recorded at Asheville, NC’s Echo Mountain Studio, its scope is grand and introspective as it reflects on the storm of the last year. Says Marlin: “Amidst global trauma, it’s difficult to feel like your own experience is unique and relevant. The record is a sonic account of how the journey within has no destination. It’s like looking at the stars and knowing you’ll never touch them, or believing in magic and seeing it for what it isn’t. This is my most honest work to date and without saying anything it somehow says it all. “
This is adventurous, transportive music that creates a richly detailed, immaculately conceived soundworld depicting a soul temporarily adrift finding ballast in memory of loved ones past and the magical wonder coursing through a toddler’s experience of the universe. Listen to Fable & Fire’s lead single “Salter Path / Throes Of Night,” a strikingly beautiful moment of contemplation steeped in Irish folk sounds:
While each album was recorded in a different recording studio, both largely had the same crew of instrumentalists, all of whom are close friends and trusted collaborators. Nashville guitarist Jordan Tice and fiddler Christian Sedelmyer have worked closely with Marlin before, as have guitarist Josh Oliver and bassist Clint Mullican, both of whom tour and record in Mandolin Orange. Award winning fiddler Brittany Haas joined up for a tune on Witching Hour, and Fable & Fire also features cellist Nat Smith.
Witching Hour and Fable & Fire follow the runaway success of Mandolin Orange’s 2019 album Tides Of A Teardrop, which lead to the band’s first ever national TV performances on CBS Saturday and the TODAY Show as well as an NPR Tiny Desk. Rolling Stone says Tides is “compelling…a new step for the band, and one that’s rewarding to hear.”
Pre-order both albums on Andrew’s Bandcamp: http://andrewmarlin.bandcamp.com