Top drawer New Appalachian Folk.
Formerly known as Mandolin Orange. Better known to their friends and families as Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz. Irrespective of the name change, New Appalachian Folk is still their stock in trade. Be it under their current, or previous moniker, they’re a new name to this reviewer, although they’ve been making waves nationally in the States. Let’s delve in.
‘Wondrous Love’ is the album opener. It starts out gently, with a fine melody and beautiful harmony vocals on the chorus. The song drifts away into the ether with a half-speed final chorus. Subtlety is, as expected, the watchword for Watchhouse (no pun intended, but let’s keep it in anyway). Mandolins, violins and guitars burr and chime away. Emily Frantz’s harmonies mingle into Andrew Marlin’s lead vocal effortlessly.
‘Belly of The Beast’ brings darkness to the narrative. ‘Your love’ will sustain us and drive out the shadows and doubts. All of which is brought to life by enduring, poised arrangements and softly delivered vocals. Although this writer isn’t a great fan of the sub-genre that Watchhouse nestles in, it’s abundantly clear that they deliver an excellent, high-quality collection of songs here.
‘Upside Down’ introduces drums, in the slow, loping Crazy Horse style. Frantz takes the vocal lead, with a hint of Alison Krauss in her timbre. The spooky double track/harmony sections leads into an fuzzy guitar break. She also leads the sparse ‘Beautiful Flower’, a strong contender in a classic, traditional folk song manner, albeit about a left-of -field topic (a butterfly smushed on a windshield), which helps to close out the nine-song set.
This is a classy, highly recommended album. Marlin and Frantz deliver the goods and then some.