North Carolina-based acoustic duo Mandolin Orange have spent the past decade quietly releasing sturdy collections of originals that blend bluegrass, soft-rock, folk and country. The group’s latest single, “The Wolves” — a preview of their upcoming album Tides of a Teardrop — Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz offer a compelling tale of finding release and joy in spite of darkness and temptation. On it, the band expands beyond its typical format, building on the acoustic duo arrangement by bringing in their touring band to round things out to great effect.
For a group best known for its instrumental virtuosity, “The Wolves” is notable for its storytelling. Mandolin Orange merge an affecting, character-based narrative of an elderly woman who’s overcome a life of hardship with a newly impressionistic, non-linear lyricism. It’s a new step for the band, and one that’s rewarding to hear.
“Everything’s so great/Can’t get better/Makes me wanna cry,” Marlin sings, before Frantz joins in: “But I’ll go out howling at the moon tonight.”