Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Friday-Saturday, Nov. 28-29
Mandolin Orange has had a busy year in 2014
. After a run through Europe with Chatham County Line, the duo brought it back home for their first two-night stand at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. The first evening was stripped down and intimate, as hundreds of chairs filled the venue. Leif Vollebekk, hailing from Montreal, opened. He met Mandolin Orange when they toured together in September. Vollebekk's self-deprecating style combined with an impressive collection of songs that fit the mood of the evening well. Mandolin Orange reverted back to a familiar performance style, playing around a single microphone. The duo seemed relaxed as they worked through a handful of tunes that are rare these days, such as "Runnin' Red" and "Wee Bird."
Each night, they also debuted songs off of a forthcoming untitled album, due out mid-2015: "You Alone" and the immediate standout, "Old Ties and Companions." The evening included another first—the on-stage debut of Marlin playing banjo. The clawhammer rang out as instrument maker and Pittsboro native Mike Ramsey watched close by to his latest creation in action. The duo capped off the evening by encoring with Vollebekk on the Tom Waits number "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)".
Leif Vollebekk, "Cairo Blues"
Mandolin Orange, "Next to Nothing"
Night two was another sold-out evening. This time, people stood, packing every inch of the Cradle. Bluegrass impresarios Mike Compton and Joe Newberry opened. Despite fighting against the somewhat talkative crowd, the charismatic duo ran through a quick set of several Newberry-penned numbers as well as a few covers, including the excellent Stanley Brothers "Righteous Pathway."
Mandolin Orange took the stage with frequent collaborator Josh Oliver on guitar and Sabra Guzmán on bass. The ramped-up crowd cheered for favorites like "Train Song" and "One More Down," before the group debuted another new song of their already recorded next project. "That Wrecking Ball" saw Marlin spinning another introspective and pensive tale. Reverting to the duo format briefly, the pair stunned the crowd with their now-popular rendition of the Bob Dylan classic, "Boots of Spanish Leather." The encore came as Joe Newberry and Mike Compton joined the group to sing Newberry's "Missouri Borderland," sending the capacity crowd home happy.
Mike Compton & Joe Newberry, "Singing As We Rise"
Josh Oliver and Mandolin Orange, "I Saw a Man (At the Close of Day)" and "Cherokee Trail"
Mandolin Orange with Mike Compton & Joe Newberry, "Missouri Borderland"