It’s safe to say that Mandolin Orange received a warmer welcome than they’d expected from Central PA when the Chapel Hill, NC-based traditional folk duo paid a visit to the Abbey Bar at Harrisburg’s Appalachian Brewing Co. last Thursday. Midway through the set, fiddle player/guitarist/vocalist Emily Franz divulged the pair hadn’t been to the region in some time, even throwing in a quick anecdote about her childhood drives from North Carolina to her relative’s house in northeast PA. “We knew we were close when we got to Harrisburg,” she recalled, garnering applause.
Franz is joined by Andrew Marlin who, as chief lyricist, adds guitar and the band’s namesake orange mandolin. The evening’s set featured in large part tracks from the duo’s most recent album, This Side of Jordan (Yep Roc), opening with the album’s own opening tracks “House of Stone” and “Turtle Dove & The Crow.”
A quick glance around the room showed a large contingent of the audience singing along with Marlin on “House of Stone.” By the time the song “Waltz About Whiskey” came up, the crowd was partnering up and dancing at the foot of the stage.
Harrisburg bluegrass outfit Colebrook Road opened the night with a driving set marked by quick picking, swirling fiddle solos, tight harmonies and the band’s signature “Colebrook Road” road sign. The five-piece ended its set with a cover of Trampled By Turtles’ “Codeine” (and a heck of a cover it was), before inviting Franz and Marlin – whom they referred to as “our new friends” – to the stage for a fiddle standard that gave all seven instrumentalists on stage a chance to solo.