Watchhouse understands the merits of simplicity, that leaving things out makes space to invite wonder and intrigue inside. Formed in North Carolina as Mandolin Orange in 2009 by songwriter Andrew Marlin and fiddler Emily Frantz, the duo, renamed Watchhouse in 2021 in honour of their sixth album, creates soft, supple songs about life’s hard, unvarnished moments. Their music is renowned for capturing random web surfers and radio-static explorers at first note, as evidenced by their mythical 2014 video performance of Boots of Spanish Leather amassing over 13 million views, eclipsing those of the infamous Nobel Prize laureate who wrote the song.
Perhaps that’s because Frantz’ befittingly forlorn fiddle and ethereal vocals tumble with the earthy gravel scattered through Marlin’s voice and lyrics; thus, the couple captures creation stretched between them like the sky captures the stars. It’s so beautiful it may seem unconnected to reality, until you hear lines like “Gospel shoes are laced with shackles and chains/Fitted for the poor, the runners of the race”, or ponder songs detailing the wake left behind from civil war, the death of a loved one, or even a simple argument with a cherished friend.
This is music played on porches, around campfires, at weddings, music played while waiting for trains, or for the pain to ease and the breeze to signal spring might be near. Entrancing, enchanting, the warm melodies and harmonies embrace cold subjects so purely they work their way between the fibres of your heart.
Biography by Mary-Lynn Wardle