Tommy Edwards and Andrew Marlin
Daniels Auditorium, NC Museum of History, Raleigh
Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015

The Edwards-Marlin Mutual Admiration Society convened at the North Carolina Museum of History on Sunday for a public meeting that offered rare insight into what happens when two guys get together just to play. It wasn’t a meeting meeting, of course—it was a show set up by PineCone featuring skilled songwriters and bluegrass musicians Andrew Marlin and Tommy Edwards. Even in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 300 people, the two demonstrated a chemistry that felt as intimate as peeking in on a jam session at home.

Marlin, of Mandolin Orange, and Edwards, an area roots veteran, get together regularly to play music for their own entertainment, but the two estimate they’ve performed in public together only seven times. They approached this appearance with an enthusiasm that swept them past their allotted set time by nearly half an hour, tackling not only each other’s songs but also tunes by Si Kahn, Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams and others.

The duo favored the mandolin-and-guitar format for most of the show, with banjos appearing on folk standards “Worried Man Blues” and “Bury Me Beneath the Willow Tree.” Bill Monroe songs anchored the set: “The Gold Rush,” “Foggy Mountain Top” and “Big Mon” were all delivered in a manner that would’ve made the father of bluegrass proud. Although old standards made up much of the program, the pair’s added twists pushed well-worn tunes from standard to stellar.

The duo’s jokes and jabs between songs added to the day’s delights. Edwards introduced one song with the quip, “Here’s one we didn’t practice.” That could just as easily be the truth or a lie. The two pulled it and every song off with an aplomb that might require months of practice for some. We’ll never know, and isn’t that part of the fun?