Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards are clearly inheritors of a timeless legacy, creating
music that is both original and evocative of a rich tradition. Blending distinctive voices and a wide range of accompaniment (guitar, harmonica, ukulele, clarinet, pennywhistle, electric bass), their songs have been well-received by audiences around the eastern United States since 2010. Transcending the genre of folk Americana, their music echoes inspiration from traditional folk duos and singer/songwriters like Ian & Sylvia, Kate Wolf and Neil Young – combining beautiful harmonies and a lyrical intensity, while establishing a unique sound of their own.
Their new CD, Grain by Grain, demonstrates an ever progressive richness in songwriting and performance. From the opening title song through its closing track—“Across the Morning”—it is an exemplar of what modern Americana can and should be. I maintain that Mark and Raianne’s previous CD—Hard Times & Woes—is one of those rare singularly perfect albums, but with Grain by Grain this talented duo takes it all to a new level, rivaling their earlier effort with terrific original songs beautifully presented.
Both artists are products of central Massachusetts mill and factory towns, and for all their national exposure, they are passionately dedicated to the region and what it has to offer. Each summer for the past five years they have organized the “Massachusetts Walking Tour” where they hike the roads and trails of the Commonwealth, more than 100 miles in less than two weeks, in support of the arts in local communities along the way. Each evening they stop over in yet another Massachusetts town, putting on a free concert there, along with local performers and fellow artists who accompany them on their journey. These annual two-week treks also raise awareness of the trails and greenways in Massachusetts, using music to make important connections. It was my privilege to be able to join them on a part of their 2015 Walking Tour, just as it has been my pleasure and honor to have Mark and Raianne on my radio program multiple times over the last several years. They also represented the folk tradition at WICN’s 45th Anniversary gala at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall. With their bandmates—Doug Williamson on bass and piano and Peter Hart on pedal steel guitar—they continue to impress listeners with their heartfelt songs and to inspire in me an even deeper appreciation of contemporary American folk music.