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Anais Mitchell - Young Man in America

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 28 / 1 / 2012



Anais Mitchell - Young Man in America
Label: Wilderland Records
Format: CD

intro

Exccellent first solo album in five years from Vermont-based folk artist and singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell, who combines simple, but strong narratives with powerful imagery


There are few things music obsessives of my acquaintance like more than watching a musician they’ve followed for a while kick on and make the album you’d always hoped they would. For the last few years, I’ve seen Vermont singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell play on six different visits to London, and have never once left disappointed. I’ve struggled to describe quite why I like her live shows so much – it’s just a girl with an acoustic guitar after all. But Mitchell has two qualities that set her apart. Firstly, she obviously loves performing, and that warm enthusiasm spills over into the music. Secondly, she is an exceptional songwriter – appreciative of, but not mimicking, folk’s past and capable of telling sad stories without ever being patronising or corny. On her earlier albums, her excellent songwriting was on full display. 2004’s 'Hymns For the Exiled 'was a personal take on the (perhaps too easily forgotten) horrors of the Bush presidency while 2007’s 'The Brightness' contained more personal tales of heartbreak. But, until now, she hadn’t quite made her songs sound quite as good on record as they do in person. This new album comes after 2010’s 'Hadestown', a folk opera with such excellent songs that any accusations of pretension were easily rebuffed. That album enjoyed five star reviews in several broadsheets (The Guardian called it “something joyful and witty that yields more with every listen.”), but it wasn’t in any way a solo effort, as a cast of indie and country luminaries sung many of the vocal parts. Occasionally, having heard Mitchell perform these songs herself onstage, I wished she’d sung a few more of them. So, 'Young Man in America' is her first solo offering for five years, and, as such, it contains songs that have been in her live show since early 2010. The best of these is 'Shepherd', a sad folk ballad based around the first chapter of one of her father’s novels, which tells the story of a shepherd returning from the fields to find his wife and unborn child lying dead. The pretty melody and guitar part turn this tragic tale into a lovely song. A slightly less sad song is 'He Did' where Mitchell’s roots in Americana show through. This song, a tribute from daughter to father, could easily have fitted on ‘The Brightness’, but also nods to the mystical, rustic tone that defined ‘Hadestown’. The song most like those on ‘Hadestown’, however, is the opening track, ‘Wilderland’. Here, she returns to the post-apocalyptic theme and – inspired by the economy crashing down around her – imagines America as a lawless nightmare. This segues into the title track, another song written about her father, 'Young Man in America'. On the more upbeat moments, such as 'Venus', her band has a bigger role than on earlier records. Producer Todd Sickafoose (best known for his work with Ani DiFranco) put together some of his favourite rock and jazz musicians, giving Mitchell’s songs arrangements totally unlike anything she’s used before. Ultimately, though, 'Young Man in America' is defined by Anais Mitchell’s songwriting, with her bold imagery, eye for detail and ability to turn simple tales into beautiful melodies. I’ve had this album on repeat play ever since it arrived in the post, but it will be a long time before I get tired of it.



Track Listing:-
1 Wilderland
2 Young Man in America
3 Coming Down
4 Dyin Day
5 Venus
6 He Did
7 Annmarie
8 Tailor
9 Shepherd
10 You Are Forgiven
11 Ships


Band Links:-
http://anaismitchell.com/
https://www.facebook.com/AnaisMitchellMusic
https://twitter.com/anaismitchell
https://www.youtube.com/user/anaismitchell



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interviews


Interview (2009)
Anais Mitchell - Interview
At a gig in Newcastle on their recent European tour, Jonjo McNeill speaks to singer Yuke Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna from New York shoegazers Asobi Seksu about touring, songwriting and their just released third alabum, 'Hush'
Interview (2009)

live reviews


Union Chapel, London, 25/1/2011
Anais Mitchell - Union Chapel, London, 25/1/2011
Ben Howarth at the Union Chapel in London watches American singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell, with an extensive set of guest musicians including both Thea Gilmore and Jackie Leven, reenact her concept album, 'Hadestown', to standing ovation and hypnotic effect
12 Bar Club, London, 24/5/2010
Luminaire, London, 25/1/2010
Luminaire, London, 21/1/2009


digital downloads




reviews


Hadestown (2010)
Remarkable and ambitous third album from American-singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell, which taking its inspiration from Greek legend, sets new standards in music
Hymns for the Exiled (2008)


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