Never let it be said that Anaïs Mitchell is one to rest on her laurels! She followed the release of her folk-rooted debut and sophomore albums with the ambitious folk opera HADESTOWN, she then took on the persona of a YOUNG MAN IN AMERICA and is once again forging a different path, this time with collaborator, Jefferson Hamer, by reinterpreting some of the ballads collected by Sir Francis James Child, in their duet album, CHILD BALLADS.
Tonight’s show was the first in a three-month long touring schedule to promote the new album. Different versions of the Ballads are in existence and over the years, many have been reworked and re-interpreted. Mitchell and Hamer have now put their own twist on the lyrics and melodies; early previews of CHILD BALLADS have been extremely favourable and some of the shows on this tour have already sold out.
Now, I’m a big fan of Mitchell and her body of work; I’m on record as saying that she is a major talent but Hamer was a new name to me and I’ve obviously been missing a trick or two in this regard! His voice is so reminiscent of the country rock sound, which emanated from California in the 1970’s and the shared harmonies between him and Mitchell brought to mind the collaborations between Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. I wasn’t altogether wide of the mark in thinking this because they finished the show with an unplugged version of said duo’s Hearts on Fire.
In between times though we had a short interruption to proceedings as a young woman fainted and had to be taken out for air; a ‘gig note’ was passed from an adoring fan to Mitchell, it contained a request for Old Fashioned Hat and just to be on the safe side, the lyrics too, the biggest cheers greeted the songs they played from HADESTOWN and Hamer’s own This Ragged World We Spanned was received very enthusiastically!
As CD release parties go (Mitchell reminded the audience that it was exactly that) it ticked all the boxes - a showcase for all the new material, some audience pleasers and a few choice covers including Jethro Tull’s Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day (yes - really!). I wonder what the next surprise will be from this young woman? Whatever it is, you can be sure that I will be checking it out and I hope you’ll be joining me! Jela Webb
Riddles Wisely Expounded
Willie of Winsbury
Sir Patrick Spens
This Ragged World We Spanned
Young Man in America
Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day
Old Fashioned Hat
Hearts on Fire