|Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer — Child Ballads [EP] (2013)|
Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer — Child Ballads [EP]
Born: March 26, 1981
Origin: Montpelier, Vermont, U.S.
Location: Marshfield, VT & Brooklyn, NY
Album release: March 19, 2013
Record Label: Wilderland Records
1. Willie Of Winsbury (5:52)
2. Willie's Lady (6:19)
3. Sir Patrick Spens (6:43)
4. Riddles Wisely Expounded (4:42)
5. Clyde Waters (5:51)
6. Geordie (3:33)
7. Tam Lin (6:46)
¶ All songs arranged by Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer.
¶ The artwork was created by Peter Nevins, who also did the Grammy nominated cover art for Mitchell's 2010 album, Hadestown. The cover depicts two lovers, embracing one another, with an optical illusion of either head looking over either of the two's shoulders. For the whole album art, Nevins printed one image for each of the seven songs.
Producer: Gary Paczosa
¶ Mitchell was named after author Anaïs Nin and her father is a novelist and college professor. She grew up on a farm in Addison County, Vermont, and after traveling to the Middle East, Europe and Latin America she attended Middlebury College.
Interview by Alejandra Oliva: http://spectrum.columbiaspectator.com/the-eye/music-beat-an-interview-with-anais-mitchell
¶ 2013 release, a collaboration between singer/songwriter Ana‹s Mitchell and fellow musician Jefferson Hamer. On Child Ballads, the two co-arranged old Folk ballads from the Francis James Child collection. The duo picked seven of the 305 ballads compiled by Child and recorded the album in early 2012 with Nashville producer Gary Paczosa (known for his work with Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton).
¶ Après deux albums étiquetés "opéras folk" et bien accueillis, Anaïs Mitchell revient à des ballades folk plus conventionnelles, issues du répertoire anglais et adaptées au langage actuel. A découvrir.
A beautiful updating of traditional British folk music.
James Skinner 2013-02-26
¶ Over 10 volumes released between 1882 and 1898 (posthumously), American scholar and folklorist Francis James Child compiled 305 traditional Celtic and British ballads in a major and enduring contribution to the study of oral storytelling.
¶ Now, over 100 years later, Vermont singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and New York-based musician Jefferson Hamer are the latest artists to fall under these songs’ spell.
¶ It is another neat example of transatlantic exchange, and a fluid, natural fit. Mitchell’s fascination with Greek myth and legend fuelled her riveting folk-opera Hadestown in 2010, while an abiding love of language – especially archaic Old English – was deeply felt throughout its similarly brilliant follow-up, 2012’s Young Man in America.
¶ Although that record was the first on which Mitchell and Hamer played together, Child Ballads’ lengthy gestation actually predates it by a couple of years.
¶ The first abandoned session took place at Mitchell’s home in Vermont in 2010 (“We had the harmony going for us, and not much else,” rues Mitchell), and the second at a studio in Vancouver the following year (“Once you start overdubbing and adding instruments, it’s hard to know where to stop,” Hamer explains).
¶ The finished product was finally put to tape by esteemed producer Gary Paczosa in Nashville early last year, and its spare, simple nature suits these songs (and singers) well. Against a backdrop of limber, picked acoustic guitars and only the occasional hint of bass, fiddle and accordion, Hamer’s gentle tones complement Mitchell’s sharp delivery wonderfully.
¶ Peopled by lords and serving men, princesses and maidens, doomed seafarers and star-crossed lovers, these songs are dense and knotty yet relatively immediate affairs that unfold over several minutes. They benefit, too, from the pair’s willingness to update some particularly obscure couplets.
¶ From the disapproving father in Willie o Winsbury to the courageous, justice-seeking wife and mother in Geordie, the ballads’ centuries-old characters – and their dilemmas – are beautifully drawn.
¶ The version of Tam Lin that closes the record is particularly affecting; as the narrative gathers in momentum, Mitchell and Hamer’s fiercely plucked strings start coming on like the very needles and thorns they evoke in ever-more urgent verses.
¶ Mitchell’s greatest success lies in tapping into the common humanity and universal themes that underpin – and are the backbone of – all great myths. And in Hamer she has found a partner who connects with her vision perfectly.
By Russell Warfield (Editor rating: 6/10)
¶ It was hard to imagine how Anaïs Mitchell could credibly move on from a record as sprawling, ambitious and involving as her folk opera fourth set Hadestown. But the brilliant Young Man In America was about as fine a follow up as you could imagine – continuing to develop Mitchell’s razor sharp ear for texture and arrangements across the top of a suite of more traditional pieces of exquisite song writing.
¶ One year on, a surface reading of Child Ballads seems like it could be the first example of Mitchell’s hitherto perpetually-expanding balloon deflating ever so slightly: a collection of much-covered Celtic ballads, performed largely solo-acoustically with little other than the accompanying voice of long-time collaborator Jefferson Hamer. The material is a perfect fit for Mitchell, of course, whose reverence for mythology is self-evident, but it would appear to be a certain scale back in ambition, at least taken at face value. And it’s more a hyperbolic endorsement of Mitchell’s recent form, than a serious criticism of Child Ballads, that such a gorgeous collection of Celtic folk laced with such close harmony can be considered faintly pedestrian in comparison.
¶ Anyone who’s seen Mitchell perform a set with the sole accompaniment of Hamer’s backing vocal and slide guitar knows that her voice and song writing is plenty mesmeric enough for a studio-recorded return to modest arrangements. And indeed, there’s probably plenty of Mitchell followers who are actively hoping to hear another Hymns For The Exiled-style LP, the skeletal, solo-acoustic textures of which accentuate the character of her voice and the strength of her musicianship without distraction. But opinion is likely to be divided on whether or not Child Ballads successfully satisfies these desires. As rich and enchanting as the source material undeniably is, the winding songs of Child Ballads ultimately get locked into an unfortunate paradox: the magic of the narratives require a focussed and concentrated listen, but the sparse arrangements and repetitive melodies don’t invite the ear in nearly as closely as Mitchell’s recent LPs.
It’s worth reiterating that any shadow falling across Child Ballads is cast by the towering peaks of Mitchell’s last two records. This album is a gorgeously performed incarnation of the material, with the thin arrangements of guitars and the occasional, subtle fiddle being exactly the right vehicle with which to showcase the mature harmonies of the duo, and the haunting narratives of the songs. But there’s a sense of Mitchell having opened her own Pandora’s Box at this point in her career – that a release like Child Ballads will always be tainted with a sense of regression once you’ve successfully executed something as staggering as Hadestown, or as confident as Young Man In America.
¶ As a love letter to swirling mythology and the centuries old folk tradition from which she emerges, Child Ballads is gorgeous, beguiling and enrapturing. But when Mitchell’s own material so singularly blends ancient mythology with contemporary landscapes alongside high-reaching sonic ambition, it’s almost impossible not to continue yearning for her next original collection.
• The Song They Sang... When Rome Fell (2002)
• Hymns for the Exiled (2004) Waterbug Records
• The Brightness (2007) Righteous Babe Records
• Country E.P. (2008) Righteous Babe Records (with Rachel Ries)
• Hadestown (2010) Righteous Babe Records (with Ani DiFranco, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Greg Brown and Ben Knox Miller)
• Young Man in America (2012) Wilderland Records
• Child Ballads (2013) Wilderland Records (with Jefferson Hamer)
|Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer — Child Ballads [EP] (2013)|