Anaïs Mitchell — Young Man in America (2012)

 Anaïs Mitchell — Young Man in America (2012)

Anaïs Mitchell — Young Man in America

Our first independent release, produced by Todd Sickafoose at Earycanal in NY and CA! Ornate and percussive, this album features a tribe of innovative musicians, new friends and old.
AM says: “Inspired by American manhood, British ballads and my father.”

star number 1star number 2star number 3star number 4star number 5
Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man in America
Nationality: American
Born: March 26, 1981, Montpelier, Vermont, U.S.
Location: Marshfield, VERMONT & Brooklyn, NY
Album release: February 13 (UK) / 28 (US), 2012
Record Label: Thirty Tigers / Wilderland Records / Righteous Babe
01.)  Wilderland     3:10
02.)  Young Man in America     5:32
03.)  Coming Down     3:07
04.)  Dyin' Day     3:08
05.)  Venus     2:23
06.)  He Did     4:07
07.)  Annmarie     4:12
08.)  Tailor     3:48
09.)  Shepherd     5:35
10.)  You Are Forgiven     4:15
11.)  Ships     6:26
Anaïs Mitchell (voice & guitar)
+ The Young Man band - Rachel Ries (voice, wurlitzer, etc.), Ben Davis (drums, banjo, voice, etc.), Noah Hahn (electric bass)
~ and sometimes ~
+ Michael Chorney (guitar, producer, arranger/orchestrator)
+ The Hadestown Orchestra
(Geza Carr, Robinson Morse, Andrew Moroz, Polly Vanderputten/Nelson Caldwell, Adam "Pickles" Moss, David "Deemo" Moss n if we're lucky, Todd Sickafoose)
+ Jefferson Hamer (voice & guitar) (CHILD BALLADS)
Producer: Todd Sickafoose
Main manager: Liz Riches / Karakter Worldwide
Press contact: USA: Samantha Tillman @ Sacks & Co / UK: Mike Plumley @ Blurb PR
Reservé agent USA & Canada: Josh Brinkman @ Monterey International / Europe: Paul Fenn @ Asgard
Reception: The album gained wide critical acclaim upon its release. In the UK Uncut magazine called it a "remarkable, genre-defying album" and the BBC's online music review described it as "a marvel of a record from start to finish".

BBC Review
A marvel of a record from start to finish.
James Skinner 2012-01-30
"Look upon your children," Anaïs Mitchell sings on Young Man in America’s opening song; "Wandrin’ in the wilderland / Look upon your children / Wandrin’ in the woods." For her follow-up to 2010’s stunning folk-opera Hadestown she tones down the scale a little yet offers something equally startling: a modern folk record that snaps and sparkles with energy, daring to take on some formidable themes in the process. It is America itself she addresses in that first song; a country that is starting to crumble and a population that has lost its way.
While the Young Man of its title receives top billing, the LP is fleshed out by a cast of lovers, tailors, shepherds and poets, all rendered contemporary and believable in spite of the old-fashioned language they are often drawn in. The restless, desperate existence of its protagonist serves to equate our modern times and misplaced sense of duty (of materialism, broadly) with the individual crises these characters suffer. Mothers and fathers – or their absence, more specifically – figure heavily, not least on album centrepiece Shepherd, where Mitchell weaves a tragedy over the sunniest of chord patterns.
Mitchell cites her own father as a major inspiration (indeed, it is his face that adorns the cover), and the song itself is based on the prologue of a novel he wrote some 30 years ago, when he was around the same age she is now. Mitchell has noted the inherent strangeness of a life where you’re no longer being parented but not yet a parent yourself, a relatively modern phenomenon that, along with the kind of gaudy excess characters from Jay Gatsby to Dorian Gray have struggled with, considerably touches the sense of rootlessness on display here.
It is her ability to transpose these themes onto such intimate situations that makes this LP so remarkable; that, and the fact that she is as adept a collaborator as she is chronicler. Once more enlisting Todd Sickafoose on production duties, the album is instrumentally lean and taut, and on devastating piano-ballad Coming Down genuinely breathtaking. Though her acoustic guitar steers proceedings, crackles of distortion, woodwind and expertly-deployed strings all make their presence felt, particularly on grand finale Ships.
A fierce, melodic affirmation of sadness and grief, love and lust, attachments formed both strong and precarious, Young Man in America is a marvel of a record from start to finish.

Amazon Editorial Reviews:
Anaïs Mitchell is not a man. She s a woman, quick to laugh and to cry, a fan of Jane Austen and miniskirts. So it may catch a few listeners off-guard when Mitchell cries out, in the opening sequence of her latest album, I m a young man! And it may come as a surprise when, over the course of eleven songs, she seems to be channeling spirits from the Old Testament to modern America- but mostly, well, from the Y chromosome.
Taking on voices other than her own in not exactly new for Mitchell. In 2010 Righteous Babes Records released the recorded version of her folk opera Hadestown, a modern retelling of the Orpheus myth, featuring guest singers Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Ani Difranco, and Greg Brown. The album became something of a critical phenomenon in the UK, making Best of 2010 lists in the Guardian, Sunday Times and Observer, thanks in part to the skillful production of Todd Sickafoose, who also produced and arranged Young Man.
Mitchell is as interested in the world around her as the one inside her. She has a way of tackling big themes with the same emotional intimacy most artists use to describe their inner lives. The emotions are my own, says Mitchell. As for the Young Man, he s in me too, I feel his restlessness a lot. He s part of me like my dad s old book or like something an old lover said one time. Those parts of ourselves that haunt us, sometimes we have to appease them with an offering of food and wine so they ll quit haunting us for a while. This album is that kind of offering.
Htown orchestra by Adam Jason photography — Polly Vanderputten, Andrew Moroz, Adam "Pickles" Moss, Robinson Morse, Anaïs Hahn a Geza Carr
How do you follow something like Hadestown?
A multi-voiced, 20-track epic tale of the Greek underworld, awe-inspiring enough to have warranted a perfect ten on this very site should be almost impossible to top. Thankfully, Anais Mitchell’s answer is refreshingly simple: Young Man In America. Narrowing her scope without lowering her ambition, Mitchell delivers a more traditional collection of singer-songwriter tracks, and does so without any marked drop in quality from its incredible predecessor. After all, although the narrative-based premise of Hadestown was often the opening gambit and the bottom line of most discussions about that record, it could sometimes draw focus from the album’s more important strengths of musicianship, melody and lyricism. Those are the three qualities which really made that record special, and they’re qualities which Mitchell has no trouble in translating to this new 11-track collection. Opening with the menacing drum beats and expanding vocal harmonies of ‘Wilderland’, Mitchell provides an assertive mission statement of intent, assuring the listener that she has not shot her wad, she has not run out of ideas, and that this album is as worthy a successor to Hadestown as there is likely to be.
It’s easy to admire Hadestown as a jaw-dropping whole, but we would do well to recognise that it’s only as impressive as it is by virtue of being a patchwork of much smaller moments of exquisite beauty. Young Man In America can be described in similar terms. Frequently sounding liberated by the absence of an overarching framework, these songs often draw strength from modesty and simplicity, packed throughout with breathtaking (and tear-jerking) flourishes of vocal agility and musicianship. Take the tender ‘Coming Down’ as an example, where skipping, repetitive, whispered vocals backed only by piano suddenly allow a swell of gorgeous guitar and strings to slide out from beneath the mix – providing an organic but seismic shift in texture to support the second half of the track. Elsewhere, the stripped back instrumentation of ‘Dyin’ Day’ allows the soft chorus of harmony to sell the song’s hook perfectly and without distraction. Right across the record, one-off masterstrokes of musicianship and a pitch-perfect ear for texture and arrangement provide perfect articulation of emotion for these songs.

And that’s to say little of Mitchell herself, whose vocal and lyrical talents continue to dazzle, and are allowed to roam somewhat more freely without the constraints of an extended narrative. That’s not to say she’s lowered her sights – she’s still as likely to draw from the Bible and ancient mythology as she is to give voice to a blue collar American worker – but there’s a freedom and a looseness to these songs (in terms of arrangements as well as lyricism) by virtue of their being more cleanly cut standalone pieces. Heartbreaking standout ‘Tailor’ is the best proof that Mitchell hasn’t lost any edge for lyricism either on a line-by-line level (“Now that he’s gone away there isn’t anyone to tell me if I’m a diamond or a dime-a-dozen”) nor in her literary ability to build on a theme over the course of a song’s deceptively simple melody. Being frequently combined with a stream-of-consciousness approach to structure and melody, as in the brilliantly sprawling and expansive title track, Anais’ literary and melodic ambitions are always fully realised, and always work in glorious tandem.
If we must briefly and begrudgingly play devil’s advocate in comparing Young Man to its predecessor, I could half heartedly mumble something about the absence of guest vocalists and genre-hopping providing variety for variety’s sake, but that feels like splitting hairs to say the least. Of course, the fact that I’ve mentioned Hadestown in almost every paragraph of this review is indication that Young Man In America was always going to have a job on its hands to successfully stand on its own two feet, but by the time seven minute closer ‘Ships’ moves into its concluding crescendo of regal horns and drums, it has long since become perfectly clear that Mitchell has created a deeply affecting album which preserves everything that was so marvelous about her beloved folk-opera, and ultimately performs a very handsome job of keeping out of its vast shadow.
- The Song They Sang... When Rome Fell (2002) – ASIN: B000N4917Q
- Hymns for the Exiled (2004) Waterbug Records – ASIN: B0016BUVTC
- The Brightness (2007) Righteous Babe Records – ASIN: B000LP4O2E
- Country E.P. (2008) Righteous Babe Records - ASIN: B001EYGOCY (with Rachel Ries)
- Hadestown (2010) Righteous Babe Records - ASIN: B0034JIOWK (with Ani DiFranco, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Greg Brown and Ben Knox Miller)
– Young Man in America (2012)The Independent

 star number 1star number 2star number 3star number 4star number 5

New Bedford Summerfest / July 4, 2010 (13:19) / Author: Reinhard Liess from Somerville, U.S.
Anaïs Mitchell — Young Man in America (2012)