Anais Mitchell: Young Man in America – review


Anais Mitchell's Hadestown was a major gear-shift for the singer-songwriter, a wildly ambitious folk-jazz-blues opera that brought out the best in her. So it's hard to approach this follow-up without a certain anxiety. Sure enough, the first listen is sufficiently deflating that you wonder whether it was everything peripheral to Mitchell – not least Michael Chorney's vivid arrangements – that made Hadestown so great. With more listens, however, the beneficial effect of that project on Mitchell's songwriting becomes clear. On Wilderland, the title track, and Dyin Day she transforms her surveys of her country's belligerence and social irresponsibility into powerful rituals smeared with blood and dirt. Certain themes recur: the mother as shelterer, the father as shepherd, both vulnerable, both imposing fearful legacies. And as you slowly appreciate the subtlety of the music, the quiet layering of limpid percussion, pattering guitar and melancholy piano, you realise: Mitchell has done herself proud.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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