If you’ve followed my ramblings over the last few weeks you’ll not be surprised to hear I’ve been more excited about one particular album release than many of the (relatively good) other offerings that have come out this year. The eponymously titled new album by Anaïs Mitchell promised so much and, in all truth, has not disappointed.
Anaïs has always been a fascinating character for me. Carving out a career that is quite unique within Americana and/or Folk Music, she has followed her heart on a quite delightful path which has been as attractive for its many deviations as it has for its general direction. What that direction is may be open to some debate too. What has dominated her creative thinking is the off/off Broadway Musical , Hadestown she tentatively put together fifteen or more years ago up in her home state of Vermont. Since those early days Anaïs’s musical (which is entirely her work) has moved to off-Broadway, London’s West End then finally to a triumphant run (which still continues) on the Great White Way itself. In that time it has garnered Tony and Olivier Awards and, in the way all great art does, has changed the nature of the genre itself.
Over the course of that journey Anaïs has brought out some beautiful solo records, collaborated once again with some interesting side projects and even joined a band who will bring out their second album later this year. I should add that all this has happened while she brought two children into the world. With her young family, Anaïs has now returned to Vermont where she lives on the farm she grew up on with her extended family close by. It was there I spoke to her a couple of weeks ago when she told me about the process of writing and recording the new album. The record is produced by her fellow Bonny Light Horseman, Josh Kaufman, and it’s impossible to find anything to dislike about the songs, the performance or the sound. Everything comes together simply but with glorious imagination and, as we discuss in the conversation for this week’s Another Country, there are appropriate nods to great artists. What is never in doubt too is Anaïs’s way with a lyric, which in the case of this album, tell the listener much more about a subject she may have skirted round until now: Anaïs Mitchell.
On this week’s AC we’ll give over Hour Two to that conversation and a good deal of Anaïs’s new album as well as some choice cuts from her extensive back catalogue. I promise you that a few minutes in her conversational company will be the only warmth you need on, what will inevitably be, a cold Scottish winter evening.
There’s more…always more…but for all of that you’ll need to join me on BBC Radio Scotland this Tuesday evening from five past eight or on BBC Sounds at a time that suits you. Whichever way, do join me if you can.