When I was still a youthful music fan blinded by the sheer amount of music there was on the web, I was a massive fan of singer-songwriters. Many of my early music years were spent listening to Damien Rice, Findlay Brown and Greg Laswell. Of course, there was also Johnny Cash, but that goes without saying, surely? Which is why it surprised me so much that it took such a long time for me to uncover Vermont’s ‘Queen of modern folk music’ (Euro News’ words, not mine), Anaïs Mitchell.
The album that’ll be put against the brutality of my sharp music critic rapier (yeah, right) is her 6th studio release, Young Man In America. I did rather fancy doing her 2013 shared album, Child Ballads, but this is what the mighty music player shuffled for me. That and I don’t have Child Ballads.
When you listen through this album for the first time, there’s this sense of warmth from Anaïs‘ unique voice that suits the folk genre down to a thin, skinny-fit tee. As such, she plays on this and utilises it fully in all of the 11 tunes on this album. As a listener, I never found myself bored with the homely hums of Anaïs Mitchell. Despite my initial ‘so what?’ impressions of the first song, Young Man In America kicks it up with its title track, that I feel is one of the many gems on this album. Young Man In America, is a carefully built and intense song, but not in the way that you’d expect; there’s not really a big tart of sound explosions. The song is carefully constructed and makes you feel the harmony of every instrument and each verse.
Coming Down is a moment in this album where Anaïs‘ vulnerability as a person shine. It’s a soft, piano led track, that’s later duelled with strings, that bring you down with the poor girl. Then again, I felt like this with, what I consider, was honestly the strongest moment in this album: the song, Tailor. Tailor is a song that speaks to me on a personal level and probably will with a lot of people. As opposed to describing how it sounds, I’ll talk to you about it in a different manner; you know when you really like someone and you’ll do whatever to impress them? Yeah, that moment and it still doesn’t work. Tailor talks about the innocence of just wanting to be loved and failing that, remembered by someone you hold very dearly to you. The song is handled so well, so delicately, that it just shines through as a perfect example of why Anaïs is such a strong song-writer.
Taking those entire negative, but oddly enough, not depressing thoughts away; let’s talk about Venus. This track brings that tempo back up again with a short but catchy little number that puts a smile on my face, if not for the lyrics, then for the ecstatic guitar and the lifting strings. With lyrics like, ‘I’m not making plans, I just want to see your face again.” you can practically imagine it soundtracking some sort of rom-com, not always a bad thing; put away your cynicism!
Anaïs closes the album with another one of my favorites from this album. Like many of the songs on this album, it takes advantage of Anaïs‘ fabulous narrative style that may as well be another instrument in the mix. Ships gets the listeners huddled around the ill-lit campsite with nothing but her voice, guitar and percussion (and strings) as she tells the tale of ‘his’ ship coming in. Even with the simple construction of her guitar’s chords, it contorts into a stand-out closer that should have every folk (and music fan) humming along with Anaïs and the strings as the final strums fade out of existence.
Anaïs has created something with Young Man In America that houses gentle innocence, sincere truths and delightful song-writing. What happens when you stir all this together with an Achilles heel for singer-songwriters? You get a favorite album that I may have listened to a few times before this review. Don’t tell anyone though. Also, dat accent man.
Do we keep it in the collection?
Good grief, yes!