Anais Mitchell is a folky and righteous babe

by Beacon Staff • January 31, 2007

Passing by the WERS studios at the Ansin Building, pedestrians have been hopelessly serenaded by the melodic tones of a sweet, engaging voice, the tranquil sound of a banjo, and the plunking of an acoustic guitar. This is the unique and charismatic music of Anais (ah-NAH-iss) Mitchell.

The Vermont native just signed with Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe Records for the release of her third album, The Brightness. The album is a brilliant array of poetic lyrical verse, touching piano and acoustic guitar playing.

Mitchell established her spotlight in 2002 when she recorded her now-out-of-print debut album, The Song They Sang When Rome Fell.

The 25-year-old singer/songwriter has had great support and welcome from DiFranco, who saw a few of Mitchell's enchanting performances and proudly signed her.

Mitchell's lyrical style and rhythm is very similar to spoken-word poetry with an intrinsic fluidity. Her soft and delicate voice has been recognized as childlike, though not as extreme as Joanna Newsom's high-pitched wail.

She told Acoustic Guitar Magazine in April 2005, "lyrics are the most important thing to me-and the thing I struggle with the most," but her recent album of bohemian folk proves otherwise.

Although she respects artists like DiFranco and Bob Dylan, Mitchell says her biggest influence is The Alexandria Quartet, a series of four British novels by Lawrence Durrell.

An artistic aspect she does not have to be modest about is her traveling experiences. She took numerous trips to the Middle East, and lived in Europe and Latin America to study languages and world politics.

Experiences while traveling are infused with her storytelling, much like other topics.

With her slight allegorical form, she interlocks undertones of politics in "Hobo's Lullaby" ("They said, 'work hard and save your money' you were a worker all your life and in the end who got the honey"); sings about love in "Namesake" ("I would not disappoint you if you let me kiss your mouth if you let me get to the bottom of you if you let me find you out"); and about friendship in her first single, "Your Fonder Heart" ("way over yonder I'm waiting and wondering wither your fonder heart lies").

Mitchell returned to Vermont to record The Brightness. The album was recorded in an aged gristmill converted to a studio, which Mitchell lived above for convenience during recording.

In addition to her credits as a singer/songwriter, she also wrote and produced her own folk-opera, Hadestown, in December. Included in the eleven tracks on The Brightness is one of her songs from the show.

Audiences can expect Mitchell to start touring later this year, perhaps these traveling experiences will influence her next album.