Anais Mitchell wrote one of my favourite albums of recent years, majestic folk opera Hadestown. When FFS spoke to her about that incredible album, she told us that her next project was to be an album of old folk songs.
And in some ways that’s what Young Man in America is. Although all the songs are originals, Mitchell has become quite the folk officianado. She spent time with Martin Carthy and other luminaries of the more traditional side of British folk while touring Hadestown.
The trad folk influence is keenly felt on the album, with its old-timey imagery of cannonballs, prairie dogs and shepherds. But even in the confines of this more understated genre, Michell’s songwriting still packs a punch. As does her guitar playing, which acoustic as it is, pops with energy and really drives the album. You can almost see Mitchell’s knee jerk as she pings the guitar strings.
It takes a few listens to get into after the opulence of Hadestown, but despite being pared down, Young Man In America is no less atmospheric than its predecessor. All the shades are there: ‘Ships’ is moody and dark, ‘Dyin Day’ is bold and direct. And ‘Venus’ is toe-tappingly bright.
With Young Man In America, Anais is reminding us that she’s god the basics covered. I can’t wait to see where she goes next.