Sunday, March 06, 2005

CD Worth Noting: Anais Mitchell's Hyms for the Exiled

I could tell you stories,
like the government tells lies.

So opens Anais Mitchell's Hymns for the Exiled. We don't usually do album reviews ourselves here, we wait for Kat to stack up some Kat's Korners and steal from those. But Ty brought this to our Saturday panic-as-we-attempt-to-pull-together-a-Sunday-edition session and we found ourselves half-listening as we argued. When the next disc started (Bright Eyes), Jesse wanted to hear Anais again. By the end of the the third listen, one of us (we all argue over which one) said, "We should do something to note this album."

This is a great CD. It's thematic musically and lyrically. To say, it's like being in a coffeehouse listening to Mitchell would be false. It's more like she's carried her guitar into your living room and your sitting there on the edge of your couch, mouth agape, wondering why no one bothered to tell you about this singer/songwriter/guitarist.

Hey, Orion
He's falling catch him if you can
Hey, Orion
He's calling amen, amen, amen

That's the chorus to "Orion" and the music is just gentle as the words. Were she in your living room, you'd be asking her to play that one again.

Baby don't look so concerned, they just want the facts
And it's all written out in the USA Patriot Act

Wondering where the singers are giving voice to the issues of today? Here's one. Mitchell's singing reminds us a little of Dar Williams (a little). She's got an open voiced, natural range that nicely compliments her guitar playing. Her melodies are strong and her lyrics are filled with natural and unnatural rhymes as she paints vivid word portraits. "Two Kids" especially deserves note as it stresses our interconnections and not our differences. (And Caleb Elder deserves noting for the musical accents he adds.) "Mockingbird" benefits strongly from the harmonizing vocals of Sara Stranovsky. And by the time Mitchell wraps up with "One Good Thing," you're just in awe of how much power she packs in so much simplicity.

Turn that tv off, now, baby
I'm so low I don't even sing
Tell me something 'bout my country
Tell me one good thing

Listen to this CD and see if you don't end up feeling like (to quote Mitchell's "A Hymn for the Exiled") "I knew you before I met you, I've forgotten why I left you." This CD feels like coming home. These are hymns that sound ageless and leave you spellbound. You can find Anais Mitchell's Hymns for the Exiled at many places, but we'd suggest BuzzFlash which is offering the CD as a BuzzFlash premium starting at $18.00.
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