Young Man in America


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SKU: 2012 Category:


“A brilliant and intensely literary album, in which Anaïs Mitchell does no less than redefine the songwriting art form. Beautifully produced by Todd Sickafoose, each song functions as a window into a stranger’s life, radiating out to us with compassion, insight and humility, transparent as a gem. Anais has done for songwriting what James Joyce did for fiction.” -Ashley Mayne

A Supreme Court Justice once said, of obscenity, “I can’t give you a definition, but I know it when I see it.” The same might be said of genius, and in the case of Anaïs Mitchell’s new CD, Young Man in America, you will know it when you hear it. You know it because you can’t define it or imagine where it came from, influenced by many but derivative of no one, something you recognize immediately even though you’ve never heard anything like it. The album begins in a sonic frisson, the electricity in the air before a storm, then drums thumping thunder, then voices howling in chorus like a storm trapped in a canyon. The young man of the title isn’t born — he escapes: “my mother gave a mighty shout, opened her legs and let me out… I come out like a cannonball, come of age of alcohol…” He’s a wild animal who is not parented but shepherded, and he’s more the wolf than the sheep. Each track advances his story. He falls in love, gains ambition, meets disappointment, grieves the loss of his father, who didn’t leave a will, “just left you a shovel and a hole to fill.” Mitchell’s writing is more lyric than linear. She knows how to make an image and not step all over it. She uses repetition and partial variations that echo, something like Jane Siberry meets Tom Waits, near rhymes and sprung meters, elisions and silence, and harmonies that evoke tribal war chants where voices merge seamlessly into instruments, and a human voice is rephrased by a wooden flute or a saxophone, for which credit should be shared with producer Todd Sickafoose. Her voice is pure and aching, and expressive in a way that’s too intimate to be called theatrical, personal but never cloying or merely confessional — she is writing, and singing, about something bigger than herself, and that makes all the difference. Young Man In America is a work of genius. You’ll know it when you hear it. – Peter N. Nelson

1. Wilderland
2. Young Man in America
3. Coming Down
4. Dyin Day
5. Venus
6. He Did
7. Annmarie
8. Tailor
9. Shepherd
10. You are Forgiven
11. Ships

Young Man in America is a searching, slashing, juggernaut of an album, ferocious in its veracity, staggering in its impact. Anaïs Mitchell brings an intuitive integration of the study of story and dramatic revelation necessary to the creation of her folk opera Hadestown, blended with phrases from traditional balladry and imagery from her childhood on a Vermont sheep farm, to her ongoing examination of human yearning, delusion and error. Todd Sickafoose’ imaginative production is perfectly suited to the material, elaborating and amplifying its epic power.

AM says: “Inspired by American manhood, British ballads and my father.”

AM – voice & guitar
Todd Sickafoose – piano, bass
Andrew Borger – drums
Kenny Wolleson – percussion
Adam Levy – guitars
Brandon Seabrook – 4-string banjo, electric guitar, noise tapes
Jenny Scheinman – violin
Rob Burger – accordion and organ
Ara Anderson – trumpet
Jessica Lurie – flute
Ben Goldberg – clarinets
Michael Chorney – acoustic guitar
Chris Thile – voice and mandolin
Jefferson Hamer – voice and electric guitar
Rachel Ries – voice


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