Friday, 31 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #2: Hadestown: A Folk Opera

#2: 'Hadestown: A Folk Opera' by Anais Mitchell (& guests...)

Time for something understated, underrepresented and underappreciated, yet a record I have been obsessed with, on and off, for almost the whole of 2010. Anais Mitchell is a little known folk singer-songwriter from Vermont who happens to be a bit damn clever, having created a record based around the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set around the time of the Great Depression, using a host of guest artists as each character, creating an actual bloody folk opera. Anais plays Eurydice, Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame) plays Orpheus, Greg Brown plays Hades, Ani Di Franco plays Persephone, Ben Knox Miller plays Hermes and the Haden Triplets as the mysterious fates.

Nothing is underplayed here, with each chapter of the fable getting it's own vibe and sentiment, from the ballad-like 'Wedding Song' to the upbeat jazz of 'Way Down In Hadeston', taking the listener on a journey through the story, from beginning to end. It is an album that requires at least one full listen through (if not a billion) although it holds a handful of tracks that can be picked out as inventive, wondrous folk tracks individually.

Each player's voice is absolutely perfect for their respective roles; just listen to Greg Brown's growling, snarling tone on the likes of 'Hey Little Songbird' and imagine the fiery headed God of the Underworld towering over, powerful doom and gloom accompanying his rasping voice. Justin Vernon's falsetto soars and sweeps along, depicting the absolute icon of a loving, grieving, aching Orpheus; 'Wait For Me' showcases the absolute depths of human despair (alongside a wonderfuly whispering Ben Knox Miller advising our heroic but doomed character) whilst 'If It's True' is absolute loss, bemoaning the entire world for the death of love.

Our story plays out exactly as the myth, which I won't spoil for any unaware of the tale (but go get on it losers...), with melancholy mired in beauty weaving its way from start to finish. Anais Mitchell, and Michael Chorney who scored the record, have crafted a modern masterpiece of storytelling, fusing music and literature, and (hopefully) setting the basis for a host of amazing future folk operas....

No comments: