Anaïs Mitchell: The Brightness

I’ve had Anaïs Mitchell’s The Brightness album on constant rotation since her Mountain Stage performance, and I think it’s time I did a proper review of it. As I said in the concert review, the charming nuances of her voice add even more depth to her poetic lyrics. Like the greatest of classic literature, the compositions on The Brightness are the kind that softly seep through your skin and slowly make their way into your heart and mind before exploding in dazzling display of amazement.

The instrumentation on The Brightness is almost as impressive as Anaïs’ extraordinary voice and songwriting talent. Several tracks – such as “Your Fonder Heart” and “Old Fashioned Hat” – layer hauntingly sweet vocals and wistful lyrics with delicate strings and soft brass. “Shenandoah” and “Hobo’s Lullaby” have just the faintest bluegrass flavor due to a banjo being added to that orchestral blend. “Namesake” hums with slinky horns and refers to writer Anaïs Nin’s novel The Four-Chambered Heart.

The quiet piano in “Of A Friday Night”, the bare acoustics on “Song of The Magi”, and the dramatic tone of “Hades & Persephone” (from the play Hadestown) put the focus on the narrative poetry of Anaïs’ lyrics. Beyond her finespun and emotive voice, it is in those heartfelt and literate lyrics that the strength of Anaïs’ music lies. So I’ll let her words speak for themselves…

“full of them good time gamblers
full of their restless wives
full of them midnight writers
out in the quarter on a friday night
out in the brightness of a friday night
and the big horns blowed and the pianos played
and the music rose to the old man’s ears
I guess those were the olden days
I guess those were the golden years
and now the town is empty
empty as a mirror
empty as the harbor and the barber’s chair
where did the old poet go?
I asked around
nobody knows”

Anaïs Mitchell – Your Fonder Heart (mp3 removed)
Anaïs Mitchell – Shenandoah (mp3 removed)
Anaïs Mitchell Official Site
Anaïs on MySpace
Buy the CD