Anais Mitchell

There’s an ancient Greek myth about a dude named Orpheus who lost his wife Eurydice to the underworld due to a series of very nasty poisonous snake bites, on their wedding day of all times. The story could end there and still suck, but it gets worse.

hadestown2Orpheus travels to the underworld and so moves Hades with his beautiful, mournful songs, that he agrees to release both he and his bride-to-be back into the upper world with one, admittedly odd, condition: Orpheus must lead the way, Eurydice must follow silently behind, and Orpheus can never look back at her until both have reached the upper world.

The moment he set foot back on solid earth, he turned to gaze upon the face of his beloved, forgetting that they both had to be in the upper world before he could look back. Eurydice, of course, got sucked back down to hell and Orpheus never would see her again.

Your asking yourself what this story has to do with popular music, and it’s a valid question. The answer is simpler than you think, and her name is Anais Mitchell. An Ani DiFranco product, Mitchell is a soulful, talented songwriter who in March of 2010 finally released a recording of “Hadestown,” her folk opera based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

The term “folk opera” sounds like it’d be the lamest genre of music in the history of life, but the score to “Hadestown” is so diverse and emotional and—dare I say—blessed with the hard-to-achieve virtue of relistenability, that it’s anything but boring. Featuring such talented musicians such as DiFranco, Bon Iver, and a folk artist named Greg Brown that’s got one of the most guttural, affecting voices in the genre.

My personal favorites are “Way Down Hadestown,” “How Long?” and “Hey, Little Songbird,” but there are a ton of tracks on this record that could be stand-alone successes. A few are a little experimental, but there’s a reason this Anais Mitchell album (and the live show it’s based off of) has been so critically acclaimed. It’s smart, moving music, but with a story like this one, how could it not be?

It’s a musical experience you won’t regret you had. You won’t look back. In fact, you’re forbidden to. Just like Orpheus.

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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