Young Man in America
After her last album which saw her bringing the Orpheus myth into the modern era, the song cycle of Vermont-based singer and songwriter Anais Mitchell returns back to her own thoughts and ideas. The storyboard for her new Young Man in America finds Mitchell channeling the views of the opposite sex over the course of its 11 tracks. The songs, some of stark-raving beauty from the pure poetry perspective (try to resist the cleverness of the fetching "Tailor"), see Mitchell continue to make great leaps as a songwriter. Musically speaking, Young Man in America finds a nice balance between sparseness and full throttle. At times, Ms. Mitchell is at her delicate best letting her girlish and emotive voice and song structures work their quirky magic to a stripped-down backdrop. Other moments represent a departure from past albums introducing some of her most modern sound to date with lush, almost folk pop leanings courtesy of producer/arranger Todd Sickafoose who brought together some of New York City's most sought-after rock and experimental jazz players to fill selected tracks with a richness of strings and electric. It all makes for compelling listening. Visit www.anaismitchell.com.
Anais Mitchell appears on Saturday, February 25 as part of the Music at Lilypads series. Opening for her (and accompanying) is talented singer/songwriter Rachel Ries. Music at Lilypads happens at the Unitarian Universalist Church located at the Lilypads Professional Center at 27 North Road in Peace Dale. Doors open at 7 and music begins at 7:30 pm.
Blonde Rat Records
Many equate the Brill Building Sound of the 1960s to the girl group sound, but that's only a very small part of the overall equation. With respect to that sound, the songs of the "girl group" part of the Brill scene were poppy, oft-times laden with piano and strings and catchy do-do-do and sha-la-la choruses. Romantic possibility was all over the lyrics. Think of the album Little Spark from Nashville newcomer/chanteuse Jesse Baylin as a more modernized version of the Brill Sound. Possessing model good looks, Baylin has a fine voice. What truly sets Little Spark apart from others who've ventured down this retro road of sorts are the arrangements of the 11 songs encompassing the album. In chief arranger Richard Swift, who also supports on bass and oh-so-important piano, Baylin has an ace-in-the-hole who has tapped the Brill dynamics for both his own solo releases and others, most notably The Mynabirds' excellent album from 2010. Not that this is any sort of nostalgia trip, but those flourishes in a modern setting make for a winning combination. Visit www.jessiebaylin.com.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 - 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)