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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Brightness is Calling: A review of Anais Mitchell’s latest CD

The Brightness is Calling: A review of Anais Mitchells latest CD

Vermont native Anais Mitchell has given us an album filled with spare vocals and crystalline guitar work. The Brightness was recorded at an old gristmill in Vermont; Mitchell lived above the studio and often woke up to record tracks in her pajamas. The result is an album that does indeed shine like the brightness of the moon over a northern lake.

This record is Mitchell’s debut on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records, and tells stories, stories of such diverse characters as the three wise men, a hobo in a train car, old poets, English author Lawrence Durrell and jilted lovers. Each forms a chapter in an album that plays like an audio book. Together, the pieces form a tightly woven whole. It’s unsurprising that words are primarily what drive Mitchell’s work; her lyrics are poignant, immediate, and accessible. In an interview with Acoustic Guitar magazine, Mitchell said, “Lyrics are the most important thing to me-and the thing I struggle with the most.”

That’s not to say that the melodies are not beautiful and intricate, they are. Whether it’s the plaintive cry of the guitar-centric “Your Fonder Heart” to the stormy piano ballad “Of a Friday Night” or the soft and lilting yet haunting “Gift of the Magi,” all these tracks pluck at the strings of a listener’s heart as surely as Mitchell plucks her guitar strings.

If there’s any flaw to this lyrical album, it’s that Mitchell’s voice is bit childlike-reedy and thin, and very plaintive. For those who are fans of Victoria Williams or Emmylou Harris, there’s no problem. For those who like a fuller vocal, the album may be a struggle at first. However, it’s a battle well worth fighting. The result is a gorgeous, tender record.