In the opening lyrics to "Fonder Heart," Anais Mitchell makes clear what she wants her listeners to do: "Come out, come on, come outside/Don't you hide your handsome face from me…"
On her third album, The Brightness, Mitchell isn't hiding from anyone: she shines in the spotlight, holding up her heart nakedly in every song without ever approaching trite or maudlin territory. Personal, clear-eyed stories about love in all its detail and complexity are delivered in Mitchell's instantly recognizable voice, often accompanied by her own finger picking on acoustic guitar.
Recently signed to Righteous Babe Records, Mitchell has a singular talent for songwriting not unlike that of label owner Ani DiFranco. Much like Difranco, Mitchell is a well-seasoned, self-assured writer whose talent with words pulls listeners into the lives and worlds of the characters she creates.
Mitchell's storytelling is often lifted up by producer and collaborator Michael Chorney's ear for arrangement. At times his acoustic guitar works in compliment and counterpoint to hers, playing a David Rawlings to her Gillian Welch, while on tracks like "Namesake," Chorney's prepared guitar buzzes slightly, low in the mix as a baritone sax drifts in and out.
"On a Friday Night," features a piano accompaniment to Mitchell's vocal and evokes the narrative magic of Blue-era Joni Mitchell in all the right ways. One of many tales of love, "Changer" features a string crescendo at just the right moment, while guest Ben Campbell's banjo and harmony vocals help transform "Shenandoah" into a real place--and an intimate duet.
A veteran of folk music festivals and coffeehouse circuits at home and abroad, Anais Mitchell's talent is fit for vintage music halls and theatres, opera houses and churches--and anywhere else great music is played. The Brightness shows Anais in peak form, surrounded by talented collaborators and their acoustic instruments, painting pictures of what it means to be honest and real in a country often lost and misguided--a voice sorely needed that can sit comfortably at the table of America's venerable folk legacy.