Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer

Child Ballads

(Wilderland)

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When Francis James Child collected Scottish and English ballads in the late 19th century, he was doing a great lasting service to singers of folk songs who have included Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Martin Carthy, to name but three. Now New England singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, hot on the heels of her Hadestown and Young Man In America successes, and New York-based singer-guitarist Jefferson Hamer are doing our ears a great service with their beautiful, faithful renditions of seven of these ballads, performed simply with their respectively sweet and slightly bruised voices dovetailing gloriously to sparely wrought guitar, double bass, accordion, pump organ and fiddle accompaniments. These are dramatic songs of seduction, witchcraft and adventure that stand endless telling, not least Sir Patrick Spens and Tam Lin, and Mitchell and Hamer have found new magic in them, with possibly Geordie, in which the condemned hero's wife all but challenges the judge to a duel, the most affecting of all.

Rob Adams