We are honoured to have Cobus Rossouw creator of Project Band 88 Kilos Of Sunshine write this Guest review for us.
Hadestown – Anais Mitchell (Righteous Babe)
Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown achieves several things that make it a candidate for album of the year and in my collection album of the decade.
In the first instance it is ambitious; a departure from normal fare that clearly indicates that commercial success is not the intention. It is a brave goal to adapt a Greek tragedy as an opera in a folk style. To then use this vehicle to exhibit talents and to ensure that it never becomes too highbrow to be accessible is a lofty ideal to reach for, but Ms. Mitchell sets forth to bring this masterwork to us.
Secondly, this ambition is successfully achieved in no uncertain terms. While the credit for the achievement must be shared I firmly believe that nothing comes without vision and so a lot of credit must go to Anaïs. To deliver such a project obviously requires the correct personnel and here special mention must be made of Michael Chorney, whose score tells the story brilliantly and matches the idiom without ever wavering or becoming contrived. By clever utilisation of different folk music forms he has managed to combine the words and music into clear messages, articulating meaning not only via the libretto but by style. To do this over 6 or 10 songs would be astounding, to do this over 20 songs speaks of a talent that deserves every accolade available. Suffice it to say that this writer cannot convey his gratitude in mere words.
This stunning excellence in staffing continues throughout, with Justin Vernon (Orpheus), Ani di Franco (Persephone), Greg Brown (Hades) and Mitchell as Eurydice delivering each line with compelling conviction, imbuing their respective characters with the correct personification through their vocal talent.
Hadestown is also beautiful. This may not be a pre-requisite for everyone, but for this reviewer an aesthetically pleasing artwork is always preferable to a work that is provocative but not evocative. I could listen to Hadestown anywhere, in any company. It will reward the casual listener and the listener who wants, needs to be broadened.
A last word: If you love music then buy Hadestown right now. Buy Hadestown because you need to own it and praise the gods that Anais Mitchell is a musician and not a sculptor, because most of us would have to make do with a photograph of her work if the latter were true. Buy Hadestown because Mitchell and Chorney have earned the right to your money and your heart.
Listen to tracks from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 29th July 2010