The Blog

  • Rich Kassirer

Issue 31: Way Down with 'Hadestown'


It seems every year there’s one album we cannot stop listening to: In 2004, Patty Griffin’s “Impossible Dream” blew our minds; a few years later, a neo-bluegrass band named Crooked Still shook us up with their “Shaken by a Low Sound.”

  This year it’s “Hadestown,” Anais Mitchell’s brilliant folk opera, which is based on the Greek myth Orpheus, but set in a mining town during a post-apocalyptic American depression era.

  The easy answer as to why this is such a great album is that it’s a blast to listen to.

  The songs, full of inspired and detailed description of life in the underground, tell the story of love and greed.

  It is actually an ALBUM, something you have to listen to from start to finish, unlike so many of today’s releases. It’s a concept album that doesn’t feel contrived or forced, exceptionally difficult to pull off.

  But there is so much more to love about it.

  The voices: Anais, who sings Eurydice, has an almost childlike voice, one I suspect people either love or not. And the other characters add incredible depth. The husky, deep sound of Greg Brown is perfect as Hades; Ani DiFranco, as Persephone, adds a ’40s speakeasy madame’s persona; Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) warms up Orpheus; and Ben Knox Miller (The Low Anthem) adds a funky presence as Hermes.

  The music: Under the direction of Michael Chorney, the music moves effortlessly from genre to genre – blues, jazz, sparse folk – in a way that ties the whole undertaking together.   From the moment we heard it – and saw the whole album performed live with local musicians at Passim in Cambridge – “Hadestown” was destined to be the pick as our favorite album of the year. Congratulations Anais, it is truly a work of art.

  As for our other favorites, click HERE see who else rocked our world in 2010.

  We also offer a chance to read about some musicians you probably don’t know, those who are either on small labels or have self-released albums. They might not have the vast resources to get their music out there, but they deserve to be heard.

  Who knows, one of these musicians could be the next to produce an album as breathtaking as “Hadestown.”

To read the issue, click HERE


1. “Furry Sings the Blues,” “Hejira,” Joni Mitchell. Beale Street in Memphis comes to life. 2. “Burgundy Shoes,” “Children Running Through,” Patty Griffin. Just beautiful. 3. “Jealous Guy,” “Imagine,” John Lennon. The guy put his feelings right out there for all to see. 4. “Pour,” “Bittertown,” Lori McKenna. Word of a new album early next year, got me listening – again. 5. “Washington,” “Oh Little Fire,” Sarah Harmer. This song has grown on me, even if the album hasn’t quite.

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