Anais Mitchell is not a man. She's a woman so it may catch a few listeners off-guard when Mitchell cries out, in the opening sequence of this 2012 album, "I m a young man!" And it may come as a surprise when, over the course of eleven songs, she seems to be channeling spirits from the Old Testament to modern America - but mostly, well, from the Y chromosome.
Taking on voices other than her own is not exactly new for Mitchell. In 2010 Righteous Babe Records released the recorded version of her folk opera Hadestown, a modern retelling of the Orpheus myth, featuring guest singers Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Ani Difranco and Greg Brown. The album became something of a critical phenomenon in the UK, making many 'Best of 2010' lists, thanks in part to the skillful production of Todd Sickafoose, who also produced and arranged Young Man.
Mitchell is as interested in the world around her as the one inside her. She has a way of tackling big themes with the same emotional intimacy most artists use to describe their inner lives. "The emotions are my own," says Mitchell. "As for the Young Man, he's in me too, I feel his restlessness a lot. He s a part of me like my dad's old book or like something an old lover said one time. Those parts of ourselves that haunt us, sometimes we have to appease them with an offering of food and wine so they'll quit haunting us for a while. This album is that kind of offering."