Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Anais Mitchell Writes, Billy Bragg Sings, Trump Strikes Fear

I'm surprised you hadn't heard Hadestown! Honestly, it's one of the most remarkable folksinger achievements I've heard in the past 20 years that I've been in this business. She distilled the Orpheus myth into a collection of folk songs. The record featured the cast of Anais, Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, and Justin Vernon, and Anais traveled the country (world?) performing Hadestown with singer-songwriters local to every town she visited. Last I heard, she'd gotten some funds to make it an actual staged theater production. Of course she's got a small child now, so that slows big projects down. But, it's an outstanding piece of music. It released during the Bush era, but of course the thing about mythology and folk music is that its themes, often unfortunately, remain relevant for many years. She also has a heartbreaking, beautiful song sung from the perspective of an American child and an Afghani child. Don't get me started -- that gal has written some of the best little-known songs of my generation.

Anyway, all this to say this was a wonderful post. Thanks for writing it.

Anais was on my radar startng with the Child Balads and although I doubled back and have Hadestown sitting in my digital library, I must admit that it didn't get my undvided attention. I think maybe one listen and that was it. That in iteself speaks to a negative byproduct of the digitization, sheer volume of avaiable titles and ease of music collecting today, and how it has changed my listening habits. There's a great article floating in the ether of the web from a man who has given up streaming because he got so much music that he lost the ablity to connect. There will be a production of Hadestown opening in NYC in May 2016. Anais' website offers more details. Thanks for reading (I know you have no choice as my editor, but still). 

Yep, great post!

I got into Anais Mitchell through Young Man In America, a wonderful recording, and regressed backwards to Hadestown and forward through Child Ballads.  She's a treasure, and I've loved Why We Build This Wall from first listen. 

There is a tradition of excellent songwriting about immigration (broadly speaking) in the folk tradition.  I've been hearing Woody Guthrie's Deportees a lot lately, since one of my current musical crushes is Moira Smiley and Voco, and the song features on Laughter Out Of Tears.  And of course, Ry Cooder's Across The Borderline, famously covered by Willie Nelson.  Cooder wrote it with John Hiatt and Jim Dickinson.

Neither of these has the powerful economy of Anais's Wall.

As Kim notes, the folk tradition often produces memorable topical songs that go beyond the initial topic to address fundamental themes.

Damn Ed...well written, well thought out...and a great song post as well...

I remember thinking the other day when Trump talked about the wall...the first thought that popped into my head was Canada and how asinine the whole idea was...I was thinking that WEB wouldn't be able to cross the border and get his music at the record store in Dearborn...

Pretty much everyone who is here has a story like your family, descendants of immigrants who came to escape oppression and poverty...may it always be so...


Great article Easy Ed! I have only been listening to Anais for a couple of years but she is quickly becoming one of my top ten artists. Pretty good coming from someone who has been a passionate music listener (and sometime musican) of 45 years. And this is possibly my favourite song by her. Hadestown is a monumental album. Hoping to get a chance to see her live sometime soon.

Proud to call Anais a fellow Vermonter.  The Wall is my favorite Anais song!  Thanks for the great article Ed.



Great article. I would guess few if any of us are not of immigrant families. And thanks for the new (to me) music, too.

Saw Bragg do this as part of a protest set @ Newport on Sunday.  His version was slower than this, but still very powerful. Still prefer Greg Brown as Hades and, yes, Anais Mitchell is a force of life...thanks as always, pedro in pa, a/k/a poetdro