Anais Mitchell

"Hadestown"

(Righteous Babe); Folk Opera

By ​Phil ​Bennett

A folk opera based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, whereupon Hades is persuaded by the power of music to make an exception to the rules of life and death, Hadestown is an ambitious project that is simply stunning in its breadth and focus.

Set in a Depression era boomtown, the themes of love, treachery and desperation of this ancient tale are portrayed as the timeless themes that they are, with the messages just as potent now as they were then.

The tracks feature guest vocalists Ani di Franco (Persephone), Justin Vernon (Orpheus) and Greg Brown (Hades) with Mitchell playing the role of Eurydice, all of whom add their own unique vocal personae to the telling.

Greg Brown's gravelly voiced Hades character is superb and his rugged, ragged intonation on the centrepiece, Why We Build The Wall, reeks of intrigue.

The album stands magnificently just as a collection of songs and knowledge of the storyline isn't a prerequisite to enjoying this wonderful music, which is a characteristic of this album that makes it so successful.

Embracing a variety of American folk forms, from country to ragtime and gospel, the union of styles is seamless and beautifully presented.

With doomy and mysterious instrumentation on a number of tracks, the tension throughout is palpable, without being claustrophobic, as mournful string arrangements suddenly give way to delightful Andrews Sisters style dance numbers to break up the atmosphere.

Lyrically insightful, conceptually inventive and musically fascinating, Hadestown is a daringly eclectic achievement.

Moody and sensuous.

​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.