City Paper is not for tourists
Anaïs Mitchell is more griot than singer-songwriter. Her acoustic guitar-driven tales, told in a gentle, almost childlike voice, paint detailed storybook pictures that evoke a specific, often faraway time and place. But don’t expect saccharine fairytales with happy endings: There’s a sturdy rope of fear, uncertainty, and jaded regret that runs through her work, cutting the sweetness of her tones. In conversational phrasing, Mitchell sometimes delivers her misty folk fables in the third person or from multiple points of view in the same song, and her dexterous, tight-rhythmed finger-picking echoes that of Ani DiFranco, whose Righteous Babe Records kept Mitchell on its roster until she launched her Wilderland label in 2012. Mitchell is a master of classical adaptations; she enlisted DiFranco and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as guest stars of her ambitious folk-opera, Hadestown—a reimagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus, Eurydice, and Persephone—and recorded an entire album of traditional, centuries-old English and Scottish ballads with Jefferson Hamer, Child Ballads. See her at the Hamilton, on tour for her brand-new release, xoa, a collection of meditative new tunes and pared-down takes of old ones. The songs will flow by as easily as clear, cold riverwater, but the stories will stick like burrs on the banks. Anaïs Mitchell performs with Carsie Blanton at 7:30 p.m. at the Hamilton, 600 14th St. NW. $15–$18. (202) 787-1000. thehamiltondc.com.