anaïs mitchell – young man in america

by chad tobin

Young Man in America is the follow up record to the 2010 storytelling marvel Hadestown. For this new record, folk singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell throws away the Greek gods and goddesses structure and tells the stories of Americans struggling in the recession. We are left with a record that combines the storytelling of Hadestownwith a story that, at many points, hits too close to home.

The album’s strength can be found in the title track of the same name, “Young Man in America.” The lyrics of this song describe the struggle of a young American man that not only tells the story as his specific journey, but is still universally recognized projecting your own feelings onto the man. Another high point is on “Hungry, Hungry,” where Anaïs emotionally bellows out how the young man entered the world, speaking both about his lack of food and lack of ambition. The song continues to discuss the straining relationship the boy has with his father, and how the kid swears he will do better without him. The most relatable part of the song comes in the young man’s quest to find a woman he can love, to use as his ‘sword and shield’ against loneliness.

Musically, the album doesn’t stray too far from its folk roots heard on previous albums. Most of the music complements the emotions captured in the lyrics to perfection. There are stripped down song of heartbreak like “Sheppard” and joyous love songs like “Venus”. Every song demands your attention, regardless if it is from the full instrumentation used in the tales of frustration, or just the simple twang of the guitar in a haunting song of desperation.

The overall result is a memorable, classic American folk album that tells the unfortunate story of the world that the Occupy Wall Street generation is coming of age in. The songs on these records are not preachy protest song, but simply various stories that conveys the human struggle of our nation in 2012. It’s precisely the record that is needed in a generation that does not have a single voice that speaks for it. Young Man In America, following up from the ambitious folk opera of her last album, proves that sticking to your roots can be just as successful as shooting for the stars when it comes to making a fantastic record.


favorite tracks // “young man in america,” “hungry, hungry,” “sheppard”

Listen to more from Anais Mitchell now, via Spotify.