While a self-titled debut release is often par for the course from new artists, to put ones name on the cover of anything following that is always a statement. It’s a conscious decision, a vote of confidence. An acknowledgment stating that what is on this record is me. Listening to Anna Mitchell’s self-titled sophomore album, it’s clear that this is certainly the case.
The album plays like a scene-by-scene walkthrough of the artist’s psyche. Tales of temptation, vulnerability and independence are expertly penned to the lively melodies of the instrumental accompaniment on the record. The album opens with the single All These Things and the assertion “I am a photograph”, indicative of the intimate material to come.
The core sound throughout the album is folky in nature. The earthy quality of the rhythm section and the homely sounds of the acoustic guitars are testament to that. Yet, ‘Anna Mitchell’ sounds like the result of many influences. On songs such as Dog Track and the excellent It Pours elements of Rockabilly can be clearly heard. These tracks, the most upbeat on the album, give Mitchell the chance to push her vocal delivery to sometimes astounding levels.
Songs like Radio Waves and Lovin’s For Fools radiate with a Nashville Country and Western vibe. Kudos must be given to Mitchell’s backing band for the accompaniment on these tracks. The haunting slide guitar on the latter song serves as one of the absolute stand out moments on the album.
Having spent months in Woodstock, New York helping out in the recording of an album for Simone Felice And The Felice Brothers, there’s an American quality to the Mitchell’s writing and to the album in general. While other folk contemporaries retain an Irishness in their work, Mitchell sounds like a musician between two homes. There’s the dry Corkonian humour in much of her lyrical content yet much of the music itself would sound at home coming from a jukebox in a Southern whiskey bar. This hybridity is to the album’s benefit and it helps Mitchell’s work stand out from much of what her peers are writing.
At times, the album wears a little thin on the B – Side. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the same ideas are beginning to repeat themselves in some of the songs. Coming in at ten songs in length, ‘Anna Mitchell’ is an ambitious project that sometimes fails to deliver.
With the exception of the aforementioned Lovin’s For Fools, many of the tracks on the latter half of the album could have done with a little more nuance. None of the songs could be considered poor in their own right, but tracks like Slice Of The Pie and Better Life don’t add very much to the overall feel and progression of the album.
The production on the record, done under the auspicious gaze of Brendan Fennessy and Mitchell herself, is flawless. Every instrument on each track has its own space to breath. The clever application of stereo mixing gives the entire project a feeling of width and depth. This helps create a sense of being enveloped by the music.
This enveloping makes Mitchell a unique artist given the nature of her music. While many folk-artists opt for a Lo-Fi production quality, Mitchell and co. take on the more daunting task of creating a large-scale folk album. The beautiful vocal harmonies on Lovin’s For Fools and the piercing string sounds on Get Out are testament to the success of this ambition.
Overall, ‘Anna Mitchell’ is a strong album and Mitchell herself a welcome addition to the pantheon of fantastic Irish folk musicians. Mitchell’s relationship with the written word is excellent and the artist clearly has a clever ear for composition. While certain songs on the record can slip by relatively unnoticed, they are too few in number to seriously detract from its overall quality. It’s going to be exciting to see which elements of her sound she opts to draw from going into the future, there’s plenty of good options to choose from.