Songwriter Anais Mitchell (Hadestown, Young Man in America) teams up with songwriter/instrumentalist Jefferson Hamer (Great American Taxi, the Murphy Beds) to co-arrange a series of English and Scottish ballads from the Francis James Child collection. The album, Child Ballads, was recorded in Nashville with legendary producer/engineer Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton), and is due for release in February of 2013. These are traditional ballads that have been carefully re-imagined to embrace an American sensibility as well as a deep respect for the heritage of the tradition.
For Anaïs Mitchell this recording comes on the heels of 2010’s Hadestown and 2012’s Young Man in America. Both albums are big on story; the first is a folk opera, while the second has been described by the UK’s Independent on Sunday as ‘an epic tale of American becoming’. Hamer began his career with the Colorado roots rock band Great American Taxi, but moved to New York in 2008 to pursue songwriting and a passion for Irish traditional music. In 2010 he began touring with Mitchell, playing guitar and singing harmony (Hamer also appears on Young Man in America). The two quickly discovered their shared love of Celtic and British Isles ballads and made a plan to arrange and record some of their favourites together. Friends and neighbours stopped by the session to lend their talents: Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Jerry Douglas) Tim Lauer (the Civil Wars) and Brittany Haas (Crooked Still) on fiddle. But production is minimal, and the songs are driven by two-guitar arrangements and the kind of close harmonies that call to mind Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris or an acoustic Fleetwood Mac.
There is something about the trans-Atlantic conversation—Americans tackling Celtic and British music and vice-versa—that is perennially inspiring to artists on both sides of the pond. The Child Ballads enjoyed a brief renaissance in the states in the early sixties when artists like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performed and recorded them—and Dylan’s early songwriting, of course, bears the mark of that era. More recently, indie rock outfits like the Decemberists and the Fleet Foxes have taken their hand to the canon.
A genre-bending musician, Jefferson Hamer writes original Americana songs and plays and sings the folk music of Ireland, Appalachia, and the British Isles. In the last decade he traveled through every state in the USA, performing with the Americana ensembles Great American Taxi and the Single Malt Band. In 2008 he began collaborating with Dublin-born singer and bouzouki player Eamon O’Leary, which led to the formation of their harmony-rich traditional string duo The Murphy Beds. Based in Brooklyn, he performs solo, leads his own band, works as an in-demand harmony singer and guitarist, and produces albums in the recording studio. He has written, performed, and recorded with Anais Mitchell, Reed Foehl, Session Americana, Laura Cortese, and Tashina Clarridge.
‘Three years on [from his debut album Keepsakes] the exemplary musicianship is bolder, the vocal arrangements more striking… as penetrating as Richard Thompson’s best work’ 9/10 Uncut
Since Sam Carter released his debut album ‘Keepsakes’ in 2009, there has been a mounting excitement about this songwriter, guitarist and singer. At the time he was an Emerging Artist In Residence at The Southbank Centre in London and has since supported Bellowhead on a UK tour, performed in the Middle East and UK with the British Council’s ‘Shifting Sands’ project, played to thousands as part of the all-star line-up for the tour ‘The Lady: A Homage To Sandy Denny’, performed on major venue and festival stages in his own right and walked away with Horizon Award for best newcomer at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.