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Anais Mitchell And Jefferson Hamer: Tackling 'Tam Lin'

March 19, 2013Mitchell recorded one of our favorite folk albums of 2012, Young Man in America. Now she's teamed up with Hamer, another young singer, to explore folk's ancient ancestry. Watch the duo perform the legendary "Tam Lin" at the Folk Alliance International Conference.

Anaïs Mitchell has a knack for mythology that flies over the heads of most modern songwriters. From her adaptation of the Orpheus myth on Hadestown — an arresting "folk opera" wherein Orpheus and Eurydice struggle through a post-apocalyptic economic depression — to the nuanced interweaving of Biblical and Greek mythology in last year's Young Man in America, she's proven adept at mingling the ancient and the contemporary.

Now she and singer-songwriter Jefferson Hamer (whose solo work leaps back and forth between the traditions of Appalachia and ancient Ireland) have recorded a seven-song disc, Child Ballads, which includes some of the most studied and recorded ballads in folk music history. "Tam Lin" is based on an old Scottish myth about a man captured by fairies, whose only hope at returning to life among humans is to have his lover hold him through a series of transformations (wolf, bear, lion, man). It's a fitting song to represent the entire collection, as Mitchell and Hamer have done just that — they've held these old songs tightly, faithfully, transforming them in such a way that you might think they fashioned the stories themselves.

Credits

(Recorded at the 2013 Folk Alliance International Conference in Toronto in February.)

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