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Child Ballads

4.8 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

2013 release, a collaboration between singer/songwriter Ana‹s Mitchell and fellow musician Jefferson Hamer. On Child Ballads, the two co-arranged old Folk ballads from the Francis James Child collection. The duo picked seven of the 305 ballads compiled by Child and recorded the album in early 2012 with Nashville producer Gary Paczosa (known for his work with Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton).
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 19, 2013)
  • Original Release Date: March 19, 2013
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Wilderland Records
  • Run Time: 40 minutes
  • ASIN: B00B671UAK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,098 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sid Nuncius TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 19, 2013
Format: Audio CD
I like this album very much overall. It takes some guts to record some of these ballads after they have achieved legendary status in versions by truly great performers, but by and large Mitchell and Hamer pull it off very well.

I used to love to hear the ballads, usually unaccompanied, in smoky folk clubs in the 70s and then loved the accompanied recorded versions by Fairport, Pentangle and others, so they are deeply ingrained in me and I feel very protective toward them. Happily, I think that nearly all of these versions are also excellent and add a fresh feel to the songs which I like very much. There is some lovely guitar work and the harmonies are beautiful. They are not in a style we might expect in these songs and the tone is often brighter and brisker than we may be used to, but that's fine by me and I really like the feel of it.

The one exception to this is Geordie. This is such a beautifully tragic ballad that the slight jauntiness of the treatment jarred rather badly with me. It's not that I want it to be austere and grim - one of my favourite versions is by Trees on their album On The Shore, which is anything but austere - but it does need an air of lament about it which is somewhat lacking here.

That aside, this is a terrific album of hugely enjoyable arrangements of wonderful traditional songs, and warmly recommended.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This work of art is a true duet between Mitchell and Hamer, sometimes trading lead vocals, always harmonizing their voices and guitars. If you've been a listener of the British folksingers and bands of yore, you'll have heard some of these songs. Appropriately, the liner notes single out some of the 20th century interpreters of the Child Ballads. If you're a fan of Sandy Denny, John Renbourn, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Anne Briggs, and others named in the notes, you'll find the interpretations on this album to be utterly absorbing and beautiful. The focus is on the singing of the ballads themselves, mysterious and often otherworldly, but the spare accompaniment of guitars, with occasional violin and accordion are perfect additions.
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
I first heard Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer's version of Tam Lin on a YouTube video while searching for the Fairport Convention version with which I was familiar. I was first surprised at how different the lyrics and melody were in this version, which tells the same general story. Old songs can be that way. After I got over that surprise, I was stunned by the interwoven harmonies and intricate guitar work of these two troubadours, Mitchell's thin and plaintive soprano over Hamer's supportive tenor. Filigree over framework. Their acoustic guitars deepened the complexity of the counterpoint until the song was moving in four directions at once, fugue-like, in its stately and beautiful expression of the old classic song. I could have sworn I was hearing a fifth voice in there, but it was only a phantom harmony, the sound their music was making in my head. I was hooked. This is a beautiful album of old ballads that carries forward the tradition of such bands as the above mentioned Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, and Pentangle into a new age of roots reverence. Think Dylan's Good as I Been to You with really good singing. Better yet, stop thinking and click on Buy.
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Exquisite renderings of some of the ballads collected in the 19th century by folklore scholar Francis James Child, known informally as the Child Ballads. These ballads, or narrative folksongs, have nothing to do with children; in fact the themes, which include premarital sex, unintended pregnancy, vicious, vengeful mothers and mothers-in-law, thwarted love, and evil curses, are decidedly unsuited for children. Here, Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer have re-crafted the stories, merging several different variants of the ballads, modernizing some of the language, and sometimes changing the endings to make them more understandable to contemporary audiences. They perform them accompanied on guitar, with gorgeous harmonies and instrumentation. Some of the tunes have also been composed anew, making for a fresh take on these songs, most of which are hundreds of years old. This is folk music at its best: old wine in new bottles, updated and made new for a new generation of music-lovers. If you like folk or roots music, old-time harmonies, and heart-rending plots, you will enjoy this collection.
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I've been waiting for this album to come out since I first heard a couple of the songs live a couple years ago and heard rumors of a possible album in the future. Did not disappoint. Instrumentation is exquisite and the vocals and harmonies are lovely. A lot of the songs are quite long (6-7 minutes) but I don't get sick of them even after listening to the album on repeat a few times. Definitely worth the wait!
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Format: Audio CD
I heard the track "Geordie" on a radio show and loved it, so I bought the CD. I'm a big fan of folk and ancient music from the Americas and British Isles, but I wasn't entranced with this CD right away. It was hard for me to follow the words, and I found Mitchell's voice a little irritating at times. But I continued to listen since other reviewers had raved. And listened in quiet places with my best audio equipment, so I could hear everything the music had to offer. Still wasn't sure I liked it overly much. Then all of a sudden, as I understood all the words and began to hear all the layers in the music, I found it enchanting. But it took a while for me to get it. I was familiar with several of these ballads but not all - and hearing the lyrics in full helped a lot. I have always thought some of the Child ballads are like a Harry Chapin from an early time. So, this is not background music or road trip-feel good-lively music, and in fact if I have this on in the background and am not actively listening, it's kind of distracting and grating. But to seriously listen to it is a wonderful experience and can transport you away from this modern world.
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