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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine, fresh take on great ballads
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 confess that I was a bit dubious about two US musicians, however good, recording these ancient British songs. I used to love to...
Published 17 months ago by Sid Nuncius

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rather sentimentalised ballad collection
I bought this disc without ever having heard it or the performers before, because it seemed like a brave attempt to devote a whole album to some of the ballads catalogued by Francis James Child, albeit that only seven ballads are included. Of course, not all of the ballads have come down through the oral tradition, and this presents the singer with particular challenges...
Published 16 months ago by R. Ogier


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine, fresh take on great ballads, 17 Feb 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Child Ballads (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 confess that I was a bit dubious about two US musicians, however good, recording these ancient British songs. 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting, inspiring and wonderful traditional music for the heart and the soul, 20 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
I just received the new album Child Ballads, by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer. It's simply wonderful! I have heard all these songs by many artists and I never tire of them, and this collection is no doubt the best I've ever heard. The voices of Anais and Jefferson render these songs beautifully, with sparse instrumentation but for a very good pair of guitars.

If these song don't touch you emotionally something is wrong. The world is better for this. I will play this CD over and over, at home and in my car.

You can't do anything wrong if you buy this album!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love This!, 19 Feb 2013
By 
C. Funk "Celtoid" (OH USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
I had not heard of Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer before....and was instantly and totally enthralled with their treatment of this aged and exalted music. Their take is reverential, yet very personal, singing each old ballad with warmth and respect, yet feeling free enough to make it their own. With this fresh, light touch, they make these good old songs sound like they've just been penned. Their voices blend well together, and the lovely guitar work sets the perfect stage for the voices to shine. Truly, I can't stop listening to it - and already feel that this release will be my favorite of 2013.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rather sentimentalised ballad collection, 3 April 2013
By 
R. Ogier "old folkie" (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
I bought this disc without ever having heard it or the performers before, because it seemed like a brave attempt to devote a whole album to some of the ballads catalogued by Francis James Child, albeit that only seven ballads are included. Of course, not all of the ballads have come down through the oral tradition, and this presents the singer with particular challenges. The singing is good and the instrumental accompaniment tasteful. Yet the overall impression I had was that the sound delivered is too sugary and melodically and harmonically lacking in variety, to bring out the sometimes brutally dramatic or mystical narratives of the ballads. This effect is increased by the close vocal harmonies employed, even if they are pleasant on the ear. The 'rose and briar' cover design is arty but tends to reinforce this slightly sentimentalised approach. The stories the ballads tell seem to be carried over the heads of the listener and the detailed plot overwhelmed, or at least demanding of an extra concentration capable of penetrating the comfortable vocal and instrumental sound. I do not doubt the sincerity, dedication and technical ability of the performers, but for me I do not think that the true character and essence of the ballads is best captured by this style of performance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Centuries old - and fresh as paint., 11 Feb 2013
This review is from: Child Ballads (MP3 Download)
I rarely buy CDs, being lucky enough to be given many. But having seen Hamer and Mitchell live during Celtic Connections, I really have been counting the days till the UK release. Their treatment of the Child Ballads makes them sound as fresh and exciting as they must have sounded to those first listeners centuries ago, but they manage to do this without harking back to other more recent interpreters like Fairport Convention. That may not have pleased the Guardian's reviewer, but most of us surely prefer musicians to reinvent rather than imitate. Simple but classy and a real delight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating new interpretations, 11 Feb 2013
This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
This collection of seven Child ballads offers a series of fascinating reinterpretations of this traditional material that reminds me just how important these old songs were to what we would now call Americana.

While Jude Rogers, writing in The Guardian, dismissed these re-imaginings of the old songs as losing their impact because of the "pretty harmonies" and the "over exquisite" playing and production, I can't agree. Of course it's a matter of taste - and I should say I'm as fond of older folk and folk rock styles of delivery of songs like Tam Linn as anyone. But it really would be a great shame if this kind of criticism - the old "authentic folk" argument repackaged - put anyone off listening to this bold attempt to re-present these songs. At the very least an audience attuned to Anais Mitchell's excellent body of contemporary work will get a chance to hear these songs, which they might well not hear otherwise.

So these interpretations are light years away from the work of Anne Briggs on the one hand or Fairport Convention on the other. So what? This is a set of brave interpretations led by an original American singer who clearly respects the great storytelling that animates these songs. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Background Trill, 22 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
On first playing one or two pieces stand out but most take on a plodding repetitive trilling drone.
I agree with previous reviewer same old and these traditional songs have such better rewarding variations for me.
The voices became annoying to my ear so I had to move the album on.
.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, 4 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Child Ballads (MP3 Download)
Heard Mitchell & Hamer playing live on Radio 2, and had to stay sitting in the car after parking it, just to hear them to the end! The next day I bought this MP3 Download and have loved every note. Their voices were meant for each other, and the ballads are moving, magical and haunting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Melted, 12 Feb 2013
By 
Glenn "Omaha" (Devon England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
'Willie of Winsbury' is perhaps one of the most beautiful melodies of all time, and this is complemented by one of the finest folk tales of all time: though it is anathema for me to warm to a dictatorial monarch/parent and the triumph of one more of the landed classes. However, the love story of Janet [and must be Janet, not Jane as is sometimes sung] and William is itself such a romantic triumph. Then there are the great lines, as when the King/father sees William for the first time and declares 'if I were a woman as I am a man, in my own bed you would have been'.

The version of this on 'Child Ballads' is itself one of the most beautiful I have heard. John Renbourn's will probably always be the touchstone for a tender and warming rendition, and another more recent excellent outing is on Meg Baird's 2010 album 'Dear Companion'. Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer present a faithful performance, and it is the perfect companionship of their singing that works so wonderfully here, Hamer's sweetness the surprising vocal empathy to Mitchell's slightly tart tones, but itself a blissful marriage of sound. The pump organ provides such a glorious base throughout. Worth the price of this album entirely on its own.

The other six ballads from the collection of Sir Francis James Child consolidate the folk credentials on this honest and simply superb album. Final song, the Scottish ballad 'Tam Lin', tells another yet more metaphorical story of pregnancy and ultimate true love. But none doth compare with the opener which has melted my aural affections as did Janet's for her Lord Willie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old favourites, new interpretations, 11 Feb 2013
By 
Allan Mcfadyen "Allan McFadyen" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Child Ballads (Audio CD)
Couldn't agree more with first reviewer. Surely there's room for more than one vision on how these songs can be imagined. I'm pretty sure that when these songs were first around every singer had their own slant on how to sing them. This is a fantastic album which deserves a wider public.
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Child Ballads
Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer (Audio CD - 2013)
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