Hadestown is the fourth studio album by Vermont-based Anaïs Mitchell, and was released by Righteous Babe Records on March 9, 2010. The concept album, which later produced the stage musical of the same name, follows a variation on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus must embark on a quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld. It has been advertised as a "folk opera". Several of the songs feature singers other than Mitchell, including Justin Vernon (better known as lead vocalist and guitarist of Wisconsin-based band Bon Iver), Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, and Tanya, Petra and Rachel Haden (referred to in the track listing as 'The Haden Triplets').
|Studio album by|
|Released||March 9, 2010|
|Genre||Americana, folk, indie folk|
|Anaïs Mitchell chronology|
Between 2006 and 2007, Mitchell staged performances of Hadestown, a musical based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Unsure what lay ahead for the stage musical, she decided to turn it into a concept album. Raising a few thousand dollars by emailing her fan base and asking them to pitch in in exchange for shirts and other merchandise, Mitchell worked on the album for over a year.
Within the narrative of the album, the part of Orpheus is played by Vernon, Persephone by DiFranco, Hades by Greg Brown, The Fates by Tanya, Petra and Rachel Haden, Hermes by Ben Knox Miller and Mitchell herself plays Eurydice.
As the album begins, "Wedding Song" describes the courtship of Orpheus (Justin Vernon) and Eurydice (Anaïs Mitchell). Living in a time of economic depression, she asks him how he can possibly afford to marry her and give her a good life, to which he replies that his musicianship will bring them everything they desire. Although she loves Orpheus, Eurydice seems wary and unsure whether he can provide for them. Orpheus then sings of how Hades built his empire in the underworld, using exploitation and trickery to force the residents to do his bidding ("Epic Part I"). In the next song, "Way down Hadestown", Hadestown and the road to it is described from different perspectives by Hermes (Ben Knox Miller), Persephone (Ani DiFranco), Eurydice, Orpheus and The Fates (The Haden Triplets). The different characters depict the place either in a positive light, or in a negative one, or both: it is said to be the only available source of money and employment and ruled by a rich and mighty "king" (Hermes, Eurydice and The Fates), but also a place of drudgery, exploitation, slavery and soullessness (Orpheus and Hermes). Persephone, for her part, sings that as winter is coming, her husband is coming to take her home to Hadestown. Eurydice begins to question her quality of life and entertains the tempting thought of life in Hadestown. In "Hey, Little Songbird" Hades himself (Greg Brown) tempts Eurydice, stressing the hopelessness of her current financial circumstances, and offers her to join him in the underworld, where she will be materially provided for and sheltered.
Eurydice apologises for leaving Orpheus, saying that she allowed her material need for basic necessities to overrule her heart; the Fates chastise the listeners for judging her from their life of comfort ("Gone, I'm Gone"). They proceed to argue that nobody is sure to make a morally right choice when things get really tough ("When the Chips Are Down"). Orpheus is determined to rescue his love from Hadestown; Hermes warns him that it will be a difficult task to accomplish but gives him advice about how to survive the journey and shows him to the train ("Wait for Me"). Meanwhile, Hades reinforces his power over the underworld by manipulating its residents into believing that, although they must work tirelessly to do Hades' bidding, the outside world of poverty and unemployment is much worse. Therefore, Hades is able to seem as if he is a benevolent ruler who is, in fact, protecting his people rather than enslaving them ("Why We Build the Wall").
Orpheus travels through Hadestown and comes across a speakeasy run by Persephone. Instead of alcohol, Persephone offers the joys of life on the surface (such as rain, wind, stars and sunlight) to her customers ("Our Lady of the Underground"). In "Flowers", Eurydice, who is employed by Hades and appears to have become his mistress, realises what a terrible mistake she made being tempted by his wealth and power. She regrets leaving Orpheus and expresses her wish to being reunited with him. The Fates try to persuade Orpheus to abandon his quest to rescue Eurydice, telling him there is no chance he will succeed and trying will only bring him pain ("Nothing Changes"). Their words trouble him and he begins to wonder if he will ever see his true love again ("If It's True").
Persephone tries to convince Hades to be kind to Orpheus and let him rescue Eurydice ("How Long?"), while Hades says that yielding to Orpheus would be a dangerous precedent that eventually causes his entire regime to crumble. When Orpheus finally reaches Hades, he implores him to let Eurydice go, singing a song in praise of love. He appealing to Hades' sympathy by reminding him that Hades, too, once fell in love with Persephone in the same way as Orpheus loves Eurydice. Orpheus' song is so powerful that Hades feels forced to grant his wish. However, fearing that his entire underworld kingdom will revolt against him if he shows weakness by letting Orpheus have his way, he devises a plan that will thwart the couple's intentions: they are permitted to leave Hadestown together so long as Eurydice follows Orpheus and he does not turn around ("His Kiss, the Riot").
As they journey back to the surface together, doubt begins to plague Orpheus. He is seized by fear because he is unable to see Eurydice and does not know if she is truly following him. As they walk Eurydice tries to reassure him that she loves him, but he doesn't seem to hear or react to her words and eventually turns ("Doubt Comes In"). In the album's closing track, "I Raise My Cup to Him", Persephone and Eurydice both raise a sad toast to Orpheus, who was forced to return to the surface alone, while nevertheless celebrating his courage to challenge the powers that be in tough times.
|Drowned in Sound|||
|The Observer||(very positive)|
Upon release, Hadestown gained extremely positive reviews overall. Drowned in Sound awarded the album a 10/10, stating that "Mitchell traverses such a sweeping range of emotions, genres and styles over the course of Hadestown, it’s frankly remarkable that the whole thing works at all. That it works so brilliantly well, that in under an hour it creates a world you’ll want to return to time and time again, that it is a glittering model of the form – of collaboration itself – is nothing short of awe-inspiring." The Guardian and NME were similarly effusive in their praise, awarding the album 5/5 and 9/10 respectively. Stereo Subversion's Jonathan Sanders gave the album a perfect score and called it "a lasting example of where folk music can go when the right musicians take hold of history." The album also topped review aggregator website AnyDecentMusic?'s all time chart with an 8.9, the highest rating for any album until Frank Ocean's Channel Orange.
Mitchell continued working on an expanded theatrical version of Hadestown, and in May 2016 the show debuted at New York Theatre Workshop, having been developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin. In November 2017, the show received its Canadian premiere at Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, and in April 2018 it was announced that Hadestown would open later the same year at London's Royal National Theatre before transferring to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, where it went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical and Tony Award for Best Original Score in 2019, among six other Tony Awards.
- "Wedding Song" featuring Justin Vernon – 3:18
- "Epic (Part I)" featuring Justin Vernon – 2:22
- "Way Down Hadestown" featuring Justin Vernon, Ani DiFranco and Ben Knox Miller – 3:33
- "Songbird Intro" – 0:24
- "Hey, Little Songbird" featuring Greg Brown – 3:09
- "Gone, I'm Gone" featuring The Haden Triplets – 1:09
- "When the Chips are Down" featuring The Haden Triplets – 2:14
- "Wait for Me" featuring Ben Knox Miller and Justin Vernon – 3:06
- "Why We Build the Wall" featuring Greg Brown – 4:18
- "Our Lady of the Underground" featuring Ani DiFranco – 4:40
- "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)" – 3:33
- "Nothing Changes" featuring The Haden Triplets – 0:52
- "If It's True" featuring Justin Vernon – 3:03
- "Papers (Hades Finds Out)" – 1:24
- "How Long?" featuring Ani DiFranco and Greg Brown – 3:36
- "Epic (Part II)" featuring Justin Vernon – 2:55
- "Lover's Desire" – 2:05
- "His Kiss, The Riot" featuring Greg Brown – 4:03
- "Doubt Comes In" featuring Justin Vernon – 5:32
- "I Raise My Cup to Him" featuring Ani DiFranco – 2:10
- Anaïs Mitchell – vocals (Eurydice), acoustic guitar, art direction
- Justin Vernon – vocals (Orpheus), engineer
- Ben Knox Miller – vocals (Hermes)
- Ani DiFranco – vocals (Persephone), mixing
- Greg Brown – vocals (Hades)
- The Haden Triplets – vocals (The Fates)
- Michael Chorney – acoustic guitar, prepared guitar, orchestration, arrangement
- Ben T. Matchstick – harmonica, voice
- Jim Black – drums, percussion
- Todd Sickafoose – bass, piano, pump organ, arrangement, mixing, producer
- Tanya Kalmanovitch – viola
- Marika Hughes – cello
- Josh Roseman – trombone
- Nate Wooley – trumpet
- Rob Burger – accordion, piano
- Miguel Frasconi – glass orchestra
- Rich Hinman – pedal steel guitar
- Brandon Seabrook – 4-string banjo, electric guitar, noise tapes
- Jonathan Goldberger – electric guitar
- Mike Dillon – vibraphone
- Andy Taub – engineer
- Ben Liscio – assistant engineer
- Mike Napolitano – engineer, mixing
- John Svec – engineer
- Rich Breen – engineer
- Bennett Shapiro – engineer
- Alan Douches – mastering
- Peter Nevins – illustrations, art direction
- Brian Grunert – art direction, design
|US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)||33|
|US Americana/Folk Albums (Billboard)||9|
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