Bon Iver, Anais Mitchell offer folk feast

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

Folk music fans have a right to feel giddy this week.

The critically acclaimed Anais Mitchell, who has been ballyhooed by none other than musical icon Ani DiFranco, joins the much-honored Grammy Award winners Bon Iver on their local bill. Of course Bon Iver's own Justin Vernon and his band mates are also huge fans of Mitchell's music. Vernon is one of the major name artists who have collaborated with Mitchell.

"We've been on tour but this is the first show we're opening for Bon Iver," said Mitchell of the local show. "It will be very different, to be on a big stage like that."

Onstage
Bon Iver with Anais Mitchell
When: 6:30 p.m. doors, Saturday
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
Info: $40-$55; ticketfly.com; 1-877-4FLY-TIX

Mitchell is too modest to mention that plenty of other big stages are likely in her near future thanks to the critical kudos she's received, most recently for her new album "Young Man in America. She's also gotten a major boost because Bon Iver covered Mitchell's song "Coming Down" while on Triple J Radio in Australia with Vernon saying of Mitchell "[I] just worship her music."

But even without such mega-watt kudos, Mitchell's album clearly stands on its own merits.

Perhaps it's only natural that Mitchell, the daughter of a novelist, is a gifted storyteller. Her songs are truly vignettes that draw listeners in thanks to highly personal lyrics that home in on the heart. And she's assembled an A-list group of musicians (this time, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile is among the guests) to weave the intricate music.

Yet drawing vivid characters and compelling storylines can also lead to some misunderstandings, as it has with "Young Man in America," said Mitchell.

"A lot of people see it as a concept album. That is not what I set out to make," said Mitchell. "The first song ['Wilderland'] was definitely conceptual and the thread continues but I didn't set out to make a concept album."

What she did set out to do, in a way, was channel some traditional English and Celtic folk music that is full of imagery and narratives. That's one reason "Young Man in America," that has a photo of her father as a young man on the cover, is personal and political and issue driven and experimental - all in one package.

Mitchell talked about different words and phrases in various folk songs such as "Never trust a young man with a black and roving eye." Such phrases aren't clearly defined yet the listener intuitively knows what the phrase means. That's just what she was trying to hit with her latest collection of songs.

"I hope people will listen to this album and not spend a lot of time thinking about the songs' meanings," she said. "I want them to experience them emotionally."

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