Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer will perform in concert with special guest Frank Fairfield at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Veterans’ Memorial Theater, 203 E. 14th St. in Davis. The program is presented by the Davis Live Music Collective.
Advance tickets are $16, available at Armadillo Music, 205 F St., or online at davislivemusic.com. Tickets at the door will be $20. Doors open that night at 7 p.m.
Mitchell began writing and performing at the age of 17, attracting the attention of Ani DiFranco, who signed Mitchell to her label. In 2006, she wrote the folk opera “Hadestown,” staged to critical acclaim in London. A 2010 recording of “Hadestown” features DiFranco and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who helped propel Mitchell on her current upward trajectory by inviting her to open the North American leg of Bon Iver’s autumn 2012 tour, including two sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall.
Bon Iver regularly performs Mitchell’s song “Coming Down” from “Young Man in America,” an album that earned praise in 2012 on NPR’s top 10 folk and Americana albums, and won MOJO’s No. 1 folk album.
Hamer began his career with Colorado roots rockers Great American Taxi. He and Mitchell share a love of English folk music, and planned to record some of their favorites together. What began as a side project evolved into their new album, “Child Ballads,” the pair’s take on a collection of traditional English ballads.
Driven by two guitars and close harmonies that calls to mind Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, their versions have been re-imagined to reflect their own sensibility and respect for tradition.
“We kept thinking back to those records we loved so much,” says Mitchell, “and finally decided that what the songs wanted was to be presented as simply as possible; melody, harmony, acoustic instruments, live taping — the stories really out front.”
Mitchell has a way of tackling big themes with the intimacy most artists use to describe their inner lives. It doesn’t matter whether the stories she tells are her own or someone else’s. “The emotions are my own,” she says.
Originally from Fresno, Fairfield is making a name for himself performing traditional songs and originals from his encyclopedic knowledge of American folk music. A word-of-mouth sensation who channels the spirit of another era in his spell-binding live shows, Fairfield found a fan in Fleet Foxes, who picked him to open their 2008 U.S. tour.