We just had to see out the old year with an extra helping of Anaïs Mitchell. Our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com is Morning Glory which glistens with hope. Mitchell has illuminated the year with her beguiling voice and storytelling charms.
The song, written before the pandemic as a love letter to her young daughter, is one of two bonus tracks on the recent deluxe edition of her self-titled eighth album released back in January which had felt too short. It’s my favourite album of 2022.
The buds of Morning Glory open to fluttering woodwind, breezily picked acoustic guitar and that gorgeously breathy vocal:
And the sun is comin’ out
It’s a new day
And it’s better than the one that came before
And it’s better than it was before you came
You’re the one I wake up for
How could I have known that I had grown so world-weary
Before you came along with your tender arms
I’d stretch in the trumpet of your mouth
And your eyes are dewy wet
And always on the lookout for the bright side of the world
The bewitching Bright Star, released as a single in 2021, and the growing pains of Little Big Girl were early Song Of The Week choices; Backroads, Revenant and Brooklyn Bridge, showcasing her melodic gift for surprise chord changes, could have joined them from an album that kept on giving.
Mitchell, whose solo career had taken a long break during the all-consuming success story of her Broadway musical Hadestown, was also busy with her folk trio project, Bonny Light Horseman, with Eric D Johnson and Josh Kaufman. Their Rolling Golden Holy would become another highlight of 2022. Kaufman had produced Mitchell’s first album in her own name since 2012; most of the material was written back home in rural Vermont where she sought sanctuary when Covid closed down New York and the rest of the world.
‘I’d been working on that musical for a third of my life and what did I do the moment I got done with it?’ she told the Guardian. ‘I spent a year writing a book about it!’ But then came the hiatus and the creation of new material. ‘In the tidy version of this album I left the city, I returned home, I became a mother of two, I did therapy and I wanted to make this album before I turned 40.’
Now, Mitchell said, ‘the speaker is all me, and the stories are mine. It’s always felt easier to take on the voice of another character or just dress up my own big feelings with language or a story that felt like it could be somebody else’s… I have a desire to make songs that walk through the world on their own legs – that are useful to other people. I’m interested in the intersection of what makes me want to cry and what feels mythical. That’s where I want to live.’
My song of the year is Allison Russell’s reimagining of her own composition You’re Not Alone, a soulful duet with her friend and champion Brandi Carlile. The original appeared on all-women supergroup Our Native Daughters’ debut album in 2019. Russell’s collaborations continue to delight – listen to her harmonies for Aoife O’Donovan on Prodigal Daughter and for Amy Ray on Tear It Down.
The powerful lyric in You’re Not Alone speaks to her daughter, stressing the message that during traumatic times we can gain hope from others, past and present. The song’s second coming was provoked by seismic events such as school shootings and the Supreme Court’s anti-abortion stance.
You’re the north star and the compass
Always finding something wondrous
Anywhere you go
You’re not alone
Russell’s fêted debut solo album Outside Child in 2021 dealt with her harrowing experiences as an abused youngster. ‘Every child deserves to be loved and protected,’ she declared. ‘Human Rights are worth fighting for. We’ve come a long way but we must go farther still… We are more than the sum of our scars.’ The outside child is an insider now, her music preaching and practising community in another year of memorable collaborations.
Here are my 30 favourite albums of the year, in no particular order and unranked beyond the exception of the Mitchell masterpiece. Recommended tracks appear in italics.
My 30 favourite albums of 2022
Anaïs Mitchell: Anaïs Mitchell
Bonny Light Horseman: Rolling Golden Holy
First Aid Kit: Palomino
Maz O’Connor: What I Wanted
Joan Shelley: The Spur
Track Dogs: Where To Now?
Bonnie Raitt: Just Like That
Sunny War: Simple Syrup
River Whyless: Monoflora
Tedeschi Trucks Band: I Am The Moon
Gabriels: Angels & Queens – Part 1
Margo Cilker: Pohorylle
Katie Spencer: The Edge Of The Land
Mavis Staples & Levon Helm: Carry Me Home
Lady Maisery: Tender
Lizzy Hardingham: How Did We Get Here?
Midlake: For The Sake Of Bethel Woods
Jake Blount: The New Faith
Plains (Waxahatchee/Jess Williamson): I Walked With You A Ways
Angeline Morrison: The Sorrow Songs (Folk Songs of Black British Experience)
Gretchen Peters: The Show – Live From The UK
Weyes Blood: And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow
It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody
Trampled By Turtles: Alpenglow
Amy Ray: If It All Goes South
Tear It Down (featuring Allison Russell)
The Unthanks: Sorrows Away
Kate Ellis: Spirals
Madison Cunningham: Revealer
Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Buddy Guy: The Blues Don’t Lie
Gunsmoke Blues (featuring Jason Isbell)
Dean Owens: The Sinner’s Shrine
The Hopeless Ghosts (featuring Grant-Lee Phillips)
Favourite cover albums & EPs
Josienne Clarke: Now And Then
Thea Gilmore: Was
Emily Barker & Lukas Drinkwater: Room 822
Phil Shaw’s Top 30 Songs of 2022 plus his 10 favourite covers