The Child Ballads are a portfolio collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland (plus the ballads' American variants) assembled by Francis James Child and originally published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads in ten volumes between 1882 and 1898, a group of ancient melodies and lyrics that are at the very center of traditional folk music, and versions of these songs have been recorded and reimagined countless times by countless singers and performers. Ever the maverick, Anaïs Mitchell tackles seven of those iconic ballads in this single-disc set, working with her frequent collaborator Jefferson Hamer. It's a sparse, quietly intense album, with the old songs themselves commanding center stage as they always seem to do. There's a reason these ballads have been around so long, and why intelligent, thoughtful artists like Mitchell are drawn to them. The ballads are mysterious and wild, full of drama, love, murder, intrigue, and more than a fair share of ghosts. Who wouldn't be drawn to that?
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett