On first listen, Vermonter Anais Mitchell
seems to join the parade of over-studied, over-hyped indie folkies whose little girl voices and fabulist lyrics inspire prepubescent nostalgia in Generation Ani. But first listens usually deceive, and Mitchell has more than an acoustic guitar and djembe up her righteous-babe sleeve even if she is on DiFranco's label now. This Righteous Babe debut, The Brightness
, captures urban gritscapes, lovers lost in wonder and soulful politics that would make an Obama rally cough up its last nickel. Mitchell's fleet, fingerstyle guitar-work taps into folk sources, and her melodies take those sources as far as her eccentric, bookish imagination can reach. (Which is far: She's also penned a folk opera based on Greek myths.) Mitchell may sound much younger than her 25 years, but the best of her songs defy time.