The Sounding Joy, Elizabeth Mitchell’s first full-length holiday album (released under the Smithsonian Folkways label), is steeped in tradition and community. For this album, Mitchell (and a group of friends) dug deep into Ruth Crawford Seeger’s 1953 songbook American Folk Songs for Christmas to give these songs a modern age twist. Although, I use the word “modern” loosely here as the arrangements are just as reverent in tone and very much embody the spirit of Seeger’s versions.
The first video from The Sounding Joy is for the song “Baby Born Today.” Joining Mitchell and her husband, Daniel Littleton, are 6 performers, one of which is Natalie Merchant who also wrote the Introduction in the liner notes. This is a lovely video, shot in natural light, which perfectly captures the expression of pure joy each singer feels as they deliver their verses. The energy among the group is certainly palpable and filled with emotional depth. I particularly love Littleton’s guitar work, as well as the sprightly accents of Ruthy Ungar’s and Simi Stone’s strings.
“Baby Born Today” is a call-and-response type of song filled with beautifully layered melodies reminiscent of what you might find in a congregation or among carolers. While “Baby Born Today” contains Christian narratives, the blend of folk, some light gospel, and rhythmic stomping, will enliven the spirit of any listener regardless of their religious denomination (or lack thereof).
BONUS: Smithsonian Folkways is offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” featuring Mitchell and Littleton’s daughter, Storey (who I just can’t hear enough of), as well as Dan Zanes. It’s an energetic song filled with folk and a little bit o’ country that will get you clapping and singing from the first note. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album! Also, when you click on the “FREE DOWNLOAD” link above, you will be taken to the Smithsonian Folkways page which also allows you to download the liner notes for The Sounding Joy. Highly Recommended!