Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Anjimile – a 33-year old American-born singer/songwriter who identifies as they/them – has been described as a folk musician, which is all Elsewhere knew before this album arrived unexpectedly.
Well, this ambitious, elevating, spiritually-inclined and highly dramatic collection is a very long way from folk as most understand it. Not just if you think of acoustic guitars and earnestness, but if your conception runs to music of and from folk/people.
Anjimile – who had a strict religious upbringing for a period – is imbued with the Old Testament which is full of righteous fury, indignation and vengeance.
And through beautifully choreographed musical parts for guitar and voices – it opens with a cappella choral part – Anjimile turns that lens on America, the arrogance of white society (they are of Malawian parentage) and scatters Biblical references (Belshazzar and Daniel, the mark of Cain, Old and New Testament phrases) throughout these 10 commanding songs which could only come in the age of Black Lives Matter.
But mostly this is very personal.
Anjimile talks to their mother and father in two separate songs (Mother and Father) -- and on Anybody – for their support and lack of it when they (Anjimile) were grappling with alcohol problems and coming out as trans then bi.
Among the few collaborators – the cover announces that “every instrument on this album was performed entirely on modified acoustic guitars by Anjimile Chithambo” – is multiple award-winning producer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, War on Drugs, Black Pumas).
But this is Anjimile's journey and pains front'n'centre: “I have nowhere else to hide, I am dying on the inside . . . are you with me?” (on Genesis); “I lost my mind, I couldn't handle it, burned my fingers on the candle lit . . . if you treat me like an animal I'll be an animal (Animal); “If I suffer will it change me?” (I Pray on acoustic guitar, the closest thing to the received idea of "folk" here) . . .
At the end of the song The Right they ask before a tumultuous swirl of sound, “Barely made it out, pray for me. Haven't I earned the right? Make my body bite, keep me out of sight. Haven't I earned the right?”
It's an assertion that closes an album of considerable courage, emotional range, fascinating instrumentation and sounds, some utterly gripping songs and all delivered by a singular voice.
You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here. It also comes on vinyl with lyrics on the sleeve insert.