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We Are Family

Elizabeth Mitchell and her all-ages backing band.


In the crowded world of children’s music, Elizabeth Mitchell stands out in an unassuming, friendly way. Her acoustic-experimental-folky renditions of Carter Family, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and Elizabeth Cotton songs—as well as ones by Bob Marley and the Velvet Underground, and even Jingle Bells—skew far from the usual spectrum of primary-colored pop and to too-cool-for-school rock. Even after hearing one of her four CDs (You Are My Flower, You Are My Little Bird, You Are My Sunshine, Catch the Moon) for the thousandth time, it feels like she’s singing directly to you. Mitchell hit on her calling at a nursery school on Roosevelt Island, where, because it drew many U.N. families, her worldly students spoke twelve languages. “Music became a universal language in the classroom,” she recalls. A native New Yorker (she and her daughter Storey, 6, were both born at New York Hospital), Mitchell takes the stage at Symphony Space on November 10, along with her family, assorted nieces and nephews, and their pals, plus Lisa Loeb. Having children onstage “takes the pressure off me! I don’t have to worry about being interesting or entertaining. All of the focus is there.” (Storey plays the harmonica and loves appearing before an audience.) “It’s a bit of rolling the dice; 6-year-olds will say how they feel even in the middle of the song. It’s an experimental performance style,” Mitchell says with a laugh. The family lives outside Woodstock, where they’re recording their next album at Levon Helm’s place nearby. Expect to hear his influence at the show. “Playing with Levon on drums has kicked us into rock and roll!” adds Mitchell. And feel free to sing along, no matter what you sound like. “Singing with children is such a powerful thing. My favorite voices are always untrained. I am always drawn to a natural interpretation of a song.” Best euphemism ever.

11/10, 11 a.m. Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, nr. 95th St. (212-864-5400 or; adults $18 to $25; children $13; Just Kidding Club $8.


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