The collaboration between Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle spans worlds—between their homes in Brooklyn and rural Virginia; between deep study of mountain ballads and explorations into the avant garde. One year ago found them researching in traditional music archives in Vermont and Virginia, then using that raw material to develop new work at residencies at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony. They spent the summer and fall touring across the US, UK, and Ireland, including The Newport Folk Festival and Cambridge Folk Festival (UK). Their mission is to balance respect for traditional music and musicians who came before with a relentless push into new artistic territories.
The pair’s growing acclaim springs from a shared quartet of talents: Both are historians, storytellers, visual artists, and gifted, intuitive musicians—in combination, a groundbreaking approach. Inspired by the richness and tradition of the music, Anna & Elizabeth gather songs and stories from archives and visits with elders. They bring these songs to life in performance with sparse, atmospheric arrangements using guitar, banjo, fiddle, and the uncanny blend of their voices in close harmony. They accompany their songs with stories—of the lyrics, of the singer, of the quest to learn the song—and they illustrate them in mesmerizing fashion. The two revive the old scrolling picture show, dubbed “crankies”—intricate picture-scrolls illustrating the old songs they sing, which they create in tandem with papercuts, shadow puppets, prints, and embroidered fabric.
Their second album, which features Grammy nominee and legendary folk singer Alice Gerrard, was released in March 2015 on Free Dirt Records. It has been featured on Vice’s Noisey, the Huffington Post, No Depression, and NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
Anna & Elizabeth have begun a new cycle of work, inspired by ballad singers of the 1930s and 1940s in Vermont and Virginia—the states where they grew up. Spending time in archives, with the families of these singers, and with a director, Anna & Elizabeth will explore connections between place and tradition to develop a new show, a new set of crankies, and a new album inspired by these ballads.