Bonny Light Horseman
Anaïs Mitchell, Joshua Kaufman & Eric D. Johnson
When handling the oldest folk music, there is an understandable urge to exercise the utmost caution of tampering with it, as if it might crumble apart with rough handling. This is the taboo that Bonny Light Horseman daringly disregarded. In repayment, they reaped a Grammy nomination for their gorgeous debut album in 2020.
An indie-Americana supergroup, Bonny Light Horseman is singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, who won eight Tony Awards for her “folk opera,” Hadestown, in 2019; Josh Kaufman, a multi-instrumentalist who plays with The National and Hiss Golden Messenger; and Eric D. Johnson, best known for his long-running folk-rock band Fruit Bats. They made their major debut in 2018 at the Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin, which is helmed by Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon, the latter of whom guests on Bonny Light Horseman’s self-titled debut.
“A real warmth blankets the entire album,” says The Boston Globe, “with interweaving voices and acoustic guitars and a subtle array of shading.” Collaging centuries-old British folk standards into comely new shapes, Bonny Light Horsemen imbue authorless hymns, pastorals, and cautionary tales with bold contemporary authorship and supple, welcoming musicianship. They shift effortlessly from the high-lonesome mood of the title track to the trickling lilt of “Deep in Love,” from the melancholy drift of “The Roving” to the starry precision of “Jane Jane.”