Bonny Light Horseman – Rolling Golden Holy
On an album described as “a trust fall into glory,” Bonny Light Horseman (Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Eric D. Johnson) find deeper connection and renewed comradery as they create a batch of songs that fit neatly in the folk tradition of yesteryear or tomorrow. Rolling Golden Holy expands on the success of Bonny Light Horseman’s debut by forgoing reinterpretation of traditional in favor of creating new vistas for a timeless artform. Although successful in their own right, each member of Bonny Light Horseman found renewed energy in the creative space afforded by the threesome’s support for one another – a kinship deeper than their time together would expect led to “each member encouraging the others to take an idea and run with it a little further, to push past comfort zones.” This push past comfort zones allowed Bonny Light Horseman to achieve dynamic arrangements to well-crafted songs that are at once timeless and timely in their embrace of folk traditions and sonic adventurism.
“California” coasts to the coast on an airy embrace with a refrain reminiscent of Dixieland Delight but with a laid-back west coast ocean breeze roll – a windows down twist on Wood Guthrie’s Do-Re-Me – as Johnson sings, “Goodbye to California; Seems like we hardly knew ya; Seems as good a time as any; To be leaving the land of plenty.” Leaving the promised land behind never sounded so sweet as when Johnson croons, “With a broken heart; And a crow in the yard; My love and I are leaving.” Banjo and a clip-clomp drum drive the playful “Sweetbread” while Mitchell sings, “Sweetbread when I’m hungry; Red liquor when I’m dry; I take a lover when I’m lonely; Blue sky, lord, when I die.”
Inspired by the traditional tunes “Rye Whiskey” and “Jack Of Diamonds”, “Sweetbread” brings the traditional into the present day by embracing a jammy exit and introducing an emotive saxophone for the final crescendo.
“Cold Rain and Snow” closes this collection with the best showcase of these three voices in communion. Although in the background vocally for much of the album, Kaufman’s vocals stitch together the soaring performances delivered by Mitchell and Johnson while also providing the Wurlitzer and electric guitar parts that give this track a distinctively different feel to the rest of the collection. “Cold Rain and Snow” embraces established folk traditions while simultaneously pushing to the present day and beyond with a scene as simple as a mother and child waiting for the school bus.
On Rolling Golden Holy Bonnie Light Horseman’s Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Eric D. Johnson prove to be more a band than a one-off project. With greater connection they are able to take greater risks in songwriting and arrangement. As noted in the album press release, “They bought a dulcimer, their first full-band purchase, and learned to play it as a trio; every member has at least one dulcimer part on Rolling Golden Holy, a testament to the new safety net they’ve built together, for one another.”
This new safety net allowed for a collection of originals that connects where Bonny Light Horseman is going with the reinterpreted traditional songs from which they have come.
Rolling Golden Holy was recorded at both Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond studio and the band’s own Dreamland with engineer Bella Blasko and musical assistance from JT Bates (drums, percussion) and Mike Lewis (bass, tenor saxophone); mixed and mastered by D James Goodwin.
Bonny Light Horseman’s Rolling Golden Holy is available October 7th.
Enjoy our earlier coverage here: REVIEW: Bonny Light Horseman’s Self-Titled Album from Trio of Americana Powerhouses is Delicate and Powerful