Bonny Light Horseman. Photo by Nolan Knight.
The timeless qualities of traditional tunes can carry us across oceans and eons, linking us not only to the past but to each other as well. It was under the banner of those eternal connections that the trio of Bonny Light Horseman came together. From Wisconsin festival fields and a German art hub to a snowy upstate studio and everywhere in between, the astral folk outfit—comprised of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman—is mixing the ancient, mystical medium of transatlantic traditional folk music with a contemporary, collective brush. The resulting album, Bonny Light Horseman, is an elusive kind of sonic event: a bottled blend of lightning and synergy that will excite fans of multiple genres, eras, and ages.
Mitchell, the esteemed singer-songwriter whose Broadway smash Hadestown recently won “Best Musical” plus seven other trophies at the 2019 Tony Awards, met the indie rock stalwart Johnson a few years back through that thoroughly modern platform, Twitter. Best known for the Fruit Bats project he has helmed for two decades as well as for stints in The Shins and Califone, Johnson had been friends with producer and instrumentalist Kaufman (Craig Finn, Josh Ritter, The National, Bob Weir) for 10 years. Kaufman and Mitchell were already acquainted; together, the three made an unmistakable artistic connection, and had just begun experimenting when an invitation to perform at the 2018 Eaux Claires festival came from the fest’s co-founders, Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner. Encouraged by the natural ease and intuitive bond they felt while sketching musical ideas in early sessions, the Eaux Claires play provided a target of sorts and they seized upon the opportunity to form the band in an official capacity.
Each musician brought their own musical ideas to the rehearsals and the direction toward traditional songs from the British Isles emerged quickly. “I think it’s fair to say we are all inspired by traditional music in different ways,” Mitchell says. “We wanted to rework old songs but not in a ‘research project’ way. The emotions, the feeling of momentousness, the openness—even the chords being in open tuning—we wanted everything to be wide open. It was very healing to delve into these old stories and images that have existed for so long that you can rest in them.”
Add their debut album Bonny Light Horseman which includes an exclusive signed lyric card for just $20!