Release Date: Jan 24, 2020
Record label: 37d03d
It’s been 10 years since Anaïs Mitchell released Hadestown, an album that somehow took on a life of its own. Mitchell developed her work into a stage musical, which debuted off-Broadway in 2016 and enjoyed a wildly successful run at London’s National Theatre in 2018 before moving to Broadway last year, whereupon it was festooned with awards. One of the pleasing after-effects of a successful project like Hadestown is its bestowing of freedom upon the artist to choose what comes next.
Bonny Light Horseman formed casually, like a front-porch jam. Fruit Bats singer Eric D. Johnson heard that his friends--veteran multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman and singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell--were getting together to revisit ancient folk songs. He asked to sit in on the experiment, and the chemistry was instant.
Your standard indie-folk fare from a collective of musical minds that is capable of so much more. Any time a band is introduced as a so-called "supergroup", bells and whistles go off in my head. While each instance varies, these bands tend to play it irritatingly safe - and you don't need to venture far back on the musical timeline to find Boygenius or Better Oblivion Community Center standing front-and-center as prime examples. Enter Bonny Light Horseman, a folk singer-songwriter outfit comprised of Josh Kaufman (The National, Hiss Golden Messenger), Eric D.
Photo by Nolan Knight As a song, "Bonny Light Horseman" dates back to the Napoleonic Wars. As a band, this joining of Hadestown folk phenom Anais Mitchell, Fruit Bats leader Eric D. Johnson and producer/everything-player Josh Kaufman originated just a couple of years ago at the 2018 Eaux Claires Festival. After playing there, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and the National's Aaron Dessner invited the trio to Berlin for a weeklong residency where they laid down the bones of these sophisticated traditional folk songs.