Bonny Light Horseman are Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats), and Josh Kaufman (Craig Finn, Josh Ritter, The National) today announced Bonny Light Horseman’s self titled debut album will be released via 37d03d Records. Produced by Josh Kaufman, Bonny Light Horseman finds the group reimagining and reinterpreting traditional songs and cowriting new ones based loosely on specific sources. The trio also shared their new single, "Deep In Love,” described by the band as “a Fruit Bats sketch, until Kaufman recognized its uncanny (and unplanned) similarity to a traditional tune by that name (it shares some lyrics with ‘Waly Waly’ / ‘The Water Is Wide’). What you hear is the first and only take of the song, recorded in the wee hours of a midwinter’s night at Dreamland Studio in Woodstock, NY.”
The track follows the late July release of Bonny Light Horseman’s self titled debut single, which earned praise from outlets including Rolling Stone (“channeling an ancient ache”), Stereogum (“a traditional folk ballad rendered with a gleaming modern touch”), Paste, and Brooklyn Vegan, among others.
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 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. Encouraged by the natural ease and intuitive bond they felt while sketching musical ideas, the trio 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.”
Following the success of the Wisconsin show, they were invited by Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner’s 37d03d (fka PEOPLE) collective to participate in a week-long artist residency in Berlin. Working at a venue called The Funkhaus, the trio recorded what would become the foundation of the full-length album, featuring fellow artists-in-residence Michael Lewis (bass, saxophone) and JT Bates (drums, percussion) as well as Vernon, Dessner, Kate Stables (of This Is The Kit), Lisa Hannigan, The Staves, Christian Lee Hutson, and more. Leaving Germany with roughly 60-percent of a record, the band reconvened at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, NY, in January 2019 to finish, bringing Lewis and Bates as well as engineer Bella Blasko and mixer D. James Goodwin along with them.
1. Bonny Light Horseman
2. Deep In Love
3. The Roving
4. Jane Jane
6. Magpie’s Nest
8. Mountain Rain
9. Bright Morning Stars
10. 10,000 Miles
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- Albums of The Year 2020