Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy Music Album Reviews

Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy Music Album Reviews
On their second album as a trio, Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman build fresh narratives from the fabled history of folk music.

On Bonny Light Horseman’s 2020 self-titled debut, singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats), and producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman moved their modern weft across the warp of folk traditions past. Borrowing pieces from old-time songs, their interplay between convention and innovation could have ended as a one-off project, especially after the collaboration earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. But the kismet of their creative commune seemed too good not to keep exploring, so they set about writing original songs. Their second album, Rolling Golden Holy, imagines what contemporary stories might look like when framed in the Anglo-American folk tradition. Entwining themes from broadsides and British ballads, musical styles from Appalachia, and touches of modern production, they deliver new tales, new colors, and new patterns.

In 1957, folk scholar George Malcolm Laws classified broadside ballads into topics like “Lovers’ Disguises and Tricks,” “Faithful Lovers,” and “Unfaithful Lovers.” While these categories apply to plenty of genres, Bonny Light Horseman delight in building fresh narratives from the fabled history of folk music. The duet “Comrade Sweetheart” evokes an early 20th century setting, when the blue-collar struggle for justice made its way into songs from Woody Guthrie and later Pete Seeger. Johnson and Mitchell pledge their love and fidelity, promising to care for one another in their fight for larger causes.

The songs on Rolling Golden Holy trace a variety of love stories, with Mitchell and Johnson trading off leads like they do perspectives. “Gone by Fall” reflects on love that will end when the seasons change. The song’s brightly plucked guitar contrasts the sorrow ruminating at its center. Johnson takes lead vocals, while Mitchell’s soft touches add flourishes of nostalgic sweetness, as though the present were already a potent memory. “Exile” declares grandiose passions in an effort to win back a lover. Johnson’s and Mitchell’s voices plait in and around one another. “You know I’d fly right into the eye of the hurricane for you,” they sing against a fluttering banjo, while Mike Lewis’ bass and JT Bates’ drums juxtapose that soaring interplay with a grounded heft.

Johnson’s rollicking banjo and Lewis’ saxophone begin the joyous “Sweetbread,” in which Mitchell defiantly shuns a wild-hearted lover who won’t commit. Instead, she imagines a satisfying independence. “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,” she sings euphorically with Johnson backing her. In an updated version of Anthology of American Folk, Harry Smith might well apply one of his famous descriptions: “SELF-SUFFICIENT WOMAN LETS GO OF NE’ER DO WELL; VOWS TO EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY.”

Not all of the compositions work so seamlessly. “Fleur de Lis” calls to mind a lineage of ballads that employ nature as a metaphor, like “The Fair Flower of Northumberland” or “The Rose of England.” A beating synth and electric guitar scaffold the nestled dulcimer, but the song ends up curling around itself, leaning too heavily on folk’s repetitive patterns for an ultimately staid effect. It detracts from the album’s compelling momentum, feeling closer to a loose stitch. Mitchell, Johnson, and Kaufman may have started with a fascination for certain traditions, but it’s their collaboration—and the potent exchange of those talents—that makes Rolling Golden Holy gleam.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy Music Album Reviews Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 21, 2022 Rating: 5


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