Bonny Light Horseman: Rolling Golden Holy review – new old-style songs from Anaïs Mitchell and co

(37d03d)
The American folk trio’s second album keeps tradition alive with 10 newly minted originals

A collection heavy on lovingly updated folk traditionals, Bonny Light Horseman’s eponymous, Grammy-nominated 2020 debut was an unalloyed pleasure, on a par with offerings from Jake Xerxes Fussell or Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. The three constituent parts of Bonny Light Horseman also run busy parallel careers; in 2019, Anaïs Mitchell’s took off with the Broadway transfer of her musical, Hadestown. Enticingly, Rolling Golden Holy reconvenes Mitchell, Eric D Johnson and multi-instrumentalist/arranger Josh Kaufman. This time, though, instead of reinterpreting canonical songs, they’ve written 10 of their own.

A cursory glance at the titles – Fair Annie, Fleur de Lis – confirms that these are still in the British folk idiom; beguiling three-way vocals and elegantly underplayed acoustic instruments still hold sway. But part of the pleasure of covers albums is comparing the original with the nuanced update; this album misses that moment when the three Horsepeople wrap their dulcet pipes and jazzy arrangements around an ancient, oaky institution. The past, though, is still very much present. A listen to the sax’n’banjo stomp Sweetbread reveals a nod to the country standard Rye Whiskey; Someone to Weep for Me invokes Nearer My God to Thee. The intention is to renew the tradition. And if much of the pleasure of BLH’s debut lay in their impressionistic atmospherics, the way Mitchell’s vocal twined around Johnson’s, those qualities abide.

Listen to Someone to Weep for Me by Bonny Light Horseman.

Contributor

Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sumie: Lost in Light review – oddly beautiful but wilfully wan
(Bella Union)

Emily Mackay

12, Nov, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Gillian Welch: Boots No 2: The Lost Songs, Vol 3 review – more riches after the flood
This final instalment of unpublished gems from Welch and David Rawlings doesn’t disappoint

Kitty Empire

15, Nov, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
Conor Oberst: Salutations review – sprawling companion to Ruminations
(Nonesuch)

Phil Mongredien

19, Mar, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Henry Jamison: The Wilds review – an unshowy, literate gem
(Akira)

Kitty Empire

29, Oct, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Joan Shelley: The Spur review – timeless and vital Americana
Pretty but unsentimental reflections on putting down roots inform the singer-songwriter’s elegant seventh album

Kitty Empire

26, Jun, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
The Willows: Through the Wild review – polished Anglo-Americana folk
(Elk Records)

Neil Spencer

23, Dec, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
caroline review – a heady, up-close gig for our fractured times
The south London band’s mix of loud-quiet folk-rock and drone instrumentals is transformed live into a bewitching exercise in musical brinkmanship

Kitty Empire

09, Apr, 2022 @1:00 PM

Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer: Child Ballads – review
Mitchell and Hamer deliver some famous Child ballads straight up, with a transatlantic twist, writes Neil Spencer

Neil Spencer

03, Feb, 2013 @12:05 AM

Article image
Ian Noe: River Fools & Mountain Saints review – a more genial, but still gritty, Appalachia
Grainy voiced Ian Noe has broadened his musical palette with his second album, but the story is still blue-collar Kentucky

Neil Spencer

19, Mar, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
Trippers & Askers: Acorn review – delicate, literate Americana
This US collective impress with a subtle, ambient debut inspired by Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower

Neil Spencer

31, Jul, 2021 @3:00 PM