Oct 18, 2022
By Michael James Hall
Bonny Light Horseman’s 2020-released self-titled debut was a Grammy nominated set of traditional British folk songs reworked with splashes of original melody, lyrics, and instrumentation, or as they put it, “a co-write with the traditional.”
Here the trio have shifted their approach to create an album of originals that shine and shimmer like a woozy summer afternoon. Anaïs Mitchell, creator of hit Broadway musical Hadestown, intermingles her wistful, smoky voice with that of Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson. His vocals, choirboy sweet, lucent as a lion’s roar, are perfectly accompanied by Josh Kaufman, the former National and Hold Steady collaborator, whose playing, arrangements, and production form the rich soil in which these sunflowers grow.
Themes of departure and change run through the memorable “California” (“Seems like as good a time as any/To be leaving the land of plenty”), the lachrymose “Gone by Fall” (“Our love is fleeting, our love’s flying away”), and among the atmospheric harmonies of “Fair Annie” (“So long, my Annie, I’m gone/For a year and a day”).
There’s a soft sadness living in these songs. “Cold Rain and Snow,” redolent of Neil Young at his folkiest, asks, “Waiting on the children/In the cold rain and snow/Where we gonna go?” Meanwhile, “Someone to Weep For Me” dolefully declares, “I was named after my father/In a long line of nobodies” over tenderly picked notes.
The honey haze of banjo, nylon string guitar, and piano, though, accentuate the underlying passion and hope raised on radiant opener “Exile” and the rowdy “Sweetbread,” the latter featuring the luminous saxophone of Bon Iver regular Mike Lewis.
It’s a sweet embrace of an album that, even as it whispers to you it’s loss and longing, props you up with a caring and kindly hand. (www.bonnylighthorseman.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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