Rolling Golden Holy by Bonny Light Horseman Album Review by Greg Walker for Northern Transmissions


Rolling Golden Holy

Bonny Light Horseman

Supergroup Bonny Light Horseman appeared on the scene in 2020 with the help of Justin Vernon’s label (37d03d) and festival (Eaux Claire), when Anaïs Mitchell, Fruit Bats’ singer Eric D Johnson, and the National’s Josh Kaufman, decided to take century-old folk tunes and put their seasoned spin on them—editing the tunes at times to meet us moderners where we were. It was received with critical acclaim, because of its unparalleled vocal prowess and its beautiful capture of old time folk, in a way people of today could be moved by and understand.

On their latest offering, in a brave turn, they decided that instead of continuing the successful arc of remaking old songs, they would write their own, yearning-to-be-classic tunes: what they call a meeting of traditional and modern folk music. And while at times, they err on the side of modern sentimentalism in sound, (think Of Monsters and Men or Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes—a comparison that is still flattering, when it comes to writing resonant, hit songs,) their lyrics and arrangements all accomplish the praise-worthy task of sounding timeless and true.

Incorporating, like their last offering, the biblical, the ballad, and the tall tale, it taps into the folk tradition in way that much modern folk does not—while adding modern touches, like Mitchell singing to a long-haired lover or dedicating a song about the “land of plenty” to California. The October release date is fitting, as songs on the album recall sweet summer love (“Summer Dream”) and fading fascination (“Gone By Fall”), and the album closes with “Cold Rain and Snow.”

One of the sweetest love songs that I have ever heard adorns the album, Comrade Sweetheart, which is a brilliant capture of some of the progressive leanings toward Socialist ideology, while documenting a faithful (if complicated) love, fit for the story books. “Who’s gonna lace up your boots? / Who? No other lover but you / Who’s gonna loosen my braid? / Who? No other lover but me.” And it captures one of the highlights of the album, Johnson’s and Mitchell’s amazing vocal chemistry.

Overall, it is, in my opinion, a bigger success then their debut album, particularly because they took the risk of writing their own tunes and delivering on their folk classic promise. Rolling Golden Holy is a perfect title, with the classic and modern folk feel of these songs, and I think any listener who came upon this album, without knowing it was originals, might easily mistake the songs for classics written many moons ago. It is folk music of the highest caliber, and we’re lucky for this super group’s wonderful synergy and creative bravery.

Order Rolling Golden Holy by Bonnie Light Horseman HERE


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