Album Review: Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman

While singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell has devoted the majority of her time as the creator of Tony Award-winning musical ‘Hadestown’, based on her stunning 2010 album, Mitchell has also been cooking up an indie-folk side project with Josh Kaufman (Josh Ritter, Hiss Golden Messenger) and Eric Johnson.

The self-titled debut album opens with the title track track and immediately listeners are hooked in with Anais’ Joni Mitchell-esque vocals and singer/songwriter acoustic style. The song delivers a very peaceful and easy-feeling way to open up a record. ‘Deep In Love’ continues the dark folk vibe onto track two of the album, as fierce strumming of a lower-tuned guitar highlight the track. This grunge/garage rock vibe matches Mitchell’s raw, edgy folk vocals quite perfectly.

On ‘The Roving’, more full band colors start to give the music more life. The steady drumbeat on this track provides an energetic pulse that keeps the listener intrigued throughout the entire song. The next song, ‘Jane Jane’, gets its powerful catchiness with its nursery rhyme hook vibe that makes listeners want to learn the words and sing and dance along. The backup vocals on this song are also an important part of the call and answer vibe of the structure that helps make the song so good.

The softer acoustic energy returns for ‘Blackwaterside’ as Mitchell’s beautiful vocals continue to soothe her listeners. There’s more than an airy, raw folk in her voice. There’s an unmatched, soft-rock, jazz element too that gives her songs such boldness and likeability. ‘Magpies Nest’ is the winner for me on this album, as it instantly becomes the most memorable song on the album. Vocal harmonies are a major importance on keeping fans hooked and this track is a perfect example.

‘Lowlands’ follows with more of Mitchell’s rich and airy melodies. The banjo on this song makes it more exciting and adds a lot of soul and depth to the music. Next is ‘Mountain Rain’ which begins with a gorgeous acoustic guitar riff that brings the Allman Brothers’ acoustic song ‘Little Martha’ to mind. ‘Mountain Rain’ is more than just a pretty guitar riff as it goes on with beautiful lyrics and song structure.

Track nine ‘Bright Morning Stars’ features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on vocals. Vernon’s vocals match well with Mitchell’s because both lingering melodies make the listener want to hear even more soul and honesty than they’re already getting. When they harmonize at the end, I’m sure you’ll have a brain frying moment just like the rest of us.

To close the album, Bonny Light Horseman presents ‘10,000 Miles’, another folk tune that sets up the proper vibe and mood for Mitchell to really ring out her booming beautiful vocals. We are really excited to see them live at Rough Trade NYC on 2/6!

Scott J. Herman


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