Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman

Bonny Light Horseman

Bonny Light Horseman

2020 – Folk


Bonny Light Horseman is a very unique and beautiful album and an incredible experience, even for those who are not used to this type of music

The connections of folk and traditional songs are something extremely strong for the group Bonny Light Horseman. The timeless feelings of the songs transcend the spirits to a new ancestral level. These feelings made the three friends: Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman come together for a new and incredible project. First, Mitchell, a songwriter and singer, and multi-instrumentalist Kaufman teamed up to revisit old folk songs, soon after, Johnson heard the idea and felt he could play an important role in the project. The union of the three merged in a perfect way.

At the first listening, Bonny Light Horseman may seem an extremely cohesive project where the tracks don’t have their own personality. But as we give more time to the project, the songs turn from short stories about historical heroes, seas and skies, domestic scenes and romantic tales. The tracks use historical metaphors nowadays, to retell facts and events with a fantasy tone. The lyrics, which are built in the midst of guitars and flying pianos that seem to be passing through the wind, are classic poems from literature and popular teaching, talking about Napoleon and gardens.

The first track, which starts with a guitar and harmonica that sounds in a spiritual, deep and unique way, uses the name of Napoleon Bonaparte to talk about the broken heart: “Oh, Napoleon Bonaparte, you’re the cause of my woe / Since my bonny light horseman in the war, he did go / Broken-hearted I’ll wander, broken-hearted I’ll remain / Since my bonny light horseman in the war, he was slain”. One of the best album openings, not only for the instrumental, that in addition to sounding deep and beautiful, was built in layers and is able to represent the whole vibe they wanted, but also for the lyrics that can sound like a song or a popular saying. And also, in addition to having numerous similarities with English and Irish music.

In the next track, “Deep In Love”, a more acoustic vibe is approached as an incredible vocal performance that sounds beautifully true, especially in the chorus, where the singer asks for mercy: “Don’t you break my heart”. The instruments move away to the plains in “The Roving”. The story, which according to Eric could have been a teenage film from the 80s, gradually contracts over the course of a summer and drinks: when we go deeper into the track, the vocal performance of the singer gets deeper. In “Jane Jane”, the trio completely changed a gospel song. It kept a structure of an old song for children and the biblical and moral meanings but it broke with the early boredom of the track and made it interesting by placing a shiny guitar that working in a crescendo as the intensity of the track increases.

The cover of “Blackwaterside” sounds better, conveying the feelings of the original track to a totally beautiful duet, filled with guitars, pianos and even synthesizers that sound like omnipresent spirits throughout story full of false promises. In “Magpie’s Nest” we have flying guitars, cymbals and shy idiophone in the background: the idealization of the pastoral novel seems to come straight from a classic book of literature. “Lowlands” shows a mysterious and unreachable dream about a love that, regardless of everything, remains lovable. The track is very repetitive, but it doesn’t really bother me so much.

“Mountain Rain” represents a voice for workers: “Down around the bend, where the West Virginian / Hammer in the morning, hammer in the mountain rain / John had a night down here, died with it in his hand / Never did see the light, light at the tunnel’s end, light at the tunnel’s end”. The track sounds very calm and unique, the singer’s voice seems to understand all the suffocation that the union hates. “Bright Morning Stars” is a beautiful track. The vocals seem to come from the depths of the performers’ soul to talk about mortality. “10,000 Miles” sounds dancingly sad, talking about the unwavering desire for the beloved.

In the end, the album sounds beautifully unique and true. The combination of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman was really perfect. The tracks are built and structured in old sayings, old books of literature and deep feelings. The instruments, despite not showing such a wide range, can sound unique in each track, although sometimes, at the end of the album, they sound a little sickening because they are very similar. But despite the regrets, it is a very unique and beautiful album and an incredible experience, even for those who are not used to this type of music

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