Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman (Indie Exclusive, Limited Edition, Seaglass Blue Vinyl) – LP
Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman (Indie Exclusive, Limited Edition, Seaglass Blue Vinyl)
From the first chords of the eponymous song “Bonny Light Horseman,” the band’s desire to create emotional intensity in open spaces is clear. Mitchell’s voice rises with a fevered energy over a mournful strum, and the song comes off as a lament that’s at once sad-eyed and hopeful. “Deep in Love” began as a Fruit Bats sketch, but after Kaufman recognized its uncanny (and unplanned) similarity to a certain traditional tune, the song took on new life at the hands of the band. Other numbers like “The Roving” and “Black Waterside” feature newly-written choruses sung in harmony—a fresh take on the typically chorus-less ancient ballad form. “Jane Jane” chimes along with a Johnson/Mitchell call-and-response refrain like some forgotten nursery rhyme; “Lowlands” sees Mitchell’s silvery verses cutting through the instrumental’s understated dynamics; and the record-closing duet “10,000 Miles” balances the sadness of leaving with the warmth of requited love.
Nowhere on Bonny Light Horseman does the music feel staid, or burdened from the too-tight fit of a stuffy Renaissance collar. This is colorful, textured work: a lush and loving ode to the past with one eye fixed on the present. Not once did the band feel burdened by the errand of a too-faithful homage, instead reveling in a sense of freedom to take leaps and liberties as they saw fit.
“The folk singer Martin Carthy once said, ‘You can’t break these songs that are hundreds if not thousands of years old; you’re not gonna hurt them by messing with them,’” Mitchell says. “The songs feel like ours, but they’re not ours. We worked on them and they feel like an authentic expression of us, but we’re also reenacting ritual.”
“This record is about timeless humanity,” Johnson says. “These 500-year-old lyrics are so deeply applicable. ‘The Roving’ could be the plot of an ’80s teen movie: ‘I had a wild summer with this awesome girl then she broke my heart!’ How incredible is it that as humans we still just want to love and have sex and feel sad and fight? It’s ancient music that feels, emotionally, right now. It’s thoroughly modern.”