The Highwomen weren’t the only supergroup to debut at this past weekend’s Newport Folk Festival. Also appearing for the first time were Bonny Light Horseman, a trio comprising Anaïs Mitchell (the brains behind Broadway sensation Hadestown), Eric Johnson (the leader of longtime indie rock mainstay Fruit Bats), and Josh Kaufman (who has collaborated with the likes of Craig Finn, the National, and Josh Ritter). Today the group shares its first single, also called “Bonny Light Horseman.”
The song is a traditional folk ballad rendered with a gleaming modern touch. Aaron Dessner contributes hi string guitar, as do other associates from his sphere, JT Bates (Big Red Machine, Phil Cook) on drums and Michael Lewis (Bon Iver) on tenor sax. It makes sense given that Bonny Light Horseman emerged from a 37d03d residency at Dessner and Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claire festival in 2018. I guess that event’s first-time band practice vibe, while not too satisfying for those in attendance, is paying long-term dividends.
In the YouTube description, Johnson explains, “This is a song about a handsome soldier who may or may not ever come home. And we named our band after it not just because it sounds kind of cool, but because it’s somewhat emblematic of what we’re trying to do here: sing you ancient love songs of timeless humanity and heartbreak. Songs that are gonna make you feel something no matter what century you’re in.”
Hear “Bonny Light Horseman” below, where you can also find the band’s tour dates.
08/01 – Happy Valley, OR @ Pickathon
08/03 – Happy Valley, OR @ Pickathon
09/03 – Evanston, IL @ SPACE
09/04 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Frederik Meijer Gardens*
09/05 – Indianapolis, IN @ LO-FI
09/06 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium*
* supporting Mandolin Orange
More info on Bonny Light Horseman’s debut album is supposedly coming soon.