If the self-titled 2020 debut of Bonny Light Horseman (ND interview) seemed like a one-time thing for its singular magic and specialness, the pandemic only reinforced that notion, like it was all just a heavenly mirage. The beloved songs of that first go-round were savored and held close. But the determination of members Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman to reunite had been there from the start when each realized they’d found a home with each other, something they had yet to find in past collaborations. The comfort and ease with which they could ideate and create was a wholly unique opportunity they’d longed for, one that could never be fulfilled with just one album. The follow-up, Rolling Golden Holy, is a manifestation of that longing.
Like its predecessor, Rolling Golden Holy lives in the hazy space between traditional and contemporary folk music, continuing to blur the lines in favor of a resplendent smudge. Each of these original songs, from the hushed tiptoe “Fair Annie” to “Sweetbread” in all its simmering revelry, mine the universal experiences of heartbreak, desire, fear, and hope to transcend a sense of time or place. Johnson and Mitchell, with their uncanny ability to convey breathless romance, meld their equally dreamy vocals so well they almost become one on songs like “Fleur de Lis,” “Exile,” and “Someone to Weep for Me.” A quilt of old texts and fresh ideas (see especially the wartime epic “Comrade Sweetheart”), Rolling Golden Holy finds the group delving deeper into and getting even more dexterous with their now signature collage-style song-making. And as with Bonny Light Horseman, the songs on Rolling Golden Holy feel like they could have existed for centuries, waiting to be discovered in some mystical treasure chest.
Joined again by percussionist JT Bates and bassist Mike Lewis (also on that hint of sax you hear), Bonny Light Horseman is a band in the truest sense, conjuring up their own warm spark each time they reunite.
Bonny Light Horseman’s Rolling Golden Holy is out Oct. 7 on 37d03d Records.