There’s something special about Bonny Light Horseman‘s new double LP Keep Me On Your Mind / See You Free, and something poetic in the transition between the record’s two title tracks. Anaïs Mitchell leads vocals for both; the former is simplistic with guitar, the latter has a free and breezy arrangement. In between the two songs, Bonny Light Horseman demonstrates the process of truly letting go, and the album — released last Friday, June 7th — is breathtakingly complex and as real as it gets.

Folk group Bonny Light Horseman first formed at the 2018 Eaux Claires Festival at the invitation of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Aaron Dressner of The National. The group consists of Anaïs Mitchell, who wrote the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown, Eric D. Johnson of The Shins and Fruit Bats, and Josh Kaufman of The National. The band formally established itself a year later, and their debut album dropped in 2020.

Bonny Light Horseman - I Know You Know (Official Video)

Listening to this album is like stopping to rest at an inn surrounded by the dark woods. The album has an organic feel, with sliding guitar and mandolin plucks in “Rock the Cradle,” and the interspersing of raw audio clips in “think of the royalties, lads.” Another part of that organic element comes from their recording methods. Half of the double album was recorded live at Levis Corner House, a pub in Ballydehob, Ireland. The pub’s upright piano, which the band greased in olive oil to quiet the creaking wood, can be heard throughout many of the LP’s 20 songs.

The vocals in this album are outstanding, with special preference to “Lover Take It Easy,” “Old Dutch,” and “The Clover.” Bonny Light Horseman is fantastic at capturing the feeling of movement in songs. For example, “Over the Pass” feels written to be danced to in a town square with villagers. And “Hare and Hound” has all the charm of a Burl Ives’ folk song, instead executed by this stunning supergroup who knows their sound.

Bonny Light Horseman - Old Dutch (Official Video)

The release of double albums can be thought-provoking: why combine these songs? Surely it’s better to release two separate LPs with their own promos, merch and tours, right? But listening to Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free is going through a familiar emotional journey. Sure, it’s long, and sometimes a little messy. But it’s also beautiful. Listening to the journey from “it’s in somebody else’s arms you’re shelterin’/ keep me on your mind” to “I just wanna see you free” is transformative. Sure, there’s “part of me that aches for you and always will,” but it’s high time to let go and think more on what lies ahead – of “the arms untwined and the eyes unmet…/And how many more times in the time that’s left.”

Bonny Light Horseman will be playing Union Transfer on June 20th. Tickets available via XPN’s Concert Calendar.

Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free is available to buy here.