With the wind of a stunning new double album in their sails, Bonny Light Horseman captivated Union Transfer last week with their singular blend of traditional folk, indie singer-songwriter storytelling, and expansive psychedelia.

The band is a collaboration of Anaïs Mitchell – known for, besides her own work, being the writer of the smash musical Hadestown – as well as Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats and The Shins, and Josh Kaufman (a sideman who has played with The National, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Josh Ritter). Initially, the three got together at Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires Festival to perform songs from the British folk canon, covers that made their way onto the band’s self-titled debut. But getting three world-class songwriters together, they’ll eventually begin working on songs as a unit.

That’s what happened on the band’s 2022 followup Rolling Golden Holy, and and on their Jagjaguwar debut, this year’s Keep Me on Your Mind/See You Free, they are in top form. (You can read a read a review of that album here.)

Bonny Light Horseman | photo by Elie Pichanick for WXPN

At Union Transfer, the band sublimely showcased the new record: you could barely hear a peep out of the room when Mitchell took lead on “Speak To Me Music,” and she traded vocals with Johnson on a rousing “I Know You Know.” Kaufman largely stayed in the shadows, flexing his multi-instrumental chops, but he stepped out to take lead on the simmering singalong “Rock The Cradle.”

The band gave the album’s “Don’t Know Why You Move Me” its live debut — one of the perks, or maybe drawbacks, of a double album with a long tracklist is that you’re playing some of its selections for the first time well into your tour.

The set also showcased the band’s back catalog, from the traditional “Blackwaterside” from their debut to an outtake cover of Dave Van Ronk’s “Green Green Rocky Road,” Rolling‘s “Fleur de Lis” and “Comrade Sweetheart,” and more.

The band’s principal players were backed by J.T. Bates on Drums and Kevin Austin on bass. Bates also played a rootsy opening set with Alpha Consumer, whose saxophone player Mike Lewis guested on several Bonny Light Horseman songs for optimal collaborative magic. Check out photos from the show below by Elie Pichanick; Bonny Light Horseman’s tour continues July 11th at Winnipeg Folk Festival, full dates can be found at their website.

Bonny Light Horseman | photo by Elie Pichanick for WXPN

Bonny Light Horseman | photo by Elie Pichanick for WXPN

Alpha Consumer | photo by Elie Pichanick for WXPN

Bonny Light Horseman
Union Transfer
  • The Roving
  • Exile
  • Blackwaterside
  • Hare and Hound
  • Comrade Sweetheart
  • Green Green Rocky Road
  • Speak To Me Muse
  • Rock The Cradle
  • Fleur de Lis
  • Jane Jane
  • Your Arms (All the Time)
  • Don't Know Why You Move Me
  • When I Was Younger
  • Lover Take It Easy
  • Deep In Love
  • Bonny Light Horseman
  • I Know That You Know
  • California
  • Magpie's Nest
  • Sweetbread