Celtic Connections: Anaïs Mitchell and Bonny Light Horseman, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Wed 29 Jan
- Megan Forsyth
- 11 February 2020
Two moving sets of folk tales by the the award-winning American folk singer and her new supergroup Bonny Light Horseman
Only a few days before her Celtic Connections show in Glasgow, American singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell was in Los Angeles busy accepting the Grammy Award for 'Best Musical Theatre Album'. Mitchell is best known for her 2010 'folk opera' album Hadestown, based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and which she later adapted into a stage musical. The Broadway production of Hadestown won the 2019 Tony Award for 'Best Musical' and Mitchell also took home the Tony Award for 'Best Original Score'. Now, the indie folk and Americana troubadour has also earned her first-ever Grammy.
As if that wasn't enough, in the same week as her Grammy win, her new folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman released an impressive debut album. The already-acclaimed trio featuring Fruit Bats' frontman Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman (The National, Hiss Golden Messenger) begins the night at Old Fruitmarket with a generous mix of both originals and covers, including their namesake song 'Bonny Light Horseman' and a memorable rendition of Tim Buckley's 'Buzzin' Fly'. Mitchell and Johnson's distinct voices harmonise together seamlessly on numbers like 'Jane Jane' and 'Blackwaterside' and Mitchell later shares that the pair met through social media. 'Finding a good singing partner on Twitter... you don't hear about that very often,' Johnson adds. Reassuring proof that the internet can, in fact, be a good place.
After an intermission, Mitchell returns to perform her solo material with her own band, which also happens to include Kaufman. She runs through songs from her back catalogue including a generous helping of Hadestown numbers which emphasise her talents not just as a songwriter, but as a storyteller. Eric D. Johnson returns to contribute vocals to some songs from her 2012 album Young Man in America, including its title track and 'Wilderlands', as well as yet another Bonny Light Horseman number 'Lowlands'. Mitchell treats the crowd to 'Coming Down', which she admits she has shied away from playing after an unnamed band (ahem, Bon Iver) recorded a stunning piano cover of the song back in 2012.
Following some solo acoustic numbers ('Old Fashioned Hat' at a fan's request and 'Now You Know'), Mitchell invites the band backstage onstage and finishes the night with 'Tailor', Hadestown's powerfully political 'Why We Build the Wall' and finally a folk song mash-up. It's an understated but memorable performance by a true modern day folk talent and her worthy collaborators.
Reviewed at Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow on Wed 29 Jan.