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Celtic Connections 2023: Bonny Light Horseman

By Elspeth Burdette

Reinventing old folk songs, the trio of established musicians project their chemistry to an ecstatic audience.

Last Sunday, Bonny Light Horseman returned to Celtic Connections for a second time following their festival debut in 2020. The three members who form the core of the group are each well-established musicians in their own right: in addition to her long list of discography, singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell wrote the Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway hit musical, Hadestown, and Eric D. Johnson is best known as the founder of folk-rock band Fruit Bats, who first rose to fame in the 1990s, while multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman has collaborated with just about everyone in the folk music scene, including Taylor Swift. 

In 2018, the three joined forces for a project to rediscover old folk songs and the rest is history: the chemistry was immediate and Bonny Light Horseman was created. Two albums later, their unique experiences, sounds, and combined decades of experience in the music industry has aptly earned them the epithet of “supergroup”. 

Canadian singer-songwriter Cat Clyde opened the show, bravely taking to the stage without a backup band for a solo acoustic set. Her lyrics appeared to genuinely come from the heart and her confidence gradually increased throughout the performance as the audience expressed their support, culminating in an impressive demonstration of her vocal range in her final number, All the Black
Throughout their repertoire, Bonny Light Horseman continues to take the themes and traditions of old folk songs and reinvent them, covering a wide variety of musical genres and catering to a diverse range of age groups. The Celtic Connections show was no exception. Fans of all ages attended the packed venue and sang along to their favourites, as Mitchell and Johnson crooned in flawlessly blended harmonies against a background of acoustic and electric instruments. They effectively maintained the undertones of Anglo-American folk music while weaving new narratives and creating bold textures and patterns with modern instrumentation and perspectives. Overall, Bonny Light Horseman delivered a performance for the books. They pulled out all the stops in their third encore of the evening, as they concluded with their most famous number and namesake, Bonny Light Horseman, to the cheers of the crowd.


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