185 Clingman Ave. Asheville, NC 28801
– ALL AGES
– SEATED SHOW
– AT ASHEVILLE MASONIC TEMPLE
By the time Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Eric D. Johnson first convened as Bonny Light Horseman in 2018, each member already had the kind of career about which they once only dreamed. Mitchell, for instance, had made a string of fetching albums at the vanguard of modern folk songcraft, even before her musical Hadestown became a Broadway runaway. As a producer and multi-instrumentalist, Kaufman had worked with a dazzling array of heroes and peers, from Bob Weir and The National to The War on Drugs and Josh Ritter. And for nearly a quarter-century, Johnson had penned intricate indie pop as Fruit Bats. But Mitchell had never been in any band that wasn’t playing only her songs. Johnson had long been focused only on his band (assorted collaborations like The Shins notwithstanding), its sole constant member. And Kaufman largely worked to enhance the visions and hopes of others’ bands. Bonny Light Horseman the band, then, offered that very rare adult opportunity—to learn something new with new friends, with a safety net waiting beneath as needed.
No net, of course, would prove necessary: Bonny Light Horseman’s self-titled 2020 debut was a modern folk masterclass, with the trio reimagining centuries-old transatlantic standards with effortless grace and endless wonder. Perfect timing for the trio or perfect chemistry among its members? Who’s to say, really? Yes? Either way, those GRAMMY-nominated, list-topping recordings not only suggested renewed possibilities for aging songbooks but also marked the arrival of a trio fully capable of reorienting the wider folk landscape.
Still, if Bonny Light Horseman felt at all like the work of some short-lived supergroup or a one-off diversion (it never was), Rolling Golden Holy rebuffs the notion with preternatural beauty, charm, and imagination. These 11 songs—all originals, written and realized by the trio as a whole—follow the paths of the traditional tunes the band cherishes to new musical and lyrical frontiers, and give the sounds and situations of history the gravity and shape of now. Rolling Golden Holy confirms that Bonny Light Horseman is not a project but a band, and one presently working at the forefront of modern American folk.
Joan Shelley is a songwriter and singer who lives near Louisville, Ky., not far from where she grew up. She draws inspiration from traditional and traditionally-minded performers from her native Kentucky, as well as those from Ireland, Scotland, and England, but she’s not a folksinger. Her disposition aligns more closely with that of, say, Roger Miller, Dolly Parton, or her fellow Kentuckian Tom T. Hall, who once explained—simply, succinctly, in a song—“I Witness Life.”
Shelley has crossed the country and toured Europe several times as a headlining artist, typically with guitarist Nathan Salsburg, and sharing shows with the likes of Jake Xerxes Fussell, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, The Other Years, and Michael Hurley. She has opened for Wilco, Chris Smither, Patty Griffin, Andrew Bird and Richard Thompson and has appeared as a guest on WTF with Marc Maron, Fresh Air and Later… with Jools Holland. Her new album The Spur was released in June 2022.