Bonny Light Horseman

Very much looking forward to this Bonny Light Horseman album. My pre-order is in, two A+ singles are out so far — “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” — and M.C. Taylor has declared it “the best album I’ve heard in years.”

The group is made up of Tony collector Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats, which I’ve been getting to know quite a bit this year), and producer/instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, and they’ve set their collective sights on traditional songs that have been kicking around the British Isles for generations — super exciting if you’re like me and enjoy the conversation between the past and present this kind of album can generate. I love the sense of dimensionality you get from hearing how songs have been interpreted over the years. It’s not about judging or comparing or picking favorite versions. It’s about finding the thread that connects them, and grasping it as a means of revealing how much we have in common with people who lived before us, or who live on the other side of the world.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a couple other versions of “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” I’ve been bouncing back and forth between. I can’t speak to how prominently these renditions sit lineage-wise, but I think you’ll get a kick out of them. In each case, we’ll start with the newest version and work our way backward.

Bonny Light Horseman — “Bonny Light Horseman”

Just stunning. Mitchell singing lead, saxophone adding color throughout by echoing the narrator’s displacement. I’ve listened to this dozens of times. Feels like I’ve always known it.

Siobhan Miller – “Bonny Light Horseman”

Here’s a very nicely captured live version led by Scotland’s Siobhan Miller, who recorded the song for her 2017 album Strata.

Planxty — “The Bonny Light Horseman”

Enjoying this lament but lamenting that it’s not jauntier? Planxty’s got you covered. (Recorded in the late 1970’s, from what I can tell.)

Bonny Light Horseman — “Deep in Love”

Johnson takes the lead here, and what an ideal vehicle this is for his singing. The flexibility and understated expressiveness that distinguish his voice are in full force here. Message and messenger in perfect alignment.

Matt Quinn — “Deep in Love”

An a cappella version from Sussex-based folk singer Matt Quinn. Released in 2017. A great glimpse into the source material BLH pulled from.

Gladys Stone — “Deep in Love”

This one’s for my real folk nerds. I see you over there flipping through the Folkways section, trying to decide whether you need field recordings of seagulls and butter being churned. (You do. We all do.)

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Fiddlin’

Y’all make it out to the Folk Festival this weekend?

Our weekend was packed, but I made it out for two sets I was especially invested in: Petroloukas Halkias and Vasilis Kostas playing traditional Greek music from the Epirus region (the style Christopher C. King focuses on in his book Lament from Epirus), and a performance by the Galax, VA-based Willard Gayheart Family, which included a mini-set from the namesake patriarch’s granddaughter, Dori Freeman. (If you haven’t heard Freeman’s excellent new album Every Single Star, make that the very next thing you treat your ears to.) Both groups were excellent — well worth the hectic micro-scheduling that seeing them required. As a side note, if you happened to see a grown “adult” running in plain clothes around the festival grounds in the neighborhood of noon on Saturday, Sunday, or both, just know that he felt exactly as undignified as he looked, and that he regrets nothing. (Keep an eye out for YHT-branded “Will Run for Folk Music” bumper stickers.)

As luck would have it, we’re zooming toward another opportunity for Richmond-based old-time fans to enjoy the sounds of Galax. Tomorrow (Oct. 15) evening at 7:15, the Byrd Theatre will be showing a new documentary about the Old Fiddler’s Convention, the multi-day competition that brings old-time instrumentalists from all over — and outside — the country to Galax each August. The film is called Fiddlin’, and it’s billed as “a foot-stomping celebration of true Americana and artistic expression.” I’ve never been to the convention myself, though I’ve seen a few clips and spoken to folks who are involved. It’s already on my Virginia music bucket list, and I bet it’ll be a few notches higher after tomorrow. Did I mention Dori Freeman is listed among the Fiddlin’ cast?

The showing is free (presented by JAMinc) and open to the public. Best of all, if you leave your house early enough, you won’t have to run from your car to the theater to catch the start!

Hope to see you there.

 

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Sherman Holmes

If you’ve been reading this here blog for a minute, you know I’m a big fan of the work done by the folks at Overcoast — especially their collaborations with Virginia Tourism. I loved the videos they made with Mighty Joshua and Dharma Bombs, and I’m transfixed this clip featuring singer Sherman Holmes, formerly of the Holmes Brothers Band.

Just vocals and guitar, the tune (I couldn’t find a title — maybe you know what it’s called, dear reader?) unfolds deliberately. In concert with the immeasurable depth of Holmes’ voice, the pacing leaves you hanging on each word, and it provides space for you to envision the details the lyrics describe, like the intricate scene painted in the second verse:

A gilded frame and your picture
A covered lane and your rapture
A crowded room and your laughter
A band of gold on your finger

It’s amazing how a collection of objects — a lyrical still-life — can convey such an affecting sense of time.

If you enjoy the clip, be sure to check out Holmes’ 2017 album The Richmond Sessions, which was recorded at Montrose Studios with the help of an outstanding collection of collaborators, including dobro legend Rob Ickes, Devonne Harris of Butcher Brown, and storied Richmond gospel ensemble the Ingramettes.

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Carl Broemel

Happy 4th of July? I’ll probably say that handful of times today, but this one doesn’t feel so happy. It’s hard to dial the patriotism up to 11 when your country is doing this, and your president is celebrating like this.

I put Carl Broemel’s beautiful and largely subdued 4th of July album on the turntable this morning, thinking that spinning it meant marking the occasion with an appropriate level of exuberance. The cover art certainly hits the mark, with damp coloring and a Statue Of Liberty that registers as distant and off-balance. Still, I didn’t expect to find lyrics that spoke so directly to the current political moment:

So many people are awake in the city
I see ’em walking up and down the road
Think eventually they will be sleeping
Try to find a quiet place to go
But there’s a limited number of spaces
With comfy mattresses and soft pillows
Whether your bed is just a spot on the pavement
Or an apartment on the eighty-fifth floor

You’re gonna end everyday of your life
Lying there in the dark

I’ve always thought “In the Dark” was a very pretty song about insomnia and/or death and/or the way solipsism actually unites us in a weird way. Now it feels like a meditation on conscience — the idea that at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, we all have to reckon with what we’ve done to that point. Maybe that’s a good way to “celebrate” this year’s Independence Day.

(Might I also suggest streaming Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” a few times, or directly supporting the organization to which Apple has pledged two years of “Criminal” royalties?)

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Deau Eyes

We’ve grooved with the Budos Band. Illiterate Light lit up the night. Now it’s very nearly time to say goodbye to the 35th Friday Cheers series, but not before a finale I’ve been looking forward to since this season’s schedule was announced: Lucy Dacus. Deau Eyes. Is it tomorrow yet?

There’s a unique poetry to tomorrow’s lineup that’s worth noting before you head down to Brown’s Island. For starters, this will be Dacus’ second Cheers performance; her first came in 2016 when she opened for Kurt Vile. And while you often hear the word “triumphant” used when artists return to venues they’ve played before, it’s especially fitting here, given the rave reviews she earned last year — both for her Historian album and for the EP she released with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers under the name boygenius — and given that hers is the headlining set this time around.

The lineup is made even more meaningful by the fact that Ali Thibodeau of opening act Deau Eyes was there in the crowd during Dacus’ 2016 show, standing front-and-center and celebrating her friend’s Friday Cheers debut. I recently had the good fortune of speaking with Ali Thibodeau of Deau Eyes for a River City Magazine article, and here’s how she described that moment in relation to this one:

Did you grow up going to Friday Cheers?

I love Friday Cheers. It’s really cool. It’s one of my favorite things that happens in Richmond. I’ve felt really privileged to have been able to have watched my friends up there doing their thing. I know when Lucy played with Kurt Vile, I was in the front row, and was so stoked. My face hurt from smiling the whole time. I feel kind of full circle because it’s definitely somewhere we would go and hang out, around Belle Isle and Brown’s Island and all of that during the summer and stroll into Friday Cheers. I’m thrilled to be a part of it this year. It feels like a real hometown accomplishment.

Thibodeau and I touched on a number of other topics in our conversation, from her upcoming album’s lead single “Paper Stickers” (embedded below) to running a successful Kickstarter campaign and creative control more generally. Click here to check out the full article and here to snag a ticket for the Cheers finale. This show is special, y’all.

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David Shultz & the Skyline

A lot can go wrong when a record is delivered to your house. Loose packaging. Careless handling. Somehow sun and rain are both problematic, which seems wildly unfair, given that those are, like, the two main things weather does.

By contrast, WarHen Records just raised the bar for how right a record delivery can go. A bag of crab chips. A Northern Neck ginger ale. The snazzy new pressing of David Shultz & the Skyline’s 2009 Rain in to the Sea album I preordered after playing it repeatedly via Bandcamp during a long weekend on the Jersey Shore with family. Here’s a shot of everything Mrs. YHT found on the porch in the early morning hours of June 14:

For context, Shultz’s recent show posters have featured a scene nearly identical to the one pictured above:

Just amazing. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of pure delight at seeing that poster come to life. It was a truly indelible moment — something I’ll smile about every time I spin Rain in to the Sea, and not just because I FUCKING LOVE CRAB CHIPS. (They were gone before the weekend was out.) WarHen has always overdelivered when it comes to shipping records, from thank you notes and stickers to bonus downloads. I’m proud to call myself a loyal customer of theirs, and I recommend heading here to pick up one of the last few available copies of Rain in to the Sea. And if you haven’t already, be sure to snag Butcher Brown’s AfroKuti: A Tribute To Fela — another dynamite WarHen release.

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Landon Elliott

It’s happening. My absolute favorite time of year — when Mrs. YHT and I bolt out of work on Fridays; throw the kids, a stroller, and a couple of lawn chairs in the car (except when we forget the lawn chairs, which is more than 50% of the time); and zoom down to Brown’s Island as fast as we can to catch the start of Friday Cheers.

The folks at Venture Richmond are kicking off this season (Cheers’ 35th!) with a humdinger: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real is headlining, with an opening set from standout Richmond artist Landon Elliott. If you’re not familiar with Lukas Nelson, “Find Yourself” could be a good starting point. The band I play in covers the song regularly, and while the lyrics convey romantic dissatisfaction, there’s an infectious bounce to it that makes it a joy to play. And Nelson’s dad is the great Willie Nelson — not crucial for appreciating Lukas’ tunes, but still fun to know.

As for Landon Elliott, I had the good fortune of interviewing him for River City Magazine earlier this year and left that conversation impressed and inspired — by his story, by his strong sense of community, and by the way music is woven throughout his own family’s fabric. A quick snippet I saw as especially meaningful:

Were your parents into music when you were growing up?

My dad and his family are from Ohio, and they all love 1970s and 1980s classic rock and roll. My dad raised me on Journey, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Mötley Crüe. My first concert with my dad was KISS at eight or nine years old. So there’s a ton of rock influence there… My mom loved country music. I remember [her] singing karaoke, and she’d sing at music festivals. We even moved to Nashville for two years and she pursued a music career… She recorded this really beautiful single during her time there, so that’s a gem for our family. I remember being six or seven years old, watching my mom doing the thing and thought it was so cool.

[My grandfather] was a deep-sea fisherman for 30-plus years of his life… the acoustic guitar that I play was the guitar that he took around on his boat. That guitar has been more places than I have. It’s been all the way up [and] around to Alaska and back. He would come home and people would want to see him after these long trips. We’d do these big fish fries at the house and a guitar would inevitably come out at some point and he would sing and play Elvis and Johnny Cash. That was how it all started — watching my family doing it and [thinking] “I could do that.”

Check out the rest of the interview here, and click here for ticket’s to this Friday’s Cheers show. A guaranteed good time for any music-loving family.

 

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