An established folk standout and a recently formed folk supergroup make tracks for Vermont this week.
Roots masters the Wood Brothers play the Flynn Center Thursday, while Bonny Light Horseman — a new trio featuring Vermont singer-songwriter extraordinaire Anaïs Mitchell, who on Sunday took home a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for “Hadestown” — settles into the Higher Ground Ballroom Feb. 8.
The two groups will have brand new albums in tow, both of which were released last week. Here’s a closer look at the artists.
Thursday: The Wood Brothers, Kat WrightCalled “masters of soulful folk” by Paste, celebrated roots trio the Wood Brothers headline at the Flynn Center in support of their stellar new album, “Kingdom in My Mind.” Released last week, the album is the band’s seventh studio release and a follow-up to 2018’s “One Drop of Truth,” which garnered the group its first Grammy Award nomination for Best Americana Album.
Recorded over a series of freewheeling sessions at their new Nashville recording studio/rehearsal space, the loose and rollicking collection of tunes is quite possibly one of the band’s best sets to date.
“We were just improvising and letting the music dictate everything,” says singer and guitarist Oliver Wood (King Johnson), who is joined in the group by his brother, bassist Chris Wood (Medeski Martin & Wood), and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. “With these sessions, we were just reacting to each other and having fun in the moment.”
“My brother came to this band from the blues and gospel world,” says Chris Wood, “and my history was all over the map with jazz and R&B. The idea for this group has always been to marry our backgrounds, to imagine what might happen if Robert Johnson and Charles Mingus had started a band.”
American Songwriter called the album “arguably the band’s finest work,” adding: “Crafting material this new way has yielded not just one of the Wood Brothers’ best sets, but one they enjoyed the process of creating, which is evident in the joyful/vibrant groove of these songs.”
Opening the show is standout Burlington-based singer Kat Wright, performing as a trio with bandmates Bob Wagner on guitar and Josh Weinstein on bass. Wright is currently working on a much-anticipated follow-up to her lauded 2016 debut album, “By My Side.” The album, which is being produced by Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce, Tedeschi Trucks Band), is scheduled for release later this year.
The Wood Brothers and opener Kat Wright perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6 at Flynn Center, Burlington (Higher Ground Presents). Tickets are $36.25-$52.25 in advance, $3 more day of show; call 802-863-5966 or go online to www.flynntix.org.
Feb. 8: Bonny Light HorsemanBonny Light Horseman is a new indie-folk “supergroup” featuring singular Vermont singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell along with Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman (The National, Hiss Golden Messenger).
Formed last year following a performance at the 2018 Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin, at the invitation of festival cofounders Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner of the National, the premise of the project involves putting a new spin on traditional folk songs from the British Isles.
Following the success of the Wisconsin show, Vernon and Dessner invited Mitchell, Johnson and Kaufman to participate in a weeklong residency at their Berlin, Germany-based artist collective 37d03d, where the trio laid down much of the album with Vernon, Dessner and other artists-in-residence.
The group’s gorgeous, eponymous debut album was released last week on 37d03d, an open-access streaming service — or “publishing platform,” as they call it — that Vernon, Dessner and his brother, bandmate Bryce Dessner, launched in 2018. The collective, the name of which represents the word “people” upside down (as in, “people turning things upside down”), describes itself as “a steadily growing group of artists, freely creating and sharing our work with each other and everyone.”
“We wanted to rework old songs, but not in a ‘research project’ way,” says Mitchell of the group in press materials. “The emotions, the feeling of momentousness, the openness … we wanted everything to be wide open.”
“This is classic folk that shimmers with a vitality and determination so hypnotic and cohesive, it seems like they wrote these selections themselves,” said American Songwriter.
And Paste said, “The folk event of the year could already be upon us,” calling the album “truly spellbinding” and “a folk album whose influences span the centuries and the continents, but whose core is so very of-this-moment.”
Rising Nashville indie-folk singer-songwriter Erin Rae opens the show in support of her acclaimed 2018 sophomore album, “Putting on Airs.”
Bonny Light Horseman and opener Erin Rae perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at Higher Ground Ballroom, S. Burlington. Tickets are $25 advance, $28 day of show (all ages); call 877-987-6487 or go online to www.highergroundmusic.com.