Bombadil- Beautiful Country
Bombadil- I’ll confess to not knowing much about this band and further admit that I don’t listen to much “pop” music these days (in the sense of sweet songs that focus on harmonies and catchy hooks). I’ll also acknowledge that I really like this record—these guys are extremely accomplished—gorgeous harmonies, upbeat folk/ pop tunes and a recording that conveys enormously well- from deep bass and drum sounds to the tickle of plucked strings, the staging of the voices and handclaps.
I mentioned in my “Incoming” snapshot that this Bombadil record reminds me of Simon & Garkfunkel and I’m sticking with that as a quick descriptor–though this is more countrified, and more traditional in instrumentation and style, it’s got that “sound” which made lifelong fans of that famous duo.
At first, I thought I was going to hear a traditional cover of one of Stephen Foster’s most famous songs, until I cued it up and then looked at the title- “Oh Suzanne.” Not your great-great grandfather’s folk or traditional Americana. This is sweet harmonizing and some dazzling instrumentation, recorded in such a way that it grabs your attention instantly.
“Pillows and Prine” has a simple beauty reminiscent of the great songwriting of John Prine.
“Goodwill Socks” is upbeat and sweet despite its lyric about being cast off.
The track that really took me on the first side was “Wisconsin Wedding,” a little darker and slower than what precedes. There’s a rattling snap of strings on the guitar and the harmonies overlay a really nice melody.
The side finishes with “Faces,” which begins with clear piano tones that sparkle and have that heft characteristic of a real piano. The arrangement is uncomplicated and allows you to hear to the vocal and instrumental parts as life like. (For sound-hounds, there’s a fair amount of “air” or space between and among the instruments and voices that adds to the realism).
The flip side begins with “The Man That Loves You,” a countrified jaunt with chorus and a shuffle. This is less “folk” and more “pop” to my ears.
“On a Seashore” is a short track, with an Asian plucked string sound opening to a solo voice that is eventually joined by the guest artist, Kate Rhudy, in a beautiful harmony.
“Feather Thief”- more warm harmonies in the folk vein, some great textured background instruments and drum, a very complete song, compositionally, with some great hooks.
“Girl on a Kite”- another short track, a sepia-toned instrumental of strumming that conjures up the hills and increases pace to take on the quality of a folk dance.
The title track is a wonderful folk ballad full of instrumentation and harmony.
The album finishes with “The Real Thing,” with nice minor shifts and uplifting vocal parts, simple instrument parts and rhythms, and is ultimately a very satisfying piece of music that brings the assembly of pieces to a close.
All of the basic tracks were recorded to tape (drums, bass, guitar and keyboards). Overdubs and vocal parts were recorded digitally. Various instruments, running the gamut from boxes and mango pits, to baritone guitars and drum machine sounds were added during this production phase guided by the inventive hand of Scott Solter. The results are impressive without sounding “over-produced.”
The record is pressed at QRP and was dead quiet, tracked smoothly and sounded wonderful. It’s a very good recording, with quiet passages that demand a decent pressing. Ramseur Records is building an impressive catalog of folk, bluegrass and country sounds, from traditional to modern. This is a wonderful addition to the label’s offerings.
There is something very endearing about these guys. You read the liner notes (on a freestanding insert) and are reminded that people aren’t cynical by nature and can speak freely about their enjoyment and desire of simple beauty. I gather that the songs were collected from a few years of writing and that the members of Bombadil have changed over the years. Word is, they put on a great show. Here’s their site, which includes a tour calendar:
One statement in the liner notes caught my eye—that 99% of the music most people hear doesn’t engage them, and that only 1% does—and musicians thus face an uphill battle to capture ears and listeners. That may be; I don’t know that you can quantify it, but my goal these last several years has been to expand the world of music I listen to, both to better understand it and to widen my perspective. If I have extended my ear/brain/heart from 1 to 2% to embrace more different music in my diet, I’d surely include Bombadil.