Named for a character from J.R.R. Tolkien, Bombadil takes the idea of fantasy to heart in their music. They lead the listener on a aural journey in a way that few bands do. In the same way that fantasy combines the past with futuristic sensibilities, Bombadil has found that same slightly odd balance in their music.
This Durham, NC based ensemble creates a sound that consistently embodies a child-like innocence in a similar way that Brian Wilson did on Pet Sounds. However, Bombadil eshews California pop in favor of acoustic folk. Maybe the best comparison would be the solo work of Ronnie Lane. After leaving the Faces, Lane created a series of joyous sounding records based on the folk sounds of the British Isles.
A Buzz, a Buzz brings together those same British influences but through a Carolina mountain lens. Boisterous would be the best way to describe Bombadil's approach. Horns mix acoustic instruments, with a little toy piano thrown in for good measure. If you took the Pogues out of their normal pub crawl and stuck them up in the Appalachians for a month or so, you might just about approximate Bombadil.
Buzz starts easily enough with Trip Out West. The song has a earnest sense of searching and reaching towards the intersection of the past, the future, and the unknown. Julian of Norwich follows and its spirit makes you want to raise your glass of spirits and sing along. Smile When You Kiss and Rosetta Stone continue the celebratory nature of the journey.
Three Saddest Words, the title track, and One Two Three bring a more reflective mood into play showing that Bombadil is no one trick pony. Shifting gears can be hard, but they pull it off seamlessly. By the time they to final track, Get to Gettin On, you've been swept up, left slightly worn out, but ready to sing along in what feels like the twilight of the day.
This kind of sonic mayhem doesn't happen by accident. Bombadil creates accomplished arrangements marked by great playing. In the process, they have concocted some of the best ear candy in a long while.
Ronnie Lane would be proud to know that there are a few adherents to his rambuntious style out there still.
- Jim Markel