Archive for the Bombadil Category

Weekend YouTube: Best of 2009

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Scott Miller, Shane Nicholson on December 11, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time of year again… time to make my year end “Best of” list.  I should start rolling out my Top 20 list sometime over the coming week.

Until then, you can go back and read up on my favorite releases of 2009, and relive some of that music with the following YouTube clips…

#1 – Noble Beasts by Andrew Bird

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by Band of Heathens

#3 – Tarpits & Canyonlands by Bombadil

#4 – For Crying Out Loud by Scott Miller

#5 – Familiar Ghosts by Shane Nicholson

Top 20 of 2009: 3-1

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Top 20 of 2009 on January 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse
#3 – Tarpits and Canyonlands by Bombadil

The album coming in at number three on the list is one of the most stylistically diverse albums I heard this year… and one of the most fun. The members of Bombadil claim that the core of their sound has its roots in Bolivian folk music. Having never heard any Bolivian folk music before, I’ll have to take their word on this one. It is clear, though, that band culls their influences from a myriad of different sources. When it’s all mixed together, their sound is a whimsical stew that pulls from several ingredients without letting any one flavor overpower the rest.

Whimsical may be the best word to describe this record… but that’s not to suggest that it is in any way childish or immature. It’s quite the opposite. When I first reviewed the album in June, I made mention of how the ebullient music often concealed darker subject matter. The album hooked me immediately with… well… a ton of hooks and a sense of wonder that just isn’t found on many records anymore. This song, “Honeymoon” is one of those tunes that catches you off guard with a catchy beat and lays you flat with lyrics that deal with life once the Honeymoon is over.

Bombadil: Honeymoon (Buy Album)

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by The Band of Heathens

The Band of Heathens are a collective of songwriters from Texas who originally started playing together as part of a songwriter’s night at Momo’s in Austin. Ed Jurdi, Colin Brooks, and Gordy Quist each started out doing solo sets… then occasionally sitting in on each other’s sets… then adding a rhythm section and playing as songwriters in the round. A local music reporter made reference to a group of “heathens” that had started playing regular sets together and a legend was born. The guys have now released two albums as The Band of Heathens, and both can be considered essential listening for fans of intelligent, roots flavored Americana songwriting.

What makes The Band of Heathens so special is the three pronged songwriting force that almost assures the well of tunes will never run dry. The three guys share songwriting credits on this album so it’s difficult to tell exactly who is responsible for what, but it is easy to see a healthy range of styles and sounds on this record. Despite the variety, there is a strong gospel feel to most of this set including the call-and-response of “Shine a Light” and the distorted rodeo gospel of “Golden Calf.” The bottom line is that this album is full of top-notch Texas songwriting and is one of the finest releases of the year.

Band of Heathens: Shine a Light (Buy Album)

#1 – Noble Beast by Andrew Bird

No matter how much I may love his music, I always find it difficult to write about Andrew Bird. His songs just seem infinitely complex and layered, and they don’t really sound much like anything else that I listen to. After watching Andrew play a set at the Bijou Theatre in October (my wife’s anniversary present to me) I became even more convinced of the complexity of his sound. Andrew played guitar and violin. He also sang and whistled and used any number of foot pedals to record and playback loops of various instruments, whistles, and vocal lines.

All of Andrew’s various skills come into play on this album as well. Andrew is a classically trained violinist and quite the impressive whistler. I know it’s an odd combination, but the two play so well together that it’s very easy to forget how strange what you’re listening to actually is. This album is incredibly melodic and infectious, and Andrew’s whistling just seems to burrow into your head and take root. I often find myself whistling one of the melodies from this album when I’m washing the dishes or walking the dog. These songs have imprinted themselves on my brain… and that is why Noble Beast by Andrew Bird is my #1 album of 2009.

Just try to resist the urge to whistle along with this one…

Andrew Bird: Fitz and Dizzyspells (Buy Album)

Used: Bombadil & R.E.M.

Posted in Bombadil, R.E.M. on August 10, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

There is no better way to kill some time on a lazy afternoon than browsing through your local used record store. I used to spend hours (and hundreds of dollars) going through stacks of used discs when I was in college. My time (and budget) are a little more limited these days, but I still love to check out the local shop when I get a chance.

Luckily, Knoxville has several great places to find new old music. My first stop is always The Disc Exchange, the store that always lands on the top of any local “best of” polls. If I don’t find anything there, I can always move on to McKay’s. This place is essentially a giant warehouse filled with used junk, and a few gems. Books, CD’s, video games, movies, iPods… you name it, they sell it. I’ve also told you before about the $1 bin at the local Cat’s Music. There are more than a few places to find some pre-loved music in this town.
Now that I have a record player set up in the house, I’ve also been discovering some of the local shops that actually sell “records.” Lost & Found Records and Basement Records are the two I’ve stumbled upon so far, but if anyone knows of any others please let me know.
The purpose of all of that is to say that I had some time to kill this past Thursday and was able to unearth a couple of worthy additions to my collection.
First was A Buzz, A Buzz, the first full-length effort from the North Carolina collective known as Bombadil. Like their new album, Tarpits and Canyonlands (reviewed here), this record is full of musically whimsical and often lyrically dark compositions. This band is stylistically unique and instantly captivating. Both of their albums come with high recommendations.
Here’s one from A Buzz, A Buzz that showcases the light/dark dynamic that they pull off so well. It’s a lighthearted tune about self-mutilation called “Johnny.”
Bombadil: Johnny (Buy Album)

I also came one step closer to completing my R.E.M. vinyl collection when I found a copy of their debut album Murmur. R.E.M. is my all time favorite band, but I was still just a child when they started releasing albums. I didn’t discover them until much later. Consequently, my entire R.E.M. library has always been on CD.

Now that I have the means to play them, I have made it my personal mission to own the band’s entire catalogue (especially the early, IRS recordings) on vinyl. That’s how most fans first experienced their music, and that’s how I want to experience it now. Of course, Murmur is an all time classic and a record that I’m glad to hear again for the first time.
R.E.M.: Radio Free Europe (Buy Album)

Bombadil: Tarpits & Canyonlands

Posted in Bombadil on June 16, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Tom Bombadil is a creation of J.R.R. Tolkien who appears in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first chapter of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is described as powerful and ancient creature who speaks in whimsical, nonsensical rhymes… his carefree nature serving as a counterpoint to the power he possesses.

In a way… the Durham, NC based band that shares Bombadil’s name also carries many of his characteristics.

On first listen, many of the songs on Bombadil’s new album Tarpits & Canyonlands seem to simply be exercises in lighthearted, sing-along fun. Dig a little deeper, however, and you begin to recognize the inventiveness and skill that goes into creating songs as layered, complex, and instantly infectious as the ones on this album.

I largely missed out on Bombadil’s previous album so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I pushed play on this one for the first time. The beautiful, slow building “I Am” had me immediately hooked with its simple, in the round, structure that adds layers as the song progresses until reaching a vocal crescendo and falling silent. It’s as epic as a song can be in only 1:32.

The opener is followed by the piano and hand clap driven “Sad Birthday” and the string filled “Honeymoon” …two songs that inspire you to smile and tap your toes while tackling slightly dark subject matter. Three songs into the album, and it’s already one of my favorites of the year. It doesn’t really let down from here either.

Tarpits & Canyonlands comes out July 7th from Ramseur Records and comes with a strong recommendation from me. If you like the two songs I’m featuring here (the first two on the album), then you should seriously consider checking this one out in a few weeks. According to my iTunes, I’ve already spun the whole record over a half-dozen times in just over a week (with a few songs getting many, many more plays), and I’m still finding new things to love about it.

Bombadil: I Am (Buy Album)
Bombadil: Sad Birthday (Buy Album)