Tarpits and Canyonlands
By Leila Regan-Porter
Life. Death. Love. Marriage. Pretty big themes to tackle, yet Bombadil take them all on for their latest work, the glorious Tarpits and Canyonlands. In fact, the four themes seem to make up one gigantic theme that runs throughout the whole record like a fierce winding river as powerful and potent as the Mississippi. Which is apt, because the best way to describe Bombadil's music and look is as a bunch of impish Huck Finns bashing about in the backwoods of the South, making some delectable music in the process.
Bombadil isn't your usual band though, fitting in neither with the acoustic crowd, nor the folkies, or the bluegrass hippies. As with their labelmates The Avett Brothers before them, Bombadil has been seemingly happily taken in by the indie rock clubs (their last Atlanta gig was playing dunch at The EARL), as they, again like the Avetts, descend the boundaries of pigeonholing with genres, choosing instead to focus on incredible songwriting.
Even how they use their instrumentation goes above and beyond the normal strummed acoustic guitars and tumbling drums that one expects to find in an average band. There is the joyful sweetness of the violin, taking the harmonious hullabaloo in "Honeymoon" to dizzying heights despite the song's dark subject matter of drowning a new wife. Or the unexpected bow of the sensual cello, making "Reasons" all the more tender. And the random blasts of sax in the carnival-esque "Oto the Bear," with the layered, shouted harmonies piled high on each other in revelry out of a Bavarian beerhall. And then, of course, there is the ever-present plonky piano tying everything together, like the family instrument gathered around after every meal as the evenings draw in.
It would be easy to classify Bombadil as a slightly alt-country indie rock band, as songs like "Cold Runaway" (which touches on those themes of love, life, marriage and death all in one song) and "So Many Ways to Die" (another one that obviously contemplates mortality) do echo the twangy coolness of Wilco, but they have something much more original to offer, from the simplicity of the vocals entwining with one another to the complexities of all their influences of Peruvian and Spanish music or literary figures. They go above and beyond every genre that they touch upon, and we can be expecting much more from these backwood pixies.