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Bombadil-Tarpits and Canyonlands

CD review
Bombadil: ‘Tarpits and Canyonlands’
(Ramseur Records, to be released July 7, 2009)
by Seth Leonard
for Salisbury Post
Artists always talk about their influences, but few have the wide array of roots that Bombadil can claim. The Durham, N.C. based group creates real synergy between folk, rock, indie-hipster jive and Bolivian sounds with its latest album, “Tarpits and Canyonlands.”
In just their second full-length CD, Bombadil’s lyrics and riffs can please a wide range of listeners and at the same time evoke remembrance from those closest to their own generation.
Fans of “Flight of the Conchords” might detect shades of the same playful interaction between strummed chords and occasionally dry-witted lyrics that made the show a hit. Listeners who aren’t so familiar with the HBO series may relate the piano lines, the simplicity of which is intentional, with the musically supported comedy act of Demetri Martin.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all fooling around. To bombinate means to buzz or drone, but these boys achieve an excellent variation throughout and do well to avoid any formulaic devices.
Tom Bombadil, an obscure J.R.R. Tolkein character, was the inspiration for the band’s name. His elusive, peculiar nature is a metaphor for these 15 newest songs, the genres of which are debatable.
From a light-hearted ballad in Spanish to more serious ideas, like marriage, the album keeps you guessing as to what’s coming next, a trait that is conducive to repeat listenings. Indeed this is an album that gets better with each run through; appreciation and understanding for the lyrics builds every time you give this disc a spin.
Besides the catchy vocals and harmonies, subtle cues in many parts of the same song will have you restarting tracks to figure out just what they are. Was that riff from the old “Doug” cartoon of the 90’s Nickelodeon lineup? Doesn’t that sound like the beginning of a familiar Christmas tune? No time to put your finger on such things with this playlist, because vamping is kept to a minimum. Fortunately, this results in a product that stays fresh, whether you keep it in the fridge or not.
The band also does well to branch out beyond their own quartet’s limits by bringing in flutes, a saxophone, a cello and some other strings. Combined with some inspired and rhythmic drumming, the band can go from bare piano man sounds to downtown scene bar rock to the ethnic, flute and tom heavy music of the Andes.
Due out July 7, “Tarpits and Canyonlands” should be on anyone’s list if they’re out to add to their feel-good collection or just want an album that actually delivers long-lasting satisfaction.

[Seth Leonard is a journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill currently working as an intern at the Salisbury Post. He may be contacted at lseth@email.unc.edu.]

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