The Bombadils — Dear Friend
Canadian folk duo The Bombadils has a unique origin story. Once a collective of Monteal’s McGill University music students, the group (named after a Lord of the Rings character) essentially winnowed itself down to a duo after mandolin player Luke Fraser met band member Sarah Frank at a party. Years later, the couple (now married parents) writes songs inspired by their favorite Celtic, bluegrass and folk artists while graduating their lyrics to more “grown-up” topics. When joined by their musical friends as they are on their latest album, Dear Friend, they end up making some of the prettiest music you’ll likely hear this year.
The Bombadils’ successful approach is evident from Dear Friend‘s first track. “Bicycle” features the pair’s always-impressive harmonies, along with Frank’s fiddle and lovely harp work from frequent collaborator Ellen Gibling. The upbeat nature of the tune is somewhat subverted by the lyrics, which contrast youthful optimism with the caution that comes with age – “The road’s got ups and downs/It’ll break your heart” – while still maintaining a glimmer of childlike wisdom – “Slow down/Or you could brake too hard.”
That embrace of innocence shines through on the album’s wistful look at new parenthood. “Little Days” addresses the couple’s five year-old daughter and her urge to grow up NOW (as kids tend to do) while her parents want to slow time down. Frank’s prettiest fiddle work on the record plays up against Fraser’s real-time nostalgia for the moments fleeting past him – “Sure as a seedling grows/You grew out of that little red sweater” – as he wills (unsuccessfully) for such moments to cheat time – “I want to linger/A little longer/In the wonder of these little days.”
The idea of freezing time finds a different meaning in “Sepia” The band’s cautionary climate-change tune takes on a more Appalachian tone, wth Frank’s banjo line (set against ominous strings) evoking peaceful forests that may cease to exist – “The blush of our Mother/Has been smothered/By a sickly yellow/Smog seeps in.” Nature of a different sort opens the title track, as rain draws to mind a day spent checking in with a far-flung friend. Via letter (dipping back, again, to a slower time), Frank sings across the distance – “I think of you often, it makes me smile/And the space between us melts awhile.” Fraser’s harmonies and mandolin fill in that rainy-day scene and bridge the distance between a young band out on the road and gracefully aging parents moving – without haste – to the next stage of their lives.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Through and Through” – the nicest harmonies on Dear Friend are balanced by Frank’s wandering banjo line in a sweet look forward to even better days – “In a ripple on the water/We saw our granddaughter/Blowing kisses in the autumn air.”
Dear Friend was recorded and mixed by Graeme Campbell and mastered by J. LaPointe. All songs were written by Sarah Frank and Luke Fraser, with co-writes going to Terra Spencer, Ben Plotnick, Sarah McInnis and Dave Gunning. Additional musicians on the album include Ellen Gibling (harp, vocals), Ethan Jodziewicz (bass), Patrick Reid (bass), Sarah McInnis (vocals), Kaitlyn Raitz (cello), Ben Plotnick (violin, viola), Catherine Little (cello) and Scott Kingsley (bass).