By Leila Regan-Porter
North Carolina’s Bombadil started out with a lot going for them. Signed to Ramseur Records as The Avett Brothers took off, they could pass as the Avett’s scrappy, just-as-breathtaking little brothers, and were quickly gaining well-earned attention with their own brand of genre-crossing powerful songwriting. The soul-stirring poetry, literary references, backwoods vibe and almost naive introspection won over everyone, especially with their first full-length, 2009’s Tarpits and Canyonlands.
But, as with the most compelling novels, health issues (namely singer/bassist/pianist Daniel Michalak’s nerve damage in his hands) put the band’s climb on hold back in 2009. Not much was heard from the band for a few years, and the possibility that Bombadil would go the way of many an indie band who never got to fulfill their potential grew and grew. Happily, with All That the Rain Promises, audiences can rest assured that this is not the case.
The album awakens with “I Will Wait,” a church-shaking hymn that has Bombadil sounding very much like a band that has come back from hell, praying for redemption and salvation in the most heart-wrenching way since Johnny Cash covered “Hurt.” The album refuses to stay in this state of torment though, and by the time “A Question” rolls around, the band is in seriously charming mode. Quite possibly the most adorable love song ever written, singer Stuart Robinson attempts to gauge the level of affection from the girl without making things too “awkward.” The ukulele moves along with the hesitant proclamations of interest from the hero, as he coos shyly “Do you like, do you like like me too?”
While the subject matter might be focused on day-to-day matters like breakfast, belts, crushes and laundromats, rather than Tarpits and Canyonlands‘ epic themes of love, marriage, death and divorce, the supreme style of music is just as ambitious, floating between gypsy-inspired folk, backwoods jaunts, alt-county harmonies, dulcet bluegrass tones, and everything in between.
By the time “Unicycle” closes out the album with its The Band-like rhythms, we’ve slowed down to a comfortable plodding along in a Sunday-morning kind of a way, complete with a slightly lonesome harmonica easing you into a pace to let you off the emotional Bombadil train. With the line “Going fast is overrated,” Bombadil seem to have made peace with the slightly longer road they have had to take to get this album made. And rightly so: All That the Rain Promises shows a Bombadil whose talents have risen slowly and naturally, like a yeasty sourdough loaf.