Beth Bombara
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Beth Bombara

St. Louis, Missouri, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010

St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Established on Jan, 2010
Duo Americana Folk

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Feb
24
Beth Bombara @ The Hole In the Wall

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States

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Beth Bombara and Kit Hamon have been off on a grand adventure the past two weeks.

The St. Louis music-making couple has navigated highways and mountain passes on their first-ever duo tour, stopping to play shows everywhere from Kansas City to Denver, Albuquerque, N.M., to Tucson, Ariz. Were a camera crew to follow the pair, they would have the makings of a fine road-trip movie, brimming with scenic vistas and buoyed by roadside curiosities.

They also would have an artistic coming-of-age film on their hands. To hear Bombara and Hamon tell it on the tour’s outset, this set of shows signifies a greater adventure than a final tally of miles logged can fully convey. More than just chasing daylight on their way to the next gig, the couple has struck out to find the balance between others’ expectations and their own, between awareness and artistic satisfaction.

Balance is something Bombara has already achieved in one regard: Her music is like a quilt where the seams are almost as beautiful as the squares. She has made both an art and craft of stitching together a variety of influences and concerns. At times, her music makes room for all the light and dark of a New Orleans funeral parade; at others, it takes on a tuneful British Invasion jangle. In the spaces between, she mines new resonance from tried-and-true forms such as folk, country, blues and rock. The grace and soul of Bombara’s voice earned her the 2012 Riverfront Times Music Award for Best Singer-Songwriter; this year, she is nominated in the Americana category.

Bombara has learned to feel at home in a number of settings, playing solo, with a larger band and, now, with her husband. For this tour, the pair tapped into their sense that songs are dynamic beings, not static or still. The two disassembled Bombara’s tunes and put them back together, reworking and re-imagining them, finding new life and breath within.

“We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we can make a lot of noise with two people,” Hamon said.

The pair has worked not only to fill and flesh out the sound, but to play more dynamically, taking advantage of louds and softs in ways a bigger band can’t. That’s meant Bombara playing electric and acoustic guitars as well as tambourine; Hamon alternately occupies the high and low end, plucking an upright bass, bowing his fiddle and playing a kick-drum pedal rigged to a suitcase. Banjo player Karl Eggers will join tomorrow night’s show, helping wrap the tour by adding to the sound.

The tour comes as Bombara grows more discerning about how to play to others’ expectations without losing her sense of self. She is more aware than ever of the role of songwriter as storyteller, even if she hasn’t always thought those clothes fit. There always has been a narrative presence within her songs, but she said it often has been more abstract than direct, her process more experiential than intentional. Explaining her songs to audiences has been challenging and illuminating, causing her to “go back and rearticulate what this is actually about,” she said.

Before the tour started, Hamon said they knew that expected conversation between artist and audience would take on a different tenor depending on the mood of each room. Some spaces and crowds would require the two to rock harder; others would respond to a more casual tone. “We’re just trying to figure out how to be good conversationalists,” he said.

Bombara and Hamon hope exercising the freedom and flexibility to be rock stars or folk singers or raconteurs — or all of the above — on any given night will keep them sharp and shape tours to come. “I feel like I learn something from every gig I play,” Bombara said.

As Bombara has embraced these different roles, she also has experimented more with simplicity in her songwriting, using fewer chords and more pointed phrases. Hamon compared her style to a clean sense of design in which everything serves a purpose and nothing extraneous exists. Bombara said Hamon has helped her get there, serving as critic, cheerleader and editor, helping her say the same thing in new ways.

The pair is working on new material with their St. Louis cohort; they described it as toeing a through line with Bombara’s past work while also playing with blues and jazz timbres. When the time comes to gather these songs and give them to others, the couple will keep striving to make themselves happy while honoring their audience.

“It’s actually stronger if you are able to write a song just in your own space … and then put it on stage in someone else’s space and try and bridge that gap,” Hamon said. “… That is the tension — trying to figure out how to be true to both.”

That journey is one that Bombara and Hamon have no doubt become more acquainted with over the past two weeks — how to get from point A to point B and enjoy all the sights and sounds along the way. - Columbia Tribune


At this point, the "singer-songwriter" label has become just about as cliché as this St. Louisan is not. Wise beyond her years with range beyond her genre, the young, confident crooner has proven a formidable solo force through two EPs and a full-length, as well as stints pairing her light, lovely vocals with Old Lights and Cassie Morgan. Bombara's earnest and occasionally eerie blend of folk, country and the softer side of rock provides a spot-on soundtrack to the city's summers and grocery stores, where her good nature and good tunes make for a solid, if unconventional show. Outside of her clear vocals, Bombara's subtle strengths lie in her backing instrumentation, which follows the same organic, unrushed pattern of arrangement as her intro and outrospective lyrics.
--Kelsey Whipple - The Riverfront Times


Blending indie rock, folk and country as effortlessly as a plow through fertile prairie, this Riverfront Times nominated ‘Best Female Singer Songwriter’ and ‘Best Female Vocalist’ has garnered an enthusiastic following thanks to her acclaimed solo album, “Wish I Were You.” - KDHX 88.1


I have no idea how Beth Bombara feels about God or whether she's interested in religion, old-time or otherwise — frankly, that's no concern of mine.

What I do know is that with her latest, "Raise Your Flag," the St. Louis singer-songwriter has made a gospel record — in spirit, if not the power of the spirit — through and through. It's a record about getting right, laying down your heavy load and letting what little light you can call mine shine. Soulful and unsettling in the best sort of way, "Raise Your Flag" gets under your skin, inside your spirit and makes you stare your sins straight in the eye.

The set kicks off with "Long Dark Hallelujah," which comes across like a modern spiritual with its mournful acoustic strum, shuffling rhythms and countrified harmonies. Bombara reads a laundry list of woes before hitting the high point of her sermon: "Self-righteous ways are gonna tear apart this land."

Next up, "All Along" makes a grand entrance as a descending electric guitar line introduces a folk-rocker that's moderately paced but burns slow and hot. Dynamic guitar licks and a crisp backbeat punctuate Bombara's lyrics, which grope for a few glimmers of hope amid themes of lament and heartache.

"Right My Wrongs" is yet another redemption song. Bombara sings nakedly and urgently over a spare arrangement, just jangly percussion and pulsing, jazz-flecked bass. It's the sound of a woman throwing off her shackles — some of which she has clearly bound to herself. Soulful guitar stabs and a swirling horn section take the song to an older school, landing somewhere between the jagged British R&B of The Animals and the streetcorner spirit of a ragamuffin New Orleans brass band.

Elsewhere, "What This Could Be" melds a bright, accessible late-'60s pop feel with the mature modern rock of Aimee Mann, making use of saloon piano, gritty organ tracks and moaning guitars. On the Americana color wheel, "Mountain Sun" is darker than Sara Watkins, a little bolder than Gillian Welch; finally, Bombara finds some kindness to sing of — "I found a light in this dark and weary night. … It keeps calling out to me."

"After the Blame" puts a bow on the whole affair — it's a hymn to second chances and resilience, a simple but lovely acoustic ballad that makes much of its still, small voice.

While "Raise Your Flag" is a relatively brief musical statement, it's long on soul and substance. Bombara, a recent Riverfront Times Music Awards nominee for best singer-songwriter, reminds listeners that she is at the head of the class of St. Louis tunesmiths — and those dwelling in the Midwest, for that matter. The record gives listeners a chance to sympathize with her weaknesses, as expressed in verse, and stand up and testify to the strength of her songs. - The Columbia Tribune


Songwriters are known as a restless lot. If they're not literal nomads, crisscrossing the country in search of an audience, they exist as spiritual ones whose curious minds and drifting hearts lead them to new threads and themes.


St. Louis singer-songwriter Beth Bombara is subtly subverting that notion. Although she has described herself as a "wanderer," Bombara's luminous songs reflect the spirit of an artist who can enjoy the room she has to roam all the more knowing she has four walls to call her own.

"Every day, St. Louis feels more and more like home to me," the 28-year-old Michigan native said in a recent email exchange. No doubt, Bombara's sense of belonging is directly tied to the ways in which she has enmeshed and endeared herself within the local music scene, collaborating regularly with the likes of area stalwarts Old Lights and members of The Dive Poets. St. Louis has returned the love — she recently won a Riverfront Times Music Award, voted on by the alt-weekly's readers, for best singer-songwriter.

In Bombara's hands, the time-honored tones of American roots music are further scuffed and stripped to their unvarnished core by the lo-fi spirit of '90s alt-rock — her Facebook page says she "sounds like Lucinda Williams and Natalie Merchant at a party." It's not surprising then to learn that Bombara's first band was an all-girl punk act or that her musical tastes have expanded and evolved over the years to include the college rock of Nada Surf, the Pixies and Weezer and an appreciation for Americana that has grown as she has grown up. Her sound makes room for desperate bluesy stomps, tender folk ballads, funereal New Orleans jazz and pedal steel-fired alt-country ala Uncle Tupelo.

While "writing the bare bones of a song is still" a "very solitary" act, Bombara hasn't had to go far to open her work to scrutiny and the shaping of others. Her closest collaborator lives in the same room — husband Kit Hamon amplifies the word "partner," serving as a songwriting critic and cohort. The two are "very different musical personalities," but that push-and-pull has been for their good. "Now I can't imagine what it would be like to not play music together in some capacity," she said. The pair also resides in St. Louis' Cherokee neighborhood, home to a "creative community" of artists that has opened Bombara's eyes and ears to "some pretty cool things."

Uniting her road-tested wanderings with wonderings forged in the fires of home, Bombara's songs work on a number of levels, calling listeners to enjoy both the freedom to explore and the freedom to embrace.
- Columbia Tribune


Beth Bombara: A Foundation of Robots

Advanced music is one of the perks of music journalism, and in some cases the only return you get for your time and work. The catch is not every advance is worthy of the time and work a review necessitates. When an advance is actually worth the effort, you have honor and obligation of doing it justice. ...And the Robotic Foundation by Beth Bombara and the Robotic Foundation has earned its fair day in court.

The case for Bombara's artistic growth and creative expansion is evidenced by the staying power of the six songs that constitute what you could call it an EP. That classification doesn't do Robotic Foundation justice. These songs feel like a playlist that selfishly mines your favorites from a great full-length, totally robbing the artist of her creative control. The crime of being finicky and pinching only the best bits (skipping dinner and going straight to dessert) is indeed a guilty pleasure. In this case, the pleasure's completely innocent, like PB & J's made with that sliced bread with no crust so kids the world ‘round can munch unfettered.

Where her 2007 release Abandon Ship flowed like silica in an hourglass's uppermost to its base, ...and the Robotic Foundation creaks, coils and then springs at forward (in the span of one song), and then, having traveled to new ground, cools off and recoils with even more tension than before, poised for the next expansion. It's kinetic, it's engrossing, but above all it's pure. The addition of JJ and Kit Hamon (on bass and drums, respectively) has given Bombara's songs heft, and a propulsive force that's anything but robotic. As a band, the chemistry is there, and it's downright impressive.

With a couple helping hands from her bandmates, Bombara kindly submitted to a thorough round of questioning. Any reservations I had about giving Robotic Foundation an A have been acquitted. We may just be witnessing the humble beginnings of a graceful assent.

Musically, you seem to be able to play just about any instrument I've ever heard recorded on in pop music. What inspired you to pursue and develop your talents back when you were growing up, and since?

I started playing the piano in third grade, so I guess that was the start of it., Thanks Mom...you didn't let me quit until I was half decent, and by that time I had picked up your guitar and started plunking out chords. Even when I was little, I was always interested in learning new things. Along with piano, I played trombone for a couple years. I just really enjoyed making music. I also loved going to see live music throughout my high school years. I went to a lot of local shows, and had great times meeting bands and hanging out with old friends as well as discovering some great music. It was kind of a package deal, and that hasn't changed. Now, I intentionally try to surround myself with talented musicians and other creative people. I've found that it's stretching and inspiring, whether we are playing music or just hanging out.

What brought you to St. Louis, and how has that impacted your development as an artist?

I finished college across the river, in Greenville, Ill., so that is when I got my first taste of St. Louis. After graduating, I floated around the country for about two years (much of that time spent on tour) and decided my sanity might benefit from being in one place for a while. There's lots of places to play in St. Louis, cheap rent and a handful of good college friends. From a practical standpoint, the relatively low cost of living is invaluable because I don't have to spend all my time and energy on paying my bills, like a lot of musicians and artists I know do. That's given me more time to gain focus, and develop stylistically. There are also a lot of great musicians here that I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with, and be inspired by.

You're very generous with your talents. What were/are some of your favorite collaborations/collaborators and fondest memories? How did you contribute, and how has that manifest in your solo work?

I'll always remember the early collaborations with Samantha Crain. It was just the two of us, and we didn't really know what we were doing as a duo so we tried a lot of different things. The most memorable experimentation resulted in things like a junkyard drum set (more fondly referred to as the "franken-drum") and cellphone feedback loops. That was a few years back, and I've had people ask me if I still play the cellphones. Blows my mind. We were just having fun trying new things. My current collaboration with Cassie Morgan is similar in that respect. I find myself playing an assortment of things, some in ways I've never played them before. And what I'm playing on each song seems to constantly evolve. It most often involves playing at least two things at once, for example, melody and percussion. I think these collaborations have given me a freedom for experimentation in my own music that might not have been - Playback:STL


For her first full-length under her own name, Beth Bombara builds on the singer-songwriter folk stylings and more adventurous rock & roll of her previous two EPs. Wish I Were You culls the best attributes of those earlier releases and amplifies the strains of genteel country-rock and pensive, wizened balladry. Bombara recorded the record along with her husband, Kit Hamon, and his brother J.J. Hamon. The three multi-instrumentalists corral their talents in service of the songs: J.J.'s pedal steel provides a twangy, sweet-and-low flavor across several tracks, and the opening cut, "Rainbow," shimmers with his conventional, tasteful use of the instrument.

Bombara received financial contributions for the limited-edition vinyl pressing of Wish I Were You through the fan-funding site Kickstarter.com. The wax version of the album makes sense beyond the current trend of fetishizing vinyl, however. You has smart sequencing, and sonically, it's also the best-sounding of her three recordings, thanks to its warm, no-frills production. It also helps that Bombara's ever-strengthening vocals — which rarely falter across registers or emotional nuances — are pushed to the front, allowing her well-placed hiccups and proclamations to land with clarity.

The opening triptych highlights Bombara's folksier moments; "Can't Win" posits the songwriter's struggle with a sing-songy shuffle that is catchy but veers toward by-the-book Americana. The downtempo "Lately" is more successful, as disembodied guitar notes, grainy electric piano and spare drums facilitate a nice, slow-burning ebb and flow. This sweet spot between bare-bones folk and low-slung rock offers Bombara her most fertile ground and provides several standout moments. The austere, banjo-led "Don't You Know" proves how little cushion Bombara needs for her naked, heartfelt declarations, but Kit's double-tracked violin parts give a keening sweep to these lovers' vows. As a closing track, it all but guarantees another top-to-bottom spin of the LP. - Riverfront Times


Beth Bombara – Wish I Were You
Beth Bombara has made some great strides forward since her last EP a year ago. Her new album "Wish I Were You" is a mature effort that highlights her honest voice, earnest songwriting, and intimate performance. This full-length shows Beth to be an extemely versatile artist who can ably handle blues, country, rock, and folk songs. She weaves all these different genres into one disc that flows seamlessly from one track to the next. Tracks are expertly embellished by slide steel guitar, fiddle, keys, and banjo.
Favorite Track: The slide steel glissando of "Rainbow"
- KWUR 90.3


St. Louis songbird Beth Bombara continues to shift her musical sights on her first full-length album under her own name, Wish I Were You. Infusing folk, Americana, blues and rock n roll in a restless but highly enjoyable song cycle; Bombara continues to remake herself as an artist and gets ever closer to the core of her talent as a songwriter.

Wish I Were You opens with "Rainbow" a gentle American number full of a melancholy born of experience but also infused with hope for something more. The subject here could either be romantic or just a friend; Bombara's complex subtlety evades discernment, but the depth of emotion is powerful either way. "Can't Win" is a catchy acoustic country/rocker with an unforgettable melody. Bombara reflects on the realities of the working artist, regretting the tendency for basic human needs to waylay such pursuits. This is among Bombara's best works to date, featuring a fresh sound and gorgeous vocal harmonies. "Direction" is a tuneful request for guidance from one who is tired of being directionless but doesn't know which way to go.

Bombara sidesteps on “Lately". The song has real potential, but is drawn with a melancholy wail that just doesn't entirely work. Bombara puts her rock n roll shoes on for "Winter Blues". Opening with a bluesy folk sound, the song quickly turns into an impudent and bleak but energetic rocker. "Pots & Pans" blends blues, rock and Americana in near-perfect fashion. Bombara is in great voice here, and this song will get stuck in your noggin. Don't be surprised if the licensers start lining up for this one. Bombara shows off her lyrical talents on "Not Fair", a contemplative song of heartbreak laid out over a wonderfully sparse arrangement that affects the mood of the song perfectly.

Bombara revitalizes "Abandon Ship" as an Americana/country number and may actually have improved on the original. This is one of Bombara's best songs, and was a standout on the EP of the same name, but takes on additional color and context in the current arrangement. The stunning vocal hook that drives the chorus carries over well in spite of the stylistic changes. Bombara details the classic human struggle for a sense of control in "I'm Not Tired". Anyone who has ever tried to convince a toddler that its bedtime will get it, and perhaps see some of themselves in that eternal struggle. Wish I Were You closes with "Don't You Know", a straight forward love song written without device of affectation. Bombara starts out with just her voice and banjo, eventually growing the song into an almost orchestral country arrangement that is highly appealing.

Beth Bombara never stands still. Every time something of hers comes across this desk it's a bit different than the last; and Bombara just keeps getting better and better. There is a quiet reserve to the songwriting on Wish I Were You, but within that reserve is a remarkably competent authorial voice, brought vibrantly to life in Bombara's singing voice and accompanying instrumentation. Wish I Were You is a must have album, and will convince a lot of listeners to find out more about Beth Bombara.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
- Wildy's World


"A druggy Nico/Velvet Underground vibe surrounds this indie-esque tune as it drifts between sleepy arpeggios and distorted crescendos....the atmosphere created by the voice and guitar is stark, honest, and, ultimately, compelling."

-Guitar Player Magazine, Jan. 2007 - Guitar Player Magazine


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Watch Beth's Live YouTube Videos

St. Louis is the only place Beth Bombara could have created her fifth album, which borrows gracefully from the city's proud alt-country and blues traditions while embodying the collaboration, experimentation and resolve of the tight-knit scene developing there today. 

Beth has been a musician for most of her life. She formed a punk band in high school and maintained it through college. After graduating, she joined Samantha Crain’s touring band, eventually moving to St. Louis in late 2007. She has toured extensively since then, and her hometown press has celebrated her as one of the city’s best songwriters for the last several years. She is equally comfortable headlining the rock club Off Broadway and the Missouri Botanical Gardens’ Whitaker Music Festival, where she recently performed for a crowd numbering over 10,000. 

When you decide to start paying attention to music in St. Louis, Beth is among the first people you will encounter. For me, it took less than a week. In the two years that followed, I got to know and her husband, fellow musician and producer Kit Hamon. I watched them rebuild their old brick home in the heart of South St. Louis, and I ate vegetables they’d grown in the back yard. Their house is full of instruments and it is frequently full of other musicians: friends they know from a combined two decades of touring, collaborating, recording and listening. 

Their generosity and patience is clear on Beth Bombara. For the first time, Beth and Kit wrote together; they challenge and encourage each other in equal measure. The resulting songs tells their story in sturdy melodies and graceful detail. 

Things are always breaking, particularly, it seems, in St. Louis, but Beth Bombara is unfazed. She is tough and cheery, and she plays music with curiosity and command. This new album captures both her talent and her resilience. 

--Kiernan Maletsky, former Riverfront Times music editor

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