By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
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.
Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. E-mail [email protected] for more information.