With their band name inspired by the enigmatic character Tom Bombadil from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings, The Bombadils are husband and wife Luke Fraser and Sarah Frank. After meeting whilst studying music at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, in 2009, the pair began recording and touring internationally. They subsequently released three studio albums, the third winning the Folk Music Ontario Album of the Year award in 2016.
‘Dear Friend‘, their fourth album, is their first to feature all original songs. Whilst the songs are primarily co-written by Frank and Fraser, they are also joined by Terra Spencer (Through and Through), Ben Plotnick (Losing Track of Time), Sarah McInnis (Records and Rent) and Dave Gunning (Magnifying Glass). And Frank takes the reins alone on ‘Heartbeat‘, ‘Dangling Like Keys‘ and ‘Sepia‘.
Frank’s soaring soprano and Fraser’s soulful vocals richly complement one another. They both lead and harmonise with ease, elegantly blending their sentimental sound. Not only do they have such resonant voices, but they are also both masters of their chosen instruments. Frank plays banjo, fiddle and nylon string guitar. Fraser guitar, electric guitar and mandolin. They are joined throughout the album by guest musicians on harp, bass, cello, violin, viola and additional vocals. The combined result is a joyous, loving, reflective, sometimes delicate, sometimes full-bodied, vibrant collection.
‘Bicycle‘, a single from the album, is one of the upbeat songs. Featuring strong fiddle playing, it uses the analogy of life being like “speeding on a bicycle” in a good way, inspiring and persevering. “So I’m not stopping yet, It feels too good to fly, I’m racing on a hill, And I love you still” With Fraser taking the lead, ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming‘ which has also been released as a single, has a charming sound and a lovely outro. It also has a great video that is worth checking out. The love song ‘Through and Through‘ is delicately biographical about which Frank says they “tried to capture something deeper that we feel” a poetic, feel-good song.
‘Losing Track of Time‘ is a tender, mid-tempo reflection of a time connecting deeply with a friend. ‘Heartbeat‘ is a delicate, unedited, raw, down-tempo song for another, grieving, friend. ‘Records and Rent‘ then lifts the mood with a fun, bluegrass style about, hopefully, one day, paying the rent with their music. An idea drawn from Patti Smith’s memoir in which she describes how artists living at the Chelsea Hotel would sometimes be permitted to pay their rent in paintings. ‘Dangling Like Keys‘ explores heartbreak and trust with a suitably expectant, inquisitive tune beautifully played. ‘Sepia‘ is a melancholy, nostalgic song written out of concern for the earth. With tender dueting from the mandolin and banjo, the lyrics reflect on the effects of climate change.
‘Little Days‘ and its awesome fiddle playing also features Frank & Frasers’ five-year-old daughter Felicity, with cuteness overload. The full-bodied vocal of Frank, along with Fraser’s sultry counterpart in ‘Magnifying Glass‘, is vulnerable and steamy. The excellent combination of banjo and guitar set the intimate scene. The final song and title track ‘Dear Friend‘ celebrates long-distance and longtime friendship with a beautiful blend of harp, mandolin, fiddle, cello and bass. Again the meld of the two complimentary vocals adding to the rich musicality found throughout this album.