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Friday, May 13, 2011

Beth Bombara - Wish I Were You

Beth Bombara - Wish I Were You
2010, Beth Bombara

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)

 Learn more about Beth Bombara at  Wish I Were You is available digitally from and iTunes.  If you want a physical CD you can score one through Bombara's webpage.  You can even get the album on vinyl from CDBaby.

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