Not to be confused with Bombadil, the psychedelic pop American trio, this lot are a Canadian quartet who line up as Sarah Frank (fiddle, banjo), Luke Fraser (guitar, mandolin), Anh Fung (flute) and Alan Mackie and Evan Stewart who both handle upright bass, and whose influences embrace Celtic folk music and bluegrass.
Having made their recording bow in 2012, they return now with Grassy Roads, Wandering Feet, a sophomore collection featuring a mix of self-penned and traditional numbers that has seen their sound tagged as ‘chamber folk’.
Opening with Rocky Mountain Path, an airy five minute instrumental born of their stint at an artist residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta, the traditional material first surfaces with a familiar Newfoundland shanty, Heave Away and, Fraser sharing vocal duties with Frank, also embraces Scottish chestnut Black Is The Colour of My True Love’s Hair, here given a mournful, reflective arrangement with flute, fiddle and acoustic guitar, and the pure-voiced Frank’s setting of WB Yeats’ poem Song of Wandering Aengus.
Loosely based on a true story about a Buddhist temple that was forced to close when the head monk stole its money, Milk and Honey, set to plucked banjo and fiddle, is written and sung by Phung, but otherwise, save for the closing three tune instrumental, The Scribble/An Elk Named Seamus/Bunkbed Buddies, the latter a tribute to the Ikea bunk she and Sarah shared, the original material is provided by either Frank or Fraser.
The former contributes the clear mountain water feel of the gatheringly sprightly Where Will This Prayer Go?, the stately banjo and harmonica laced instrumental Hazeldean with its Celtic Appalachia feel, and, another track inspired by their time at the Banff Centre (notably the scene just after sunset), the jittery fiddle driven Hour of the Blue Snow.
In addition to the opening track, Fraser has two further credits; the mandolin, fiddle and flute-coloured Portrait, a song about a life lived to the full, from child to old man inspired by both a Walt Whitman poem and the purchase of his first DSLR camera, and the penultimate Nova Scotia Goodbye, a musically upbeat personal celebration of the province’s art of saying goodbye, or, more correctly, taking forever to do so.
Organic in feel, it’s an unassuming album that never makes a big fuss about the members’ skills, simply allows them to do what they do with consummate and fluid grace and ease, and, as such, offers a very enjoyable travelling companion.
Review by: Mike Davies