Two years ago, Bombadil lost a longtime bandmate and breaking up seemed inevitable. But after a period of exploration that forced them to step out of their comfort zone, Bombadil has returned as a band reborn. Their new album ‘Fences,’ released 3/3/17 via Ramseur Records and produced by John Vanderslice (Spoon, The Mountain Goats), is their most remarkable work to date: meticulously crafted, yet accessible and unadorned. Pure, simple, beautiful.
“It’s more than just an album,” says Bombadil drummer and vocalist James Phillips. “It is a new path, a reset after several challenging years.”
‘Fences’ features eleven new, original songs composed by the Durham, NC-based trio – Phillips (drums, vox), Daniel Michalak (bass, vox) and Stacey Harden (guitar, vox). Recorded at Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco, CA, the album is influenced by early Paul Simon and steeped in shades of Cat Stevens and The Incredible String Band.
“Sometimes you 'produce' the hell out of a record because the material needs to be lifted and transformed,” says Vanderslice. “These songs and performances were so strong I mostly just put up a Neumann U67 and stood out of the way."
Bombadil has made fans at NPR, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, who called them "astonishing." Time Out New York said their music is “bursting with irresistible melodies, unexpected lyrical gems, and moments of profound honesty, all anchored by expert songwriting skills." They've toured extensively in the past with Dr. Dog, Kishi Bashi and Carolina Chocolate Drops and will hit the road again in 2018 in support of the new album.
You can find Guyana on the Northern Mainland of South America.
Despite its position on the continent, it’s often counted among the Caribbean region due to shared cultural touchstones. Actually situated below sea level, a giant retaining wall separates the land from the ocean. Beyond that wall exists a sovereign nation where residents take pride in art, music, and community.
Juke Ross calls this place home.
“It’s like no other place in the world,” says the alternative folk singer and songwriter. “There’s a general happiness in being alive, facing the sun, and growing your own vegetables. It’s the little things. We’re very patriotic. We gather a lot in town and like to celebrate together.”
That celebratory and life-affirming spirit remains an undercurrent of Juke’s own songwriting. The youngest of fourteen children, he can recall falling in love with music at a young age. The family radio played everything from Caribbean standards to Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson, and he would sit and listen for hours on end.
Inspired by his nurse mom, he enrolled in medical school. In the midst of his studies, guitar beckoned to him.
“In between classes, I was finding lots of new music and getting into artists and their stories,” he goes on. “I was listening to a lot of John Mayer. So, I picked up the guitar. It went really well. I was covering a lot of my favorites. I tried to write after that.”
Juke feverishly began penning music. Among those early compositions, he created “Colour Me.” With its organic tones, breezy strumming, and soulful vocals, the track quietly transformed into an online sensation. In a few months’ time, it had already cracked 500K Spotify streams and earned the endorsement of Pigeons and Planes, Substream Magazine, The Source, and many more, cementing him as a bona fide artist to watch.
“It was written at a great time,” he goes on. “I was really inspired, and the environment was very powerful. I was rediscovering this thing that I love called music. I wanted to be creative with it. I was compelled to express a specific feeling. ‘Colour Me’ is about losing someone, but not being angry about it. There are no feelings of bitterness or regret. There’s some anger and longing in there though. It’s about heartbreak, love, and being brought back to life. That was the beginning. A lot of great things happened after that song came together.”
As “Colour Me” took off independently, Juke landed a major label deal with Republic Records in the States. He immediately hit the studio, compiling ideas for his forthcoming debut.
Ultimately, he makes his home of Guyana very proud by bringing this music worldwide—just like those songs on his childhood radio so long ago…
“When people hear my music, I just want them to feel,” he leaves off. “Music always spoke to me, and now I’m speaking through it.”