Kevin C. Johnson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — Beth Bombara’s new album is anything but a pandemic project, and that’s something the St. Louis singer-songwriter wants her fans to know upfront. “It All Goes Up” was released this week on Black Mesa Records. She will perform the album in its entirety Aug. 18 at the Old Rock House.
“I wrote about what I was going through, and that happened to be the time and place where these ideas first popped up,” she says. “These songs had been bouncing around in my head for a while. I started writing them when things started opening back up. It took me a while to process what was going on. I was working my way through that.”
One song in particular, “Lonely Walls,” is reflective of that sentiment.
“That song I can say is the one out of the whole record where I’m really working through all this stuff — feelings of being alone and isolated,” Bombara says. “It definitely started in that place for me and evolved to be more open. It’s not just about one time period but about a feeling in general.”
In a similar spirit is “Moment,” which is accompanied by a video. The song was inspired by the world opening up again after she’d gotten used to a slower pace. She is grateful for that time and wishes “we could go back to that place” — minus the pandemic — and slow down enough to enjoy the moment.
On “It All Goes Up,” Bombara explores hopeful themes as an antidote to challenging times.
“I wanted to find the positivity,” she says. “I wanted to look forward in a positive and uplifting sort of way. For me, all of those songs sprung out of that. There’s a more positive mindset, and I think that’s also reflected in the sonics.”
“Evergreen,” her 2019 album, was a more melancholy project, Bombara says. Going into a more positive mindset meant rediscovering music and falling in love with it again.
“I had pretty much gotten burnt out,” she says. “Being in a place where I had the time to reconnect with music in a more exploratory way was key for me. I was able to reconnect with the reasons why I was doing this in the first place — the joy. I had forgotten that. It’s about rediscovering the passion.”
“It All Goes Up” represents a progression for Bombara. She reached out creatively to see what else she could pull off and what other influences could come into play.
“I didn’t feel so much pressure with ‘It All Goes Up’ to be one specific thing,” she says. “I don’t think I can say that about ‘Evergreen.’ I felt a freedom to explore.”
Many of the songs on “It All Goes Up” were written on classical guitar and transferred to electric guitar.
“A classical guitar is kind of warm,” Bombara says. “It makes you wanna play more chorded versions. The classical guitar feels way different from a steel-string acoustic guitar. It evokes a different playing style and pulls something different from the player.”
Early in the pandemic, she discovered a classical guitar while cleaning a closet. She had played it for a short time as a student.
“It sat there for years, and I didn’t touch it,” she says. “It was collecting dust. I was cleaning out a closet in 2020, and ‘Oh my God, I wonder what it would feel like to play it.’”
“It All Goes Up” was recorded at Midtown Sound House, Lemp Electric and Holiday Heart, all in St. Louis. It was produced by Bombara (vocals, electric guitar, classical guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards) and her husband, Kit Harmon (bass guitar, vocals, synthesizers, percussion).
Also on the album are Mike Schurk (drums), Samuel Gregg (pedal steel and electric guitar on “Moment”), Sam Golden (strings, electric guitar, mellotron), John Calvin Abney (Rhodes piano and electric guitar on “Fade”), Karl Kling (production, 12-string guitar on “Get On”) and Eric Henry (pedal steel on “Get On”).
The album also includes “Everything I Wanted,” which taps into a philosophy Bombara follows. She and her friends have had conversations about getting older, needing a bigger house and more money, and feeling like they’ve made it — then questioning everything.
“It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily happy,” she says. “Look at the world and remember: If you have good people around you, good community and a roof over your head, what more do you need?”
The song carries a Linda Ronstadt flair that’s hard to miss.
“It wasn’t an intentional thing when I started writing the song,” she says. “I love the vibe. I love older music. I don’t mind the comparison.”
A video for the song drops this week.
“Fade” looks at how people in your life can positively influence your journey.
“The last lyric in the chorus is ‘Don’t let your fire fade,’” Bombara says. “If you let your fire fade, how are you gonna inspire other people to keep going? We need each other’s lights to keep moving forward.”
As Bombara releases “It All Goes Up,” she gets a boost in the September issue of Uncut. The London-based magazine calls the project its “Americana album of the month.”
“I’m super excited about getting more attention, and it’s cool I get to represent St. Louis,” she says. “It’s validating and exciting to me to have people from across the pond writing about St. Louis.”
Beth Bombara, Tim Easton, 8 p.m. Aug. 18, St. Louis. More info at etix.com.
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