Beth Bombara Looks Outward With "Criminal Tongue" (premiere + interview)

Photo: Nat Burrell / Hello Wendy

Beth Bombara's new album, Evergreen, is in part about reclaiming personal dignity but, occasionally, the personal and the private intersect. Hear her new single "Criminal Tongue".

Beth Bombara's latest album, Evergreen, arrives 9 August. The collection covers a wide range of topics from the deeply personal ("I Only Cry When I'm Alone") to the decidedly public, including "Criminal Tongue", which examines the current political environment in the United States, specifically the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the outrage over his guileful tendencies.

"It's me looking outward at specific current events," Bombara says, speaking from her home in St. Louis. "I was so shocked. 'How do you even talk about this?' How is this happening? How is this our reality right now? It's me working through shock."

Though Bombara is not primarily known as a topical songwriter, previous tunes, such as "Long Dark Hallelujah", have tackled world events. "With that one, I saw this turmoil within the government," she notes. "Obama was president, and I could see where we are now. The divisiveness was building up."

Informed by classic country music and contemporary Americana sensibilities, Bombara proves herself a major contender both via "Criminal Tongue" and Evergreen. Somewhere in the darkness, the listener can still find rays of light that shine toward a brighter tomorrow.

Bombara recently spoke with PopMatters about Evergreen's origins and her artistic process.

When did the material for this album start coming together?

I'm a pretty sporadic writer, and I wish that I was a more steady writer. I write a bunch of songs in a short period. I can remember stretches where I didn't finish a song for a year. I worked on these songs for about six months. A lot of that was when we were out on the road.

How does that work to write on the road? Because there are a lot of people who simply can't.

I'd have a main musical idea that we'd jam out at soundcheck. If we had a couple of days off, we'd set up wherever we were staying and work on songs then. In the van, we were pretty much chilling and not working on songs. I'd like to get to that point where we could pull out a guitar and work on stuff, but we're not there yet.

Did you have a sense of thematic connections within the material?

By the nature of how I write, I feel that certain songs are related thematically. Not everything. It's never intentional. I notice that after. When we were working things out as a band, it was more about the musical elements. I tend to write the music first and put lyrics to those ideas later. But it's different every time.

When you look back at the record now, what do you see as the connections?

Some of the songs are about rediscovering my self-confidence. A couple of songs speak to that. It might be really subtle, but they're about what I was going through at the time and looking inward.

When you're done with a record do you still have moments where you say, "If I had five years, I'd stay and fiddle with this, this and this?"

I'm of the mind that you have to find the fine line between perfection and when something's done. Creativity is weird in that way. I really like having a defined timeframe on things. It forces you to say that something's done. I like to think that records are about capturing a time and a place and the people I was with.

But songs might evolve into different arrangements. I might record a different version of a song ten years down the road. I'm not attached to it being a perfect thing. I'm not going to put out something I'm not proud of, but I try not to hold too tightly to things.

Do you sometimes sing songs that are five or more years old and think, "Now I know what this is about. I didn't realize that when I wrote it"?

Totally. The meaning can change. Songs are baffling and magical.






The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.


July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.


With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.


Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.


MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.


Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.


Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.


John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."


'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.


It's a Helluva of a World in Alain Corneau's 'Série Noire'

Alain Corneau's Série Noire is like a documentary of squalid desperation, albeit a slightly heightened and sardonic one.


The 15 Best Americana Albums of 2015

From the old guard reaffirming its status to upstarts asserting their prowess, personal tales voiced by true artists connected on an emotional level in the best Americana music of 2015.


Dizzy's Katie Munshaw Keeps Home Fires Burning with 'The Sun and Her Scorch'

In a world turned upside down, it might be the perfect time to take a new album spin with Canadian dream-pop band Dizzy and lead singer-songwriter Katie Munshaw, who supplies enough emotional electricity to jump-start a broken heart.


Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers Bring Summery Highlife to 'Ozobia Special'

Summery synths bring highlife of the 1980s on a reissue of Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers' innovative Ozobia Special.


'The Upward Spiral' Is Nicolas Bougaïeff's Layered and Unique Approach to Techno

On his debut album for Mute, Berlin-based producer Nicolas Bougaïeff applies meticulous care and a deft, trained ear to each track, and the results are marvelous.


How BTS Always Leave You Wanting More

K-pop boy band BTS are masterful at creating a separation between their public personas and their private lives. This mythology leaves a void that fans willingly fill.


The Psychedelic Furs' 'Made of Rain' Is Their First Album in Nearly 30 Years

The first album in three decades from the Psychedelic Furs beats expectations just one track in with "The Boy That Invented Rock and Roll".


Fontaines D.C. Abandon the Familiar on 'A Hero's Death'

Fontaines D.C.'s A Hero's Death is the follow-up to the acclaimed Dogrel, and it features some of their best work -- alongside some of their most generic.


Director Alice Winocour on the Stages of Separation in 'Proxima'

Alice Winocour talks with PopMatters about conveying the long process of separation between mother and daughter in her film, Proxima.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.