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.





Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.


Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.


'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.


IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".


Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.


Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.


Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.


Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

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.