Release Date: Sep 1, 2009
Record label: Fat Possum
Sensitive-man indie folk enjoyed a strong run this decade. From Ryan Adams's Heartbreaker to Elliott Smith prior to his untimely passing to the Sufjan Stevens years to all the Iron and Wines in between, there's been no shortage of male acoustic melancholy. [rssbreak] A.A. Bondy wants to take us out on a high note.
Mr. Bondy stubs his cigarette into an overfull ashtray. Tightening the strap on his dusty guitar case, Bondy walks down the creaky steps of his front porch where the pinky fingers of another morning are beginning to spread across the Tennessee sky. His blue-jeans are stained with gas station coffee, or an oil spot from fixing up his broken-down pickup.
When A.A. Bondy was lead singer for Verbena, the band was often accused of lifting large portions of its sound and style from the Rolling Stones (on its first album) and Nirvana (on Into the Pink). So with that history, it makes a certain sense that Bondy's second solo effort, When the Devil's Loose, recalls another artist, in this case Ryan Adams. The largest part of this comes from Bondy's voice, which bears a reasonable aural resemblance to Adams and his sweetly jaded tone, though Bondy shows off a bit more sonic weight and a less studied demeanor.
While A.A. Bondy realizes that acknowledging his tenure as Verbena frontman Scott Bondy could help shift a few units, that doesn't mean his former life is a point of pride. This is how a writer describes Bondy's indie-rock days in the singer/songwriter's Fat Possum bio: "He told me that he used to go by the name Scott and had played in a Rock'n'Roll group went by the name Verbena.
Louisiana boy Auguste Arthur Bondy served his rock'n'roll dues in 1990s alt-rock nearly-weres Verbena, before turning to a more sedate, rural sound for his solo work, arriving at this second album after a recuperative move to the wilds of Mississippi. More Bonnie "Prince" Billy than Bon Iver, When the Devil's Loose is a keenly traditional affair, pairing Bondy's gentle, clear-eyed voice with elegantly countrified guitar lines, swelling now and then to a grander, melancholic sound when bigger, full-band arrangements come into play. It's resolutely downtempo, and steeped in all the wooden-beamed ambience and warm reverberation that any decent log-cabin-retreat record should be.
When The Devil’s Loose by AA Bondy is a good album, but some way short of being a great one. It may seem like a strange criticism to make of a singer songwriter, but the spectre of Bondy himself hangs over this record like a crushing weight. Opener ‘Mightiest of Guns’ is genius, a hazy, saddle-worn lament to murderers and fiends, worrying about a special someone too gentle to exist amid such brutality.