Music Reviews

A.A. Bondy Believers

(Fat Possum) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

How much does a folk artist have to extract from within himself to align with a precise frame of mind? Since he traded the electric guitar in favor of acoustic resonance, A.A. Bondy has been steadily distinguishing himself from crossing the modern folk heroes’ beaten path. In doing so, acknowledging that the only way to achieve some form of identity is by attuning to traditionalists such as Dylan and Cohen. But ever since the finger picking melody of American Hearts spoke with unambiguous force, it was clearly evidenced how the next budding storyteller was just toeing the mark at the Brandeis Festival before moving on to greater things.

A.A. Bondy may have firstly given the impression of some Southern grassroots folkie, but by album number two, a full backup band playing thick country blues was already matching his aspirations at a steadfast pace. With Believers, Bondy is really taking great strides to coerce the familiar into an alien, almost unclassifiable sound. From the thumbing, squat pounce of  Skull and Bones, to the abstruse, late-night stroll of Hiway / Fevers, his resolute defiance to smudge the blues with reverb give his quaint compositions a new life. The quality of his after dark arrangements finds him disconcerted, struggling to exorcize the demons of imperishable memory.

At the expense of shedding some of his cast down soul, Bondy amplifies the ambiguity and finds himself at his most assured. It’s all in the small details: after 123 Dupuy Street illuminates a morose, but downright beautiful sonic instrumental, the beginning of Surfer King hints at looming danger until it diffuses into an affectionate ballad. Drmz follows similar suit: its pedal-steel chords gently throb over a placid rhythm, radiating like a Sunday-afternoon drive down an open highway. Even when he sighs a weary release of breath, Bondy’s temperamental mood attracts with a dark, but seductive tone that comes like second nature to him.

Believers manifests what Bondy has tried to achieve since he began his solo career. He maintains a fidelity to his past work, but stripping down past themes and concentrating on his own anonymity really shows a more forceful side of him. His main strength continues to be his mid-level vocal register, which soothes the overall austerity with clear, poignant articulation. Above all else, he advances his own style instead of adopting the framework of others. Bondy trudges along without much to believe in, but his instilled confidence tells otherwise.