A.A. Bondy – When The Devil’s Loose [Album Review]

by oz on September 10, 2009

My affection for A.A. Bondy is threatening my heterosexuality.‚  It’s partially because of the music, but there’s also an allure to his persona. The folk singer that takes the stage with his trusty guitar, harmonica and warm voice that can soothe even the most hardened soul.‚  The lone troubadour that earns his keep in front of crowds, spinning tales and giving a glimpse of his spirit in song.

Bondy visited us for a session last year and explained that he’d been sleeping at rest stops in his car because he hates hotels and the chemicals used to sterilize the rooms. That’s what I call a modern day cowboy. And while I’m sure it’s lonely as an indie singer-songwriter on tour, there’s something romantic about the open road and the quest to win over new fans doing what you love doing.

While A.A. Bondy’s stellar debut album American Hearts was a solo affair, he’s enlisted a band on When The Devil’s Loose. Not a full orchestra or brass section or anything, but just the right touch of electric guitar and piano to to provide a backdrop for the gloomy lyrical imagery. The album starts with an acoustic song, “Mightiest of Guns,” that would have fit perfectly on the previous record (it was written in ’07), but it also serves as a segue into the newer material on When The Devil’s Loose. “A Slow Parade” follows and ambles slowly along over piano and winding electric guitar solos while lyrics speak of waves crashing around and the sea “talking sweet to me.” The music fits the lyrics perfectly and it’s easy to feel like you’re floating on the tide.

Despite what conclusions you might draw from the cover art or dark lyrics, Bondy’s music is a sort of therapy.‚  You can hit play, listen straight through and immediately hit play again. Your stresses will slowly just fade away and you find a calming peace by the time “The Mercy Wheel” is halfway over. I can’t think of a better album for the coming months, when you awake to the leaves falling to the ground and feel the crisp air on those fall mornings.

Side note: I have a feeling I’ll be needing‚  some A.A. Bondy after USC takes it to my Buckeyes on Saturday.

A.A. Bondy – When The Devil’s Loose

A.A. Bondy – I Can See The Pines Are Dancing

Exclusive: AA Bondy – Mightiest of Guns (from our live session w/ A.A. Bondy)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirk September 10, 2009 at 11:15 am

I’ve been inspired by “When The Devil’s Loose” in a different way every time I put it on. I’m a nerd for sounds and textures (to the point where sometimes that’s what I pay attention to more than the lyrics and message of the song). So on first listen, I was immediately grabbed by the vibe created by the wash of “room” and what seems to be distant-mic’ing. This album achieves that perfect balance of “roomy” sound or “wash” without it becoming out of focus. There is still definition. It makes me think of a T-Bone Burnett production where instruments are rarely ever mic’ed up close, but instead captured in a way where you hear how they are reacting with the walls in the room. I’m not sure how Gus and Bruce Watson (engineer) did what they did…but from a production standpoint, this record is really tasty. I look forward to speaking with Gus a little bit about this when he and the band come in for a session later in the year.

After listening to the album for a few weeks, I started focusing on the songs and writing. There is a wonderful sense of familiarity to some of the melodies and chord progressions that make you think you’ve heard the song before…but it always ends up with it’s own unique twist. Oz is right, this is a great listen front to back. You’ll fall in love with certain tunes on the first couple listens through. Then a week later, songs that didn’t jump out at you before become your dark horse favorites. At first for me it was , “When The Devil’s Loose”, then it was “Oh The Vampyre”, then “I Can See The Pines Are Dancing”…you see where I’m going. I love it when albums hit me like that. The album just keeps unfolding and revealing new jems.

“When The Devil’s Loose”is easily one of THE best releases of 2009 in my book.

Shirk September 10, 2009 at 11:19 am

Oh…and for you Felice Brothers fans. I read on wiki that Ian Felice contributed guitars to the album. Not sure what track(s).

nittanyroar September 10, 2009 at 11:59 am

I am really excited to hear this album, I loved his first one. It’s nice to hear he’s trying to add to his sound instead of continuing right where the last one left off like some artists do.

Oz, your Buckeyes better man up and win that game for two reasons, some respect needs to be restored in the Big 10 and it will look better for Penn State when the Lions beat them in November 😉 It pains me to have to root for Pryor.

oz September 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Oh, I see. Shirk’s going for the ole, “leave a comment that’s better than the album review” strategy. How would you like it if I one upped you on a session? Challenge accepted.

Nittany – I feel your pain. It pains me to root for Pryor also.

It also pained me to watch Paterno sprint across the field at the Horseshoe during a live play while he was shitting his pants. True story. It was a few years back, but Paterno was no less incontinent.

That Guy September 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm

It would be tough for me to be more into this album right now. Been blaring it nonstop the past week.

nittanyroar September 11, 2009 at 7:29 am

I remember the day, 2006, Morelli threw 2 backbreaking pick 6’s at the end of the game. I wasn’t there but I remember watching him run off the field on TV. That will teach him to eat peppers and eggs before a game.

Woody September 11, 2009 at 8:00 am

The great thing about A.A. Bondy’s music is that it is so understated in it’s presentation. He is simply one of the best songwriters of our time and one of most genuine people I have met since we started this venture a few years ago.

Steve Suiter September 11, 2009 at 9:55 am

… can any one give me the lyrics to Mightiest of Guns ?? I can’t understand all of what he’s singing …
THANKS!

Shirk September 11, 2009 at 10:48 am

Check out the HearYa Live Session version of “Mightiest of Guns”. (see link oin Oz’ review). It’s just him and his guitar…might be easier to hear when it’s more stripped down. ???

That Guy September 11, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Shirkland – Bondy is married to Clare Felice, sister of the brothers Felice. Keeping it all in the family like mayor Daley, but not putting their name on as many signs.

John September 21, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Bondy is no longer married to Clare…just fyi.

Archie October 21, 2009 at 11:32 am

Saw AA Bondy play a few songs with the Felice Brothers last year up in Woodstock. Both his albums are my go to music when I’m doing paperwork or writing in my apartment, reall amazing stuff.

blakely June 10, 2010 at 11:51 pm

actually, i think bondy is still married to clare felice, but they have an open relationship…

jw February 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm

That would be interesting, as WTD’sL is pretty clearly a divorce/breakup record, and he’s since moved to LA to be with his new ladyfriend (?).

They’re a very fascinating bunch, the Bondy/Felices. Keepin’ it in the family indeed. If they ever release the rest of the record they made, that would be rad.

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