Thursday, February 14, 2008

AA Bondy’s speedy songwriting doesn’t detract from the power of his music

by Sara Abadi

In a typical week, most people go to work, get a couple of errands done and maybe go out with some friends. In AA Bondy’s world, one week is plenty of time to write one of the best albums of 2007. And in just one month, American Hearts was recorded and mixed at the Red Barn in Palenville, New York. (An actual barn -- you can even hear faint crow caws in the background). “I really preferred recording in the barn,” Bondy says. “Studio records cost lots of money and lots of effort gets put into them, which seems pretty contrary for a rock ’n’ roll album.”

Perhaps American Hearts got its stripped-down sound as a result of its recording location, but Bondy’s spiritual lyrics (“I don’t want to talk about Jesus / I just want to see His face / The trees are swinging like hanging men / And I just want to see his face / Rapture, sweet rapture won’t you lay your hands on me?”) indicate that the raw emotion conveyed on this album comes from a deeper place. Bondy’s gritty voice sings over acoustic instrumentals, complemented by the occasional harmonica. All 12 songs are well played, filled with melodies and warm production. Influenced by a blend of folk and blues, each song proves less is more.

Love it or hate it, Bondy takes full responsibility for American Hearts (which you can hear live, at least in part, at Beat Kitchen tonight). “I like being in control because there’s no one else to rely on,” he says. “It’s all you. You make all of the decisions, and if you or anyone else doesn’t like it, there’s no one to blame but yourself. But I like being the one to blame.”

Bondy says he enjoys playing live shows because they provide him with opportunities to put a new slant on the music he recorded. If American Hearts is any indication of Bondy’s live shows, fans can expect to hear emotionally charged folk music that sounds like it’s coming from a veteran musician and not an artist who released his first solo album less than one year ago.

A.A. Bondy plays Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont, 773/281-4444) Feb. 14 with Kevin Devine