The first track from A A Bondy’s new album Believers came out of the woodwork a little while ago. Given my love for his previous album When the Devil’s Loose, I was full of hungry anticipation for The Heart is Willing, and although I liked it, it didn’t knock my socks off, and so I kept quiet. Now the full album is due for release by Fat Possum on September 13th and being streamed by the wonderful people at NPR, and having played it full a whole day solid, this first, opening track now takes its place in the whole.
I am mesmerised by the album, its a thing of real beauty and beguiling charm, a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, which perhaps accounts for my first reactions to The Heart is Willing.
Played throughout with that melancholic reverb guitar and untreated instruments, it sounds like it was recorded right next door in the school hall, the drums up close with every little tap audible, and lots of beautiful jangly guitar and just enough electronic swoosh to build a deeply evocative sound, stark but beautiful, haunted but personal.
Tracks like Down in the Fire and Skull and Bones are jewels of angsty ballads, Bondy at his bleak but bountiful best. Bondy said about this album that its songs were “conjured during and between dreams, in bare rooms, and on the late night streets of America” and there is such a feel of that through out this set, bolstered by the choices of key signatures and chord shifts, even in the more upbeat tracks like Surfer King.
The later sections of the album contain some achingly wonderful tracks like Drmz, The Twist and the almost-title track, Rte 28/Believers. If I could play the guitar (which I can’t) this is the sound I would want to make, sublime.
There is a much stronger sense of a band on this album, the sense of Bondy fronting something up rather than the lonesome, isolated troubadour of before, some excellent playing throughout and Mr Bondy in very fine voice.
Already this is an album that runs straight up by favourites of the year, haunting, beautiful and powerfully evocative. He will be touring the album this autumn, initially in the States but then in Europe when he supports the Felice Brothers, all dates can be found on his web site and I for one will be rolling along to get the live experience when he is over.
Late addendum: only just stumbled across the fact that the fine drumming and some (all?) of the steel guitar work is the product of one Ben Lester, who writes a blog about his trout obsession up in Wisconsin right here – you can also tag along via his Twitter account on @lesterlog. Bass on the album is courtesy of Macey Taylor
Pic: Ted Newsome