A.A. Bondy
American Hearts


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kiran EMERITUS
October 22nd, 2008 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With sparse instrumentation and a Southern rasp, A.A. Bondy proves you don't need anything more than a voice and a guitar to make something magical.

Verbena was a band of minimal mainstream success. Two of their singles received playtime on radio stations nationwide, although little fuss was created of it. Widely regarded as a 2nd rate Nirvana, thanks to a heavily influenced grunge sound, the band collapsed in 2003 and disbanded. 4 years later, former lead singer Scott Bondy dropped the first name and with it the memories of his grunge background, re-emerging as A.A. Bondy, trusty folk troubadour.

American Hearts is everything you’d expect a folk record to be. Expect to hear Bondy’s southern drawl above acoustic strumming and a harmonica. Expect to hear songs about love, religion and Billy Joe. You can damn well expect the Dylan references too. The thing about Bondy is…well, he plays his cards right. The instrumentation is sparse, his voice rarely ventures above a melodic rasp, and he’s the kind of songwriter that can convey depth in the most simplistic terms.

There’s nothing specifically surprising about this record but therein lies one of it’s key strengths. This is what it is and Bondy makes no attempt to disguise that. The majority of the songs end as they started but make no mistake; this doesn’t make the musical journey any less exciting. Simplicity holds strong throughout, proving that rarely does Bondy need more than his guitar and harmonica to convey the soul of his music, his tales of wayward American souls accompanied with scornful political and religious undertones.

In album highlight “Black Rain, Black Rain” for example, Bondy uses lines such as “And love, it don't die / It just goes from girl to girl” to a lasting impression on the listener, in that sort of vulnerable honesty that’s so hard to question. Something American Hearts accomplishes, that most fail to, is found quite simply in its title. The heart put into Bondy’s songs surpasses the obstacle of production and the atmosphere conveyed could just as easily be the listener sitting watching Bondy sing in an abandoned barn as much as it is (unfortunately) just the listener sitting at home with a pair of headphones on. Lines as seemingly cliché as “And it's love that's tearing them down/And it's love that will turn them around” are made genuine above a slow drum beat and acoustic twang through no other means than Bondy’s subdued cries. He is the heartfelt premise that makes everything else feasible. He’s reached out with open eyes and grabbed himself a piece of the country he holds dear, citing “I was born with an American heart.”

Of course, one would worry that with an album that refuses to throw anything out of left field, the sound may grow repetitive or dull. Don’t. More upbeat songs such as “Rapture (Sweet Rapture” and “Lovers’ Waltz” provide perfect variation to the slower “There’s a Reason” and “American Hearts”. Although some songs may be formulaic, the elements that create them are engaging and distinguishable enough to hold the attention of the listener, proving it anything but tedious. Moments such as the harmonica solo on “Lovers’ Waltz” or the gentle choir backdrop of ‘Ooohs’ in “Of The Sea” provide enough variation to retain individuality between the songs, rather than allowing them to blend into a tedious folk monotony.

There are no unexpected twists and turns, there aren’t any musical tangents, and there isn’t anything that will take you by surprise. This record is all the better for it. Ultimately, there’s no need for anything more than Bondy and his guitar. So why bother?



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user ratings (39)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Kiran
Emeritus
October 22nd 2008


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I didn't add the album, so I don't know what happened to the tracklist, but here it is:

1 How Will You Meet Your End
2 There's A Reason
3 Black Rain, Black Rain
4 Rapture (Sweet Rapture)
5 American Hearts
6 No Man Shall
7 World Without End
8 Lovers' Waltz
9 Vice Rag
10 Killed Myself When I Was Young
11 Witness Blues
12 Of The Sea

jrowa001
October 22nd 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

ypu can add the track list yourselff since you reviewed it. i added this album and for some reason sputnik doesnt have the tracklist come up even though i wrote it in. oh well.

as for the review, glad to see one up for this album. this is one of my fav folk albums to come out in recent years.

Kiran
Emeritus
October 22nd 2008


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ah, forgot you could edit the album if you've reviewed it! At first I didn't like it as much as I do now, I guess over a few listens it just really stuck with me. Black Rain, Black Rain is my favourite.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah this album rules and i'm glad you called black rain, black rain the highlight. thats my 5th most listened to song in itunes. nice revue.

jrowa001
October 22nd 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

the opening track and Black Rain are my favs

SnackaryBinx
October 22nd 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thank you for this, thank you very very much

Michigan
October 22nd 2008


14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

havent heard this but chan likes it

Kiran
Emeritus
October 22nd 2008


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I actually had no intentions of reviewing this tbh. I started writing a Mostly Autumn review for the Review a Random Album thing but I got so bored of it and ended up writing this. :

Kiran
Emeritus
October 25th 2008


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

A.A. Bondy needs more love

SnackaryBinx
October 31st 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is it just me, or does he sound a little bit like Dustin Kensrue on his solo album?

album needs more love btw.

handoman
October 31st 2008


2386 Comments


I remember looking for this when I saw it on someone's list. anyways, good review. I will probably get this some time.



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