Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
We're not entirely sure how much Scott "A.A." Bondy wants you to know about the state of his mind - or the fragile state of his soul - the afternoon that he arrived to share it and an evening with us here in Rock Island. We'll tread loosely and gingerly, though his tenderness and the various breaking points that he always seems to be dueling with or settling on are the prominent themes to his magnificent folk songs. They are the elements that lead him both astray and home. They take away everything he believes to be truth and the stir the waters with a rich river mud that takes away all of his clarity - or whatever part of his clarity that he had left. He's a man who has let the midnight oils and the midnight fires combine to scald him pretty bad, and they're working on taking his muscles and his bones next. An exhaustion that's arisen out of a lifestyle of playing his music in bars and various sized rooms on the road, of being separated from some of the dearest people in his life for prolonged periods of time and out of a depression that might even be something that's come down through the generations, has enveloped him more these days. It will lead to more songs about being out amongst the pine trees, watching them dancing in twilights, shaking their needles to the ground like perspiration and evidence. He lyrically takes himself to these comforting and bewilderingly serene places in fictional forests, or ones that he remembers from way back when, because he can't really take himself to these places. Or, if he can, it's not for very long, just a quick look, never a real feel. He cannot, in his hectic schedule, just cut himself off from his grind. It must keep moving and it's eating him alive, as if this passionate outpouring of sentiments and wanderings is his way of weeping without crying. When Bondy, the Birmingham, Alabama, native, was in town, he seemed more beat down, more haggard than normal, having a hard time trying to reconcile his frazzled psyche and what he thought he was supposed to be feeling and thinking. He was preoccupied with the state of his shaky mind and a spirit that he felt he was trying to protect - it was just hanging on my a thin, thin thread and he was doing what he could to nurse it back into some form of shape, good enough to be left to its own strength. We hear all of these uncertainties and these flapping white flags on "When The Devil's Loose," Bondy's latest record, and another phenomenal exploration into the kinds of unhinged, paranoia-fueled ways that our minds and hearts use to actually steady themselves - not in resignation, but in hope. There may not be a more insightful and interesting songwriter working today who is able to make us comprehend and behold in some much natural and inspired beauty in the face of such sullenness and dark moods. His is the beating of a midnight heart and it's a beating that echoes like a canon's boom, frightening us with its power. We let him pull us and if the direction is down, where he's going, we still join for the scenery is immaculate and it's slightly dreamy, slightly ominous.
A.A. Bondy Official Site
A.A. Bondy's Debut Daytrotter Session
Fat Possum Records