Wow. I discovered AA Bondy a while ago through his record ‘When the Devil’s Loose’, released back in 2009. It’s a good record but that’s probably as much as I’d have to say about it. It was never ground breaking. It was never anything new or fresh. It was just good, solid Americana. (Although, that said, ‘Mightiest of Guns’ is a stunning way to open a record – gorgeous song). So I guess that I have just never felt compelled to keep tabs on his career based on what I’d heard previously.
I stumbled upon his new record ‘Believers’ after discovering that he is to support The Felice Brothers on their forthcoming UK tour. Since I will be at a show I figured I would see if he had a new record out to coincide with the tour. (I did not realise he was tied to The Felice Brothers by virtue of being a brother in law. I just assumed they’d chosen a good tour support). As it turns out, not only have they chosen a good tour support, they have chosen a man whose new record is nothing short of brilliant. I am now even more excited about the gig than I was before.
This record evokes everything that I love about American music. I fell in love with Wilco because of Summerteeth. I fell in love with Ryan Adams because of Heartbreaker. I fell in love with The Felice Brothers because of ‘Tonight at the Arizona’. I fell in love with Richmond Fontaine because of ‘The Fitzgerald’. However, more often than not American, and specificallyAmericana, artists come along and don’t really produce anything that makes me fall head over heels in love with them. I can run through a list of names – Dylan Leblanc, Doug Paisley, Matthew Ryan, Justin Townes Earle plus more. All good artists. All with good albums. None of whom I have fallen for in the manner I have the likes of Wilco, Adams etc. The most recent to buck this trend was Josh Ritter with his new record ‘So Runs The World Away’, a truly excellent record. But my god, AA Bondy has gone and done it. I feel like I did when I first heard Heartbreaker. I feel like I do whenever I hear an amazing piece of music, actually. I feel completely captivated and stuck, listening to it over and over on my headphones at work. I keep waiting for it to not be as good as it was the first time, or second time or tenth time. Yet it just keeps getting better and better.
‘Believers’ is quite simply breath taking. It really is. From the first notes of ‘The Heart is Willing’to the last of ‘Scenes from a Circus’ it is simply inspired. I’d go as far as saying that this is some of the finest song writing I have heard in quite some time. Along with The Antlers and Bon Iver, AA Bondy has created something of a 2011 classic.
The balance of the record is perfect. Sure, there may not be anything ground breaking or fresh about what is on offer here. The big difference is that the quality that is on offer eclipses much of what is being produced by his contemporaries at this moment in time. Whilst Ryan Adams falls further and further in to the song writing abyss, following his turgid last offering, AA Bondy seems to be taking on his mantle. Yes, much of this record is reminiscent of Adams at his best. Indeed, this record will appeal greatly to Ryan Adams fans. But it is the kind of quality that, for too long, Ryan Adams has failed to produce. Yes, ‘Believers’ eludes to the Adams of old but signifies a change in the guard of Americana music and retains AA Bondy’s identity as a songwriter in the process.
For too long now there have been too many Wilco wannabes. Ryan Adams wannabes. Richmond Fontaine wannabes. Felice Borthers wannabes. Well, AA Bondy is far from a wannabe. With this offering he has propelled himself above his contemporaries to the forefront of the genre. Support slots with The Felice Brothers for now but surely sell out headline tours in no time at all? Based on this record that really cannot be an unrealistic target.