When A.A. Bondy was lead singer for Verbena, the band was often accused of lifting large portions of its sound and style from the Rolling Stones (on its first album) and Nirvana (on Into the Pink). So with that history, it makes a certain sense that Bondy's second solo effort, When the Devil's Loose, recalls another artist, in this case Ryan Adams. The largest part of this comes from Bondy's voice, which bears a reasonable aural resemblance to Adams and his sweetly jaded tone, though Bondy shows off a bit more sonic weight and a less studied demeanor. But the music isn't all that far away from Adams either, though if this is by design rather than accident, at least Bondy has the good sense to embrace the straightforward and emotionally powerful sound of Heartbreaker rather than the more scattershot style of Adams' subsequent solo efforts. Most of When the Devil's Loose was cut with just a bassist (Macey Taylor) and drummer (Paul Buchignani) accompanying Bondy and his guitar, and the sessions have an air of gentle melancholy that brings out their graceful balance of blues and country accents; the minimal backing emphasizes the late-night vibe of the music, and the deep lonesome wanderings of the melodies are an ideal match for the downbeat storytelling of "On the Moon," "Oh the Vampyre," and "The Coal Hits the Fire." Bruce Watson's production is subtle and nonintrusive, and that works beautifully in favor of the songs, which clearly play best without excess gingerbread and with Bondy's voice and lyrics placed front and center. When the Devil's Loose might share some reference points with another singer/songwriter with a similar offhand affection for roots music, but A.A. Bondy seems to be developing a voice of his own despite all the surface similarities, and the result is a quietly powerful album of songs that cut deeper into the heart and soul than you might expect at first glance.
|Label:||Fat Possum Records|