Beneath an Alabama Moon: A.A. Bondy at the Echo
AA Bondy spun folky yarns at the Echo on Saturday, exuding a shy but witty charisma. He requested the disco balls be turned on with a tinge of we-don't-have-these-where-I-come-from, which nourished an image of him sitting on a rickety back porch beneath an Alabama moon, a guy who sees a vampire in the lonely cowboy at a bar. "I could drink the world and never get my fill," Bondy sings in country-slow "Oh The Vampyre." He walks the streets until morning and goes to bed lonely. "You see it ain't my fault that I am this way, just a'crying in my box for I miss the day."
Inspired by the woods, the weather and troubled times, Bondy's old-soul romantic songs bring to bear a country inflection, offering consolation and sympathy for the devil. Bondy's voice crackled dreamily over his words; he blew into his harmonica as if filling an empty tank. One of his bandmates alternated between drums and pedal steel guitar, the latter adding pleasant eeriness. There were a few moments of feedback wildness, and Bondy twisted his guitar at degrees against his amp -- before restoring perfect calm. It was music perfectly suited for the rainy season, when the sight of birds landing on a wet bush feels like a metaphor -- something he'd describe simply, but would hit deep.
A born-again-country guy, Bondy moved from tornado alley, Alabama to the New York Catskills after his first band, Verbena, broke up in 2003. Leaving behind Verbena's signature grungy distortion, Bondy recorded his first solo album a few years later in a barn. Fat Possum Records re-released it in 2008, as well as last year's When The Devil's Loose. One of the cool things about Fat Possum, in fact, is that the label began in 1992 with a mission of releasing aging, unknown blues artists, and only later took on modern bluesy rockers such as the Black Keys and Entrance. In AA Bondy they've got a musician who finger-picks his guitar like he's telling its story as well as his own.
A blond girl wearing a '50s outfit smiled shamelessly at AA Bondy on stage. When the songwriter thanked the Echo crowd's gracious reception, she coolly replied "thank you" so he could hear, her sincerity backed by good old flirty eyelash batting. Only two feet away, he stumbled through another 'oh thanks,' obviously clued in to her advances; he fidgeted with his harmonica. She mouthed his words during every song, loving the folk singer's all-in-black mellow soul.