As mentioned in the christening post, I love A.A. Bondy. My friends have had an earful of just how much these past few months, and I finally decided to put my proverbial money where my mouth is by putting together a collection for them of Bondy gems from around the internet, like his sessions with Daytrotter and HearYa.
I was listening to the collection on the way to work this morning, and even though I have heard all of these songs – and sometimes these very recordings – hundreds of times now, I find that they can still surprise me. On the surface of A.A. Bondy’s songs, they seem very simple. Sometimes just guitar, bass and drums. Many times, even less than that. But it’s, as I’ve often said, a deceptive simplicity. On one hand, literally, there’s his deft finger-picking on songs like “Mightiest of Guns”. But beyond the technical aspects, the practical aspects, there is the emotional depth of the songs. Listening to the version of “World Without End” contained in this collection as I rolled down the snowy highway this morning, it struck me how the harmonica wail toward the end is so plaintive that it sounds like someone crying, like the sounds I have made when crumpling under the weight of heartbreak. The next song along was Bondy’s cover of Hank, Sr.’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, a song which, given its longevity, I am even more familiar with than any of Bondy’s originals. I have always found it a lovely song, but I never felt the emotion where it surely originated until I was there, alone in my car, surrounded by Bondy’s voice as he asked if I had ever heard a Robin weep. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, this song that I knew so well was, for the first time, bringing tears to my eyes. Then, as if I had somehow unknowingly arranged these songs to allow each successive song to build on the emotion of the one before (I did not – I am not that clever in creating playlists), came the most recent rendition of “Mightiest of Guns” with the wonderful addition of Ben Lester’s pedal steel wrapping me in a melancholy that was, at the same time, as beautiful and warm as a hand-sewn quilt.
“This is why I’m starting a music blog,” I thought. This kind of music. This sort of musician who is less about any fortune-driven ideas of success (because Bondy has chased that golden ring, and it left him hollow) than he is about the art of music, about pulling himself inside out and playing his heart across his guitar strings, through his harmonica and, most tellingly, through his voice. “I just don’t know how to write for anybody but myself. The idea is that if it does something for me then hopefully it will do something for somebody else, you know?” he said in a recent interview. And it does, Mr. Bondy. It does.
The major impetus for the gathering of the collection was HearYa’s posting of a second session with A.A. Bondy and his accomplices, Macey Taylor and Ben Lester. Great to hear Bondy bringing a bit of his live-show noise and power into the studio. I hope this is a taste of things to come on his next album.