By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Back in the '90s, AA Bondy fronted Verbena, releasing one of the decade's finest debuts, 1997's Souls for Sale, a ragged, rowdy blast of Stones-y rock raunch that could've challenged the Drive-By Truckers and earned the band a major-label shot for 1999's Dave Grohl-produced Into the Pink. Unfortunately, the record ended up sounding too much like the Foo Fighters for anything to come of it. Lineup changes and getting dropped from its label didn't stop the release of Verbena's third album, La Musica Negra in 2003, but Bondy pulled the plug shortly thereafter.
His solo debut, American Hearts, returns to the dusty underpinning of Verbena 's first release, mining country-blues with acoustic ballads instead of amped-up rockers. The writing's still solid, showcased in reflective, drifting arrangements equally informed by The Band and The Byrds. And it's bolstered with plenty of finger-picking and harmonica, creating a strong rustic vibe, which, with his dry, reedy croon, suggests Paul Westerberg covering Buffalo Springfield.
There's a guileless charm to Bondy's lyrics, whether he's singing paeans to cocaine, heroin and religion on "Vice Rag," imagining a love big as a "World Without End," or offering that "the love which is tearing you down is the love that will turn around " on the aching redemption plea "There's a Reason."
Two of the area's finest Americana acts, Doug Burr and Telgraph Canyon, open this sturdy bill.