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Bondy Finds New Life in Death and the Devil

A.A. Bondy got his start as the leader of Verbena, a blustery alt-rock band that put out a few Nirvana-esque rock records in the '90s. So it's jarring to hear his transformation on the self-released American Hearts, a stripped-bare solo record that's set to be reissued on the Fat Possum label next month. Building his songs around little more than a voice and a guitar, he's in full-blown haunted-troubadour mode, with the devil on his tail and everything.

Fortunately, Bondy also has a real talent for hard-bitten blues-folk music, with a voice that recalls a grittier Josh Rouse, as well as an impressive arsenal of sneakily grabby guitar lines. "How Will You Meet Your End" falls back on bluesy boilerplate at times ("They say I must be the devil's child," he sings), but damned if he doesn't sell it effectively, thanks in large part to guitars that shimmer, slither, slide, and sing. By the time "How Will You Meet Your End" reaches its own dramatic and doomstruck end, Bondy has cemented his status as a fatalistic troubadour with few modern peers.

A.A. Bondy will perform at this week's South by Southwest music festival. To read more of NPR Music's SXSW coverage, click here.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)