REVIEW: “Calico Jim” by Pony Bradshaw is a meditation in songwriting


Pony Bradshaw is an artist from northwest Georgia. It’s not easy to find information on him other than that he writes songs and is a natural dissenter. Even if you don’t know a lot about him, it’s easy to see from his new album that he has a real knack for writing songs.

Calico Jim was recorded in six days at Fellowship Hall Sound Studio in Little Rock. Of the album, Bradshaw said, “My ultimate aim was for this to be a true record of an experience, a capturing of sound, sweat, and intention.”

It becomes clear pretty quickly that storytelling is a focus on this album. “Dope Mountain” is a good example. It begins with the lyrics, “We took to stealing copper wire stashed in a laurel slick down by the old mine.” The details in the lyrics make you feel like you’re right there in the scene he’s creating. The melody is slow and deliberate, and the steel guitar provides a lonesome sound that matches the mood of the lyrics.

There isn’t a prevailing sound on this album. You could call it an alt-country album. And you wouldn’t be wrong. However, that doesn’t tell the full story. The fiddle on songs like “Let Us Breathe” brings a definite Appalachian sound while the steel guitars lend more of a desert sound. Meanwhile, the vocals bear some similarity to Lyle Lovett.

While there isn’t a prevailing sound, there is a prevailing mood on this album. These songs are introspective and meditative. Each one is something like a short story set to music. The lyrics are rich in detail and the slower tempos allow you to think while you hear each song.

If the goal of this record was to capture a sound and intention, then you can easily say, “Mission accomplished.” This isn’t a slick over-produced album. It is one that you absorb more than listen to, and that’s not something you can say about a lot of albums. The fact that it was recorded in only six days makes it even more noteworthy. Calico Jim will be available everywhere on January 29. Order your copy here.

Pony Bradshaw – guitar vocals

Cody Ray – guitar, lap steel

Aaron Boehler – bass

Paddy Ryan – drums, percussion

Philippe Bronchtein – pedal steel, Hammond organ

Casey Collis, banjo, fiddle

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