Pony Bradshaw — North Georgia Rounder
Pony Bradshaw’s third album, North Georgia Rounder – which he’s been releasing bit by bit on Spotify over the last few months – is now available on all streaming services, and it’s a fantastic piece of work, perhaps his best yet.
A less twangy Sturgill Simpson, a more rugged Ryan Adams, a gentler Waylon Jennings, Bradshaw’s sound is effortlessly cool and sincerely soulful. It encapsulates so many great influences, spanning genres. There’s a smorgasbord of sampling from jukebox favorites and, at the same time, the sound is uniquely Bradshaw’s own, especially vocally. I don’t even want to try to compare it to someone. There are some inspirations present, perhaps Lyle Lovett. His voice is smooth, yet it’s evident he’s done some living. There’s rasp, but there’s clarity and honesty that’s genuine.
Perhaps Bradshaw’s strongest quality is his songwriting, which grips the listener on every song. I’m particularly haunted by “A Duffel, A Grip and My D35,” a song that matches the sorrow so often captured by Gillian Welch and shares a narrative with imagery more like a short story than a song. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Bradshaw is such an avid reader.
“A Duffel…” and “Go Down Appalachia” are the last of the songs on North Georgia Rounder to release, and they are gems with two different energies. “Go Down…” is as close to a hoedown as you get on this album. It’s an upbeat tribute to Bradshaw’s Georgia upbringing. “It’s a privilege of mine to be a common man,” he sings. The song clears up some misconceptions and shares his pride. He’s proud to be part of the Appalachian fabric, and he will defend her until the end: “Go Down Appalachia/Yonder stands the river Conasauga to and fro/Oh, death and transfiguration/May it fill your soul with the wild and Holy Ghost.”
Bradshaw, who wrote all the songs on the album, does an amazing job of transporting the listener into the story, captivating them with a powerful first line. One of the best examples of this is in “Safe in the Arms of Vernacular,” which starts with “Daddy brought me back a bonafide gas mask/All the way home from Desert Storm.” Like Jason Isbell, Bradshaw is modernizing the story song and doing so in hypnotizing and effective ways.
North Georgia Rounder is full of remarkable musical talent. You get a good taste of this on “Kindly Turn the Bed Down Drusilla,” where Philippe Bronchtein shines on dobro. Throughout the album Bronchtein compliments the song with intoxicating pedal steel, perhaps most notably on “Mosquitoes,” a slow, sultry number that might feature Bradshaw’s best vocal performance on the album. He demonstrates remarkable control and sustain.
In addition to Bronchtein (who also plays B3 organ and Wurlitzer), musicians on the album include Will Stewart on electric guitar (his work on “A Free Roving Mind” is spectacular and a little reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour), Robert Green on bass, Ryan Moore on drums and Jenna Mobley on fiddle (she practically makes you cry on “A Duffel…”). Bradshaw plays acoustic guitar.
Released by All Eyes Media, North Georgia Rounder was recorded at Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was engineered by Jason Weinheimer (who also mixed it) and Zachariah Doyce. Alex McCullough mastered it.
The wait is over. All 10 songs on North Georgia Rounder are available, and I strongly recommend checking out the full package and listening to the album in its entirety. You don’t need my advice, though. He’ll leave you wanting more with each track, and if you have to wait a while now for the next single or EP to drop, well, I guess you’ll have to see him live. See you there.
Highlights: “Foxfire Wine,” “A Free Roving Mind,” “A Duffel, A Grip and My D35”
For more information on Pony Bradshaw or to purchase North Georgia Rounder, go to https://www.ponybradshaw.net/
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