Album Review – Pony Bradshaw’s “North Georgia Rounder”
There is a discipline of Southern heritage deeply interested in the art of language, and not just for the stories and truths it may help tell, but writing and talking just for the sake of it, and finding beauty and wisdom in the words themselves, and how they relate to the Southern American experience. We’re talking about the realm of William Faulkner and other masters that the modern world has so unfortunately moved on from for the frenetic priority of now.
North Georgia native Pony Bradshaw is uninterested and your priorities though. Instead, he’s allured by the idea of resurrecting this proud art form in the musical realm with snapshot stories full of Southern vernacular and worthy aphorisms. It is mostly Americana in sound, but most importantly, it’s strongly literary, aided in this pursuit by a compelling voice reminiscent in some respects to the elusive Willis Alan Ramsey.
This is not a new pursuit for Pony Bradshaw. Patient and attentive listeners have already been enjoying Pony’s back catalog, including 2021’s Calico Jim, which focused a bit more on character, similar to how his new one, North Georgia Rounder, focuses a bit more on moments and places. Moreover, the new album finds more involvement from the music—a bit more tempo, groove, and volume to make Pony’s exquisitely crafted words more accessible to the audience.
You can tell by the titles of the songs—“Safe in the Arms of Vernacular,” “Kindly Turn the Bed Down, Drusilla”—that this is not some catchy music to liven up your work day. This is music to ponder and reflect upon. But Pony also makes sure to not completely forsake the importance of an enjoyable listening experience, which he delivers in the equally well-written, but more infectiously gratifying songs like “Holler Rose” and “Foxfire Wine.”
Pony Bradshaw’s heart may reside in North Georgia where the southernmost reaches of the Appalachian region reside, and this may be where the lion’s share of this album’s material finds its inspiration. But other locales also play a role. Knoxville, Louisiana, and Arkansas make appearances—the latter where the album was recorded incidentally, at Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock.
In certain ways, North Georgia Rounder works like a travelogue of places captured in moments. You can hear how Pony Bradshaw’s experience as a traveling musician plays into the writing as he comes and goes, making acquaintances and observances while soaking up cultural references like a sponge, and the pull of home life always drawing him back. The exploration of places and people for their idiosyncratic differences also gives him a sharper perspective on his home from having viewed it from a distance, and through the eyes of others.
As esoteric and involved as all of this may sound, this album does not fall delinquent on making sure you’re entertained. It labors to find and expose the appeal in the ideas it broaches, and the music that it presents. Such a literary approach to music will never appeal to everyone. But on North Georgia Rounder, Pony Bradshaw draws on his passion for the medium to make it appealing nonetheless.
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January 27, 2023 @ 9:04 am
Haven’t heard the term Foxfire which means a luminescent glow emitted by certain fungi on rotting wood in years. The Foxfire Project started as a class project at a Rabun County high school in the north Georgia mountains where students interviewed neighbors and wrote a series of articles, which turned into a quarterly magazine and then a book in 1972. Other books followed that brought the philosophy and wisdom of the mountains to millions, teaching creative self-sufficiency and preserving the stories, crafts, and customs of Southern Appalachia. I dated a girl in college whose grandparents were featured in the first book. But like most places that whole area has been gentrified and resembles nothing like it used to be.
February 19, 2023 @ 2:24 pm
I have a question. What exactly is a rounder? My ex from Appalachia used that term to describe his father who had multiple character flaws so I’m not sure what exactly rounder refers too: ladies man, (cheater), drinker, someone who goes from job to job?
February 20, 2023 @ 7:48 am
All of the above! But mainly a dissolute person or drunkard.
January 27, 2023 @ 9:35 am
This album rips so hard. Pony is absolutely incredible. Holler Rose is my favorite on the album for anyone looking for a starting point. The writing on here puts wrinkles in my usually smooth brain. Not to mention he’s an incredible vocalist, and this album is more country and sonically involved than most of his other stuff.
Don’t make me say it!
January 27, 2023 @ 11:20 am
The fact that you didn’t puts me in a Great Depression.
January 28, 2023 @ 4:44 pm
When you say this album rips – is there by any chance some other album that also rips that you could compare this one to, just so we can get a better idea what you mean when you say that?
January 27, 2023 @ 9:40 am
Went to see him last night at Eddie’s Attic.
Expectations were of a singer/songwriter event, but damn was I delighted with an experience. Good stuff.
January 27, 2023 @ 2:28 pm
Was at the same show and went in expecting the same. When he was joined but the band it was a pleasant surprise. Great to see live of you get the chance. I just find it amusing at least three people who were at that show are here and have already posted. Every time I go down there I hear someone reference SCM but could be based on the shows I attend.
January 27, 2023 @ 6:26 pm
Sounds like we know where to find great new tunes to me. I saw Billy Strings at Eddie’s, and many others based on leads I’ve picked up from here
Spoke with Pony last night as he signed my vinyl, told him SCM tipped me onto him. He said he liked this site because the reviews were honest, I agreed and said yeah he can get little “asshole’sh” at times- Pony replied “like I said, honest”
January 27, 2023 @ 10:55 am
Foxfire Wine hands-down BEST SONG OF 2022
January 27, 2023 @ 11:13 am
I was hoping you would review the album. I saw Pony Bradshaw at Eddie’s Attic (Decatur GA) last night, despite having my fractured foot in a walking boot. Glad I made the show. I have never saw the venue so packed with people (sold out and I think oversold). He and his band did a stellar show. He deserves a bigger stage.
January 27, 2023 @ 1:07 pm
Her deserves the “bigger” room, but there is not a better room. Eddie’s is by far my favorite place to enjoy a show. Everybody shuts the hell up and the moments flow.
January 27, 2023 @ 2:15 pm
I don’t think I would go quite so far to say the whole area has been gentrified. There are still plenty of good spots in Rabun County and the rest of North GA. Just more rich white Atlanta folks on main street and the most well known trails. Once you get just a few minutes out of town, off the beaten path, the scenery hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last 20-30 years.
January 27, 2023 @ 2:17 pm
Whoops, replied to wrong thread.
January 27, 2023 @ 4:26 pm
Oh my this is some tasty stuff. Reminds me a bit of a band from Nashville in the late 90’s and early 2000’s called The Floating Men. Unfortunately they broke up in 2010 but they were way ahead of their time. They were Americana before the word existed. Mainly acoustic based but added electric instruments after their first few albums. You can still find their stuff on streaming platforms. Damn I miss The Floating Men and listening to Pony made me miss them more.
January 27, 2023 @ 5:36 pm
This guy is the real deal.
January 28, 2023 @ 5:37 am
Really enjoyed his last album and this one hasn’t disappointed.
Calico Jim has been one of my most played songs since it’s release.
January 28, 2023 @ 10:49 am
This is a damn good record. Really loving it and also diving into the back catalog.
January 28, 2023 @ 11:47 am
I dig Pony Bradshaw.
January 30, 2023 @ 9:11 am
Just gave it a first listen and liked it but I think the songwriting will really bloom with multiple listens.
January 31, 2023 @ 3:22 pm
It’s no fun when what’s bound to be one of the best releases all year comes out at the beginning of the year. Kinda kills the suspense.
March 24, 2023 @ 6:08 am
Couldn’t disagree more. Forsaking the melodic sensibilities of Sudden Opera in favor of this dirge is depressing and not particularly enjoyable. Plus, the dude is a fucking imposter. So focused and determined to be the voice of the “common man” but then regurgitates some of the most pretentious lyrical choices I’ve EVER heard, this album feels like a pissed off 19 year old poetry student from Georgia State College for the Clinically Depressed write it. Seriously….who puts “apotheosis” in a song???? This is a “try hard” album if there ever was one. Very disappointing.