We had the opportunity to get advance access to Pony Bradshaw's debut album Sudden Opera which drops June 21 on Rounder Records and the opportunity to interview him for an Artist Spotlight! Bradshaw has been dubbed by NPR as "one to watch" and for good reason. His mix of alt/country is unique and leaves you wanting more. Check out our track by track review of Sudden Opera and our interview with him below!
Advance Review - Pony Bradshaw - Sudden Opera
"Van Gogh" kicks off the album with an even bluesy/country/rock feel to it. Bradshaw's vocals rise above the music with a slight vibrato. His voice is just so pure. There is also some great guitar work in this one as well. Overall a bright opening to the album. "Jehovah" is up next, Bradshaw shows off a bit more of his vocal range in this one hitting highs that border on falsetto. The organs in the background of the melody give the song a sense of warmth that pairs well with Bradshaw's vocals. This one leans a little more country than blues and that's fine by me.
Next up is "Shame". It primarily features acoustic guitar and Bradshaw's vocals, until the fantastic hook. Stylistically, it evokes to some of The Revivalists' lesser known work (and that's a good thing). Bradshaw again shows great range with some of the highs he displays here. The electric guitar that comes on midway through the song is great and really helps build the rhythm. On "Ain't No Eden", again leans alt/country and is slowly paced in the verses. It picks up a bit on the chorus with some high notes. Bradshaw adds a bit of edge to the later verses with electric guitar on the melody. Bradshaw utilizes vibrato here quite effectively in his vocals and does do some falsetto on the hook.
"10x10" verses focuses on Bradshaw's vocals, which are accompanied by piano. It again picks up toward the hook with some great guitar that leans alt/country. The second verse keeps the pace established by the hook. This seems to be a calling card of Bradshaw on his slower material, that is, pushing it at the hook/second verse. There's a fun guitar and piano solo in this one that stands out to me that I really enjoyed. "Charlatan" feels very country/rock right out the gate, especially on the verses. The hook seems more in line with the sound that Bradshaw has established. I loved the inclusion of the organ here, it again helps the melody feel full.
With "Didn't It Rain", Bradshaw again opts for a faster melody that highlights his vocals. There are elements of rock, blues, and country at play here. "Loretta" slows it down again, highlighting Bradshaw's vocals. His ability to sustain notes is fantastic and it shows so much in this track. It's beautifully done.
"Bad Teeth" has some grit to it, particularly in the accompanying guitar and I absolutely love it. Bradshaw's vocals serve as a stark juxtaposition, they're smooth and pure, I love the pairing. The chorus here is absolutely brilliant, the use of metaphor in the lyrics, and the use of elevation in Bradshaw's vocals takes it to another level. "Sippi Sand" takes another turn toward blues/country territory and Bradshaw really pushes his vocals here, with fantastic results. Lyrically, we have classic blues/country storytelling throughout. I absolutely appreciated the backing vocals from the choir here, it gave it a pure sense of almost gospel.
As we wind down, "Gaslight Heart" comes on as a ballad of sorts at first. The chorus here is dynamic and just might be the best one on the album. I loved the use of metaphors describing words as bullets, absolutely dynamic storytelling. We close with "Josephine", an acoustic track where Bradshaw shines again vocally. It's methodically paced and features some of the most dynamic vocals from Bradshaw. A hell of a way to burn the damn thing down, I love it.
Closing Thoughts - Pony Bradshaw is a phenomenol alt/country/blues musician and vocally he's a rare talent. He features a diverse offering on Sudden Opera ranging from faster paced country leaning tracks, to slower paced ballads, to bluesy numbers. If you're into alt/country you're going to love him. If you like Southern Rock you're going to dig him. Or let me put it this way, if you like acts like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Ruston Kelly, or Bishop Gunn, you're going to dig Pony Bradshaw. He's a phenomenal story teller who can pull a unique metaphor out of his hat that instantly hits you and has you thinking "What the hell did he just sing?". He really pulls it all together here on Sudden Opera and is something that is definitely worth your time.
Rating - 4/5
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
"I was late to the game. I moved to Georgia about 12 years ago. I started playing guitar when I was 25. I wrote my first song at 29, started doing open mics. Caught fire and couldn't stop writing music. I'm pushing 40 now so I've been doing it about 10-12 years."
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
"I usually wake up, have coffee, and try to write. I attempt it every day. I'm not strict and will do it whenever. I don't have a job besides music so it's little dangerous. Before I quit my job I'd just write at work all day long. You can't force it though sometimes it ain't coming, I just show up every day."
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
"Guy Clark, Lightnin' Hopkins, Clifton Chenier, Bob Dylan, I read more than I listen to music now. I read half of my life." 4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
"I'm not a gear head, I do have a 1960's Harmony Sovereign, it's made with good wood. I don't play it much live because it's touchy, I play it at home mostly for inspiration."
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
"The live show is a little more reckless, a little more rough around the edges, all the good things you don't capture in the studio. I like venues where the sound people are happy to be there and act like their on the same team with you. Not about a rider or anything, more about a human connection when it comes to the venue."
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
"It's there to be listened to and liked. There's not one thing for everyone, if you're trying to make something that's for the most people, you're going to make something that's garbage."
7. Can you tell us about the writing, recording, and promoting process of Sudden Opera?
"I wrote all the tunes, half of them were more than demoed down in Mississippi. Rounder sought me out and wanted me to make something more. We cut it from the ground up in Nashville. Art were just photos either I took or my girlfriend took. Promotion, I have no idea about any of that stuff, that's all the label's work."