Pony Bradshaw's 2021 "Calico Jim" was a masterpiece that set a high bar for this follow-up "North Georgia Rounder." Rife with similar southern Appalachian imagery from the place he calls home, the album is not as overtly political as its predecessor, a bit more personal, but still retaining much of the same perspective.
Rather ironically Bradshaw did not grow up in the area although he's called it home for the past 15 years. It's a growing area that boasts an expanding industrial infrastructure and suburban communities that bely its historical reputation of redneck, hillbilly and off-the-grid types. Nonetheless, it's the latter that Bradshaw embraces, focusing a bit on its evil aspects. Originally from East Texas, where the Trail of Tears ended, he now resides where it began. An avid reader and observer, he credits much of his imagery and storytelling to the authors he's read.
Backed by a five-piece country rock band, Bradshaw's opener "Foxfire Wine" is inspired by Bruce Chatwin's book "Songlines" about nomadic peoples of Australia, he adapted the lyrics to fit his region -
"I woke up on the wrong side of my bedroll/Deep in the holler where the feral hog roams/Dreams of T-bone steaks and foxfire wine/Foxfire wine to heal my mind." It's one of four singles already released. His views on racism and genocide, themes inherent in "Calico Jim" course through "A Free Flowing Mind." The mournful "Holler Rose" begins with an incredible opening line – "I wiped away the tears like they was flies on a melon," sung with immense passion. It gets even deeper on "Mosquitoes" where addiction and despair prevail.
The title track is current, describing a troubadour, who performs for his wages. "I'm a North Georgia Rounder playing these foothill stomps...Run these rivers singing these sins / Up the valley I work for tips." He covers similar turf in "Kindly Turn the Bed Dow, Drusilla" referencing life on the road and the central troubadour theme runs through "A Duffel, a Grip, and My D35" as well. The melancholic "Safe in the Arms of Vernacular" is also personal, wherein his father brings him a gas mask after serving in Desert Storm. No matter the narrative, Bradshaw has clearly stamped his reputation as one of our best storytellers.