Singer-songwriter and storyteller Pony Bradshaw has released “Van Gogh,” the latest song from his debut album for Rounder, due June 21. Sudden Opera was produced by 10-time Grammy-award winner Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton), Grammy-award winner Shani Gandhi (Parker Millsap, Smooth Hound Smith) and artist/producer Jedd Hughes (Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell).
“Van Gogh” kicks off the record with swagger and ache befitting its title. “It’s part dream, part fiction,” Bradshaw says. He pieces together vivid imagery and enigmatic wordplay to create a mood of ambiguous longing mixed with brazen self-awareness — a vibe maintained throughout the album.
Following the release of “Van Gogh” last week, streaming service Amazon Music added the track to their global Americana playlist Brushland and the Fresh Folk & Americana playlist.
Listen to “Van Gogh” here.
The new record is stacked with songs that pick up religious imagery and run wild. “Shame” saunters through smoldering faux-finger pointing, while “Ain’t No Eden” accepts life in its often-tortured present, dismissing the idea of paradisal relief. With hands-in-the-air panache, organ, and bouncing backbeat, “Didn’t it Rain” gives in to the unknown.
Spinning a rich family history, “Sippi Sand” is the most autobiographical song on the album. A gospel choir helps build the track’s depth as Pony’s own vocals soar.
Featuring electric guitar that buzzes with Heartbreakers’ flair, “Charlatan” takes down the spiritual snake-oil salesmen. “Bad Teeth,” shuffles broodingly and dreamy “Loretta” explores desire, fallout, and escaping into and with another person. Poignant strings help propel the turbulent “Gaslight Heart,” while “Josephine” brings Sudden Opera to a haunting close.
Album standout “10×10” relies on plaintive strings and piano to set the stage for a man crying out for respite.
These days, Bradshaw reads novels and poetry more than he listens to songs, although heroes such as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark still loom large. The 19th century French authors, poets and painters have a hold on him, especially Flaubert. He’s interested in the creative process–that grind that conditions the brain to know how to recognize inspiration and to run with it.
He recently wrapped up a series of dates opening for Social Distortion and is gearing up to go back out on the road later this year.
“I ask myself every day why I want to be good at this,” he says. “It’s hard. I wrestle with the ego, and this whole thing. But I just know that writing, singing and playing makes me happy, so I continue to do it. It’s the only thing I feel confident in pursuing with this much tenacity. Besides raising my kids.”
Sudden Opera Track List
1 Van Gogh
4 Ain’t No Eden
7 Didn’t It Rain
9 Bad Teeth
10 Sippi Sand
11 Gaslight Heart
Sudden Opera is due June 21, 2019.