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Premiere: Pony Bradshaw - 'Holler Rose'

By Jof Owen

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“He’s complex. Like most of us,” Pony Bradshaw says of the titular character of ‘Holler Rose’, the latest song to further whet our appetites for his forthcoming album, North Georgia Rounder.

“I think a lot about how humans are full of contradictions,” he explains. “Every song I write feels like I’m trying to figure something out by creating a story or moral around my thoughts. Thoughts that don’t necessarily have an intelligible language yet, besides in song. Only a metaphor will do in some cases.”

“I realize now that ‘Holler Rose’ is a juxtaposition between piety and stubborn individualism. Holler, the character, is a devoutly religious man who makes his living selling homemade whisky; an illegal act. The narrator is also someone whom I admire; his obstinate pursuit of happiness. He feels wise to me. He’s someone who lives on his own terms. A dissenter. A quiet rebel. A wise anarchist.”

A devoted reader of fiction, poetry, and literature in general, Pony Bradshaw credits the rich imagery in his songs not so much to his appreciation for the songwriters who came before him but to his nearly lifelong commitment to reading.

On ‘Holler Rose’, Bradshaw takes stock of the life he’s lead on the way to where he is, retold through the character’s own surprisingly uplifting worldview. As much as North Georgia Rounder is a record that brings his Appalachian home to life, it’s also an album that documents his life away from it, as he unpacks the highs and lows of a life spent on the road.

“Me and balance, we’ve never really worked out,” he confesses, explaining how the life of a touring musician sits at odds with the simple home life he longs for. “If it’s worth it, there’s a beauty in suffering. It’s taken me a long time to realize that, but I’m thankful for all those terrible decisions I’ve made.”

“Every day, I wrestle with the moral consequences of being a touring musician,” he explains. “I’m always finding ways to make it okay to be doing this. I feel irresponsible sometimes, because I basically make my living off the goodwill of others and chance. So I’m always trying to battle those two things.”

Along with artists like Mark Eitzel, Willy Vlautin and Kurt Wagner, Bradshaw belongs to a disparate troupe of singers and songwriters whose work paints a powerful and sometimes troubling portrait of life on the underside of modern America. Like scrawled notes in the margins of a great American novel, his songs have the familiarity of a folk song you’ve heard being sung your whole life, but it’s as if the words have been rearranged to mean something completely different to what you’re used to hearing. It’s almost frighteningly poignant.

“There are few songs I’m ever completely satisfied with after I sit the pen down,” Bradshaw admits. “This is one of them.”

He’s right to be completely satisfied. Listen to ‘Holler Rose’ exclusively at Holler below:

North Georgia Rounder is released on January 27th 2023