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Southern Songs and Stories: Hard Work, History and Hope in Small Town Appalachia - Pony Bradshaw

Somehow, I missed out on James “Pony” Bradshaw’s major label debut, Sudden Opera, a well-received record that was really his second album following his self-released debut. I almost missed out on his next album, the newly minted disc Calico Jim. Skimming over the songs to get an initial impression did not stop me in my tracks, which is a qualifier that is as necessary as it is so often ill-suited to recognize great music in a world such as mine, where there is always too much worthwhile music to take in and not enough time to sort it all out. So, yes, Pony Bradshaw is probably not going to jump up and grab you on first listen. Just as driving through the rolling hills of Appalachia will not give you a real sense of their beauty and their corresponding, equally defining flaws, giving a cursory listen to Calico Jim will likely leave you with only a fuzzy memory of where you really were. But stop a while, stay for an extended listen, and it becomes clear that Pony Bradshaw has given us an incredible collection of songs, one that draws these mountains and their people into sharp focus.