Ponies – Ponies

Reviewed by Reza Mills

According to the sleeve notes, this 11 track CD-R I have in my possession is one of 44 compiled in October 2008. The tracks have been recorded in a variety of locations from Lancaster to Leeds as well as Ponies’ hometown of Blackpool. Ponies for those of you not in the know, is Tom Bramhall. Having been suitably impressed by his performance at The Britannia in late January, I decided to purchase a copy of the album from Tom on the night and boy was that a good decision!

The album starts off with a track called Doin’ Lord (Way beyond the blues). The gospel influence on the track reminded me somewhat of Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming and Saved albums following his conversion to Christianity. Thankfully Tom is a lot more subtle with his beliefs, but there is a definite spiritual feel to the album, which is continued with the tracks Go down Moses, Tuck Jump the Devil and Some o’ these days. The good thing about what Tom does is he never lets the message dominate at the expense of the music. So what you do get is very uplifting soulful music that stirs the spirit without the preaching.

Tom’s vocal style is beautifully balanced between affecting and at times howls from the very depths of hell. Tom sounds like a man looking for redemption who maybe is trying to reconcile himself with his faith. Not unlike what Cat Stevens was going for with his last album under that name Back to Earth. The music is in the indie folk tradition with mostly acoustic guitar and harmonica. As touched upon earlier, there is a heavy Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens influence, but there is also a lo-fi quality as well. The songs are certainly recorded in that style; not too dissimilar to bands like early Sebadoh and Guided by Voices, or even Daniel Johnson and Jad Fair where the songs are recorded as their laid down. They haven’t been continually fussed over and polished till there’s little of the original character left. This is especially refreshing in an age where most bands are sounding increasingly bland, diluted and overproduced. There is a down-to-earth and organic feel about the album that is missing from much of today’s highly polished and trendy so-called alternative acts. Indeed this might have something to do with Tom’s D.I.Y. ethics not only influenced from the likes of Ian Mackaye and Dischord Records but also Mackaye’s most recent project to date The Evens.

At times listening to the album you would be mistaken for thinking that the album was recorded in the 1920’s or 1930’s and not the 2000’s. The recording does sound like it comes from that era, which is no bad thing. Indeed it has that early scratchy vinyl feel to it, as if you were listening to Robert Johnson. The music is upbeat and you find yourself singing along at times, as indeed I was the other day to ‘There is a house’, the best song on the album in my opinion. Unlike a lot of indie-folk groups doing the rounds these days that are weighed down with their own self-importance as well as trying far too hard to sound as beautiful as possible, Tom’s music sounds naturally emotive and genuine. This is indie-folk ladies and gents but not as you know it. For more .information on Ponies you can visit their webpage on http://www.myspace.com/poniesetc

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5 Responses

  1. i love ponies

  2. Ponies = class act

  3. yeah, Tom is the man. Its been a tough few weeks for a troubadour with a broken arm, but I think his return will bring a new side to Ponies. Looking forward to it

  4. Dylan’s ‘motorcycle accident’ of 1966.

  5. If children ride Ponies and Ponies ride motorbikes, how come I’ve never seen a horse in a motorcar?

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