Ponderosa : Pool Party

Written by Tom Speed

September 1, 2012

Remember the old Monty Python movie, And Now For Something Completely Different?

It’s hard not to recall that catch phrase when listening to Pool Party, the new record from the Atlanta-based rock group Ponderosa. And that’s mostly because it’s such a departure from their debut, last year’s Moonlight Revival. Their first record excelled at infusing rustic southern rock tunes with grit and determination – a down-home, roots-rock excursion that welcomed a back-porch swing and a bottle of whiskey. It was a fine debut that showed a knack for songwriting and some fine playing.

A year later, and it’s now for something completely different. Those country cousins brought up on Skynyrd and Hank who made the first record have since gone off to the city, dropped acid, and locked themselves in a room full of old Beach Boys records.

There’s something in the water at this pool party, and it’s more than vaguely psychedelic. Gone are the stripped down, wood-and-wire production techniques of Moonlight Revival, the pastoral-yet-whiskey-soaked rockers. In their place, reverb-drenched vocals, soaring epic enhancements of electric guitars, and an overall wash of sound that owes as much to My Morning Jacket as Molly Hatchet rule the day.

That’s not to say bad, just different, because the men of Ponderosa (and it is still the same men) nail this new sound. They embrace a sweeping soundscape that bumps up their still-strong tunes. They utilize hypnotic beats and effects.

The lead track, “Here I Am Born,” invokes this rebirth in its very title, a wash of feedback that builds into a crescendo of renewal. “Navajo,” the imminently catchy single, treads similar sonic territory, while elsewhere the band seems to unearth vocal harmonies of the Everly Brothers or Roy Orbison, by way of The Beatles filtered through bong water.

All in all, Pool Party, is a satisfying album and a fine follow-up to Moonlight Revival. But its stands on its own as an album separate from that boasting the feel of a very different band than the one that recorded the debut. But who knows, just two records in, maybe forging new territory is what Ponderosa is all about. Maybe their next outing will be something completely different all over again.

Pool Party is out now on New West records.