(New West Records)
Moonlight Revival counts as this Athens/Atlanta, Georgia, band Ponderosa’s debut album. Recorded in Nashville and Atlanta, these 11 songs aim for glories down gasoline alley where The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, The Black Crowes and The Faces all started musical fires.
Kalen Nash (lead vocals/guitar), John Dance (keyboards), Jonathan Thomas Hall (bass/vocals), Kris Sampson (lead guitar) and Darren Dodd (drums) comprise Ponderosa. Moonlight Revival was produced by John Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket & White Stripes) and retains a roots-rock foundation that navigates towards gritty country-blues.
Moonlight Revival opens with the group’s first single from this collection, “Old Gin Road”. The tune swaggers along in a timeless ass-shakin’ way. Nash serves as the band’s primary songwriter, but Hall & Sampson provide some potent material. “Don’t Mind” continues the side winding mood of Moonlight Revival’s beginning.
“Pistolier” contains a country fabric that weaves a homegrown tapestry of lyric & melody. Perhaps this humble scribe’s favorite composition from this record stands as “Hold On You”. This hypnotic song emits raw emotion in the droning music and the sparse lyrics: “Wait/Take all this pain/Take it away/Walk/Walk down that road/It takes your soul/That’s when you know/It’s got a hold/A hold on you…”
It’s good to hear brand new songs by new bands…they mark changing times while one wanders onward into the great unknown. “Little Runaway”, an acoustic number, indicates this Georgia band focuses on song craft…a saving grace for them as well as a formidable live dynamic. “Pretty People” sounds like an open road anthem best heard at 80mph. Subtle musical tonics and touches embellish this soulful release.
“Girl I’ve Ever Seen” evokes a ghostly love song. “Revolution” counts as another memorable track on Moonlight Revival that emits cutthroat rock & roll at its finest. “Broken Heart”, a great country tune, demonstrates this group’s versatility. “Penniless”, a melodic gem, includes homespun banjo.
The last song on Moonlight Revival, “Devil On My Shoulder” let’s the listener realize this young band still is chasing the wicked rock & roll dream in the lines: “I’ll teach you how to be a woman of the times/I’ll lay you down and eat you alive.” Moonlight Revival emerges as one of the best debut albums by a band in 2011.