|The Pones -
This is my favorite album of the year! It's kind of hard to explain why certain music touches your heart, but I'll try... At first I thought curiously: "What the heck is this??", when I unpacked the CD and saw the attention grabbing photograph of the girl with the mask on the cover. That one was taken by professional photographer Jesse Andrews, by the way. The gorgeous long intro of the first song "Mexico Proper" started to win me over immediately and then there was the voice of singer-songwriter George Riser... You can love or hate his dark, somewhat hoarse vocals, there's little inbetween, but I would even enjoy hearing hem talk about the weather! The Pones are from the Charlottesville, Virginia area and named themselves after the ancient Algonquin Native American word for "corn meal". Main instrumentalist on the album is Al Sim, who plays the acoustic and electric leadguitar, some baffling slide guitar plus dobro ("Chicken Shack") and bass. George Riser plays the acoustic guitar, Ed Lyle adds inventive mandolinparts and Brian Forsman makes his living as a fiddler, which says enough about his qualities! Listen to his fiddle coming in halfway "Mexico Is Better Than Suicide"... Indeed, there's NO drummer! As a producer/engineer Al Sim did a quite amazing job too, at the Broken Sun Studio that he built in a corner of his shed. He worked for hours on end recording the vocals and instruments one track at a time and yet managed to create a very convincing live-in-the-studio sound. The songs also received a royal treatment by him when it came to arrangements. All twelve tracks were written by George Riser and there's a variety of styles, although the album can be categorized under alt-country, there's some bluegrass and blues, even a touch of gospel in "Uzbekistan". The lyrics are of such overwhelming creative beauty underneath the uncomplicated surface, that you can listen and discover something new again and again. Like the wink at Bob Dylan in "Mean To Be Mean", paraphrasing a line from "Tangled Up In Blue" or at Kris Kristofferson with that variation on the line from "Me And Bobby McGhee". Some people radiate incredible warmth and compassion, yet they have a great dry sense of humor, which would be a perfect description of George Riser and that's probably the reason why the album "Dwell" touches your heart!
by Johanna J. Bodde
The Pones - Tokyo Rose, Charlottesville Saturday November 6th, 2004
Speaking about anticipation... Earlier this year a CD of The Pones landed all the way in The Netherlands, where I write for music-website Real Roots Cafe (www.realrootscafe.com). An enthusiastic review and an interesting E-mail interview later, I tried to make a travelplan that would include attending a concert by The Pones. So tonight I find myself in club Tokyo Rose, which provides the right surroundings to about 30 people for something good! Still a music-lover never knows, sometimes a CD is great and at the concert to promote it, there's just something missing... But definitely not so tonight!
The performance of The Pones has that certain, hard to describe "something" that goes straight to your heart, just like the CD does! "Let's start off with a round of applause!" Then they really begin with the titletrack "Dwell", in a slightly different line-up. Pretty blond Debbie plays the violin now and bassist Woody, who joined only three weeks ago, does a quite amazing job. Then there's Ed on mandolin and of course the main man with the astonishing warm voice: singer-songwriter George Riser, who plays a vintage acoustic guitar and steals the show with his stage-presence, sense of humor and his expressive face. My favorite song "If You Don't Look Back" is played and "Rolling": "It has a moral and a story, death and love". The audience is quietly and attentively listening, sound and mix are just perfect. Yes, there is already a handful of new songs available, being recorded for the next CD: "Hold That Body", the intriguing "Faulkner's Ghost", "Alone" ("This will be outlawed during the next administration...") and "Well". There is great interaction between mandolin and violin, the overall sound is energetic, driven and catchy. Two covers pass by, Hank Williams' "Lost Highway" and "Odds And Ends" from Bob Dylan's "Basement Tapes", a rather unusual one. "Mexico Is Better Than Suicide" got a new arrangement, the violin comes in right at the beginning. An hour has passed by like a breath of wind, when the band closes off with the new, bi-langual powerhouse-song "Me Gusta". Was this concert worth all the travelling? That's definitely a "Yes"!!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde