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Ponderosa: Roadhouse Ready

Posted in MusicWorld on February 2, 2011 by

A songwriter walks into a recording studio to cut an r&b/pop album. A year later, he leaves as lead singer of a raucous Southern rock band.

The latest Music Row punch line? Actually, it’s an abbreviated take on the founding of Atlanta-based foursome Ponderosa. It started when Kalen Nash met Kris Sampson while recording at Atlanta’s Nickel & Dime studio, where Sampson was head engineer. But a funny thing happened on his way to a solo career: He found his musical soul.

“I started really getting into the bands Kris was recording,” Nash recalls. “It was kinda like Gram Parsons-ish stuff, psychedelic ‘60s stuff. He and J.T. Hall were in another band called Variac and I loved everything that they did. We were pretty much all living at the studio and as the year passed, my whole perspective on music changed.

“I went to Kris and said, ‘I just want to record a whole record analog, just me and a guitar to tape.’ Because my whole experience in the studio was so digital,” Nash explains. “It wasn’t me. It was just me singing and putting a whole bunch of expensive stuff on it trying to get mass appeal.”

Sampson convinced Nash to let him bring in some friends to play on the new project and – presto! – a band was born. Today Ponderosa consists of lead vocalist Kalen Nash, guitarist Kris Sampson, bass player/vocalist J.T. Hall, and keyboard player John Dance.

Moonlight Revival, their New West Records debut, belies the group’s studio origins. Steeped in whiskey-tinged swagger, it’s pugnacious roadhouse rock, of the sort honed over years playing dive bars and beer-soaked rock fests. Ponderosa’s tight sound has its roots in the months everyone spent living out of the Nickel & Dime — the same camaraderie that compelled Nash to walk into the studio a solo artist and leave as part of a band.

“It was like a family starting,” says Nash. “I was tired of being a solo artist. You know, it’s lonely being alone, I wanted to be part of a family. That’s really what it’s about.”