The Ponderosas - Until Dawn
Released July 15, 2014
By Rose Morris
On first listening to this album, I couldn’t help being reminded of NoMeansNo and Jesus H. Christ. Which was weird, because what could The Ponderosas, a funk-infused roots and blues group, possibly have in common with two of my favourite punk bands? A kickin’ horn section, that’s what. You guys, I have a serious thing for horn sections, especially when they show up in unexpected places. The Ponderosas deliver on that front with trombone and trumpet expertly played to add a kitschy, sort of burlesque feel to an otherwise very reggae-influenced, soulful sound. It works. The seventh track, Tumo Mushi, starts off with the big-band sound of the horns, then leads into poppy R&B vocals, and the segue doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. The horns add richness to the already sumptuous voices of Janette King and Kristie McCraken.
Ultimately, this album falls a little flat in the lyrics department. The song Hey Man, which is about the senseless depletion of the environment, feels a little too simple lyrically and lacks subtlety (But hey, it’s a message I can get behind). However, the lyrical simplicity works well for tracks like album opener Molly, with its repeating anthemic chorus of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” which you can’t help but sing (and dance) along to.
So, I ask, what kind of a band are The Ponderosas, anyway? It's not easy to decide. There’s a definite reggae/ska sound going on here, as well as smooth soulful R&B vocals, a little jazz, some blues, pop, and more. The Ponderosas are not an easy band to label, but one thing for sure is that the music is very high-energy and irresistibly danceable, and the rich sultry vocals are to die for. Despite (or more likely because of) the mixed-up genres present in the music, The Ponderosas have got a strong cohesive identity that’s all their own and will set them apart from the crowd for years to come.