Nostalgic country bands aren’t exactly at the forefront of Southern California’s live music scene, but The Ponderosa Aces are one of the few acts bringing toe-tapping country music to local venues. The musicians not only partnered with Harvelle’s in Long Beach for a monthly country night, they attracted the attention of the Ameripolitan Music Awards (based in Austin, Texas) and snagged a nomination for “Outlaw Group of the Year.” The Ponderosa Aces draw inspiration from artists like Willie Nelson and George Jones, and their new album, Honky Tonkin’ My Life Away, taps into a sound that refuses to fade away.
Front man Mike Maddux spearheaded the country night at Harvelle’s, and takes pride in hosting an event that will welcome both touring and local artists. The three-month run kicks off on Thursday, January 28 and doubles as the album release party for Honky Tonkin’ My Life Away. The group knows firsthand that finding a venue to support their style of music can be tricky, but note that they’ve been pleasantly surprised that the genre is starting to find homes on relatively well-known stages.
“It may not be the most popular music for this area, but it’s what we like to do. It’s what we love and we’re finding some great venues that love country music and cater to it. We’re fired up for the shows at Harvelle’s. Alex’s Bar in Long Beach is another place that opens their door for our kind of music,” Maddux said.
There’s a kindred fire that burns between the Ameripolitan Music Awards and The Ponderosa Aces, who feel that the outlaw sounds of the ’60s and ’70s are worth fighting for. Ameripolitan supports sub-genres of country music that are overshadowed by pop and rock leaning super groups, and the “Best Outlaw” nomination was both flattering and validating for The Aces.
“This is only the third year Ameripolitan has been around, and they’re growing in leaps and bounds,” Maddux said. “The reason why is because people that listen to that style of music, they’re very adamant about keeping it alive. Ameripolitan and all the bands on their roster are doing a pretty damn good job of that.”
While their style of music can arguably resonate with the more populous Rockabilly fan base, The Ponderosa Aces are rooted in a traditional, yet rowdy sound that’s harder to come by. Maddux has honky tonk charm and vocals that are rough around the edges, and though they’re currently auditioning for a new pedal steel guitar player, the band creates a rich, outlaw sound. With the momentum of the award nomination behind them, the group will set off on a southwest tour after their release party that leads them to Austin and back.
“To me, this is American music in its purest form. It’s songs, stories, and people trying to relate to one another through those stories. It’s about as intimate as you can get. That’s not to put down other genres, I love all types of music and believe they all connect in their own way, but with country there’s storytelling and hopefully people fall in love with a character in three or four minutes time. If music can connect with people like that, it’s important to keep it alive.”
The Ponderosa Aces perform at Harvelle’s, 201 E Broadway, Long Beach 90802. (562) 239-3700, www.harvelles.com, Thursday, January 28, doors at 8 p.m., $5. 21+ For more information on The Ponderosa Aces visit www.theponderosaaces.com.
If there’s music or art involved, she’ll take a chance on it.