One of the ways to identify a true musical artist is not by just a song, a record, or a performance, but by assessing how those elements are combined into a whole. The true artist can not only craft a song – multiple songs – into compelling work, but take the bare bones of lyrics, melody and chords and create a record that captures the imagination, and then take that work onto a stage and unleash all the hidden power within the tunes while also exposing the intricate subtleties hidden within the arrangement. In her standout appearance at this summer’s SummitFest, Allison Ponthier not only confirmed her artistry, but did so with aplomb, while introducing the songs from her recently released Shaking Hands With Elvis.
Existential questions and self-awareness abound on Shaking Hands With Elvis, as Ponthier made a conscious effort to open up and share more of herself on her second effort for Interscope. From the opening “Autopilot” through the introspective “Hardcore” to the final, title track, Ponthier takes us through the feelings of being trapped by fear, constant personal change, self-questioning and loss, plus the perception vs. reality questions of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery,” Ponthier’s ode to the L.A. internment site turned tourist attraction. The messages ring true through Allison’s genuine and expressive vocals, over deceptively powerful accompaniment rooted in Folk music but expanded by Pop and Rock textures within varied rhythms influenced by music from around the world.
In her Triple A SummitFest appearance last summer, Ponthier took the gentle power of these songs and turned up the heat, transforming them into live tours de force, expanding their power while demanding the crowd’s full attention with the sheer energy of her stage presence. It was an undeniable statement of her strength as an artist and her ability to adapt her creativity to any situation.
“I want to always feel like I can grow, and this project reflects that,” she says of Shaking Hands With Elvis. Radio has clearly been enjoying that reflection, as the first single, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery,” ended up on an impressive number of JBE’s reporting stations, including KBCO, WRLT, L.A.’s 88.5FM, WFUV, KXT, and WYEP.