For most of his life, Kevin Abernathy has been a known as an electric guitar slinger. Sometimes it seemed like audiences didn't always get to down to the lyrics because they didn't expect thoughtful songs in rock 'n' roll. That may change with "Some Stories" — Abernathy's mostly acoustic album that will be released this week.
"I wanted to try something different — just an acoustic/vocal thing. It turned into a little more than it was originally going to be, but it worked out. It's still way different than anything I've done so far in the last six years."
Even before its release, "Some Stories" is finding success. It's being added to Americana radio stations around the country, including Knoxville's WDVX and North Carolina's WNCW, and beginning to move up on several Americana charts.
A Knoxvillian who grew up in Madisonville and spent time in California, Atlanta and Nashville, Abernathy says some of the songs come from his small town beginnings.
"The first few rock records I did, a lot of those songs were inspired by going back there and visiting and working for my dad a couple days a week and how much it's changed — or maybe I just changed."
Abernathy's songs are mostly stories — the sort of songs that used to populate classic country radio and modern folk and some that would've definitely stretched the boundaries, including the song "Funny Ha Ha, Funny Strange."
In concert, audiences sometimes laugh at the first line "He was their little cross dresser/their handsome feller with a Barbie doll," but, by the tragic end of the song, audiences seem to recognize that this was a kid they might have known.
"I just felt like some people, especially in small towns, have to move away to be who they want to be and do what they want to do and have the lifestyle they want to have that they can't in a small town," says Abernathy. "So it's about a person who moves away to be accepted, but the acceptance of his lifestyle and his sexual orientation was not accepted at home and that still haunts the character in the song."
The song "Highway Crosses" was an idea that started as a poem, but wasn't completed as a song until four years later. After performing the song a few times in Nashville, Abernathy put it away for a decade.
"I just wrote it and stuck it in a drawer and I thought it might be good to put on this record."
"Gudger Town" is loosely based on the life of Abernathy's grandfather.
For the disc, Abernathy enlisted Sean McCollough, of the Lonetones, as co-producer. Abernathy had originally intended to record an album of nothing but single guitar and vocals, but McCollough convinced Abernathy to let the songs dictate the instrumentation. Soon the tracks were filled with cellos, fiddles, banjos, bass, drums and even a little electric guitar. Leah Gardner, Mic Harrison, Greg Horne, Steph Gunnoe, Brad Henderson and McCullough provided some additional vocals.
Even Abernathy's daughters, Eliza, 8, Lucy, 10, and Roxanne, 12, added sweet and unexpected voices to "Locked Up in the Keys."
"There was a lot of fighting going on in the studio when they were there. One of them sang it perfectly. The other one didn't. It took like 16 takes. There was some crying. One of them almost didn't sing on it and stormed out ... "
Appropriately, enough, the girls also added vocals to the song "Drama House," about being the sole carrier of a Y chromosome in a family of five.
Abernathy says he's surprised that the reaction to the album has been so enthusiastic.
"It's weird. 'Cause I'm an old-school guy, retro-guitar rock and it seems like people are listening to this CD more. Just seems like it was meant to be."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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