Wayne Bledsoe: Every story works on Kevin Abernathy's 'Some Stories'

Annie Clark Rankin/Special to the News Sentinel
Kevin Abernathy's knack as a musical storyteller shines on his new album "Some Stories."

Annie Clark Rankin/Special to the News Sentinel Kevin Abernathy's knack as a musical storyteller shines on his new album "Some Stories."

"Some Stories," Kevin Abernathy (Life Socket)

There are a handful of artists in Knoxville that I'm amazed are not better known. Case in point is Kevin Abernathy. Abernathy is very possibly the best unknown singer-songwriter in the country. On earlier releases it seemed as if some listeners never made it past Kevin's electric guitar work to fully pay attention to his lyrics. He solves that problem on the new album "Some Stories" with mostly acoustic renditions of 10 unforgettable songs.

A few of the numbers have been previously heard on other albums in different versions. "Love Alone," "The Ring Line" and "Noticed the Moon" would be defining songs in any artist's catalog. Stand-outs as they are, on this album, they are simply part of an embarrassment of riches.

As the title cut would indicate, Abernathy is a storyteller. He creates characters who seem like someone you've met.

On "Locked Up in the Keys," it's that jaded character hiding out from the world who sounds like he knows exactly what he's talking about when he sings "you can hit rock bottom and still go south ..." The sad, wistful tone is accentuated by the children's voices (Abernathy's three daughters) that fill out the end of the song. The character in "Noticed the Moon" only slows down enough to appreciate life when he's bleeding to death on the highway.

One of Abernathy's most impressive talents is keeping his songs bone simple while delivering a powerful punch. Like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard or John Prine, he can lay you low with the fewest words and the least complicated melody.

"Funny Ha Ha, Funny Strange" is the story of a boy who has to move away from his disapproving family and tragically finds that intolerance is everywhere. Honest and effective, it doesn't have a wasted syllable. And, co-producer Sean McCollough's perfect mandolin work and Steph Gunnoe's sweet background vocals seal the deal of making the song a humble heartbreaker.

Vocalist Leah Gardner turns "The Ring Line" into a gorgeous duet of mutual regret. And, "Gudger Town" (with some lovable harmony vocals by Americana hero Mic Harrison) is an old man's bluegrassy autobiography.

On "Highway Crosses" Abernathy muses on something that most people take for granted and makes you take notice those crosses that sit alongside the "beer cans, diesel and lingerin' soul" along the ditchline.

"Some Stories" is one of the best albums to ever come out of Knoxville and one of the best albums you'll hear this year, period.

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