A Rock-n-Roll Cookout with the Lee’s

Our good friends Tim and Susan Lee have had some rough days lately. Susan lost her father, and then Tim’s mom passed just a week later. If you know the Lee’s, then you know they’re always first responders for anyone who needs a hand, so a bunch of folks decided it was time to pay it forward and show them the love they so freely give to us. What better way then with friends and music and hot dogs? Come join us at Lost & Found Records for the Rock-n-Roll Cookout on Sunday the 17th from 1:00-9:00 PM. This is a free event, rain or shine, with hot dogs on the grill and raffle prizes all day!

“Two EPs from Tennessee’s rocking Abernathy family (one from dad and one from daughters) that each offer sonic rewards.”

Kevin Abernathy is an old school rock and roller, a bar band veteran who has been plugging away for 20 years in the Knoxville, Tennessee musical landscape. Every good scene needs a guy like him: approachable, professional, and stubbornly creative. Fans might not grab every album upon release, but they know that when they do, it’ll be solid and entertaining, just like his stage show. The same can be said of his latest EP, Family Hour, the cover of which resembles a classic children’s Golden Book. It’s as straightforward and effective as that inspiration.

Opener “You Kids” touches upon a familiar—if also under-expressed—parental impulse: the impatience of waiting for the nest to empty. Afterward, “Don’t Say My Baby” is a bar-band blues brag with requisite guitar pyrotechnics, while “Beach Music” is a sweet piece of nostalgia with “na-na’s” that evoke the hard rocking of Joe Walsh in his prime. “Rock Star Dyin’ Blues” expresses the mourning-overload so many have felt over the course of the last 18 months of rock and roll losses.

Luckily, Abernathy’s band (the same core line-up that accompanied him on his last record, Ain’t Learned Yet) rocks with authority. A good band can make it heavy while keeping things light, and Po Hannah (guitar), Mike Murphy (bass), and Gray Comer (drums) do just that throughout the eight tracks collected here. The instrumental “Bullet Holes For Speed”, in particular, shows their collective prowess. All in all, Familly Hour passes by in half that time, and it’s a fine ride all the way through.

Returning to the issues of “Your Kids”, Abernathy’s nest is pretty full at the moment, with his daughters following in their father’s footsteps and forming their own band, the Pinklets.  Yet, they don’t follow too closely; like typically rebellious teenagers, they sound nothing like their dad.

The Pinklets are comprised of Roxie (17) on bass and piano, Lucy (14) on lead vocals and guitar; and Eliza (12) on drums. Their DIY spirit shines through on their eponymous debut’s eight tracks, as do their already strong musical chops. Roxie’s piano is the dominant instrument for many of the songs, although it is Lucy’s guitar (riffing off of the Clash’s “Tommy Gun”) that makes the first impression in the opening cut, “Careless”. Elsewhere, Eliza’s drumming charges an “R-O-C-K in the USA”-like groove in “Setting Sail”. The trio’s songwriting shows maturity right out of the gate, too, such as with the following lines from “Defenses”: “It’s a pattern that I’m seeing . . . Every time we argue, you call me broken / Something’s holding me back . . . And I think that it’s you”.  Lucy’s voice possesses a mix of sweetness and grit that is reminiscent of another great, independent Southern singer: Dana Kletter.

This debut merits repeat playing.  It’s catchy as hell and promises great things to come as these young ladies continue to grow and explore their artistic impulses.

by Ed Whitelock
2 August 2017 PopMatters

“Kevin Abernathy Proves He’s a Damn Good Dad… And One Fine Musician”

Some artists have the gift, that is, the ability to pluck songs out of the ethos and make them sound whole on arrival. East Tennessee’s Kevin Abernathy possesses that quality, one reason why he’s not only one of the region’s best, but also a singer/songwriter worthy of national renown.

Add to that the fact that he’s a great dad. Sure, raising a family sometimes takes second place when the demands of show biz take precedence. But the fact that he’s got three talented daughters, who themselves are making waves with their sisterly band the Pinklets, further testifies to his ability to balance the personal and the professional. Consequently, his new eight song EP, aptly titled Family Hour, finds a common bond in ways both sweet and subtle. “I’m living the dream,” he proudly proclaims on “Appearances,” a song Shawn Mullins would likely love to call his own. Elsewhere, “You Kids” speaks directly to his offspring about that inevitable day when they’ll leave home, leaving him and his wife as empty nesters. That’s sort of sentiment any father will find a clear connection with.

Humor, however, is mostly the order of the day, especially as evidenced by “Stage Dad,” which finds Abernathy poking fun at himself, both as a (slightly) ageing musician and roadie-come- lately in service to his daughters’ endeavors. Happily though, Roxie and Lucy Abernathy repay the favor, lending keyboards (in Roxie’s case) and backing vocals on the album’s final entry, “Let’s Pretend.” And yes, that’s Lucy’s whimselcal painting gracing the cover.

Still, don’t get the impression that because Family Hour focuses on his home life, Abernathy has simply churned out sappy songs of sentiment and reflection. To the contrary, “Don’t Say My Baby,” “Beach Music,” “Rock Star Dyin’ Blues” and the surging instrumental “Bullet Holes for Speed” are edgy, gritty and flush with an appropriate amount of amplitude and attitude. What else might one expect from such a completely committed and remarkably rockin’ dad…

by Lee Zimmerman
July 5, 2017 No Depression

Songwriters-‘n-tha-Round

The middle of the month I’ll be teaming up with old pals Ned Hill, of Ned Van Go, and Johnny Mark Miller, of Les Honky More Tonkies, for several Songwriters-‘in-tha-round shows. On Thursday the 13th we’ll be playing the Down Home in Johnson City, Friday the 14th we’ll be in Knoxville at Holly’s Corner in Happy Holler, then we’ll be wrapping up the weekend with a private house concert in Nashville on Saturday.

“Kevin Abernathy gets to the point on ‘Family Hour’”

For the last decade, Kevin Abernathy has been releasing an album every couple of years, each one showcasing a slightly different side of his musicianship. He dug into Southern rock and shredding guitar on Rock-N-Roll Fiasco, A Beautiful Thing, and Scrap Metal Blues; with Some Stories, in 2012, he traded in the amplified guitars for acoustic back-porch music and fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and lots of harmony vocals. Ain’t Learned Yet, from 2015, seemed like a synthesis, with understated lead guitar embellishing a batch of fully developed singer-songwriter-type songs.

But Family Hour is another departure. At just 27 minutes, it’s Abernathy’s most concise statement yet. In the past, he’s favored five- and six-minute songs to allow room for his guitar, but also for the characters—outcasts, outlaws, and other assorted miscreants—who inhabit his songs. Here, the songs feel more personal and less narrative-driven—they’re songs about middle age and, as the title suggests, family life. “You Kids” is a reverse version of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” an anthem to getting teenagers out of the house for peace and quiet; “Stage Dad” is a rip-roaring pop-punk track, all of two minutes and 13 seconds, about being the father of three musicians. (Abernathy’s daughters play in the Pinklets.) There’s some formal variety—“Don’t Say My Baby” tours through honky-tonkin’ cowpunk territory, and “Beach Music” explores pre-Beatles pop-rock.

Another difference: Both Some Stories and Ain’t Learned Yet featured all-star rosters of local talent like Greg Horne, Trisha Gene Brady, and Tim and Susan Lee, and Sean McCollough. The lineup on Family Hour is leaner—Abernathy on guitar and vocals, Gray Comer on drums, Po Hannah on guitar, and Mike Murphy on bass, with guest appearances by John Baker and two of the Pinklets.

It’s a change that suits the modest but affecting music here.

In Music Reviews by Matthew Everett
June 21, 2017 Knoxville Mercury

“FAMILY HOUR” Now Available

The Monkeys grew up and had an affair with Motörhead which spawned a love child, and John Prine is his godfather. Here’s eight fresh new rock-n-roll tunes that you can sing along with and boogie to. A big THANK YOU to everyone involved in the making of this album – Gray Comer, Po Hannah, Mike Murphy, John Baker, Chad Pelton, Jason Knight and Christine, Roxie, Lucy & Eliza Abernathy.

FAMILY HOUR

1. You Kids
2. Appearances
3. Stage Dad
4. Don’t Say My Baby
5. Beach Music
6. Rock Star Dyin’ Blues
7. Bullet Holes For Speed
8. Let’s Pretend

 photo bandcamp_60x60_black_zps7a2e7b8a.png amazon  photo ff7e77eb-a17d-4175-8336-6864429be856_zps12f6059c.png ITUNES

“Singer-songwriter Kevin Abernathy turns latest release into a ‘Family’ affair”

If there’s a more appropriate title for singer-songwriter Kevin Abernathy’s new album, he’s hard-pressed to come up with it.

“Family Hour,” after all, turns on the intricacies of Abernathy’s relationship with his wife and three daughters, all of it filtered through the snark and wistfulness that he so deftly commands. There’s “You Kids,” about the eventual departure of his kids from the nest; “Stage Dad,” a sarcastic rejoinder to comments about his daughters’ rock band, The Pinklets; and the boogie-woogie shuffle of “Don’t Say My Baby,” a love song to the sort of woman strong enough to marry a guy like Abernathy: “She got one child on her hip, two more pulling on her legs, they’re screaming bloody murder, she’s on the phone and flipping eggs …”

“I’m in a lot of these songs, and a lot of these are how I really feel about some things, and some of them are directly drawn from things that have happened in my family,” Abernathy told The Daily Times recently. “We became tighter-knit unit last year. We did a lot of traveling, and the girls played a lot while I dealt with stage managers and sound guys. Now, they’re pretty much doing their own thing and running their own show, but we’re all still pretty tight. Roxy played on four or five songs on this record, and Lucy sang backup on one, and then her painting of the family band is the album’s cover.”

With such a stellar body of work to his credit, it’s difficult to say that “Family Hour” is his best, but it certainly sounds like Abernathy at his most comfortable: From the doo-wop flourishes of “Beach Music” to the bite of “Stage Dad” to the wryly observational “Appearances,” it’s a rock ‘n’ roll record that feels like a favorite jacket, well-worn but never out of style, and it adds to the sort of cachet that makes Abernathy East Tennessee’s answer to Peter Wolf.

“I just admire a songwriter who can write a short song; it’s hard for me to do, because I’m a detail person, and I like that people know what the song is about,” he said. “Writing shorter is harder to do in a story song; it’s hard to take 16 lines and basically tell a short story in under four minutes, but I tried to challenge myself and keep every song under 3 minutes. There are a couple longer than that, but if one clocked in at 3:08, I would say, ‘Nope! Let’s trim some more fat!’”

Abernathy — who will celebrate “Family Hour” with a release show on Friday at Barley’s Knoxville — is a Monroe County boy (and a cousin to Madisonville starlet Emilie “EmiSunshine” Hamilton) who was drawn to hard rock and metal when he first picked up a guitar. After graduating high school in 1982, he left for California, where he started dabbling in songwriting and played in a number of bands before moving to Nashville, where he landed a gig in the Shapeshifters. That band found a modest degree of success, and while in Music City, Abernathy studied the craft of artists like John Hiatt. When he moved back to East Tennessee, he released a trio of records under the Kevin Abernathy Band moniker before scaling back and dabbling in a more folk-oriented sound with “Some Stories” in 2012. “Family Hour” follows “Ain’t Learned Yet,” released in 2015, and follows a reliable formula — plenty of guitar, a backing band (Gray Comer, who also recorded “Family Hour” at The Arbor Studio, on drums; Barry “Po” Hannah” on guitar; and Mike Murphy on bass) that completes his vision and songwriting that’s some of the most respected in the local scene.

“I’ve been in and out of the studio for a year and a half, recording these songs, and I was trying to write more, but it didn’t happen,” he said. “This was going to be an EP; I had six songs, and then I put on an instrumental (“Bullet Holes,” built off a riff that’s a couple decades old) and wrote ‘Let’s Pretend.’”

One of his fears, however, is that with his daughter’s painting on the album’s cover, and given the title itself, some fans may think he’s recorded a children’s album. It’s not, and besides, it’s a better fit than the photo he had picked out, one of a group of four mountain boys from Townsend, culled from his mother-in-law’s photo albums.

“I had the antithesis of Lucy’s painting,” he said with a laugh. “It does look like a children’s record, but it’s cute and unexpected, and I’m going to use it.”

By Steve Wildsmith Jun 14, 2017 The Daily Times

Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at stevew@thedailytimes.com or at 981-1144, follow him on Twitter @TNRockWriter and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.