WayneStock 8 starts this weekend at the Relix Variety Theatre. Friday night I’ll be playing guitar with Brian Waldschlager, Saturday night I’ll be participating in the Tom Petty Tribute at the end of the night. Hope you’ve made plans to come out and support the event.
Then Saturday the 17th my band and I will be rockin’ The Pilot Light in the Old City with The Whole Wizard and The Lifters. It’s always a good time when the whole band gets together so come on out and watch us make a racket. More details for these dates can be found on the Shows page.
It may seem like handing out a participation trophy to list every album released by local artists in 2017 at least, all that we knew about as essential for your collection, but we stand by it.
We can’t repeat this enough: You can pay $30 or $60 or $100 to see marquee names from seats closer to the rafters than the stage at places like Thompson-Boling Arena, and you will likely be entertained. But you can also pay $5, or nothing, to see any of these acts at intimate venues and have your life changed. Not every record on this list is life-changing, but the earnestness and heart and enthusiasm and love these artists put into their records, and by extension their live shows, is at the heart of a vibrant and dynamic entertainment scene.
We’ll point out that this list is not the be-all, end-all of local releases we probably missed a few, or forgot a few, or simply weren’t made aware of their existence. We can’t write about them if we don’t know about them. If you made a piece of music in 2017 and it’s not on this list, we apologize; please, get in touch with us and let us know, and we’ll add you to the queue of records soon to be released this year, like the new one from Hudson K (technically previewed by local audiences last fall), or the forthcoming EP from Blount County residents Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle (which we’ve heard snippets of and can attest that it might be the best music they’ve ever made).
That said, we encourage nay, we implore you to check out these albums, and to support these artists whenever they perform live.
Kevin Abernathy, “Family Hour”: In these post-Tom Petty days, it’s easy to slap such a comparison on any dude who picks up a guitar and pens a few blue collar songs, but dammit, Kevin Abernathy has earned it. His latest finds himself casting his gaze closer to home, where he and his wife are raising three teenage girls who rock plenty all on their own, and whether he’s shooing them out of the house on the J. Geils Band-inspired rocker “You Kids” (but not really, because it’s kind of a lament of childhood gone “I can’t protect you from this world now, I wish I”d taught you how to kick ’em in the mouth”) or reliving his rock ‘n’ roll youth as a snarling “Stage Dad” to his girls, Abernathy manages to take something as seemingly mundane as family and turn it into rock ‘n’ roll fodder. For those of us raising kids and making marriages work in 2017, it’s a glorious thing to hear a man turn a domestic image of his wife bouncing a child on her hip, two more tugging at her leg, all while talking on the phone and “flipping eggs” into a raggedly splendid bluesy shuffle. It’s not a maudlin record he channels the Bo Diddley/George Thorogood school of stomp-rock to send off his deceased heroes, and his guitar-playing is second-to-none on the freight-train boogie of “Bullet Holes,” a rare instrumental. It’s a thoroughly fulfilling record all the way around, and Abernathy capably demonstrates why he’s one of East Tennessee’s best.
Early February we’ll all convene upon the Relix in Happy Holler for WayneStock 8. On Friday night I’ll be playing guitar with Brian Waldschlager, then on Saturday night I’ll be paying tribute, along with a who’s who of Knoxville musicians, to the legendary Tom Petty. Visit www.waynestock.org for the full schedule and make plans to join us.
Tomorrow night the band and I will be heading down to Blount County to play “Behind The Barn” at Barley’s in downtown Maryville. “Behind The Barn” is a free weekly concert series hosted by Jeff Barbra & Sarah Pirkle and broadcast live on i105 WFIV. If you can’t join us at Barley’s you can tune in live on your radio dial at 105.3 FM or online via streaming audio at www.myi105.com. On Friday, Mic Harrison, Josh Smith and I will be heading up to play a house concert in Richmond, Virginia, then at the Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday. For more info click on over to the Shows page.
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!
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.