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