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The sweet sound of dobro infused bluesy Americana

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The cover of 'Dobro Singer' by Abbie Gardner.

The cover of 'Dobro Singer' by Abbie Gardner.

The cover of 'Dobro Singer' by Abbie Gardner.

wexfordpeople

A very large number of music genres can have their origins traced back to the blues.

Country, soul, rock, metal, jazz, the vast range of styles that have direct links with the devil’s own brand of rock ‘n’ roll is pretty varied.

However, there is also one particular instrument that itself captures the essence of the blues while at the same time sits comfortably within other genres too and that’s the dobro.

The resonating sound of the instrument is instantly identifiable and provides songs with an authentic, earthy quality of accompaniment that few other instruments can match and when a dobro is played by one of its finest exponents it’s good reason to sit up and take notice.

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Abbie Gardner is one such player and is truly a force to be reckoned with. While she’s known for performing with Americana darlings, Red Molly, she’s also renowned for her vibrant solo performances with her songs recalling tales of love, loss and everything else that life throws up.

This week’s column places the focus of attention on Gardner’s newest release, the appropriately titled ‘DobroSinger’.

Having spent the last year making the record she herself feels it’s the album she’s always wanted to create. With her dobro and vocals recorded at home without a band or any studio tricks to hide behind, it's as authentic as it gets when it comes to songwriting. Just a girl and her resonator guitar sitting down to play you songs.

One of the most immediate things that strikes you when listening to the opening refrains of ‘Down the Mountain’ is how live it feels. 

The track was featured on Phil Leadbetter's ‘Masters of Slide’ record and starts with a powerful bluesy stomp.

The sound of the guitar is fabulous and offers up a deep, blues bottom end which, added to the overall natural resonator tone of the guitar, creates a fantastic soundscape.

On top of it all are some of the most exquisite vocals you are likely to hear all year. The edgy tone of Gardner’s voice on the verses is offset by the subtle but very effective change of tone for a middle eight section that is quite simply stunning.

When any artist releases a record that contains songs composed of the bare essentials – vocals and guitar – there is always a danger of repetition. However, Gardner dispels any such concerns from the very beginning of the second track, ‘Only All The Time’, which takes things down a different but equally brilliant path to the opener.

The opening chord pattern, accompanied by intricate little picked lines, is fantastic. The song is similar in style to something Jewel might record but retains the bluesy, Americana feel that is part of Gardner’s own distinctive sound.

Vocally, this is an incredible performance and she utilises many facets of her vocal arsenal. From her fabulous range to the different tonal qualities she has at her disposal she showcases herself as not just a formidable guitarist but a fabulous vocalist as well.

‘See You Again’ brings things down the country-blues, ballad route. It’s a wonderful track where the listener can visualise completely the story contained in the lyrics. From an arrangement perspective the song is exemplary. On the chorus, the way the guitar line follows and replicates the last word of the opening two lines is fantastic. Ironically, there is a melancholic quality to the song that is actually comforting.

‘Born In The City’ is a dirty blues stomper with a down south feel. It’s similar in feel to ‘Bring Me Some Water’, by Melissa Etheridge but is much more moody. While the song structures might be common throughout the album the record actually offers up a nice range of styles.

‘Three Quarter Time’, the fifth song in, is completely different to the tracks that preceded it. A downbeat ballad the title gives something away in terms of its tempo but the melody of the song is extremely memorable. It possesses a lovely rolling quality that is akin to a boat gently drifting on a very light swell. The album contains five all-original songs, four co-writes and two covers yet all of the tracks fit seamlessly together. 

If there was such a genre as ‘creeping blues’ then ‘Cypress Tree’ might fit the bill. There is a dark, sinister quality to the track that is immense even though it’s a very downbeat song. In contrast, ‘Too Many Kisses’ is a country-blues song which brings to the surface feelings of regret and perhaps a little hindsight wisdom.

‘Honky Tonk Song’ is what it says in the title. A catchy, mid-tempo, honky tonk which immediately grabs the attention in a way that only songs of that style can while ‘When We Were Kids’ is a fantastic tale of reminiscing. The two covers, ‘Those Memories of You’ and the 1950s ballad, ‘You Belong to Me’, fit in perfectly and overall this is an album that shows Gardner is far more than just a dobro singer.


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