Sound studio

The sweet sound of bluesy Americana infused dobro

A very large number of musical genres can find their origins in the blues.

Country, soul, rock, metal, jazz, the wide range of styles that have direct ties to devil’s rock ‘n’ roll is quite varied.

However, there is also one particular instrument which itself captures the essence of the blues while fitting comfortably into other genres and that is the dobro.

The instrument’s resonant sound is instantly identifiable and provides songs with an authentic, down-to-earth backing quality that few other instruments can match and when a dobro is played by one of its finest exponents, c is a good reason to sit down and take note.

Abbie Gardner is one of those players and is truly a force to be reckoned with. While she’s known for performing with Americana darlings Red Molly, she’s also known for her vibrant solo performances with her songs reminiscent of stories of love, loss, and all that life has in store.

This week’s column focuses on Gardner’s latest release, the aptly titled “DobroSinger.”

Having spent the last year making the record, she feels herself that this is the album she has always wanted to create. With his home-recorded dobro and vocals with no band or studio stuff to hide behind, it’s as authentic as it gets when it comes to songwriting. Just a girl and her resonator guitar sitting around playing songs for you.

One of the most immediate things that strikes you when you listen to the opening choruses of “Down the Mountain” is how alive it feels.

The track was featured on Phil Leadbetter’s “Masters of Slide” record and begins with a powerful bluesy pedal.

The guitar sounds fabulous and offers a deep, bluesy undertone which, added to the overall tone of the guitar’s natural resonator, creates a fantastic soundscape.

On top of all that, some of the most exquisite vocals you’re likely to hear all year. The edgy tone of Gardner’s vocals on the verses is offset by the subtle but very effective tonal shift for a figure-eight middle section that’s nothing short of stunning.

When an artist releases a record containing songs made up of the essentials – vocals and guitar – there is always a risk of repetition. However, Gardner puts those concerns to rest early on in the second track, “Only All The Time,” which takes things down a different but equally brilliant path through the opener.

The opening chord pattern, along with small, intricately chosen lines, is fantastic. The song is similar in style to something Jewel might record, but retains the bluesy, American feel that is part of Gardner’s signature sound.

Vocally it’s an amazing performance and she uses many facets of her vocal arsenal. From her fabulous range to the various tonal qualities she has, she not only presents herself as a terrific guitarist, but also as a fabulous vocalist.

“See You Again” takes things down the country-blues, ballad route. It is a wonderful piece where the listener can completely visualize the story contained in the lyrics. Arrangement-wise, the song is exemplary. On the chorus, the way the guitar line follows and reproduces the last word of the first two lines is fantastic. Ironically, there’s a soulful quality to the song that’s actually heartwarming.

‘Born In The City’ is a dirty blues stomper with a southern feel. It’s similar to ‘Bring Me Some Water’, by Melissa Etheridge, but it’s much more moody. Although the song structures are common throughout the album, the record actually offers a nice range of styles.

‘Three Quarter Time’, the fifth track, is completely different from the tracks that preceded it. A rhythm ballad, the title gives something in terms of tempo but the melody of the song is extremely memorable. It has a nice ride quality that feels like a boat drifting gently on a very light swell. The album contains five entirely original songs, four co-writes and two covers, but all the tracks fit together perfectly.

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

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