Nowadays, John Calvin Abney knows to look for the quiet.
Through a decade’s worth of maturation, thousands of shows, and hundreds of thousands of miles, Abney’s in-between moments are spent in thought, putting words and composition to tape.
He spent much of 2017 on the road, whether on guitar and keys for John Moreland or on solo trips across the country to play and to reconnect with a vast network of musical friends across the country. Highlights from the whirlwind year include performing as Moreland’s dedicated sideman at the legendary Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry, and accompanying Moreland and John Prine for an encore song in Birmingham, Alabama.
Meanwhile, Abney has recorded a personal album of reflections on change and realization, titled “Coyote,” at Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock. He performed many of the instruments, while calling in friends Shonna Tucker on bass, Paddy Ryan on drums, and Megan Palmer on violin and keys. The album will be released in May 2018 and is the anticipated follow-up to Abney’s 2016 LP, “Far Cries and Close Calls,” a single from which PopMatters.com called “instantly memorable” and that drew rightful comparisons to the hushed symphonic pop of Elliott Smith. Abney crafted ten songs of unwavering beauty and insight, marrying languorous soundscapes to bittersweet reflections on losing what matters most, and the kind of resilience necessary to come out whole on the other side.
His fans may know him for his freneticism onstage as a side man, or for being a preternaturally gifted and joyful instrumentalist, but Abney’s songwriting has evolved swiftly over the course of a few short years. He’s prolific, having released new and sometimes vastly different work every year except 2017, and that pause is key.
“Coyote” has a distinct sense of place, of loneliness and love. The album is spacious and steady, and it comes at the heels of Abney taking a much-needed breath to process those experiences, a journey listeners can hear in real time.
“For years, I’d record on cassette tape in my bedroom, humming softly to myself,” Abney says. “I still find solace in that kind of approach, though I couldn’t quite get the sound I wanted alone in my bedroom. Coyote is a step toward the dreamier pop and stripped-down compositions I was imagining on those tapes.”
The record opens with the twinkling standout “Always Enough,” establishing the theme of wincing optimism that carries through the rest of “Coyote.” “My blood was red, but I worried it black / Plans to ashes, promises to dust,” he sings, before resolving with, “There’s nowhere to go but up from here.” The rest of side A meanders with Abney: “Cowboys and Canyon Queens” has him looking back at Oklahoma—and all the gravity that entails—while the lazy shuffle “Get Your House in Order” has a humorous bent, eyeing the similarities between Abney and his travel-weary friends.
Later, “South Yale Special” marks a departure from Tulsa and a subsequent period of transience. The simple organ arrangements and pedal steel on “Sundowner” haunt the crushing lament on missing someone, “I’d kill all these miles for you.” And finally, Abney finds himself at home on “Leslie Lane,” a string-heavy, instrumental lullaby.
In all the madness, Abney seems to have found moments of calm where none was apparent. And on “Coyote,” he’s chronicled that search and his resolutions with a hushed clarity.
“Like Lucinda Williams in a Carhartt jacket, Christy Hays works rugged metaphors into emotionally charged country folk.” (Austin Chronicle). Christy Hays’ music has folk and country tinges, thoughtfully penned stories and a full band sound that is both driving alt country and moody folk rock. Christy Hays has released two full length albums and two EP’s since 2009.
Her new album ‘River Swimmer’ is due out in April of 2018 on Nine Mile Records. It brings the culmination of Christy’s influences and her experiences traveling the world.
Born in rural central Illinois, Christy Hays never really aspired to be a working songwriter. Hays grew up somewhat surrounded by music, her father, a luthier and guitar player showed her the major chords on her old Gibson. There was no pressure to play but music was a centerpiece. “I left Illinois in my early 20’s, directly after college. I graduated in December and moved to Haines, Alaska in April.” says Hays, squinting into the sun on a bright spring day in Texas. “I was really disillusioned buy our society and wanted to go live in the woods.”
Living seasonally, traveling in the US as well as abroad in the winters Hays essentially spent the better part of her 20’s in an alternative lifestyle where she came to the conclusion science was not her calling, rather music was. “I reached a point where songwriting and the art of self expression surrounding the craft were more important than the wilderness. I moved briefly to Memphis, then to Nashville in 2007.” explains Hays. Nashville was an awakening, a crash course in music business and performance. One she was not prepared for as city living depressed her and stage fright consumed her.
After two years in Nashville the decision was made to move to Austin, TX. “Austin felt more my speed and my vibe. I loved the country music and songwriters that were coming out of here in the late 2000’s. I felt at home shortly after I got here, I grew up musically and found a great community to collaborate with.” recalls Hays.
Hays has shared the stage with Hayes Carll, Sturgil Simpson, Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis and Jeffery Foucault to name a few. Bruce Robison cut her song “Lake of Fire” and released it on his newest album Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band.
Hays now spends portions of the summer in Montana, gigging in the Northwest, writing and returning to her beloved wilderness. Hays dreams of creating an artist retreat out of that house for people just like her who need to escape the city, disappear and create. Compared to Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Rhett Miller, Kathleen Edwards and Patty Griffin, Hays has a sound uniquely her own. Hays has released two full length albums and two EP’s since 2009.