John Calvin Abney on Fri, December 13, 2019

John Calvin Abney

Safe passage, in any case, is a porch light lit, a proverbial lighthouse in the miles of vast darkness, a hope. A hope of making it through, one way or another, without losing yourself or what you hold dear.

On the gentle opener to John Calvin Abney’s new album, he draws a line between himself and the expectations of others. The weight of those judgments, wanting to be what others have wanted from him, has always sat heavy on Abney’s heart—the depths of which he’s plumbed for plenty of albums’ past—but here, he’s distilled that pressure and perhaps his own past posturing down to the most fundamental human desire.

“I just want to feel good,” he sings softly, setting the tone for the cyclical narrative of “Safe Passage,” a ten-song exploration of happiness and the self.

Carson McHone

Years before Rolling Stone was praising Carson McHone’s rule-breaking roots music, the Austin, Texas native played weeknights in local bars like The White Horse, keeping dancers dancing and drinkers drinking. With her 21st birthday still in the distance, McHone entertained late-night crowds bearing witness to the good times and bad decisions that fill a busy bar. It was a rare, raw education. She pumped her music full of details from an early adulthood spent in the company of the heartbroken and high-toleranced. In 2015, McHone released Goodluck Man which earned her a cover story in The Austin Chronicle as well as the support of local icons like Ray Wylie Hubbard, who said she “writes songs like her life depends on it.” Then she hit the road, touring the U.S. (and beyond) with acts like Shakey Graves, Gary Clark, Jr., and Joe Pug.

Dark, driving, and evocative, 2018’s Carousel shines a light not only on McHone’s honky-tonk roots, but on her development as a modern, alt-country storyteller. It features newly written songs and updated versions of tracks that first appeared on Goodluck Man,pushing traditional sounds and themes into a modern context.