New Jersey homegirl Abbie Gardner is back down at the dirty, dusty crossroads of desire and redemption. Coming five years and three Red Molly albums after her last solo CD, Hope is Abbie Gardner’s latest offering. Released this summer, the CD features eight original tunes, three covers and her versatile vocal talents are backed by her three distinct styles of slide guitar, including some square neck Dobro, lap steel and National bottleneck. The compositions cover everything from desolate heartache to reflective courage of second chances.
Gardner’s gritty lap steel crashes beautifully into the cello work of Emily Hope Price, and folk guru Robby Hecht lends his voice to three distinct tracks as well. It’s great to see fellow Red Molly member Laurie MacAllister (vocalist, banjo god and guitarist) all over the disc as well. Longtime friends and collaborators Fred Gillen, Jr. and Beaucoup Blue also lend their characteristic voices on Hope.
The album kicks off in sizzling form as Gardner and band tear it up on “Break It Slow.” Featuring a laid back and dirty delta riff, “Break It Slow” bristles with raw and chirping acoustics as garner lays molasses thick melodies over the band. Single-lined elegance slips between seamless and fluid bass lines and stark, stripped down drum work. The topic is classic human denial as Gardner pleads, “If you break my heart, won’t you break it slow/Give me some time to watch you go.” This is the bittersweet recollection of love in the dusty rear view mirror of life.
“Liar” comes across like an October smoky mountain waltz. Bouncing slowly, it’s swept by snatches of drum brushes, upright bass and Gardner’s mid-ranged resonator wails. Gardner’s traditional country roots dig down deep as she uses simple, sweet melodies to connect the sad and forlorn verses of unrequited love.
“Comes Love” is yet another look into the unpredictable emotion of love and the quandary of how it can’t be undone, overdone or trumped. Dobro lines are intricate and voodoo dark. Pianos dance, helter skelter in and out of four on the floor drums and bass. Gardner is one of the most emotive players in the business and her talent at filling a song with sadness or, in this case, spooky and spitfire-fueled sass is unequaled. She literally talks through the guitar in the same way a singer blows through a melody. Her voice here is toned in the jazz moxy of the ‘40s. Think Cab Calloway meets Diane Krall and Phil Leadbetter and you’ll get the point.
Title track “Hope” is an introspective, rose-colored look into the wide-open target of the abandoned love, and the unrealistic expectations of those that always think that salvation is right around the corner. Cellos wind up warmly, waltzing Gardner into the poignant line, “But fear thunders closer, he’s an angry composer, armed with a thousand violins/He drowns out the sound, of what I thought I found/And I’m a fool, I’m a fool because I believe again.”
“Bang Bang” is a souped-up, tongue-in-cheek look at the tangled web of infidelity and the results of said acts. Revenge scenarios take “aim” at putting things right in the mind of the offended. Clever wordplays abound as Gardner fires off saucy lines like, “Bang, bang, bang went the gun and, bang, bang, bang, went my heart when he, bang bang with her and a baby’s on the way.” I love the organ, Dobro, drum sticks and the rubber-souled sounds of the upright bass. Gardner leaves no doubt in your mind when she cocks the chorus hammer with the ominous line, “I could aim for her, aim for him; teach ‘em both about the price of sin/I could aim for me, or walk away, but something wants to go bang today.”
Abbie really shows off her skills on “Do It,” a soul-fueled funk instrumental that includes the monster playing of bassist Craig Akin and syncopated, sharp groove of Ben Wittman. The trio circles and breaks out in turn. Gardner slides into the center ring with some coal-fired, open-keyed riffs and a barrage of bar-bending wails that would make even the great Jerry Douglas take notice. This is what it’s all about folks; having fun with what you do. Pure musicianship rules the days on this spectator’s song.
If there was a commercial cut on Hope, it would be the Nashville contemporary sounds of “Nellie.” Gardner shows why she’s more than just another pretty six-stringer when she unravels her magic on “Nellie.” With a warm, mid-range voice that cuts through the instrumentation like hot butter, she’s in the same big league as Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift or Martie McGuire and Emily Robison from the Court Yard Hounds.
Hope has a total of 11 songs crafted from the mind and memory of one of the best musicians around. And as good as she is, Gardner never loses sight of the song or sacrifices compositional quality for fretboard gymnastics. Her playing is a melodic interpretation of each song, not a vehicle to showcase her lightening fast skill, although she’s got moves in that area as well. This self-produced set of gems is a must have for musicians and music fans alike. It is an educational romp through contemporary talent and traditional-fused style.
Hope demonstrates the capabilities of an artist that has figured out how to embrace emotion, pain and triumph, and put it to music for the rest of us to feel. For more on Abbie Gardner and Hope, head over to her website at abbiegardner.com
Glen Burtnik To Release Digital Tribute To Asbury Park On Aug. 1
What do the Bouncing Souls, Pete Steinkopf, Glen Burtnik, and the Asbury Park High School Choir have in common?
They’re all part of Burtnik’s creative team on his latest tribute to Asbury Park. Glen Burtnik is a composer that doesn’t sit on his laurels and he’s always looking for the next musical challenge that’s around the proverbial bend. For this song Glen had to look no farther than his beloved neighborhood to come up with his ultimate tribute.
Burtnik decided to simply compose a song that described the historic area he has come to love and call home. Recorded entirely in the city by the sea, “Where Music Lives,” forgoes the sounds of blue-collar yesteryear for an updated Summer of Love feel supplied by the musicians that continue to keep Asbury Park on the rock-and-roll map.
“Where Music Lives” addresses a special place that’s close to everyone’s heart. Asbury Park is a town that has weathered great highs and crushing lows, and it’s part of the overall allure and character that this magical town possesses.
As Glen says, “Songs are like children. They’re born, you nurture them, and you eventually let them go out into the world, hoping they have their best shot at life. I wanted to invest some effort into making the most of this song, which has a special meaning to me, and hopefully anyone else that loves this town like I do.” “Where Music Lives” is available exclusively at CD Baby beginning on Aug. 1. For further information head over to glenburtnik.com.