Many of us know the difference between pursuing a profession compared to obeying an inner voice. We often suppress that voice for a variety of reasons but, invariably, it echoes down the years and we eventually heed its call. Bill Abernathy falls into that group. His new four song EP entitled Who Are You, Who Am I? exceeds the already high standards for lyrical content he defined with his preceding releases. Find a Way and Crossing Willow Creek mixed roots music influences with other popular forms with notable success, but Abernathy’s lyrics are the true focus of this release.
There is a welcome literary quality present in Abernathy’s lyrics without it ever devolving into overkill. It is the maturity of his compositions, however, that stands out for me. “More Than Meets the Eye” begins the EP with a tightly written lyric that doesn’t succumb to any fat or self-indulgence, but a careful listen reveals even deeper riches. The artistic control, measured tone, and even the flavor of the song’s imagery reflects Abernathy’s refined point of view. These are songs full of life and inspiration, but they are not songs of youth in the sense that their perspective is limited.
The arrangement enhances the cut’s dramatic impact. Abernathy embraces a full-on blues rock pose with the opener, complete with blazing lead guitar, and incorporates a variety of textures within that framework. Abernathy benefits enormously from great drumming capable of executing the tempo shifts his songwriting demands. “More Than Meets the Eye” has a biting guitar sound listeners won’t soon forget.
“A Thousand Wild Horses” is a gem. He pulls back from the guitar theatrics of the first track into a lush folk-inspired sound still hinging on string instruments but expressing itself far differently. There’s a very elegant and melodic spirit inhabiting this number and it is as complete as any included on this release. Smoky sensitivity fills Abernathy’s voice and there’s audible affection in each line.
“The World’s Foremost Authority on Everything” illustrates Abernathy’s flexibility better than anything else on this EP. His versatility is apparent in several ways. First, the lyrics break from the poetic overtones present in the preceding tracks in favor of a strict conversational style. It is no character sketch but, in some ways, an inspired collection of first lines throughout much of the track. The breezy shuffle pace is another strength. Songs in this mold are often overtly entertaining numbers but the musicians, especially the drummer, must maintain a light touch and remain consistent as well as nimble; Abernathy and his cohorts clear that hurdle with room to spare.
The title song ends the EP with another artistic highpoint. It’s another sensitively rendered musical landscape with some of Abernathy’s finest lyrics but one perhaps overlooked aspect is the album’s construction. The EP tracks with an intangible inner logic and its final entry lowers a memorable final curtain. It isn’t the final curtain, however, for Bill Abernathy’s impressive re-entry into the music world. Rekindling youthful passions often flames out soon enough but the impressive string of releases Abernathy has unleashed in the second act of his life is five-star all the way.
by Bethany Page