The North Carolina troubadour explores normality from a topsy-turvy perspective
The mark of a truly great singer-songwriter is his or her ability to effectively tug on the heartstrings of their listeners.
It’s not enough to make music that’s simply easy to listen to; rather, the ability to affect the emotions of others ultimately guarantees a complete connection. When an artist can give an audience a feeling that they’re walking away with a life lesson or an experience that gives insights into a performer’s inner feelings — and perhaps, even their own — then the music manages to resonate in ways far beyond the usual passing encounter.
Artist: Rod Abernethy
Album: Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Credit North Carolina troubadour Rod Abernethy with the ability to do just that. A successful folksinger, film score composer and musical contributor to video game soundtracks over the course of his career, Abernethy sings songs that are highly personal and yet also universal in scope. The life lessons he reflects on vary from the sobering to the sublime, the tender as well as the turbulent.
Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore, which Abernethy wrote and recorded prior to the pandemic, is a perfect case in point. The title takes on a more cohesive meaning in light of the tumult and tragedy that’s ricocheted through the nation and the world at large in the wake of COVID-19, but it’s the actual songs themselves that reflect the need for resilience and resolve.
The troubled souls that haunt the teeming “Another Year” and the touching tale of a parent’s love and dedication in “My Father Was a Quiet Man” speak to Abernethy’s innate ability to stir the senses and spark empathy and understanding, especially when those sentiments seem to mirror our own.
That said, Abernethy doesn’t merely mine the melancholia; “It’s Always Something,” a first person narrative sung from the perspective of a hapless individual who repeatedly encounters bad luck, “Bird in the Chimney,” an entreaty to some feathered friends who have taken up residence in his once happy home and “Just Get in the Car,” an ode to a carefree day of wandering the road offer opportunity to put one’s fortune in perspective and bask, at least momentarily, in the happier possibilities life still has to offer.
Abernethy’s nimble fretwork takes the spotlight on the album’s two instrumentals — “Whiskey & Pie” and “Over the Fence” — but given producer Neilson Hubbard’s uncluttered arrangements, the entire album basks in a breezy sheen that’s amiable and agreeable.
That then is Abernethy’s ultimate success–the ability to share situations that are relatable in our everyday encounters. There is a certain normalcy in that this album offers observations that might provide some guidance for us all.