There’s a moving story behind the genesis of banjo ace Barry Abernathy’s first solo record, which, space-wise, can’t be told here. Suffice it to say, this exquisite release is a labor of love that has been several years in the making.
The array of celebrated guest artists enlisted here is also a measure of the esteem and affection that the bluegrass community holds for this veteran picker and singer, who is also currently a member of the esteemed band, Appalachian Road Show.
On these tracks, Abernathy adeptly melds his warm baritone with the voices of Vince Gill (who shares lead vocal duties with Abernathy on a stirring version of the traditional “Birmingham Jail”), Doyle Lawson, Josh Swift, Rhonda Vincent, Shawn Lane, Dan Tyminski, and Steve Gulley.
There are also instrumental assists from A-teamers like Lawson, Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, Jim Van Cleve, Ron Stewart, Jason Moore and Rob Ickes. Not surprisingly, each and every one of these 11 tracks is meticulously arranged and produced and brimming with emotion and raw energy.
Among the many highlights is a mesmerizing, come-to-Jesus outing on Julie Miller’s melodramatic gospel ode, “Fall On The Rock.” There’s similar pathos and high drama on Abernathy’s reprise of Paul Kennerly’s “A Train Robbery,” where he shares vocal duties with Shawn Lane.
Ultimately, what Abernathy has done here is assemble what you might call “a super-group for a season.” More than just a dazzling song collection, this feels more like an event.