Shares First Single “Shine Like A Friend” Today
Lyric Video Premieres at YouTube @ 10am Central Time
John Calvin Abney has announced his fifth studio album, Familiar Ground, which is due out November 20, 2020 on Black Mesa Records and available for pre-order / pre-save now HERE. The follow-up to his well-received 2019 LP Safe Passage, Familiar Ground was crafted piece by piece with assistance from longtime collaborator and fellow Tulsa-based singer/songwriter, John Moreland. Throughout the 9-song set, Abney mulls over just what it means to pass the time and fully experience our fleeting lives on earth.
The first preview of the album, “Shine Like A Friend,” is out today with a lyric video premiering via YouTube at 10am CT alongside a live chat with Abney. Of the track, he offers, “I wrote this song after a walk through my neighborhood when the sun makes everything gold before dusk. I thought about life drifting away like another twilight, and how connections with people can form landmarks or places of interest through relationships."
Abney serves as Moreland’s touring guitarist, and when the shows around Moreland’s new record were canceled in March due to the pandemic, Abney spent his extra time off the road writing the songs that would soon comprise Familiar Ground. He shaped each track using a ten-year-old iMac, writing on guitar, piano, and Mellotron, then sent them over to Moreland, who would add drums and bass. They bounced the songs back and forth remotely between their home studios, with Abney playing piano and synthesizers and composing the strings that lend the record a dreamy, expansive feel.
“I feel like I had spent years accidentally obscuring parts of who I am through constant work and now, every single day heading forward, I find out a little bit more about myself,” he explains. “Familiar Ground’s a good step towards that because I’ve found that the softer, more contemplative compositions speak more to me as a person than earlier records I’ve made with bombastic arrangements. Those don’t speak to me as I am now, but of course, these things can always change.”
Though Abney’s influences are far-reaching, from the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke to contemporary peers like Laura Marling and Christian Lee Hutson to the surreal writing of Haruki Murakami, his art has the intimacy of a conversation with an old friend. Pulled by pangs of steel pedal guitar and buoyed by his gentle vocals, Familiar Ground often contemplates the acceptance of our own mortality, as well as the strength it takes for us to weather the storms of life. It’s the first album Abney has written since the passing of his father, and songs like “Evening Tide” proved to be difficult to compose as he aimed to help listeners feel comfortable with death: “I wanted to tell people that one’s memories of those people really allow them to thrive well past their transition.” While on album standout “When This Blows Over,” he paraphrases the beloved Irish poet Seamus Heaney, reminding us over a twangy soundscape that “We can summer together / if we can winter this.” Throughout the set, Abney manages to plumb the melancholic depths of existence while still imbuing the album with life-affirming optimism, ending on the upbeat, city pop-inspired “Tokyo City Rain,” which captures the vibe of Tokyo through found sound and bright, zippy synthesizers. With a sentiment that feels all too familiar since the world went into lockdown, he sings, “When I returned / it felt like a dream / tracing tall buildings / in the summer steam.”
Familiar Ground follows 2019’s Safe Passage, which saw praise for Abney’s “gentle, contemplative compositions” (No Depression) and “woozily lush arrangements and classic pop turns” (Rolling Stone Country). His third album in three years, Abney has embarked on a new sonic journey since 2018’s Coyote landed him a spot on Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” with Wide Open Country noting, "Abney’s brand of Americana isn’t deeply rooted in country-tinged crooners or twang. Rather, Abney delivers soft and elegant moments reminiscent of Beck’s Sea Change...Elliott Smith’s Either/Or." His 2015 debut, Better Luck, was ranked as the #1 Oklahoma album of the year by NPR’s KOSU station, while its follow-up, Far Cries and Close Calls, was deemed “the work of an omniscient poet who’s yet to achieve his greatest triumph” by now-defunct music blog Bucket Full of Nails.
Familiar Ground Tracklisting:
- When This Blows Over
- Shine Like a Friend
- I Don't Get Excited Much Anymore
- Evening Tide
- The Contractor
- Signs of Weather
- Showing up Late
- Familiar Ground
- Tokyo City Rain