John Calvin Abney Shares “When This Blows Over” Single Today with Music Video Directed by Samantha Crain

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John Calvin Abney Returns with Familiar Ground on November 20 via Black Mesa Records

Shares “When This Blows Over” Single Today with Music Video Directed by Samantha Crain


John Calvin Abney will return with his fifth studio album, Familiar Ground, on November 20, 2020 via Black Mesa Records. Co-produced with longtime collaborator John Moreland during the country’s pandemic lockdown, the 9-song set often contemplates the acceptance of our own mortality, as well as the strength it takes for us to weather the storms of life. On album standout “When This Blows Over” — out today alongside a music video directed by fellow Oklahoman Samantha Crain — Abney paraphrases the beloved Irish poet Seamus Heaney, reminding us over a twangy, bedroom pop soundscape that “We can summer together / if we can winter this.


Of the track, Abney offers, “Quarantine and extended isolation created a fierce longing for the people and places I held dear along the Californian coastline. It’s a song of hope, but does not disregard the reality of the storm upon us, and between us.”


WATCH/LISTEN: John Calvin Abney’s “When This Blows Over”


Abney serves as Moreland’s touring guitarist and when the shows around Moreland’s new record LP5 were canceled in March, 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, the record takes us on a meandering journey through cities of the mind as Abney mulls over what it means to fully experience our fleeting lives on earth. He 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:

  1. When This Blows Over
  2. Shine Like a Friend
  3. I Don't Get Excited Much Anymore
  4. Evening Tide
  5. The Contractor
  6. Signs of Weather
  7. Showing up Late
  8. Familiar Ground
  9. Tokyo City Rain


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