Glide Magazine: JOHN CALVIN ABNEY’S ‘COYOTE’ RIDES THE RAIL OF ATMOSPHERIC EMOTIONS (link intentionally left out)
If you caught John Moreland on tour any time in 2017, you were treated to a mind-blowing performance from his sideman and sole bandmate, John Calvin Abney. The fellow Oklahoman is a multi-instrumentalist and managed to keep up with the notoriously brisk pace of Moreland’s setlist, switching guitars and jumping on harmonica at lightning speed. It was a performance that likely left many wondering, who the heck is that guy? And it served as an intriguing introduction to Abney’s new solo record, Coyote.
The songs on Coyote are the result of a lot of personal hardship for Abney, and the grounded, serene nature of his soft harmonies feels like the anecdote. Facing down loss, heartbreak, and a major transitional time in his life, Abney creates a driving progression in the melodies of his songs, like an innate need to keep moving forward no matter what. “Always Enough” finds comfort in a simple, stripped down acoustic guitar and piano arrangement with Elliott Smith-like vocals as Abney reflects on the demise of a relationship.
On “Cowboys and Canyon Queens”, he paints us a detailed scene of homesickness – the colors, the feelings, and the sounds. There is sweetness in the intimacy of this song, with its quiet acoustic guitar melody and Abney’s hushed voice, which only breaks for a rich harmonica run. Abney picks things up on the bluesy “Get Your House in Order”, a whimsical, twangy number about loneliness.
Playing nearly everything on Coyote from organ and keys, to pedal steel guitar and harmonica, Abney proves masterful at layering sounds and textures. There are sweeping orchestral strings that create an atmospheric melancholy on the stunning “Leslie Lane”, and the pedal steel-string combo on “Sundowner” practically weeps one of the album’s prettiest tunes. The latter is Abney at his most realized. The way he captures every vivid detail of his surroundings, from the sapphire blue sky to the sound of the cicadas, makes us feel like we’re right there with him, anticipating whatever challenge lies before us when the sun comes up.