John Calvin Abney: Coyote (Black Mesa)
Oklahoma has been fertile ground lately for Americana music. Folks like Parker Millsap, John Fullbright and John Moreland have been drawing a lot of attention to the state and John Calvin Abney will deserve just as much credit shortly thanks to his powerful new full length, ‘Coyote.’
A longtime sideman for many and the touring guitarist for Moreland, Abney has been chipping out time to work on his own material here and there, first with 2016’s ‘Far Cries and Close Calls’ and now with ‘Coyote.’ It is an album that shows major growth sonically in just the two short years that have passed between releases.
Low key as the record may sound on first listen, the power lies in Abney’s lyrics and his subtle, steady delivery. The record was written over the course of a very tough year for the singer/songwriter. It was a year that saw friends and a family member pass away, where he had a few health problems of his own, as well as a break up. You can hear the heartache throughout the record on songs like “Every Now and Then” and “Sundowner.” But far from being a woe-is-me record, there are traces of optimism throughout, like on the beautiful “Infinite Nights.” Abney also throws out his best song yet on the stunning love note to his home state, “Cowboys and Canyon Queens.”
It’s lazy journalism to pull out the cliché about tough times making for great music but fuck it – “Coyote” is a fantastic album, in large part due to Abney’s life experiences – good and bad.