Robert Abernathy – Take A Swing – Album Review
Take A Swing?
Robert Abernathy is more than just whiffing the bat, this dude consistently knocks out home-runs y’all.
Officially being released on August 2nd this year, you wanna circle that date on your calendars – Take A Swing is a seriously magnificent record to listen to and this artist is definitely one of the highlight finds of this year. That’s assuming of course, that it’s your first experience with his music like it is mine; I’d have to imagine that we’re all gonna have to find some room on his bandwagon and share some space with those that have been there from day one with the release of his first record Sticks & Stones from 2017.
The beat comes in BIG on the way into “Wasted,” the opening track on Take A Swing and one of two co-written with songwriting-ace Durand Robinson, who will also contribute another song of his own to wrap up the album at the very end – but we’ll get to that. What you can hear in this collaborative effort right away, is that together, they sure understand how to get the best out of what Robert can bring to the music & the microphone – and they immediately start playing to his strengths. Hooks-wise, you gotta love the refreshing energy you’ll find in the chorus and you’ll certainly be impressed by the way that Abernathy sings it – “Wasted” instantly starts sounding like a hit-song from moment one, and it’ll remain in that gear throughout the entire experience. From the initial catchiness & sincerity in the verse and the stunning vocals you’ll hear from Robert as he shifts into the chorus, “Wasted” is a perfect example of putting your best foot forward – this is the way to make a memorable first impression, 100%. I have next to zero doubt about the single-worthy potential that exists on “Wasted” – this is completely appealing and contains a ton of crossover sound, which is something you’ll hear a lot of from Robert on Take A Swing’s lineup of tunes. Fact is however – he’s got a whole set-list stocked full of them, stuffed so full of quality cuts, that it would be a serious head-scratcher as to figure out which song to put out there as a single first, next, & so on…the point is, spoiled for choice – which is a nice problem to have!
“You Can’t Have My Boat.” Definitely sounds like a Countrified-cut from the title, or hey, could be an Indie-College-Garage-Rock tune…but I have a feeling I know which it’ll be. I was almost surprised by the amount of Pop-influence you’ll find in this track, the second co-written by Robinson on Take A Swing – but the uplifting vibes that are created here certainly speak to the fact that it works well. Call it modern-day Country if you wanna, call it whatever you like – the consensus is still gonna be that “You Can’t Have My Boat” is as purely catchy as it truly is. He keeps it plenty Country enough through the lyrics, you’ll hear quintessential references like John Deere, pickup trucks, drinkin’ & all-that – but recognize the man’s got himself a boat to sing about too here, which in itself, kinda sets him apart from the rest of a ton of the Country crowd that’s trying to rub two red beans together to get a meal to go with a shot of whiskey & heartbreak. Songs like “You Can’t Have My Boat” will prove that crossover potential more than exists on this record – it’s thriving. The bouncy playfulness, stunning rhythm, and memorable melody you’ll find on this second track has a ton of universal appeal to it – and as far as what’s out there on your airwaves right now, you can hear Abernathy could fit into several stations on your radio dial. It’s lighthearted fun at the end of the day, but equally skilled and well-written too…I have the feeling there’s going to be lots of ears massively pleased about what they’ll find in Robert’s record this summer.
“That Girl,” co-written with Craig Pruett & featuring him as well, arguably takes the most liberties with the whole modern-day Country-Pop vibes goin’ on, more emphasis on the Pop-side of his sound for sure when it comes to this song. That being said…I don’t want anyone to get me wrong, these are just observations on what I hear – I’m definitely not baggin’ on the guy for the amount of crossover appeal you’ll find written into the fabric of his material. When you listen to how sparkling the results are on a track like “That Girl,” you actually end up really appreciating just how many places there are for music like Robert is making – you factor in the Hip-Hop inclusion into this song and the recent success of artists like Lil’ Nas X, or the ever-collaborative success of Ed Sheeran, and you know the time for a song like this is RIGHT NOW. Music’s just as on-point as the vocals here…shiny guitars, smoother-than-smooth bass-lines, crisp beat…the main meat & potatoes are completely in-check, and the addition of a bit of synth in there for ya livens it up too – but really, it’s what you’ll hear from the microphone from beginning to end that makes “That Girl” as spectacularly inviting to listen to as it is…you can’t take your ears off these two, nor would you wanna. And you see what I’ve been saying here all along right? We’re on track three and there hasn’t been anything less than a single-worthy tune on this album so far! Believe it or not – as we shift from the co-written tunes on Take A Swing into the songs written solely by Robert, he’s going to lead off this next section of the record with what could be the album’s most recognizable single of them all. So buckle up hombres…this album still has a ton more in the tank for all to enjoy – be ready!
Alrighty Robert…now…let’s do our best to keep me on your side, shall we? “Minnesota Bend” is…ugh…it is like…TOO EASY to like and/or love, ain’t it? Honestly…what the heck are we supposed to do against the power of songwriting like this, or such an inspired performance that comes along with it – or how bulletproof the hooks, melody & personality of the main star of the show on display truly are – WHAT? You can’t resist a track like “Minnesota Bend” – no…no you can’t…not unless you’re made of pure steel. That’s where I’m at with this song…and I don’t know how to feel about it really…I want SOME level of control over what I do or don’t like Robert…I’m sure you can appreciate that brother-man…it’s like you’ve left us all with no choice but to turn this song right up to the rafters and sing along with ya when it comes to “Minnesota Bend.” In other words – congratulations my friend – everything about this song works brilliantly…whether listeners are inside or outside of the Americana-Rock/Country genres where people will find your music, there’s enough hooks, energy, and accessibility to pull everyone in to listen. In a few ways, it’s quite like what you’d almost imagine a song like “Semi-charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind would come out sounding like in a Country setting – you’ll notice a similar vibe through both the hooks of the fiddle and the “do-do-dos” that exist in the vocals as well. Obviously more than different enough from each other being in completely different genres & all – and the real bottom line is, more of a good thing is a seriously great thing when it sounds like “Minnesota Bend” does. I’ll put it as plainly as I possibly can, in a sincere effort to tell something to Abernathy that has gotta be universally shared in thought over in his camp as well, which is that he’d be absolutely insane not to put this out there as a lead-single. Will this pull the people in to listen? Are you kidding me? In droves. “Minnesota Bend” is the very textbook definition of what makes a single great – everything about this tune makes you want to listen to a whole lot more from Robert Abernathy from the music to the microphone – love this tune!
Gettin’ downright soulful in his search for love, “Got Nothin’ On You” continues the record with the impressive sway, style, and swagger Robert flashes on an R&B-infused tune from Take A Swing. Here’s what I love about this song…about this record…about this ARTIST altogether – and that’s the fact that, even with EVERY step, note, and tone from the music being so unbelievably perfect, it’s the versatility in his material and the extraordinary singing that still seems to somehow stand out the most. Abernathy isn’t like…you know, the over-grandiose-big-note kind of singer, he’s so much more in-tune with what he can bring to a microphone & makes sure to stay in his lane, no matter which style or sound he chooses. That’s not to say he doesn’t have range – he’ll reveal plenty of it through the way he rolls through the lyrics & vocals on “Got Nothin’ On You” – but for the most-part, you’ll find it’s the fact that he stays humble, stays flawless tone-wise, & has the confidence of a gentle giant when it comes to performance that’ll impress you most. He’s not over-reaching at all – he’s right in the pocket on these songs from Take A Swing – which is an achievement in itself considering the diversity in the music & material. When you listen to the lyricism on “Got Nothin’ On You” and the complexity it actually has on a structural-level, and then how fluidly, naturally, and brilliantly Abernathy delivers it all…honestly, it’s remarkable. Because HE is right where he belongs doing what he’s meant to do, it’s like he’s impervious to mistakes. “Got Nothin’ On You” is bound to be a favorite for many out there with its shining sweetness & style.
This guy though…I tell ya…Robert could hold a songwriting clinic and pack the house with people willing to learn from him – his instincts are spectacular, and there’s genuine craft to his approach – he gets the most out of himself and out of each of these songs, every time. Each moment where I thought he would HAVE to run out of gas at some point…that the next song would somehow be less exciting or duller than the last one, he’d go on to prove that theory incorrect and pump out another incredible song like he could do it all day long. And maybe he can…I don’t know the man’s current schedule or what his life is like outside of what he reveals on this record…maybe he’s writing new tunes around the clock & hasn’t slept since last Tuesday, I don’t know – but if he ain’t full-timing it by now, good lord, he should be. One of the best decisions he’s made on the album so far, is the inclusion of his daughter Vivi Abernathy on the song “Invisible” – this is the real showstopper on the album, maybe by a Country-mile even. Don’t get me wrong…we’re talking about something different than what’s single-worthy – this runs deeper than that…deeper than any set of amazing hooks ever could – this is the sound of sincerity at work. Look…what I can tell you is this…Vivi is a legend of her own in the making – she has an absolutely outstanding voice AND a tremendous amount of identity in her sound already – so let’s be clear about that to start. But what I can also tell you is this – as artists, as performers, as entertainers…we get the best out of our collaborative efforts when all parties involved are invested and the moment genuinely MATTERS to them. When everyone in the mix really wants to be there and bring their best to it, it’s something you can authentically hear – and you’ll get that from every single second of “Invisible.” Whether that’s the relationship between father & daughter, or simply two extremely capable artists bringing their talents together – whatever you feel causes the magic on “Invisible,” it’s undeniably there. More of a Country-Rock tune for what you’ll find in the lineup of Take A Swing; this appearance from Vivi gets the very best from Robert, and likely vice-versa – I’m sure the vote of confidence in the decision to have her on this song was inspiring for her as well. If you listen to the outstanding way she sings her verse and the duet-harmonies of the chorus, you’ll certainly assume that’s the case. Robert proves that the apple does not at all fall far from the tree with this all-out exceptional song on Take A Swing – he might have verifiably revealed the world-class star quality not just in himself on this album, but also his daughter Vivi too. Everything about the way she sings tells my ears she’s got a career in music coming. Incidentally – she’s TWELVE years old! Astonishing really – she’s already a fantastically talented singer.
Abernathy is full proof that crossover potential exists – I honestly think what this guy is capable of could draw in listeners from just about every corner of the planet. I’m more than outside of the world of Country-Soul music…more than six-degrees of Kevin Bacon removed…and if he can reach me & get me THIS EXCITED and sincerely enthusiastic about his music…then believe me, he’s onto something special. When you listen to a song like the title-track you can hear the flashy Pop/Rock influence on the sound; just like he’s flexed in the first two songs as well, his style of Country and approach has him willing to explore the borders of his sound to the fullest of its potential – and that’s exactly why he’s not just takin’ a mere swing, he’s seriously cracking the bat. “Take A Swing” and the magnetic pull the chorus creates will display another huge highlight early-on in the record’s lineup, building its strength through the tight focus on the songwriting & execution once again. Everything contributes and there’s not a second gone to waste here – it’s a somewhat tried, tested, and true approach to writing at this point, but as I’ve already mentioned here in this review, Robert has the innate ability to make more of a good thing a really great thing. “Take A Swing” certainly draws on its Americana-based lyrical imagery and themes that definitely reflect the country’s unbreakable relationship with baseball – but to his credit, the way that Robert’s penned such remarkable words in his writing has songs like these coming out to their potential x10 – and the fact that he can sing them so spot-on as well sure doesn’t hurt none either. Solid songwriting guides him to victory on the album’s title track…dig the backing-vocals and how they strengthen the melody even more in the chorus, love the tightness in the music, love the attention to detail in the words, love the way that Robert sings this tune as well. There’s just absolutely zero pretense with this down-home southerner – Abernathy is who he is and that’s all he’ll ever need to be.
TOUGH to be critical of a song called “Don’t Take Me Serious” ain’t it? I’m gonna try anyway. Just kidding…well…kind of…sorta…I’ll put it this way, it’s probably the most stylistic cut on the album and might appeal to a more niche audience as a result – that’s a possibility. Maybe. Honestly, I’m not even sure about that when it comes right down to it…I’m not even convinced that “Don’t Take Me Serious” has any less single-worthy sound than any of these other songs do…I think it’s only by comparison to the sheer strength of the surrounding material that listeners might not notice this song as quickly as the rest at first. Again – MAYBE. I’m trying to not dwell on this too much and just take his advice – “Don’t Take Me Serious” is designed as a musical-reminder to lighten-up & just have some good ol’ fun with it. And you’ll hear that in the playful way that this tune moves…groovin’ verses, fun lyricism, and a loose vibe that beckons you to just go with it, man. Chill out for a moment, rock to this, and leave the rest of life behind – “Don’t Take Me Serious” and I promise I won’t take you that way either – we’re here for a good time, not a long time, after all, as they say. Excellent personality, charm, and charisma added to this cut through the guitars – they’re essential to this cut; “Don’t Take Me Serious” might appear to be low-key at first, but you’ll be surprised at the high-level of party-vibes this song will go on to pump out atcha. Vocally, lyrically, and hook-wise…LISTEN to the anthem he’s created here will ya? You hang up your spurs for the day, end up in the crowd at an Abernathy show, beer in hand, surrounding by hundreds of others packed in front of the stage…believe me, he’s got all the right ingredients & energy in this song to have the people singing along with this tune at the top of their lungs & forgetting the 9-5 even exists. It might be more of a spare & bare cut compared to some of the rest musically in some ways, but I have no doubt that where there’s less music involved here, the crowd will be more than willing to fill in the space & sing along with Robert on every part of “Don’t Take Me Serious” – it’s a whole lot of fun start to finish.
Lyrically, “All My Friends” is one of my favorites for sure. Robert flexes his depth of knowledge of the genre & the greats that have paved the way for him on this tune – but if you were to also just listen to this song on a surface-level, you might assume that he’s hearing “All My Friends” was about people he knew personally that were written into Country tunes too – which gives the writing a bit more ambiguity that I think a lot of people will enjoy in multiple ways. You can of course, dig right on in to the Country stomp & rhythm of “All My Friends” and leave it at that, happy as a clam on the dance-floor – OR – if you’re a real music-buff, you’ll dive right in even deeper to connect all the references & influences you’ll hear playing a role in this cleverly constructed tune. The first clue is revealed immediately when the reference to the mega-hit of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” is mentioned and the fiddle takes a moment to play tribute in behind the vocals…it’s brilliant moves like these that’ll reveal there’s much more at work on this cut than just another set of flashy hooks to turn up – you can dig into this track and be satisfied knowing that your efforts will lead somewhere where you’ll find answers to your questions. Probably closer to the straight-up Country/Rock genre than any of the rest on this record, there’s more traditional vibes at work on this song, but with the history that comes along with it, everything fits tight. Bonus points for the violin on “All My Friends” – it’s a real highlight on this cut, as is the bending-notes coming from the ol’ guitars too – lots of excellent ideas and musicianship to be found on Take A Swing.
Killer guitar riffs and ace-lyricism lead the way to victory on “Runnin’ Leather Boots” – I found this to be one of the album’s most essential cuts. This would probably be another example of a song closer to the results achieved in “Invisible” – they might not end up being singles maybe, but “Runnin’ Leather Boots” is inarguably one of the album’s best songs all-around too. “You got your story, and I’ve got mine,” as he’ll tell ya…and that’s one of the greatest aspects of this tune – it genuinely feels like a true tale, a story, an epic adventure in music – and it definitely becomes one. Using the art of the reveal to his advantage in the layout & structure of “Runnin’ Leather Boots” as it plays, you get pieces added to this song along the way that build it up bigger & bigger as it continues on. Whether that’s through the additional details in the lyrics, or the vibrant instrumentation, or the biggest notes you’ll hear from Abernathy towards the end of the song, “Runnin’ Leather Boots” seems to kind of saunter along unexpectedly through your speakers, and before you know it, you’re in the thick of one seriously big tune that has a gripping, enticing, and highly-interesting set of vibes goin’ on. Loving the way that the guitars seem to react & respond to the lyrics & vocals on “Runnin’ Leather Boots” – there are so many levels of depth to this song and access points into it – it’s definitely another huge crossover cut for the man, even with as much Country he’s got driving its core, it’s a track that all listeners are sure to dig on. If you’re a fan of great songwriting – honestly, how could you possibly say no to anything this guy does?
Talented? You bet. Listen to the smoothness and soul in the final song “As Long As I Know” and you’ll hear a voice that immediately hits the mark beyond satisfaction – you instantly hear an artist with that X-factor appeal, as humble & subtle as it may be, it’s always present. As far as the song itself goes, we’re probably talking about something similar to something you’ve probably heard in the past; he’s displayed more identity & uniqueness in other songs perhaps – but in terms of a final impression, really, does it get any more inviting than what you’ll hear on “As Long As I Know?” In a song that examines just how far we’ll go & what we’re willing to do for love, you couldn’t ask anything more from Robert than what he gives you in the performance of this last song, written by Durand Robinson – this is the straight-up sound of flawlessness. It might not be reinventing the wheel on this final cut from Take A Swing, but there’s zero doubt about the fact that he leaves you a true beauty & true gem of a tune. Full proof that all Robert needs is an acoustic guitar and his voice to get you onboard, “As Long As I Know” keeps it sweet, keeps it soulful, keeps it relatable too – if you’ve gone down the rabbit-hole of love before, you’ll certainly understand the words Robinson has written & Robert is singing, and you’ll take this tale to heart. Perhaps more impressive than anything else, is just how natural Abernathy sounds singing this quaint & pleasant melody…I’ve watched Robinson play this song online as well, and I’d imagine he’s gotta be seriously stoked on the results of how this tune translated so smoothly over to Robert’s style.
I’m tellin’ ya people…August 2nd…mark the date, for real – Take A Swing is a real highlight of the summer comin’ atcha real soon.
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Find out more about Robert Abernathy at these official links!
Official Website: https://www.robertabernathy.com
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