You may not have heard of John Calvin Abney but there’s a good chance you’ve heard him. He’s been John Moreland‘s loyal sideman on Moreland’s last few tours. If you read the credits on Chris Porter‘s stellar posthumously released album Don’t Go Baby, It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You, you’ve likely wondered if there’s an instrument Abney doesn’t play. Abney’s musicianship is the foreground for Coyote, an expansive album that draws on the guitar-slinger’s road fatigue. Abney’s previous album, Far Cries and Close Calls, was a promising start that leaned heavily on Dylan as an influence. This time around, Coyote, shows John Calvin Abney owning his voice.
Coyote is richly textured, which could only happen under the guidance of a musician like Abney. He is endlessly curious and playful, a virtuoso with almost no ego. Abney is committed to his songs and lets them breathe. Give a few spins to Coyote, but you won’t get tired of the fills Abney and his cohort add to the expansive songs. They seem to stretch beyond the horizon like an empty highway.
It’s not surprising that Coyote focuses on life on the road. After all, Abney’s been pounding the asphalt for several years running now. But even if you’re a homebody, you’ll find kinship in Abney’s lyrics. Ultimately, Coyote is about searching for a place to belong. On the album, Abney creates a cosmic dreamscape that evokes hours on the highway: the stray thoughts and memories that overtake you in the long lulls between pit stops, the parade of landscapes as you wend your way across country, the arguments you anticipate when you get home and the ones from five years ago you wish you’d handled differently. Abney doesn’t come to any conclusions on the album, but given the peaceful tenor of the songs that doesn’t seem to be the point. Like the highway, the answer to that central question — where do I fit in? — has no final answer. And like a touring musician, the places we do fit into change as we move along.
Learn more about John Calvin Abney here.