Kevin Abernathy's dropped the barn-busting twang of his previous album, Rock 'n' Roll Fiasco, in favor of straight power-pop fireworks on A Beautiful Thing.
The new disc starts with '80s-style jam "Kitchen Ditty" and slips into the lilting ballad "Stay" and the grinding title track. Those set the tone for the rest of the album, which runs from gentle to fierce while keeping Abernathy's guitar at the center of everything—just check the long, thrilling solo that closes "Bad News Baby."
For such a straight-ahead rock record, the reference points are all over the place, from the Cars and Cheap Trick to the Dream Syndicate, Drive-By Truckers, and even a little glam-metal.
It's to Abernathy's credit that he can pull influences from such disparate sources into something recognizably his own. (By the end of the 14-track, 54-minute disc, things start to suffer from being a little too recognizably familiar.)
Even more to his credit, he's a great guitarist. The new tone of his band may take some getting used to, but it's worth some patience.