Kevin Abernathy Band
Scrap Metal Blues (Life Socket Records)
Give Kevin Abernathy one thing: the boy sure can play. He's like some East Tennessee trailer park Eddie Van Halen, or maybe a backwater Steve Vai, with a couple of stiff fingers. And he sings nice—a lot like Steve Earle. Writes songs like him, too, sometimes, only not quite as polished. And other times he's more of a bar-band boogie kind of guy, almost like Webb Wilder, only without the glasses and the cannonballs. Trouble is, while Abernathy has talents in all those areas, things don't always mesh. It's all a bit lumpy, like a book stuffed with too many extra pages of notes. He's probably best when he's putting four on the floor with straight-up blues rockers like "Big Rock Show" and the title cut, songs that simplify the approach and carve out plenty of space for Abernathy's howling, shimmering six-string. Is Abernathy's music less than the sum of its parts? Or is it the fact that it is indeed exactly the sum of its parts that makes it intermittently problematic? Not sure. But at least he always leaves you with something worthwhile—a perfect tone, a killer solo, a spot-on vocal. That, and plenty to think about.