Bill Abernathy Releases New Music With ‘Crossing Willow Creek’


Like a whistling wind cutting through long tall grass on a hot summer day, the gilded harmony that powers “Can’t Go Back” is soft and delicate on the surface but intimidatingly strong if observed from the right vantage point. The shrewd country-rock song acts as the leadoff track in Bill Abernathy’s new album Crossing Willow Creek and gives us a taste of what the remaining ten songs have in store for us, but only just a taste. We slide into “Changes” on the whim of a pastoral piano riff that unfolds into a straight up jam session that puts Abernathy and a furious electric guitar riff at ground zero. You couldn’t crush the spirit this record has even if you had a hundred one-ton boulders – Abernathy is at the top of his game here, unleashing his robust melodies without the slightest trace of inhibition.

“Willow Creek” softens the blow of its predecessor by bringing a 12-string guitar into the mix that will be hard for listeners to forget any time soon. A homespun story of youth, adolescence and young adulthood is punctuated by a harmony between Abernathy and the guitar that is emotional, even tear-jerking in spots. “Cry Wolf” sparks a little danger to keep us energized with a clean overdrive and dirty blues beat that smack us right into “Meant to Be” with impunity. “Meant to Be” isn’t the cutting political diatribe that “Cry Wolf” is, but it’s not a throwaway track by any stretch of your imagination. Supple in its construction but mammoth in its groove, the real draw of this song is the vocals, which are a tad more effervescent here than they are in the rest of the album.

“Do it my way, dammit!” exclaims the spoken intro to “Whiskey Road,” a chunky riff rocker that craters the middle of the record with a thick, bluesy bassline that is perhaps more potent and suffocating than anything Bill Abernathy has ever recorded before. It’s followed by the much more toned down “Love’s In Vain,” which feels a lot more simplistic in the shadow of the thunderous sonic exhibition we just experienced. “White Knight” and the folkie “Any Port” throw a dash of duality and stylized pop into the pot before letting “Yuppie Blues” have its way with us at the whim of a slithering, sophisticated guitar part.

The Celtic-dressed “Icarus” marches us into Crossing Willow Creek’s epic finale, which is more emotional and pointed than where we started but not removed from the earthy affections of Abernathy’s beloved Americana. There’s no camp, pomp nor bravado present as he musically nods to the forerunners of his genre; just Abernathy, a perfect guitar lick and this haunting melody that sounds and feels as old as time itself. Crossing Willow Creek is definitively a classical folk album, but it veers onto plenty of off-kilter and experimental exits on the highway of harmonies it travels. Chipping through its overt themes and getting into the meat and potatoes of its brilliantly designed artistry is a challenge for even the most discriminating and devoted of music enthusiasts, but its unpretentious rhythm and intoxicating structure will leave anyone who loves good folk music coming back for more.


Clay Burton