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Classic country sounds

Karling Abbeygate
Karling Abbeygate
By Karling Abbeygate

Dionysus Records: 2006


This review first appeared in Turbula in July 2006.

Equal parts Wanda Jackson, Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee, Karling Abbeygate's new solo album is so firmly steeped in the classic country sounds of the 1950s you'd almost rather listen to it on a big old floor-sized tube-powered radio than your CD player. And yet, it's not gimmicky – what we have here is simply a superb album by a talented singer with a penchant for the classic sounds of the golden age of the Grand Ole Opry and a willingness to bring her own touches to that music.

Like Cline, on some songs the Southern California-based Abbeygate's gorgeous vocals just float above the band, like a pearl sitting on a velvet pillow. On others songs, she's got Lee's tomboy-tough attitude ("Just Love Me One More Time"). And the pure fun of her little-girl falsetto ("Tonight Is Gonna Last," "Beg Steal & Borrow) puts her own stamp very firmly on this album.

Mike Boito's piano has a honky tonk purity to it that is the perfect complement to Abbeygate's voice. Joey Altruda's guitar playing is traditional in sound, befitting the overall theme, yet full of surprising little hooks on his solos. A pedal steel guitar adds another level of deep country sound.

While many of the covers here are classic-era country chestnuts, they're not overly familiar. "Many Happy Hangovers To You" may have been written 40 years ago, but a quick search shows it's only been recorded once before. Hank Thompson recorded "Who Left the Door to Heaven Open" more than three decades ago, and Abbeygate may be the first since.

Abbeygate has also written four of the 12 songs here, and they're among the most memorable cuts on the album. The rollicking "Beg Steal & Borrow" is the best of them, and if the world suddenly becomes a just and fair place this song will be all over the radio and other bands' playlists.