Written By: Maria Arroyo
Southern singer/songwriter, Rod Abernethy, releases his new album, Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore, out on all platforms! Described as a Triple Threat Renaissance, Abernethy has more than succeeded as a guitarist and singer/songwriter with his 2019 win of the American Songwriter’s Bob Dylan Song Contest, his award wins for compositions for film, TV, and video games, recording with major record labels, and now as a distinguished professor at UNC’s School of the Arts.
Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore was written and recorded before COVID-19, but fitting nonetheless. This album was also produced by the Grammy-nominated producer, Neilson Hubbard, who’s worked with Mary Gauthier, Kim Richey, and Glen Phillips. Incredible guitar player, Will Kimbrough, also makes an appearance on Abernethy‘s new release.
Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore is described as a “mixture of guitar virtuosity and world-class songwriting.” Abernethy tells “real-life stories of everyday people, the personal challenges they face, and how we all need help from each other to get through those challenges.”
The opening track, “Just Around The Corner,” is a beautifully-crafted folk song. There’s a feeling of timelessness to his writing that comes across so clearly in his work.
“It’s Always Something” is definitely one of the more wittier songs on the album, which I really take a liking to. “I wanted to tell a few stories of how it’s always something that hides in the corner and tries to trip you up, but I wanted to keep it light-hearted,” Abernethy shares. “The producer, Neilson Hubbard, helped me keep on the light side with the vocals and instruments.”
“Whiskey & Pie” the first of two instrumental tracks (the second being “Over The Fence”) on the album, keep the feel of the album alive while showcasing the incredible guitar skills highlighted in this recording! Abernethy shares that the song title came from a memory at a folk conference of a host having whiskey and pie for a late snack and thinking to himself “that would be a great name for a song.” He then created an instrumental on a 12-string to go with the newfound name.
His next track, “My Father Was A Quiet Man,” is a favorite of mine. “About two years ago around the holidays, I had a dream that my dad called me on the kitchen phone in my childhood house.” Abernethy goes into more detail to explain why this is such a staple in his memories. “My dad was talking a lot… funny thing was he never really talked that much in real life. We had a great talk on the phone, he asked me how I was doing and how the family was getting along. It was so unlike him, but I’ll never forget the call.” Hubbard captures the depth and warmness of his voice so incredibly well, which is why this track stands out to me. This song is engaging from beginning to end, while still having a more intimate feel to it.
Immediately changing the pace of the album is “Birds In The Chimney.” The listeners jump right back into a more energetic feel as we continue to hear more of his storytelling. His next song, “When Tobacco Was King,” which was co-written with Susan Cattaneo. This is a fun and engaging song that I also took a huge liking to.
The title track, “Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore,” came to Abernethy last year as things close to him started to rapidly change. “Then the pandemic hit in March and the song has taken on a whole new meaning,” Abernethy shares. He does such an amazing job of bringing true feelings and emotions to life and makes it sound flawless. John Mayer‘s “Changing” made the cut of Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore with an introduction from Abernethy‘s son, Matthew, and some convincing by Hubbard, and Abernethy shares that this is one of his favorite tunes on the album. He keeps the song unique and soulful while keeping the structure of the song intact.
The track, “Just Get In The Car,” is fully dedicated to Abernethy‘s late brother. “I loved my brother, but we were never that close, maybe because he was six years older than me,” he shares. “He passed away about 9 years ago and I’ve always regretted not having a closer relationship with him. This song is a dialogue with him as if we were talking about taking a joy ride and he wasn’t sure about going at first. I’m trying to convince him to take the ride.” Also co-written with Susan Cattaneo, they were able to bring this beautiful story to life and truly leave a mark on the album.
Another song that ties into his family is “Another Year.” “With the passing of both my parents in recent years, I’ve gotten to know the importance of having friends and family around you,” says Abernethy. “To put it simply, on the streets we may look different, but alone we all look the same.” This track was so beautiful and stunningly-crafted and executed. Everything from the lovely string arrangement to the ambiance he creates in the background, only further the intense feelings of love and hope.
The closing track, “Oxford Town,” is the track that landed him as the winner of American Songwriter’s Bob Dylan Song Contest. “To enter you had to send in a video of your favorite Bob Dylan song and it just so happened that I had a recent video of my version of ‘Oxford Town.’ I thought ‘maybe I’ll send that in’ thinking no one will ever see it. The following week I opened up an email from American Songwriter Magazine that I had won the Grand Prize for the contest!!”
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