REVIEW: Rod Abernethy “Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore” Is Master Acoustic


Rod Abernethy – Normal Isn’t Normal Anymore

This award-winning North Carolina singer-songwriter & master acoustic guitarist fills his musical kitchen with rich aromas immediately with the opening tune: “Just Around the Corner,” from his new 12-cut LP (drops Feb. 5) released on Songs from Downstairs Records.

What’s instantly likable is the voice, & compositions that gel perfectly with originality turns of phrases that create clever appetizing moments. His songs simply taste good to my ears. “It’s Always Something,” has the scent of a tune the late legendary Pete Seeger would’ve covered (only in a more banjo-oriented style).

Abernethy doesn’t allow his voice to grate on your ears, so he paces the entertainment brilliantly by track 3 adding a dynamic acoustic guitar instrumental ala Leo Kottke/John Fahey on “Whiskey & Pie,” & never loses momentum.

A tribute to his Dad on “My Father Was a Quiet Man,” makes me think of John Prine, Townes Van Zandt & Marc Cohn (“Another Year,” has Cohn’s tradition solid). This is the standing room only place where Rod Abernethy deserves to be. Along with these songwriters.

He has the poignancy, the storytelling, & the words that will gently whisper into your…heart.

This is an excellent song. Anyone who admires great songwriting like Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” will embrace this song. Rod has tapped into a rich vein & his style is his own. He follows these great songwriters but treads his own path confidently.

If you ever wondered what it would sound like if the late acoustic guitar master John Fahey backed a good singer-songwriter, Abernethy satisfies that curiosity with his guitar & humor on “Birds in the Chimney.” A driving melody with clarity & superb picking.

The majority of the songs are carefully rendered, written & showcased. Almost no inclination toward lyrical cliches. That’s a rarity. Subject matter seldom explored & all arranged impeccably. I can’t consider Rod a folk singer because he doesn’t pigeon-hole his material. This may be one of the year’s best already. He’s a vivid, expressive artist. His drama & intensity (the title track) is sophisticatedly balanced & literate. His acoustic & blast of harmonica here released as a strong breeze.

Rod has the voice the late Phil Ochs would’ve admired. For some, Ochs was a serious artist & was. But his thin vocal & misguided career didn’t grab listeners the way Dylan & Seeger did. Rod seems more focused. Even on some covers (2) Rod adds a touch of his own vocal magic. Commercial ability? Yes. It can be found on the original “Just Get in the Car” with its Cat Stevens catchy aggression. Wonderful.

Joining Rod is Grammy-nominated producer Neilson Hubbard (drums/percussion), Will Kimbrough (additional guitars/mandolin), Michael Rinne (electric/upright basses), Dan Mitchell (piano), David Henry (cello) with Mia Ernst, Neilson, Will & Michael (background vocals).

I enjoyed every song. I don’t admit that often. Recorded in Nashville the 45-minute CD is available at

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