Abraham Alexander – SEA/SONS
Many Americana fans first became aware of Abraham Alexander in early February, when he participated in the Americana Music Association’s pre-Grammy salute to Lucinda Williams. The young singer-songwriter-guitarist took on Williams’ “West Memphis” not only as a tribute to the legendary songwriter, but to highlight social unrest in Memphis. But Alexander’s story starts long before that LA night. On his debut LP, SEA/SONS, the Texas-by-way-of-Greece artist looks back at his path to making music and honors the folks who got him here.
The image on the front of SEA/SONS is a picture of Alexander and his brothers playing in the water in Greece just before their parents brought them to Texas to escape racial tensions at school. Shortly after that, the boys’ mother was killed by a drunk driver, and teenage Abraham was adopted. Family, though, has a deep pull on Alexander – both of his birth parents were musicians (a gift he, by his own admission, didn’t embrace right away), and the album’s first track, “Xavier,” pays tribute to one of Alexander’s brothers, who died a few years back. The quietly hymn-like track acknowledges the loss – “The pictures on the wall will change/Mentions of your name will pain” – while a choir of voices echoes the singer’s hope of seeing his brother again. Family also factors into the record’s best love song, “Tears Run Dry.” Inspired by the story of family friends celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, Alexander sought to capture the type of emotions that make a half-century possible – “Darling/If you let me love you/Let me hold you/You will see those tears run dry” – long past the shelf-life of the average radio romance. Alexander’s acoustic work also sparkles here, making this song an all-around winner.
Two other stand-out tracks on SEA/SONS feature high-caliber guests. “Deja Vu” comes from the story of Kalief Browder, a young man who’d been arrested as a teenager, but never tried, and eventually took his own life after completing a brutal 1,000-plus days on Rikers Island. Alexander sings for the lost future of a man who can no longer voice his own story – “Drown as you take the key/Walking away from me/Killing a legacy/Bittersweet poetry.” But the track deals its hardest punch when Mavis Staples chips in with “Blind lady hear my plea/Justice no heresy/But you’re not listening/Modern day slavery” Staples has become such a beloved figure in modern-day Americana that we almost forget the sheer amount of fearless grit in her voice, but it’s on full display here. And “Stay” wrestles with something Alexander has been contending with all his life, even before he was old enough to make the decisions for himself – is it better to stay put or move on? Framed here as both a love song and a musician’s lament – “I wonder if I stay/Now would that be my journey’s end” – the reverie is enhanced by a lovely, but subtle, guitar solo from Gary Clark Jr. Across SEA/SONS, Alexander’s songs draw the best out of his fellow players, and as his story continues to unfold, his travels will be a worthy follow.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Tears Run Dry” – just a damn good, swoon-worthy love song.
SEA/SONS was produced by Abraham Alexander, Matt Pence, Brad Cook, Dominique Sanders, Ian Barter, Beau Bedford, Jason Burt, Anu Pillai, Jack Chown and J. Keir, mixed by Pence, Pillai and Alex Farrar, engineered by Charlie Wiles, Nick Brenton, Mathieu Lejeune, Chown and Farrar and mastered by Dave McNair. All songs were written by Abraham, with co-writing credits going to Brandon Marcel, Eric Pulido, Joey McClellan, Ian Barter, Leo Stannard, Anu Pillai, Cameron Warren, James Lewis, Jack Chown, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Jonathan Paul Keller and Brad Cook. Additional musicians on the album include Jordache Grant (organ, piano), Charley Wiles (guitar, acoustic guitar), Phil Cook (piano), Dominique Sanders (bass, upright bass, keys, strings), Jacob Smith (bass), Nate Barnes (drums), Anu Pillai (programming, keyboards), Brad Cook (guitar), Jonathan Paul Keller (guitar), Alex Farrar (pedal steel), Mavis Staples (vocals), Gary Clark Jr. (guitar), and Brandon Marcel, India Reynolds, Taylor Nicks, Roy Patten Jr, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Jack Chown (background vocals).
Order SEA/SONS (out April 14) here: https://www.dualtonestore.com/collections/abraham-alexander
Check out tour dates here: https://www.abrahamalexander.com/live