The Music and Friendship of John Calvin Abney
By Johnny Cole
Photos by Stephen Anderson
Edited by Brenda Germany
Approximately eleven years ago, Rosco Bandana’s Jason Sanford introduced me to a young musician from Oklahoma named John Calvin Abney. When Abney was on the Gulf Coast during those early years of knowing him, he would often perform at such places as Ben Kaufman’s Irish Coast Pub in Gulfport, MS or Mezo’s (now the Juke Joint) in Ocean Springs, MS. His down home folksy personality, gentle spirit and often Dylanesque style of songwriting and vocal delivery have always been endearing to everyone he meets. In all my decades of following music, in particular searching for new artists with that extra something special, Abney has become a favorite of mine. He is the epitome of genuine kindness and talent.
On a frigid morning at the 2014 South By Southwest in Austin, TX, The Southland Music Line’s Stephen “Andy” Anderson and I were walking down Driskell Street as we noticed a familiar face crossing the street in front of us. I called out “John Calvin Abney!” in my deepest voice. He turned around to see who was calling out his name, which led to us having a nice little visit. Later that week, we saw Abney perform with The Damn Quails during the Sun Radio Live Broadcast at El Mercado on South 1st Street.
Top photo: John Calvin Abney at The Frog Pond (Mar. 26, 2017); Above photo: Abney at The Frog Pond (Dec. 12, 2021)
Down through the years, I have had the privilege of seeing Abney perform at a number of places, including future SXSW festivals, often with fellow musicians from Oklahoma. Some other good memories were his (Feb. 1, 2015) show with M. Porter Lockwood at The Thirsty Hippo in Hattiesburg, MS and an unforgettable (Oct. 8, 2015) show with Levi Parham at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile, AL. On May 26, 2016, Abney returned to Callaghan’s with Shonna Tucker (formerly of Drive-By Truckers) and Chris Porter “Porter“ (formerly of The Back Row Baptists and Some Dark Holler). Sadly, Abney’s dear friend Chris Porter died in an automobile accident only a few months later on October 20, 2016.
In early 2017, I received a phone call from the duo of Sugarcane Jane about an upcoming show at The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm in Silverhill, AL. There was a need for two singer-songwriters to join them for a show on March 26. They asked if I knew anyone who would be a great addition to the popular Songwriters’ Round at The Frog Pond. Without any hesitation, I responded “John Calvin Abney and Lilly Hiatt”. (I had just seen Lilly Hiatt again at a Gypsy Sally’s in Washington, DC). Well, both joined Sugarcane Jane, Eric Erdman and Sergio Webb for a very memorable Sunday afternoon. Abney has since performed at The Frog Pond several times, including most recently when he joined Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, Ross Newell, Jimmy Lumpkin and Gram Rea on December 12th of last year.
John Calvin Abney at The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm in Silverill, AL (Nov. 16, 2017)
For the last several years Abney has toured extensively with the acclaimed singer-songwriter and fellow Oklahoman, John Moreland. The road has taken them far and wide performing at such legendary venues as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The Southland Music Line’s Stephen Anderson enjoyed their show at The Thirsty Hippo in 2018.
Abney has always shown extreme generosity to others, including The Southland Music Line. A few years ago, he brought me the original hand written lyrics to his song “Museums”, a personal favorite of mine (My top song of 2015).
Abney’s fans anxiously wait to see what is next for him. Each of his albums have ranked highly on my year end lists and likely future releases will, too.
John Calvin Abney with John Moreland at The Thirsty Hippo in Hattiesburg, MS (Oct. 26, 2018)
John Calvin Abney’s Discography:
︎▪︎ Better Luck (2015, Foolish Philosophy)
︎▪︎ Far Cries and Close Calls (2016, Horton Records/CRS)
︎▪︎ Coyote (2018, Black Mesa Records)
︎▪︎ Safe Passage (2019, Black Mesa Records)
︎▪︎ Familiar Ground (2020, Black Mesa Records)
︎▪︎ Without Wax (2012, self-released)
︎▪︎ Empty Candles (2014, self-released)
︎▪︎ Vice Versa Suite (2015, self-released
Rolling Stone called Abney’s 2020 album Familiar Ground “comforting and pleasant as a bright autumn day”; Billboard called it “Melodic, ethereal…lush”; and No Depression said “Abney’s greatest asset is his ability to surrender to the song. Gentle, contemplative compositions.”
John Calvin Abney is one of the truest representations of an American songwriter and musician with a huge heart. Speaking for The Southland Music Line’s Stephen Anderson and Robby Amonett and myself, it has been an honor following him these many years and we gladly call him our friend.
John Calvin Abney at El Mercado in Austin, TX during South By Southwest 2014
John Calvin Abney at Mezo’s Juke Joint in Ocean Springs, MS (2013)
John Calvin Abney, The Southland Music Line’s Johnny Cole and Thomas Young of The Damn Quails at SXSW 2014
John Calvin Abney at The Thirsty Hippo in Hattiesburg, MS (Oct. 26, 2018)
John Calvin Abney at The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm in Silverhill, AL (Dec. 12, 2021)
John Calvin Abney with The Southland Music Line’s Johnny Cole at The Frog Pond (Mar. 26, 2017)
John Calvin Abney at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile, AL (May 26, 2016)
John Calvin Abney the featured article and homepage cover at The Southland Music Line (Feb. & Mar., 2022)
Click Here for John Calvin Abney’s official website.
Page Designed & Edited by Johnny Cole
Additional Editing by Brenda Germany
© The Southland Music Line. 2022.
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