A few weeks ago we reported that Barry Abernathy, he of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and IIIrd Tyme Out fame, was set to make a return to bluegrass. A new album is in the works, and a return to touring is on the horizon.
Barry has spent a full career as a banjo player and vocalist in our music, but stepped away from Mountain Heart, the band he helped launch, after neck surgery resulted in complications a little more than a year ago. Set to repair a number of degenerative discs in his neck, the surgery led to him developing thoracic outlet syndrome when the muscles in his neck and shoulder began to press against the nerve bundle running along the top of his rib. The pain in his right hand left him unable to play the banjo, but with continued therapy, he says he’s getting better all the time.
So now’s the time to come back to bluegrass! As he completes his first solo project, Barry is assembling a band most likely to be called The Barry Abernathy Band, with him as the featured vocalist.
“I always have been part of a band until now. I played team sports growing up, and it always felt like I was part of the team in a band. That makes it feel a little bit odd for me to be going out on my own. But I feel like I’ve still got something left to give.
Some of my skills include finding and arranging material, and quartet singing. I can still do it, and I want to. It feels really good.”
The band is taking shape now, but Barry says he won’t be able to announce who will be with him until later this year, as future members are working currently with other artists. But rest assured, there are some heavy hitters who will be running the road with him next year.
He’ll be primarily playing rhythm guitar and singing, with another banjo player handling the picking chores on stage.
“I’m focusing the band and my record on myself, and the sort of bluegrass that I like. It’s my take on bluegrass, with some creative flourishes. We’ll hit the ground running, with a top band of pro players. We hope to start touring around the first of the year.”
When I caught up with Barry this afternoon, he was driving into Nashville to finish up his vocal parts for this new album in the studio, with his long time friend and bandmate, Jim Van Cleve, producing. He said they have cut all the instrumental tracks, and are expecting to have harmony vocals from Vince Gill, Del McCoury, Dan Tyminski, Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson, Shawn Lane, and Steve Gulley.
Discussions are ongoing with a pair of labels about this record, and a band record to follow soon after. He is also talking with a number of agencies about representing them, and plans to have a team of industry pros in place to manage the new band before they launch.
This is one artist who has surely paid the requisite dues, and there’s every reason to expect that he’ll make it just fine pursuing a solo career.
Welcome back, Barry Abernathy!