Birmingham Jail from Barry Abernathy, featuring Vince Gill

Billy Blue Records has announced the imminent release of a new album from Barry Abernathy called Barry Abernathy & Friends, that is actually four years old.

Bluegrass fans remember Barry well from his time with Mountain Heart, and these days for his output with Appalachian Road Show. But what about the time in between? Well, that’s where this upcoming record comes in.

When Abernathy said his goodbyes to Mountain Heart in 2014, a band he had helped form with Jim VanCleve and Steve Gulley 16 years earlier, he was facing uncertainty about his musical future. Difficult neck surgery was on the horizon, along with a warning from his doctors that it could have a negative impact on his vocal chords.

So Barry set to work recording a solo project, not necessarily for release but mostly for posterity.

“I really hadn’t sung lead on that many recordings. I was thinking about something my kids could have one day, and I was wishing I had recorded a project of my own, if I wasn’t able to sing again.”

He started collecting songs, and making scratch recordings on his phone before discussing the idea with VanCleve, who convinced him to do a full-fledged album. He brought in some of the top vocalists in bluegrass to sing with him, like Doyle Lawson, Rhonda Vincent, Shawn Lane, and Dan Tyminski.

Barry and Jim already had plans for the Road Show in the works, and Barry said that the two projects really couldn’t be merged together.

“These are songs I love, recorded with friends and musical heroes I love, but they didn’t necessarily fit the style and theme we were considering for the Appalachian Road Show concept, they were more down the middle of the bluegrass road.”

Since ARS took priority on his attention in recent years, Barry Abernathy & Friends took a back seat for a while. But now Billy Blue Records has set a release date of February 26, with a new single out to radio today, a new version of the blues/folk song, Birmingham Jail. And he included yet another top vocalist in the track in the person of Vince Gill. The two turned in a nice duet on the chorus of this old standard.

Have a listen.

Birmingham Jail is available now to radio programmers via AirPlay Direct. Pre-orders for the Barry Abernathy & Friends album are available online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.