Band: Abe Partridge Album Release Party
Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m.
Venue: Skate Mountain Records, 105 5th St. (Daphne), www.skatemountainrecords.com
Tickets: $20, available through Eventbrite
Two years ago, Lagniappe introduced its readers to the world of local singer-songwriter Abe Partridge. At the time, Partridge was promoting his debut album “White Trash Lipstick,” one that showcased a style characterized by an acoustic-driven mix of folk and country and a delivery of lyrical poetry through raw vocals filled with broken glass and razor blades.
Since then, Partridge’s musical formula has gone unchanged, but his reputation as one of the Southeast’s most unique and promising singer-songwriters continues to grow with each live performance.
Last year, Partridge signed with Mobile Bay area label Skate Mountain Records. On Friday, Jan. 26, Partridge will release his label debut, “Cotton Fields and Blood for Days,” with a release party at Skate Mountain Records’ Daphne headquarters.
When it comes to his increasing notoriety on the Southeastern music scene, Partridge humbly cites providence. However, the emotional power of Partridge’s honest and dedicated approach to his craft cannot be denied.
“I guess the most important thing is honesty and believability in your material,” Partridge said. “It doesn’t matter how good of a songwriter or a lyricist you are. If it doesn’t come across as believable, then it lies flat. I don’t like listening to stuff unless I believe, or at least, I believe that the artist believes it.”
“Cotton Fields and Blood for Days” demonstrates Partridge’s talent for mixing lyrical beauty with instrumental arrangements that are both gentle and melancholy no matter the subject. Even tunes such as “I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker” and “Our Babies Will Never Grow Up to Be Astronauts” give the impression he might provide a bit of lightheartedness for his listeners.
But even these seemingly offbeat songs preserve Partridge’s knack for weaving splendor with angst in a Southern context. This can also be witnessed through the evocative track “The Ghosts of Mobile,” from which the album takes its title. The ethereal reverberation and thought-provoking lyrics of this track use Azalea City imagery to provide Partridge’s haunting commentary on the state of the New South.
Partridge says a late-night walk after a show at The Listening Room of Mobile inspired this song.
“I walked up to the corner of St. Francis and Royal,” he said. “You look down one side of the road, and they have the big Raphael Semmes statue. If you look down the other side, you see down into places that you might not want to be at night. It became the title because it was representative of the feel of the album. It’s heavy, and it’s Southern. It fit with the songs that ended up on my album.”
Even though Partridge’s musical formula has remained intact, “Cotton Fields and Blood for Days” displays a more complex level of production than his previous releases. The personality of the tracks flourishes through the studio prowess of producer Shawn Byrne. Partridge met this Nashville-based singer-songwriter/producer at his very first performance at a songwriters contest in Gulf Shores.
Since his first album, Partridge has continued to look to Byrne for guidance in the studio. Byrne was instrumental in connecting Partridge with Mobile native Molly Thomas, who provides backing vocals. “Cotton Fields and Blood for Days” also includes percussionist Thelonious Jefferson Scruggs as well as “folk cellist” Courtney Blackwell (Honeyboy & Boots), who Partridge also met at the songwriters competition.
Through Byrne’s guidance, the album manages to maintain the raw nature of Partridge’s sound while a variety of instruments and studio effects expand his music reality. Partridge’s consideration of Byrne’s advice is based upon the producer’s recognition of Partridge’s own goals for his music.
“He gets my music, and he understands my approach,” Partridge said. “I might be a little different from other local artists in that I don’t view myself as a musician or an entertainer. I see myself as a communicator. I try to communicate with my art. Going into a studio and saying that is different.”
Ultimately, the power of the music found on “Cotton Fields and Blood for Days” comes from Partridge’s unfiltered musical renditions of his various life experiences. He has spent time as a manual laborer, a soldier and even a Baptist minister, which led to a crisis of faith that kindled his career in music. With iconic songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan as muses, Partridge’s journey on this planet has given him a wealth of viewpoints and events as fodder.
“I feel like I’ve been in a really unique set of circumstances to have walked all these different walks over the past 37 years,” Partridge said. “I’ve been a whole lot of different stuff and lived a lot of different ways. It allows me to put myself into that mindset and write from different perspectives.”
In addition to performing cuts from his new album, Partridge will also be displaying another side of his artistic mind — specifically, his folk art pieces. This visual art came to life during the same crisis of faith that led him to find balance and solace within music. These images, etched into plywood covered in roofing tar, take on the same raw nature of his visions of the South portrayed in his music.
This visual art was solely for Partridge’s personal enjoyment until publicist Michelle Roche and Jeff Wooding of Nature/Nurture Artist Management saw them.
“They [Roche and Wooding] came to my house one day when we were talking about releasing the record,” Partridge said. “They saw my art on the walls and started freaking out and saying that it’s great. I went back to my junk room and pulled out some of my other pieces, and they were flipping out about it. It’s weird and oddball, but some folks dig it.”
After the release party, Partridge will continue to maintain the positive creative momentum that began with the debut of his first album. He’s already making plans to start putting together his next album before the end of the year.
Partridge also wants to keep remain on the road as much as possible, which has not been a challenge for him. He hopes that “Cotton Fields and Blood for Days” will give him the boost to transcend the Southeast and move onto the national scene.
(Photo | Courtesy Skate Mountain Records) Abe Partridge’s “Cotton Fields and Blood for Days” features eight original songs that draw in listeners with a combination of Southern Gothic storytelling and a dark humor reminiscent of the late Townes Van Zandt — delivered in a gravelly tone that conjures up images of Tom Waits in his barstool-warming days.
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