As a member of the esteemed folk trio Red Molly, a collaborative ensemble that also includes Molly Ventner and Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner has proven her prowess as a singer, songwriter, teacher, and musician whose skills center on resonator guitar. Taking a break from her day job, she’s put those abilities front and center on the aptly named DobroSinger, a collection of mostly low-cast, unembellished songs adhering to a decidedly rootsy regimen. Consequently, the collection sounds like an archival offering gleaned from the mountains of Appalachia or other heartland habitats. That said, the majority of the material consists of original compositions that emulate an archival approach.
Not surprisingly then, Gardner takes the material at a measured pace. The slow, steady sway of “Down the Mountain,” the wistful reflection shared in “Only All the Time” and “See You Again,” and the mellow meandering of “When We Were Kids” and “Three Quarter Time” lean towards down-home designs that depend solely on Gardner’s emotive, expressive vocals and graceful guitar. Yet even though the music seems confined to a traditional template, there’s variety instilled within those realms. “Honky Tonk Song” offers an example of genuine folk finesse, while the pensive “Too Many Kisses” comes across as both sparse and suggestive. Gardner’s take on the sublime standard, “You Belong To Me” makes for an appealing ending to the album, one that brings the emotional investment to its logical conclusion.
It’s telling then that Gardner recorded the album under trying circumstances. She suddenly found herself suffering from nerve pain in her hands and neck, severely limiting the amount of time she could spend making music. However, with help of occupational therapy, she was not only able to navigate through her difficulties but share her experiences with others.
Ultimately, that makes DobroSinger a triumph of sorts, not only in terms of her determination but also proof that less can be more when attitude and aptitude mesh in tandem. Consider this a most astute example.