Watching Abbie Gardner play the Dobro is simply mesmerising; her technique is fabulous and appears so effortless. Above all, though, the joy she takes in the performance transfers to her audience. On ‘Born in the City’, Gardner needs no embellishments. With just her voice and Dobro, her slide playing switching from rhythms to lead solos, she manages to captivate from start to finish. As good as her musicianship is, it’s the quality of writing and songcraft that really engage. Also, Gardner’s vocal has a gritty edge to it that gives it character and texture, a perfect complement to her bluesy style. The song is a celebration of New York City and all its diversity and differences. Gardner likes to blend the back-porch sound with more modern big-city guitar licks. She says: “The contrasting combination is kind of like me – playing this traditionally male bluegrass instrument, but doing it as a woman, in Jersey City within view of the Empire State Building.”
Fans will be familiar with Abbie Gardner from the seven albums she released as part of the vocal harmony roots group Red Molly. In recent years, the band members have focused on solo projects and, alongside her own releases, Gardner has collaborated with the likes of David Olney, Jesse Terry and Chris Stapleton.
‘Born in the City’ was written in collaboration with Will Kimbrough and will appear on the forthcoming album ‘DobroSinger’, due out on 13th May. When the pandemic left everyone in lockdown and tours were paused indefinitely, Gardner used the opportunity to make the record she’d always wanted to make. From the confines of a tiny closet-studio, she focused on stripped-back new material – just the intimate combination of her voice and instrument. The result is a sparse, personal record that feels as though she’s in the room playing alongside you, telling stories, sharing memories. It’s hugely effective. If you enjoy this, head over to Abbie’s YouTube channel, ‘The Woodshed!’, where you’ll find a series of tuition videos for budding Dobro players. Enjoy.