Abbie Gardner,
Wishes on a Neon Sign
(Gimme Some Ribs, 2018)

Abbie Gardner is best known as one third of the folk/Americana group Red Molly, which is in turn known for beautiful harmonies, great musicianship and strong songwriting. In 2015, after over 10 years of performing together, Red Molly took a temporary hiatus before regrouping in 2017.

Gardner, besides being part of their beautiful harmonies, was the band's dobro player. The hiatus allowed her to work on her solo material, resulting in Wishes on a Neon Sign. The songs on this album are the same mix of folk, bluegrass, Americana, blues and honky-tonk country that makes Red Molly's music, and Gardner's previous album, Hope, so appealing. Abbie's father was a jazz musician, and you can hear some obvious swing and dixieland influences from him in her music and songwriting. Her solo material does often sound a little more jazz-influenced than her music with Red Molly.

The album, which contains 12 original songs and one cover, opens with a good rendition of Clare Lynch's bluegrass-flavored "Once the Teardrops Start to Fall." "Bad Lever," which was co-written with Chris Stapleton, is a nice folk/country ballad. "Empty Suit" has a blues/rock sound and was co-written with David Olney. "Afraid of Love" has an nice quieter jazz/blues quality, reminiscent of something you might hear from Norah Jones.

One of the albums softer songs is the pleasing folk/pop-sounding "Cold Black Water," which was co-written with her Red Molly bandmate, Molly Venter.

Abbie Gardner is an excellent musician, which is combined here with a beautiful voice and good songwriting. She has a great ability to tastefully blend various styles of music. All of those make Wishes on a Neon Sign a very enjoyable album. (She is also a fun performer to see live.)

music review by
Dave Townsend

27 January 2018

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