Bahlmann Abbot grew up in Fayetteville, in southern West Virginia. His grandmother was a picker and singer and his father played music as well. Abbot says, “It was in the storyteller tradition, sitting on the front porch and passing the guitar around.” He came to Charlottesville in 1972 to attend UVA, and, because he was busy raising his kids and practicing architecture, he put guitar playing on the back burner. But lately he has made an appearance on the “Mountain Stage” radio show, and is set to release his first CD, which includes a lovely song written to his wife for their anniversary. You can check out Bahlmann at his CD release party at the Gravity Lounge on Saturday, July 22.
Spencer Lathrop: Songwriters?
Bahlmann Abbot: There was a whole group of Texas songwriters that I liked, Townes Van Zandt among them. But Guy Clark is probably my favorite of them. In particular his record Old No. 1. I built a guitar at McGuffey Art Center that I gave the same name. Clark is a great storyteller. And I like just about all the records of Mary Chapin Carpenter. She is a superb crafter of words and her melodies are seamless. I like Bill Morrissey and John Gorka, whom I lump together as great craftsmen, even though they are different. I like Gorka’s Jack’s Crow. He is a little darker than some songwriters I like. And though he’s less known for his songwriting, I like Mark Knopfler’s solo records. Sailing to Philadelphia is a great CD, and I’ve sung the title tune with Debbie and Peter Hunter. It’s about the two guys who came from England and drew the Mason-Dixon Line. And I like Jay Farrar from Uncle Tupelo. One of his recent records, Terroir Blues, has some steel guitar parts that are nice and spare. I play some spare steel guitar parts on my CD.
I don’t buy a lot of new records, but when I get a new CD, I listen the heck out of it. I am really tickled by this local group, The Sons of Bill, who have a new record out called Far Cry From Freedom. They’ve taken up the banner of country rock, and moved it ahead. It sounds familiar, and still fresh. And Mary Chapin’s last CD, Between Here and Gone, is really good.
I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure, but I love the soundtrack to Amelie. There is something very basic about it.
I had written a song about the New River, and through that I got invited to play on the radio broadcast. I went from not playing much at all to playing on “Mountain Stage.” I was pretty damn nervous.