- Abby Sherman, Finding Hope
(self-released, CD, digital download)
With multiple tattoos, an acoustic guitar slung across her lap and an ineffable sense of wisdom in her voice, Abby Sherman seems like a pretty cool mom. According to a Stowe Today profile, the 26-year-old Morrisville native's debut album, Finding Hope, is completely autobiographical. Early on the seven-track collection, the singer-songwriter shows that she's uninterested in mincing words about the struggles of being a young mother.
Sherman is a true country gal. While she does gig in the "big city" (aka Burlington), she more frequently performs at the vast array of Vermont venues found off the beaten path, such as Moogs Place in her hometown. Accordingly, her heartfelt Americana sounds genuine.
Of note in the Stowe Today profile, Sherman mentions that her 6-year-old daughter, Sequoia, likes her mother's song "Hard Times" the best. However, the folksy tune is perhaps the album's most emotionally raw cut, and it explicitly details her family situation ("My daughter misses her father 'cause he moved to California / What do I do?"). Though the artist is undoubtedly burdened ("First of the month / I have to choose what not to pay"), we get a sense that tiptoeing around complex emotions with her daughter isn't one of those burdens. That's refreshing in an age when most parents want their children to think everything about their lives is perfect.
A gently driving bass line hums beneath acoustic strumming on the album's opener, "Feeling Small." Sherman's guitar holds down the rhythm while Fred Brauer — another singer-songwriter working the rural Vermont circuit — delivers exceptionally delicate mandolin work. Mike Drury's lead electric guitar flits in toward the song's end, accenting the traditional-sounding tune with a bit of modern sizzle.
"Broken" is a down-home, minor key ballad about Sherman's wayward late-teen years. Morrisville fiddler Allen Church adds palpable weariness to the downtrodden tune. The track flirts with bluegrass courtesy of Nick DeNoia's understated banjo pickin'.
Hope returns on the optimistic "Smell of Blue Skies." It's perhaps the album's unofficial flagship song. Sherman sings to an unidentified subject ("What lies ahead for you and me?") as she and her backing crew return to the album's earlier focus on guitar and mandolin interplay. The players get downright giddy as the song peaks.
Sherman's candor and fine musicianship make her long-awaited debut an engaging listen. Honest and earnest, the young singer-songwriter finds hope when others might throw in the towel.
Finding Hope is available at abbyshermanband.bandcamp.com. Sherman performs on Thursday, September 6, at Twiggs — An American Gastropub in St. Albans.