Abby Bryant can sing her ass off. From sultry soul to heartbreaker blues, Bryant grabs it by the throat and flings it all over the stage like a rasslin’ title match smackdown. The Gastonia, North Carolina, native and her guitar-slingin’ partner Bailey Faulkner have built a core of solid soul with a Texas-flavored twang fit for Bonnie Raitt or Teresa James.
Bryant and Faulkner are now based in Asheville, but don’t look for any mountain twang in the mix. What you’ll find on Not Your Little Girl, Bryant’s debut full-length album, is more urban soul, boosted by a stellar band with bassist Anthony Dorion, keyboardist John Ginty (Chicks, Allman Betts, Robert Randolph and the Family Band), drummer Jeff Sipe (Col. Bruce Hampton, Leftover Salmon, Susan Tedeschi), and the Naughty Horns (Nick Ellman, John Culbreth, Ian Bowman). These guys fill in the spaces, but Bryant is the meat in this sandwich, splattering enough bucketloads of anguished soul around to feed an elephant’s appetite.
The title cut displays Bryant wailing around Faulkner’s Southern-rock-fueled guitar, warbling like Raitt on a soulful tear, joyfully declaring her independence.
Faulkner’s crunchy guitar intro on “Better Now” sets up Bryant for another declaration of independence with a more rural vocal inflection but still drenched in soul, Bryant testifying like a tent revival preacher on a self-salvation crusade.
Bryant conjures up a Dusty Springfield-ish rendering of “Love Crushed Blues,” tonsils trembling soulfully, barely missing being burned to cinders by Faulkner’s scorching solo, buoyed by Ginty’s churchy organ riffs.
“Keep Moving” brings out Bryant’s country side, a warbly rural landscape partially paved by Ginty’s worshipful organ as Bryant backs herself trying to break the soulful sound barrier.
This stuff is jump-up-and-down material fit for whooping and hollering in celebratory solidarity with the funky goodness of it all, a good time casserole full of down-home ingredients good for body and soul.