The Sabre Rattlers & Mark Abernathy
The Sabre Rattlers is the current project of guitarist Mark Abernathy and features a rotating cast of contributing musicians and friends, including Bukka Allen (the Bodeans), Kim Deschamps (Cowboy Junkies), Glenn Fukunaga (Dixie Chicks, Bob Dylan), Warren Hood (the Waybacks), Teal Collins from the Mothertruckers and Grammy Award-winning producer Lloyd Maines playing dobro. The lush instrumentation you hear on these songs is the work of Abernathy and his hugely talented cast; utilizing the accordion, Hammond B3, Harmonium, pedal steel, fiddle and more.‘Twixt Me and the Peaceful Rest is a collection of favorite hymns; performed with a widely-cast net of influences and personal experiences.
Filtered through all manner of musical Americana — gospel, blues, Appalachian folk, traditional country and early rock’n’roll — the early 19th century standards (“A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”, “All is Well (Come, Come, Ye Saints”) come alive with timeless energy. The lyrics of these songs reflect the fervor, zeal and also despair of the people who struggled through the growing pains of a new nation.
Though born in San Francisco, Abernathy was raised in Hong Kong where his father worked as a foreign service officer; his mother an entrepreneur and toy-manufacturer. He attended Hong Kong’s most traditional all-Chinese private school, founded by Nationalists who fled Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution. Heavy corporal punishment and public humiliation were common, everyday occurrences and Abernathy’s daydreaming landed him in frequent trouble at school and at home. Drawing and music were ways to escape and music, particularly, provided some sense of personal cultural identity. And while Mark’s home was relatively musical–his father accompanied himself on the guitar, singing folk songs and hymns to the children when they were younger, and his mother played piano and organ at their local church, it was chiefly British pop-music, rather accessible through Hong Kong’s large and thriving expat community of Britons, Australians and Americans during this period of the 1980s, that Abernathy was able to escape to. Fascinated and curious about the guitar from a very young age, Abernathy finally summoned the courage to pick it up at age 12, and through his father, learned his first open chords on an old Gibson LG-2. The rest of the decade saw him withdraw into his Sony Walkman and the guitar. In high school, some American friends introduced him to the music of early Van Halen and Def Leppard.
Fast forward a few years, to Boston’s Berklee College Of Music, where Abernathy immersed himself in jazz composition, arranging, and guitar. The arranging curriculum exposes him to the music of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and inspires him to make a serious study of singing. While working in the school’s music production office, he hears one of the professors (who just happened to be Al Kooper) lamenting the lack of musical depth amongst the students.
…More to follow….