Mark Abernathy is a New York City based instrumentalist and songwriter. Born in San Francisco, raised in Hong Kong, and educated in Boston, Abernathy’s forthcoming release What Fair One Is This is a unique and fresh approach to old gospel hymns tinged with influences from every stop along the way.
Hong Kong was not easy. Educated in traditional Chinese schools, Abernathy still speaks Chinese fluently. But corporal punishments, caning and public humiliation, were common. These brutal circumstances were compounded by the isolation of being the single foreigner in a sea of native-speakers. Abernathy retreated inward, immersing himself in music. He devoured everything the 80’s had to offer – early hip-hop, British New Wave, Top-40, hair bands and guitar-shredders. Pop-Culture aside, the Abernathy’s never missed a day of church. Hymns are in his blood, along with his father’s beloved Everly Brothers, and the Scott Joplin piano rags his mother practiced on the family piano.
After leaving home, Abernathy studied jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He dug deep into American folk and blues, working his way back from Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder to the American recordings of Alan Lomax and the rich, endless catalogue of American roots music: The Original Carter Family, Jimmie Rogers, Robert Johnson, Rosetta Tharpe.
His deep connection to these old songs is clear from the first note of this new release. It is music for music lovers. Produced by Bukka Allen, the album was tracked live in an Austin, Texas studio over six days with minimal overdubs. Allen brought longtime cohorts bass player George Reiff, Rick Richards on drums, guitarist Rob Gjersoe, and noted singer-songwriter Sally Allen to the project.
Though born from tradition, Abernathy’s voice and style are uniquely his own. What Fair One Is This calls on the sum of his experiences. From China all the way back to Austin, this album, like Abernathy himself, is filled with bittersweetness, hometown longing, and all of the comfort of singing along in church. The sound is true Americana, as seen from a distance and observed at its very heart.