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ABBY OWENS (1986 - )

Abby Owens is an incredible singer, an interesting and unpredictable songwriter, and a real sweetheart. You'll love her.
- Jason Isbell

I was never big on modern country music - it seemed nothing like the country music I loved as a kid. I'm old enough to remember the Johnny Cash Show and I watched Hee Haw religiously. I loved me some fat Elvis and obsessed with the Rolling Stones throughout their honky tonk phase which in turn warmed me up to Gram Parsons. I thought Emmylou was the one of the prettiest girls I ever did lay eyes upon.

Holed up in Vermont for the winter of 2004-2005, I serendipitously tripped over a cable-based Americana-Outlaw country feed. It affected me on many levels: it rekindled my appreciation of women singer-songwriters through the discovery of Lori McKenna and Patty Griffin, solidified my feelings for Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle and jolted me back to the heyday of cowpunk with the Reverend Horton Heat and Hank III. It was the first time that I was truly inspired by a movement since '87 during the dawn of grunge. The gift I treasured the most that winter was the Drive-By Truckers who embodied all things that I love about music - attitude, grit, smart lyrics. I felt a big dose of jealousy. I wished I could be them.

A year later, I found myself in the unlikely city of Key West where we launched an online mediasphere, Radio Free Key West. Our programming was heavily inspired by the surrounding environs and featured a whole lotta reggae, Cuban underground, Obeah, old school Delta blues, early Miami Sound rhythm & blues and outlaw-country-inspired Americana. Before long we were combing Florida history for music and musicians to fatten up our playlist which brought me full circle back to Gram Parsons. I recalled that he had some sort of connection to the area. I was close.

He was born in Winter Haven, Florida - where he grew up - but his family also spent a lot of time in their home away from home in Waycross, Georgia. We plucked classics from the International Submarine Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Gram & Emmylou's Grievous Angel and GP and scoured the internet for new acts coming out of the Winter Haven and Waycross scenes. We discovered The Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, an annual music celebration at the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp dedicated to the legacy of the cosmic cowboy. In 2007, we made the first of two significant Waycross finds, a four-piece revved-up balls-to-the-wall tour-de-force by the name of Hayshaker. We played Dirtkick, Laurie's Song and In The Snow into the ground. AC/DC meets X with John Doe, Exene, Johnny Cash & June all shook up in a test tube.

The second find came in early 2010 when a doe-eyed singer-songwriter named Abby Owens released the first of her two EPs that year. 'Fore The Light Comes was collaboration with longtime Drive-By Truckers producer, David Barbe. We gave the title track 'Fore The Light Comes the same treatment given to Hayshaker and played it non-stop. We tracked her through MySpace which was still in vogue at the time. That fall the former Drive-By Trucker, Jason Isbell produced her second EP, Indiantown, named after the Florida town she was born in where she was birthed in a trailer on an orange grove. She has been reported to have photos of her mother smoking a cigarette while casually giving birth to her. Her earliest memories involve life on the farm and rodeos amid a thick of mud.

The family migrated north to Waycross when Abby was thirteen where she began playing in local bands. She began peforming in nightclubs long before she was old enough to belly up to the bar. She knew early on exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

We tried in vain to get her on a bill in Gainesville, Florida in 2011 that was co-sponsored by the National Hot Rod Association but it turned out she had moved to Macon, Georgia years earlier where she was working on her chops and bartending at the legendary Hummingbird nightspot. The same year she contributed vocals to the Isbell song, Heart on a String featured on Here We Rest, a post Drive-By project, The 400 Unit.

Her stellar releases and live performances brought her to the attention of Nashville who seem perplexed about what to do about her. She doesn't fit nicely into one of their boxes. Abby has since returned to Florida landing in Port Lucie, an east coast town about an hour north of where her great-grandfather served as a long-term mayor of Palm Beach. There she is the queen of a menagerie that includes a squadron of jack russell terriers, white rats and a rabbit. By day she earns a living with a construction company but at night she still keeps a heavy live performance schedule. On occassion she unveils her latest original works via social media and this past week she dropped one of the best songs she's ever penned, I Find Love. It's been stuck in my head all week. I woke up singing the unlikely hook, "I find love on the back of a toilet in a hotel room cut into white lines."

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