Had Wilson Pickett and Mavis Staples conceived a singer, she’d have sounded something like Abby Bryant.
Bryant fronts a rock band steeped in soul.
Call them Downtown Abby and The Echoes. Catch the wave Friday, Aug. 16, at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room in Johnson City. Lathered in layers gleaned largely from music of the 1960s and ’70s, the Charlotte-based collective manages contemporary sounds from retro perspective.
“We’ve taken what we love about old school soul, added a touch of Southern rock to the songs we write,” said Bryant, lead singer of Downtown Abby and The Echoes. “I have a background in gospel music.”
For instance, Bryant adopted her group’s name from her father’s gospel singing group.
“My guitarist, Bailey Faulkner, writes the songs with me,” Bryant, 24, said. “He’s into Southern rock and blues. I grew up singing in church.”
Stir influences into the pot from a music collection that includes sweetened voices of Aretha Franklin as well as Sam and Dave. Sprigs of Southern California’s Eagles accompany generous spikes of The Allman Brothers Band.
Cooked to a steady boil for two years since forming, out steams today’s Downtown Abby and The Echoes.
“Our new album, which we’re tracking during the first of September, will show people that we have evolved quite a bit,” Bryant said. “I adore Aretha Franklin, and I was inspired by her. The topics of the songs, I just adore the affection and vulnerable love they express in the songs. It’s not afraid. It’s so bold.”
Bryant applied tenets of soul music’s past to a batch of her own compositions, including new tunes “Tried” and “Hold Me.” Neither recorded as yet, each slab of soul features prominently in the band’s live shows.
“‘Tried’ has a nice groove to it,” Bryant said. “With ‘Hold Me,’ it’s a soul song. It’s talking about somebody who’s longing to be with somebody.”
At that point, Bryant sang. An impromptu delivery of the song’s chorus melted through the phone line, rippled currents of palpable love undaunted yet deterred. Pain gathered and oozed through her voice amid notes drawn out and left to float in the air.
She sounds like a singer who would buy her own records.
“That’s absolutely true,” Bryant said. “I am exploring genres and styles that I absolutely love. I’m singing about what I love to sing about. In a broad sense, I’m making music that I would buy.”
Abby and The Echoes’ shows provide punctuation to that point. One show may lean to nearly all originals while another filters liberal attention to cover songs.
“We never play the same set twice,” she said. “I tailor the set to the audience and give the crowd what they want. We’ve been doing ‘Shine a Light,’ a song from The Rolling Stones’ album, ‘Exile on Main Street’ and Wilson Pickett’s ‘Save Me.’”
Regardless of song selection, live performances lend Abby and The Echoes ample opportunity to spread its creative wings. Influences entwine as creativity applies, takes root and flies forth into new terrain.
Make way for a rocking band of soul.
“It’s the most exciting feeling I’ve ever felt,” Bryant said. “It’s like connecting with a good friend on a large scale. It’s a feeling I’m still getting used to.”