Andrew Gabbard has become a household name in the Ohio rock n roll scene. As a guitarist and vocalist for Cincinnati-based Thee Shams and the critically acclaimed Buffalo Killers, his songwriting chops have been proven time and time again. He currently serves as one half of the Gabbard Brothers, performs as a touring guitarist for The Black Keys, and records his own music at home.
Gabbard has announced the release of his sophomore effort as a solo artist, Cedar City Sweetheart. The songs evoke a familiar feel for fans of his debut album, but new instrumentation and country-leaning lyrics give us a glimpse of another side of Andrew. “I love when a rock band makes a country album,” he explained, pointing to The Byrds as a major source of inspiration.
Andrew played every instrument on his solo debut, Homemade. This time around, he called on some local musicians to add color. “I invited a lot of friends to play on this record. Originally, I didn’t have access to much recording equipment. I tracked my parts with an iPhone. My friends recorded their parts professionally, so I was able to piece it together and take another stab at recording the core of each song.” The final product is a better sounding, polished group of songs that fit together to make a country album. “It’s almost like a remastered album to me, but it’s all new.”
Many of the tunes called for the shimmering sound of a pedal steel guitar, which is played by Sven Kahns. Ryan Wells played banjo and Leslie Jankowski added the fiddle. Longtime friend and labelmate M Ross Perkins played keys.
While the direction of Cedar City Sweetheart doesn’t feel drastically different from Gabbard’s debut LP, there are elements that send the listener down a new path. On “Smoky Mtn. Prowler,” the bouncy piano and whimsical lyrics evoke imagery of an old saloon where Gabbard himself is tickling the keys and sharing stories of his adventures. “Surfboard City” is the soundtrack to a sun-soaked day at the beach (or maybe down by the river), and the acoustic strumming and vocal delivery on “Take Me Away From You” are reminiscent of Neil Young in his prime.
Other sources of inspiration for the album include Emmy Lou Harris, Waylon Jennings, and most importantly, Andrew’s mother. “My mom has always been a big country music fan. She’s been asking me to make a record like this for a long time.” The songs were written over the course of several years, but they’re all very fresh in Andrew’s mind. “I can remember a specific moment from writing each one of these tunes. They’re simple songs that came naturally to me.” Even though Andrew has written and contributed on countless albums over the years, this one truly feels like his second.