HIGH FREQUENCIES: Dreams or prayers?
Abe Partridge is a Rain Dog, too
Abe Partridge likes rock n roll. Punk rock. He doesn’t care for the polished stuff. Certainly, his own two albums are far from slick. They’re produced, alright, but in the same way a moonshine still is produced — from old radiators and car parts, some found plumbing, a metal drum, and a wood-burning fire — all of it rigged together to make do with whatever is around. When that mash is heated up and pumped through the pipes, the result is an elixir that singes the tongue and sets the mind reeling. Partridge’s songs do the same to your senses. The taste may be acquired, but once you hear him, once you feel him and what he’s got to say, you’re open for wherever he takes you. Partridge can tell stories that come from a dark place, one many of us don’t know even exists, but the more we hear from his gravelly-voiced vocals, the more we want to know.
Partridge — whose musical career has grown by leaps and bounds since he first made the choice to leave behind his bible-thumpin’ schooling and take the self-taught road to redemption, singing and playing guitar to exorcise any demons that might be inside him — is not a scary guy, by any means. He’s just seen more frightening things than a lot of us, and he draws from them to build his songs. From Mobile, AL, Partridge is a storyteller who gets compared a lot to another storyteller with a twisted view of what’s up and what’s down, Tom Waits. Partridge gets compared to Waits so much, that not long ago he decided he’d better see what the fuss was all about. He checked out Waits' recorded catalogue. Rain Dogs is the one that bowled him over.
Watching Partridge in front of a live audience reminds me of when I used to go see Waits perform at the Great Southeast Music Hall early in his career. Sneaking in underage with a fake I.D., I’d watch Waits’ opening set, play pinball in the lobby during the headliner’s set, then head back into the main room to see him open the second show. The people in the audience didn’t really know what to make of Waits. They’d listen to his songs not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
I’ve seen the same thing happen at Partridge’s shows. Partridge is singing a song, telling his tale, and when he gets to the unexpected twist in the story, the audience isn’t quite sure how to react. That’s what happens when people are confronted with the truth. They don’t know how to handle it.
The difference between Waits and Partridge is that while Waits lives to tell the stories, I believe Partridge tells the stories to live. There’s so much going on in his brain that needs to be processed, so many thoughts and dreams and prayers wrapped in nightmares, from his days traveling the South as an independent fundamentalist Baptist preacher to his time serving in the U.S. Air Force in the desert of some foreign land, watching the bombers come and go, sortie after sortie, that Partridge has to get it out of his head, and into songs, so that he can be comfortable, whether onstage with an audience or at home with his wife and kids.
Everybody is looking for answers. Partridge, too. He’s come to realize they are best found in one’s own heart, doing what it tells you, not from listening to someone peddling fire and brimstone and carrying on about the wages of sin. And not by fighting a war far from home, while the architects of destruction hide behind their desks in Washington, DC, profiting from the loss in a distant land.
As talented a songwriter as Partridge is, he still has a tough road ahead. What the hell does a singer-songwriter do who doesn’t fit into any traditional mold, who calls life as he sees it and doesn’t play it safe? Partridge is more at home opening for a punk rock band than joining other songwriters onstage “in the round” as they discuss why a partner’s body is a wonderland or why someone wants to be run like a racehorse.
This Friday, November 23, Partridge joins over a dozen other singer-songwriters in the 10th Annual Songwriters’ Open Mic Shootout competition by Eddie Owens Presents at the Red Clay Music Foundry. The event gathers together winners of all the Sunday night Songwriters Open Mic winners of 2018, of which Partridge was a winner in June of this year (Partridge took the open mic spot in Duluth after he travelled from his home in Mobile, AL, to Dahlonega, GA, for a gig that he found out was cancelled when he showed up for sound check at the Crimson Moon there).
Partridge faces stiff competition this Friday after Thanksgiving, if not from the others performing with him at the Red Clay Foundry, certainly from those playing other venues in town. The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally homecoming for many Atlanta bands who want to be close to family and friends. This weekend is no different.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and remember, this year’s governor’s race in Georgia was not won, but stolen. Be thankful the struggle continues.