Relationships can be wonderful, particularly when one experiences the bliss of new love and finding “the one;” yet they also can be wrought with complications and heartbreak. Josh Abbott Band’s latest, Front Row Seat, presents you with a clear look at the entire picture, from both sides.
Like a play, Front Row Seat is broken up into acts. In fact, there are five here, each with three songs that chronicle the beginnings of a new relationship to the undeniably sad end of a marriage. The distinct story provides the listener with said seat into Abbott’s personal life - at once unique, yet wholly relatable. It’s an honest musical look at a realistic part of life for many; brimming with the myriad of emotions one experiences, from giddiness, euphoria and love, to regret, disbelief, sadness, guilt and ultimately strength.
The first act “Exposition” consists of “While I’m Young,” “I’ve Been Known” and “Live It While You Got It.” They're three songs that chronicle that happy, carefree and youthful period where love is fresh, and things are lighthearted and fun; yet you’re still careful not to overstep while learning about the other person. All three keep the tempo up and the mood happy, perfectly communicating the overall feel of the songs.
“Incitation” follows and from the introduction of “Wasn’t That Drunk” (a duet with Carly Pierce), you can tell things have changed from the lighthearted to the sultry. There’s a passion and a deepening of the relationship both in that song -“I was tipsy when you kissed me but that ain’t why I kissed you back I’ll be honest I’ve wanted to do that to do that…..Lying here sober it just feels right” - as well as the rock tinged “If It Makes You Feel Good” and the romantic “Kiss You Good” as you sense the couple’s attachment growing stronger.
The third act “Intimacy” hints at the sexual, but more importantly focuses on the emotional intimacy you have with “the one,” how you utter those crazy sounding truths (“Crazy Things”), ponder how lucky you are (“Front Row Seat”) and figure out you want something deeper (“Kisses We Steal”).
In the strongest of the acts, “Dissolution,” things simply crumble, expressed by one of the truest lines in the somber “Born To Break Your Heart:” “Some lovers find a way together and some just fall apart.” Emotionalism reaches its peak in album standout “Ghosts” where an audible sense of distress and defeat over the failure of a marriage is heard in Abbott’s vocals. Told from the female’s perspective, the scaled back melody and lyrics of “This Isn’t Easy” (Her Song) will hit home for any woman who realizes that what she has to do isn’t easy, but is a necessity to guard her heart and move on.
Finally, there is the “Denouement.” The “Intro: A Loss Of Memory” definitely sets up a dark mood, however, things bounce back with “Amnesia” and “Autumn,” which signals a new beginning, realizing things are over, and focusing on the need to get back on one’s feet, pick up the pieces and start over. Providing a dreamlike ending is closing track “Anonymity.” Led by guitar, fiddle and vocals, the acoustic number reflects on the marriage while being alone (and for now, even lonely) and leaves the listener feeling sad for both of the parties, which is ultimately often the real feeling of a failed marriage.
Produced by Dwight Baker, Front Row Seat is heavy on fiddle and banjo with added pedal steel, mandolin and piano, decidedly in the vein of Abbott’s sound, but there is a maturity here that often accompanies difficult life experiences. Front Row Seat is carefree when it needs to be and solemn when it has to be. It explores the sad truth that relationships can fall apart and hearts can break….and eventually heal; an album that should connect well with anyone who has gone through the same.