By John Harper | Correspondent
Percy Abell, who plays an outdoor benefit show for the Outer Banks SPCA on Sunday, Aug. 1, at Bluegrass Island Trading Company in downtown Manteo, writes a lot of pretty love songs.
But few are about romantic relationships. Instead, the Lynchburg, Virginia-based singer-songwriter expresses his deep affection for, among other things, beaches, boats, the ocean and lighthouses.
Abell traffics in Coastal Americana, also known as “Trop-Rock,” which incorporates pop, rock and country, accented by calypso, Cajun and reggae beats. It’s a breezy style with hummable melodies and simple, direct lyrics that convey good times.
“They’re escapism, really,” Abell, 56, says of his originals. “I want people to hear my songs and feel better.”
Jimmy Buffett, whom Abell calls a “major influence,” is considered the king of the genre. Listeners of the local internet station radiofreeobx — one of about a dozen outlets programming Coastal Americana – are familiar with Abell’s music.
“They’re just happy, little songs,” Greg Smrdel, the co-owner and program director of radiofreeobx, says of Abell’s material. “He’s certainly one of our most popular artists.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, I host a weekly show (“Flashback at 11”) on the station.
Abell, who plays acoustic and electric guitar, released his first full-length album, titled “If I Were a Boat,” earlier this year. Recorded at Fainting Goat Studios in Bedford, Va., the album features for-hire musicians on guitar, drums, bass and mandolin.
Tunes range from the upbeat, guitar-driven “Flip-Floppin’ the Outer Banks” to the reflective “Raise the Colors,” which is about family and growing up. “Motion of the Ocean” and “Parrothead Lawn Party,” which is a nod to Buffett fans, would sound just right blasting from speakers on a boat.
The standout track is the quiet “Moon Over Manteo,” an ode to the waterfront town on Roanoke Island (he does, however, express love for his wife in the lyrics). Over a mandolin and acoustic guitar, Abell puts his warm voice to good use as he sings, “The sunrise and sunset sure put on a show/But there’s something special about the moon over Manteo.”
For his solo gig at the SPCA benefit, Abell says he will mix in songs by Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band.
When: 5-7 p.m.
Cost: No cover; donations go to the Outer Banks SPCA
Where: Bluegrass Island Trading Company, 107 Budleigh St., Manteo waterfront district
Info: 252-423-3039, Bluegrass Island Facebook page
Note: It’s lawn seating, so bring a low-back chair or blanket.