A unique and underappreciated aspect of South Louisiana’s music culture is its evangelical roots. Among this current generation of music consumers and producers, there are several whose experiences have been shaped by seeing music as worship.
Local singer-songwriter Abby Sonbuchner provides a growing catalog of expressive folk-rock balladry proving this worship music background can enrich the artist’s craft.
I first saw Sonbuchner perform while leading worship at Redeemer City Church in Lafayette, filling in for their usual worship leader. The power in her voice was instantly gripping and heightened the sense of worship filling the room. In my mind, an experience like this instantly validates the merits of worship music.
Our predominantly secular pop-music culture is often quick to dismiss Christian-based musicianship for its goal of worshipping God. I firmly believe that anyone of any belief should at least be able to appreciate the vulnerability and courage it takes to lead worship.
Sonbuchner demonstrates the respect this deserves in her current role with City Wide’s worship team, as well as with her four-piece folk-rock project, Abby Elizabeth.
Abby Elizabeth is composed of Sonbuchner (who contributes vocals and acoustic guitar), Anthony Kerry on percussion, Sean Huddleston on electric guitar and Stephen Clark on bass guitar, all of whom share worship experience.
While earlier material is minimal and emphasizes balladry, recent releases from the group show more mature musicianship and lush compositions. Sonbuchner’s commanding voice is the most compelling aspect of the project. The stories featured in their songs, notably in the track “Bridge In The Forest,” are visceral and personal, with vocal performances that drive raw emotion through every word.
However, this doesn’t downplay the sharp instrumentation and the group’s chemistry. “Bridge In The Forest” is deeply sad and meanders slowly through the first half, but around the two-minute mark of the song, the remaining instruments join in and rush energy through the mix. As an ensemble, they seem rather attuned to each other’s strengths.
Their latest single, “Be Loved,” is a perfect example of how cohesive the group feels through a song. With this track, the instrumentation is vibrant, featuring a wildly catchy plucked guitar line during Sonbuchner’s verses. The vocal performance here is soft and lovely, well-suited for a love song.
Through all of their music, a sense of worship, confession and exaltation is present. However, the music isn’t explicitly Christian, but instead it emphasizes the common pains, fears and hopes that everyone has, regardless of religious beliefs. By opening up and relating to others, Abby Elizabeth strives to help others heal through music.
If you’re interested in Abby Elizabeth, there are a couple of opportunities in the near future to see the group live. They will be playing on Sept. 21 at the Amazing Race of Acadiana, and on Sept. 27 at The Pearl downtown. Details about these shows and their music in general can be found on abbyelizabethmusic.com.