Abigail Dowd says 'thank you Black Mountain' with White Horse show

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Abigail Dowd will return to Black Mountain on July 6, when she joins Jimmy Landry at the White Horse.

Even though Abigail Dowd has never played a show in Black Mountain, it still holds a special place in her heart. 

When the Greensboro singer-songwriter takes the stage at the White Horse with Jimmy Landry at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, it will mark a return to the town where the path to her musical career began. 

Dowd grew up playing music. She played the tambourine in her church as a 2-year-old and picked up the guitar when she was 14. By 2008 she was studying classical guitar while running an art school and serving on the town council in her native Southern Pines. 

"I was living this life that I knew wasn't right for me," she said. "I couldn't exactly explain why that was, I just knew it wasn't where I was supposed to be. I always knew I wanted to do music, but at the time I was 27 and thought I had missed the boat."

One day, on a whim, she decided to do something she had never done before. 

"It was Memorial Day weekend," she said. "It felt like a tea kettle just boiling over and I thought 'I've got to get out of here.' My very next thought was 'I'm going to the mountains.'"

Dowd booked a room at the historic Black Mountain Inn and headed west. 

"I had never been to the mountains before," she said. "Here was this beautiful historic inn with only one room available and I knew that's where I wanted to be."

The trip proved to be an inspiring one. 

"I felt this sense of joy and peace," she said. "I had finally listened to my own intuition instead of listening to what I 'should' be doing."

By the end of the weekend, Dowd's life was heading in a new direction.

"When I came back down the mountain I started preparing to resign from town council, leave the art school I'd been running for nearly 10 years and formulating a plan," she said. "I was carrying that feeling I felt of being in Black Mountain with me."

She grabbed her guitar and a duffel bag before leaving for Florence, Italy, where she stayed for two months. She returned to the U.S. and made her home in Maine.

"That's where I started writing songs," she said. "My first album was written while I was living in Maine."

As she continued on her musical journey, Dowd met her husband, Greesnboro native Jason Duff. 

"I didn't know it at the time, but he's a musician as well," she said. "Now we play as a duo."

Dowd released her second album, "Not What I Seem," in April, but her return to the place where she chose her own path was set in motion last year. 

Jimmy Landry will join Abigail Dowd at the White Horse on July 6.

"I was over in the Chapel Hill last summer for my treatment," said Landry, a Black Mountain singer-songwriter who was diagnosed with cancer last April. "While I was there I fell in with an amazing community of songwriters."

While attending a small concert he was immediately impressed with one of the featured artists. 

"Abigail was playing that night and by the first or second song it was clear she was in a zone," said Landry. "I always feel like there's this holy trinity for musicians: part performer, part listener and part divine, for lack of a better word. She was so into each song."

Landry shared those feelings with Dowd after her show.

"I made it my quest to get her to the White Horse," he said. "She's captivating."

Since being diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2008, Landry, who has been cancer free since last fall, performs only a "handful or two" of shows a year. 

"I'm really excited about this show," he said. "I think anyone who comes is going to be impressed with Abigail and I'd like to see her come back to the White Horse in the future."

Dowd released her second album "Not What I Seem" in April. A collaborative effort with her husband, it features 10 tracks and represents growth in her career as a musician. 

"Jason really helped me get out there as a musician," she said. "I was already writing music when we met and once I moved back to Greensboro with him he was able to help me with the nuts and bolts of everything. He was like, 'you need an amplifier and a microphone and bass and percussion.'"

Duff's presence on "Not What I Seem" gives the album "a more cohesive sound," Dowd said. 

"I wrote all the songs and lyrics but her really provides this bigger sound that allows me to push the boundaries of being a singer-songwriter," she said. "I joke a lot that I'm the folk and he's the rock and together we're folk-rock."

While Dowd's first album focused on leaving and starting a new path, her second effort digs deeper into why people often need a new start. 

"This album digs into the shadowy places of why I wanted to run away in the first place," she said. "There's a depth to this album that looks into the fact that we all want to live in the light, but we all have those shadows. It's a little bit of a celebration of that, and I think it helps us take ownership of those dark places inside of us."

Dowd can't help but feel a connection to the place where her journey started. 

"I am so excited about playing at the White Horse," she said. "There is this magic about Black Mountain and this show is really my chance to say 'thank you, Black Mountain.'"