I lived the 60s and I remember them. In the course of time I became a misfit corporate executive. After a longish stint as stay-at-home dad, I am once again reborn as a hippie, with stories to tell. I sound a bit like the guy at the next campfire at your favorite music festival. My influences start with Broadway: Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein. As a high schooler I made a long expedition to the main library in search of Woody Guthrie. Then came The Band, Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen, Janis Ian, Bruce Springsteen and John McCutcheon. All seasoned heavily with Tom Lehrer and Flanders and Swann. The reason I write songs, however, is the incomparable Tom Paxton.
Jim Abel - guitar and vocal.
Thunder - CD 2008
Decoration Day - CD 2006
Live! from Death Valley Junction - CD 2003
Patriot Act - CD 2003
Smile When You Want Me CD
Jenny O'Farrell CD
The Mystery of Life CD
Mary in the Meadow CD
This Moment With You CD
A Hymn for the Living
What Goes Down
High Stakes Polka
You Must Come from Ireland
Shamrocks in the Snow
There Once Was A Star
More Than A Home (Live)
This Small Light of Mine
Still the Rain
Take Love Where You Find It
Your Every Move
Let Christmas Start Here
That Would Be Christmas
- More Than A Home
- Mary in the Meadow
- Jenny O'Farrell
- Greenhouse Windows
- A Hymn for the Living
- The Mystery of Life
- Half Mast
- The Modern Diplomat
- Parallel Lives
- Smile When You Want Me
- That Would Be Christmas
- Let Christmas Start Here
- I Dreamed It Was Christmas
- Make A Change
- What Goes Down
- Shamrocks in the Snow
- This Small Light of Mine
- There Once Was A Star
- Still the Rain
- Your Every Move
- Let Christmas Start Here
- That Would Be Christmas
Songwriter Finds Life’s Harmonies
[+ Show ]
Investing and songwriting aren’t typically harmonious lines of work, but for one Leawood resident, t...Investing and songwriting aren’t typically harmonious lines of work, but for one Leawood resident, the two career paths have struck a chord.
Jim Abel has been writing songs since he was a young college student, but he never figured he’d make money with music. Now 60, he makes a living in investing and spends the rest of his time twiddling with his guitar and trying out new tunes.
“I still believe in all those simple things we believed in the ‘60s.”
With eyes closed, Jim Abel rehearsed one of his songs recently in the studio of his Leawood home.
“I don’t really see myself as a guy with a performing career,” he said. “What I like to do is write songs, and I’d really like to have others sing my songs.”
Although Abel worked as a corporate executive for several years, after his son Ted, was born, Abel decided to focus on investing and be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his son is 19 and in college, Abel has more time to focus on his music.
When he’s not watching the stock market, he’s at work in his home music studio writing contemporary folk music. He tries out new melodies on his piano and guitar and then records it using a computer program.
He regularly performs publicly at local coffee houses and pubs, and often meets up with the Kansas City Songwriters Circle to try out new songs.
Sometimes his songs are personal and detail stories about his youth and his family’s history, and others are funny and aimed at society.
Abel is at ease with a guitar in his hands, and as he sings, his calm voice transfers his listeners to a different time and place as his fingers softly strum the guitar’s strings.
He keeps a soft tone as he sings one of his favorites, “Greenhouse Windows.”
The song narrates the story of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, whose collection of battlefield photos were popular during the war but fell out of favor after the war ended. Some of the glass negatives were sold as glass and used in greenhouse windows.
As Abel strums his guitar, he coos, “We all make greenhouse windows of the pieces of our lives/for sun and moon and stars to see/And so the light that falls on your child and mine/contains the soul and the heart of our story.”
The song is one of Abel’s favorites, because he not only sings of Brady, but of how his own family’s story will be passed on. “We don’t necessarily leave behind physical things or physical portraits, but the story lives on in the stories that people tell each other,” Abel said. “That’s our legacy.”
Abel calls himself an unrepentant hippie, and many of his songs are political and influenced by his involvement in the antiwar movement as a youth.
“I still believe in all those simple things we believed in the ’60s,” he said.
As he sings a humorous political song, “Modern Diplomat,” he takes on a noble air and belts out the words as he delivers one tag line after another.
“I know what form your government should take/I know what sort of bidness deals to make/and if it suits me there’s no promise I won’t break/That’s the way of the new diplomat,” he sings.
Even though many of the songs are personal, Abel isn’t shy. Instead, his music gives him freedom.
“It’s like I’m an essayist or I’m writing an Op-ed piece,” he said. “I can say what I feel.”
His wife, Deborah Hays, said she’s not a musician but has always enjoyed her husband’s talent for songwriting.
“He really puts his heart and soul in everything he writes,” she said.
She said that folk songwriters like her husband don’t have a huge following. However, their songs are clever and each word is chosen carefully, making for an enjoyable performance.
“Some of the local talent is really very impressive and if you listen closely, you’ll find their songs are a lot better than what you hear on the radio,” she said. “It’s just a matter of seeking them out.”
Chasing the Dream
[+ Show ]
spotlight: jim abel Leawood corporate executive turned singer/songwriter is making his mark on the ...spotlight: jim abel
Leawood corporate executive turned singer/songwriter is making his mark on the Kansas City music scene.
words kalsey mccall | photo paul versluis
Singer/songwriter Jim Abel may not have a record deal or a top-20 hit, but this former corporate executive and Leawood resident has made his dreams come true, proving it's never too late to make a change.
Growing up, Abel's father played a significant role in the way that he would learn to appreciate music.
"My father grew up in the 20s, 30s and 40s, so he loved movie musicals," Abel says. "To me, that particular influence is very evident in all of my music. I've been listening to the American Songbook since I was a kid. People like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein are high on my list of greats."
Abel says his unconventional musical style also draws influence from legends such as Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, Janis Ian, Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton. "It's not the type of music you hear on the radio, so I really never know how people are going to react," Abel says. "Twenty years ago, I would have called myself a folk singer, but now I'm not sure exactly what that means. I think my sound is more of what people today call 'indie' music. I write songs in which the lyrics matter in a big way-a much more significant way than in conventional music played on the radio."
Despite growing up in a musical home with an innate interest in music, Abel did not write his first song until after he graduated college and entered the demanding and high-powered
world of business.
After attending Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., Abel moved to Boston to work for a small company doing research and development for the automotive industry at the time that the Clean Air Act came to be part of the country's legal framework.
"One day, while I was working in Boston, my boss asked me what I would really like to do," Abel recalls. "I'm sure he had something totally different in mind, but I replied that I really just wanted to write songs. He looked at me as if I were insane. Needless to say, he's still a businessman. I write songs."
Abel then became part of the Austin Scholars program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University before accepting a position with a healthcare consulting firm in Chicago where he became a top-level executive at an expedited pace.
It was then that Abel made the move back to Kansas City to care for his aging parents while working for Research Health Services. After a few years, Abel resigned from his position at the Kansas City-based company and took a year off to travel extensively.
"Some people might say I just can't hold a job," Abel says with a laugh. "I just needed a break."
Upon his return, Abel became a full-time private investor, making the move to part-time when his son Ted was born.
"I've always tried to really be around for my son," he says. "A job with flexible hours allowed me to do that."
But two years ago, when Ted left home to attend college at KU, Abel picked up his dream right where he had left off so many years ago. Abel began attending meetings of the Kansas City Songwriters' Circle, an alliance of Kansas City singers and songwriters who get together and play for one another on a regular basis.
"When I started going to the Songwriters' Circle, I was immediately struck by the quality of music I would hear," he says. "There is so much good music to be heard in this city, especially out south, and the incredible thing about it is that these are not full-time musicians. These are people with day jobs and very full, busy lives."
Garnering positive encouragement from the group of singers and songwriters and gaining notoriety from others in the community, Abel began to book gigs at cafes and coffeehouses throughout the city, all the while continuing to write original music.
"My inspiration really comes from all over," he says. "I really can write a song about pretty much anything. Often, I'll write a song based on a phrase or a thought that comes to mind. I also write a lot of humorous songs, which more often than not come along based on accident or incident. For example, one time I was talking with a friend, and instead of saying 'window of opportunity,' I misspoke and said 'widow of opportunity.' And so a song-a
rather funny one-was born."
Additionally, Abel writes songs about more serious, progressive issues such as politics and the environment.
"I don't want to enrage anyone, but I do want to inspire people to think," Abel says. "I'm a product of the 60s after all. I am an unrepentant hippie."
Through the years, Abel has been invited to play at Kansas City hot spots such as the Main Street Coffee House, the Roasterie Café and was the first ever singer-songwriter to play at Starbucks on the Country Club Plaza.
Recently, Abel has begun playing gigs at Foo's Fabulous Frozen Custard in Leawood as well as at Johnson County Community College. And this winter, you can catch Abel at the Daily Dose at 135th St. and Quivira Ave. on Feb. 2 from 9 p.m. to midnight. Abel also plans to play on the patio at Spin! Neopolitan Pizza in Overland Park come spring.
But for those who can't make it out to see him perform in person, Abel has three CDs available for purchase and is currently working on his fourth to be released in early spring 2008. His newest album will focus entirely on the concept of relationships and includes numerous pure love songs as well as a plethora of humorous numbers.
"My wish is that everyone would realize that dreams can come true," says Abel. "I am a living testament to that. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it and you are willing to take a risk. People get trapped in situations they don't want to be in because they can't see any other way, but it doesn't have to be like that. You don't have to do the same thing your whole life. You can turn the corner. All it takes is a little courage."
Executive Trades Briefcase for Guitar Case
[+ Show ]
Looking at him now, it’s hard to imagine Jim Abel wearing a nice suit, carrying a briefcase and sitt...Looking at him now, it’s hard to imagine Jim Abel wearing a nice suit, carrying a briefcase and sitting through board meeting after board meeting.
It’s been so long since he’s lived that life, Abel probably has a hard time imagining himself in that way, too.
Now he’s just a man with a guitar, spilling his soul as he plays small to mid-size venues throughout the Kansas City area. A child of the 1960s, Abel said he’s now channeling his inner flower child that was somewhat suppressed during his years as a business executive in Chicago and Kansas City.
“I’m a hippie,” the Leawood, Kan., resident said. “I was a hippie in the ’60s and I’m still a hippie today. A lot of my music is colored like that.”
A songwriter since his youth, Abel recently released “Thunder,” his first professionally produced album. The record was released on May 27 and can now be found in most of the Borders stores throughout the metro area. He can also be heard online at www.kccafe.net, an Internet-based radio station that plays only local artists.
Next week, Abel will bring his unique style of folk and alternative music to Lee’s Summit. On Friday, June 20, Abel will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. at JP Coffee, located at 3390 S.W. Fascination Drive near the Metropolitan Community College–Longview campus.
June is a busy month for Abel, as the Lee’s Summit gig will be one of 12 shows this month. In a “normal” month, he said he plays around six or seven shows. With the new album out, those numbers may continue to increase.
“I had been playing a lot,” he said. “I would go to various coffee houses and bars and people started asking about a CD. The songs I was playing weren’t currently on a CD, so I thought I better jack it up a bit.”
From Corporate Exec to Folksinger
[+ Show ]
Jim Abel is on his third career, having transitioned from corporate executive to stay-at-home dad to...Jim Abel is on his third career, having transitioned from corporate executive to stay-at-home dad to singer-songwriter.
The Leawood-based musician who performs at 8 p.m. today at the Celtic Fox, 118 S.W. 8th, was a hospital holding company's vice president when he decided to quit working outside of the home in order to take care of his young son.
However, now that his son is getting ready for his third year at the University of Kansas, Abel said: "I have more time. Being a stay-at-home father isn't quite as big a deal when your son is off at KU."
That has enabled Abel to "focus on the songwriting and the singing," which he said were things he has been interested in his entire life.
He has performed since he was high school and written songs since college, "but I never had time to get out and look for the bookings and pursue it very actively as I have the last three or four years."
Abel considers himself a born-again "hippie with stories to tell." Although Abel performs a lot at bookstores and coffeehouses, he is at home at other venues, too, he said.
"I guess I'm different from a lot of other singer-songwriters in that I have a wide variety of styles," Abel said.
In coffeehouses and similar venues, Abel said he plays more contemplative songs, "more love songs," "more songs out of the Great American Songbook."
"But I also play in bars," he said. "So when I play there, I can play some stuff that's more uptempo."
"I can also plays stuff that's a little more bawdy, a little more risqué that I wouldn't play at a Starbucks," he added.
"I really play the range, but it's all acoustic. Me and my guitar is my act," said Abel, who currently is doing gigs in support of his latest CD, "Thunder," which was released May 27 and is on sale at www.cdbaby.com/jimabel.
Abel said "Thunder" is his best-produced CD to date, with its sound engineer coming from the well-known Kansas City, Mo., band, The Elders.
You also can sample Abel's music at www.myspace.com/jimabel, where you can purchase tracks to download.
"I really consider myself more of a songwriter than a singer," Abel said. "I sing because I enjoy it, but largely it's a way to be a better songwriter."
"I sound a bit like the guy at the next campfire at your favorite music festival," he said.
Bill Blankenship can be reached at (785) 295-1284 or email@example.com.
I do original songs. A typical set will include a mix of the funny and the serious, sometimes in the same song. I do off-beat love songs and I have some bawdy drinking songs if the venue suits. I have political songs for political gatherings. I will play anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours: if you like what I do, you will like the entire set. If not, heaven help us both!
There are no upcoming dates at this time.