Abby Ahmad
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Abby Ahmad

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"Happy Homecoming"

By Eric Scicchitano

As a preschool teacher, it’s easy to assume Abby Ahmad has her hands full from day to day.

Children overdose on energy, running and yelling and generally acting their age. They spill milk, pull hair and occasionally utter a word that should be reserved for adults.

But for Ahmad — a multi-talented actress and songstress originally from Dallas now living in New York City — they also inspire, as was the case for her forthcoming album Curriculum, she said, explaining that her students are working with a clean slate in life and the development of their character is evident daily, even though they’re completely oblivious.

“Just kind of seeing how we start to become who we are before we know who we are. ... I was really seeing that, my potential clean slate, and in relationships we’re potentially doing the same thing.

“Those parallels kind of came to the forefront,” she said.

Ahmad will play a homecoming concert of sorts when she returns to Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre for a performance at 8 p.m. Saturday. Her show there in 2006 sold out. This time around she brings a new litany of songs as well as a new band, with Saturday’s concert serving as a pre-release for Curriculum.

Her latest album is a bit of a departure from Ahmad’s previous works, including 2006’s full-length album, The Rearview. A self-professed acoustic gal at heart, Ahmad said she played it safe on her previous record since it was her first full-length album. This time around she wasn’t opposed to experimenting.

“On this record I was finally in the arena with people who knew how to create some of the effects of people I’ve admired for a long time,” she said, saying she’s a fan of groups like Radiohead.

Instead of wholly relying on electronics, Ahmad and company, including co-producers Mark Marshall and Nathan Rosenberg, relied on their imagination and ingenuity. For one song they created the sound for a drum loop by hand, using a tight compressor, giving it the feel of an electronic sound effect. On another they used a Portuguese guitar and cycled its sound, creating what could be done using a repeat or trigger.

There’s also the inclusion of brass instruments with performances by Clark Gayton (Bruce Springsteen, Sting), Steven Bernstein (Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright) and Erik Lawrence, whose combined efforts comprise the horn section for legendary musician Levon Helm. Also featured is Grammy-award winning horn player/arranger Michael Leonhart (Steely Dan).

“It was a big step because it hadn’t been there before and it really enhanced it beautifully,” she said of Leonhart’s incorporation of brass into her music.

Yet for the experimentation in sound, the core of Ahmad’s music remains the same. “It’s me at my truth. I still write from a very intimate space.

“I think my fans of my old stuff can still expect signature Abby, just on a broader spectrum.”

That’s evident on her new song “Going gone,” a convincing goodbye, maybe even a pep talk, for a lost love and a best friend. On it, her voice is strong and beautiful, singing “Better off loving / As hard as you can / Than to stick to your guns / Than to stick with the plan / Cause I fear that in time / You’ll find your whole life’s passed you by ... Better off later / Than never at all.”

The song has an air of hope, of release, with the guitar pacing the track from subtle to majestic and back again, but never losing that folksy, feel-good appeal; the horn section mimicking the emotion of Ahmad’s vocals and providing a perfect compliment without becoming overbearing.

Ahmad is also a budding actress. She was named Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Actress of the Year” for her performance in the one-woman play 9 Parts of Desire, which documents nine female perspectives of war in Iraq.

After spending the past 15 months creating Curriculum, Ahmad says her theater aspirations will be put hold for a while.

- Diamond City

"Abby Ahmad versatile, inventive in gripping story of Iraqi women"

By Christopher Rawson, The Associated Press

Normally, I forget to read theater programs until later, checking a name and stumbling on a director's note that may reveal something useful -- or tell me what I'd rather have figured out on my own (that's the rub).

But I wouldn't want to have missed this, in the program for Heather Raffo's "Nine Parts of Desire" at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theater: "God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to men."

It's credited simply to Muhammad, but such wisdom (an insight into male suppression of women's sexuality?) deserves a more precise referent, so I found the Northwestern University Press Web site for Raffo's published text, where the quote is ascribed to the seventh-century imam Ali ibn Abu Talib.

Whoever said it first, it describes Raffo's women. They are what her play is about -- nine of them, I think, though it seems many more. Certainly it's also about love and desire, especially a fierce desire to survive, not to mention bewilderment, vengeance, grief and rage. These women, you see, are all Iraqi, of different ages and locations (one is a first-generation American; one lives in London exile) but all united in the anguish visited on them and their country in recent times.

The play is also about one women, the beautiful, pliant and passionate Abby Ahmad, who, with just a few bits of costume and props, plays all the women in a whirlwind kaleidoscope of variation and invention.

If God really has given women so much of the human stock of desire, he has apparently also strewn their paths with barriers, so much do these mothers, daughters, lovers, crones, girls and fugitives protest the ugly tyranny of Saddam Hussein and his sons and the maelstrom of war that accomplished their rooting out and has now settled down to feed on the survivors.

As this suggests, the play is no partisan attack on or defense of any political position, but a wide-ranging lament/exploration of destruction and death. Raffo sees to that with the mix of women she depicts -- artist, doctor, poet, seer, Bedouin, teenager, sophisticate. There is a lot of anger about the American onslaught, but there's hatred for Saddam and the murderers of every creed, and the time scheme is purposefully obscured, so that it's not always clear just where we are in the clutter of wars that Iraq has suffered.

But even on the battlefield of ethnic and geopolitical hatred there is life and even humor. Ahmad has a lot to do with that, mixing female wiles and imprecations, seduction and ferocity. I've already heard from those who think she should be the Post-Gazette performer of the year, and that after just two performances, with only three to go.

Melanie Dryer directs, doubtless helping Ahmad pace this 85-minute torrent.

The overall impact is harrowing and depressive, but also sometimes exhilarating, as the sheer theatricality of Ahmad's acting offers compensation for the story it tells.

It is also deeply ambiguous. What are we to make of the magnificent artist rebel who consorts with Saddam's pigs? What are we to make of life? Of desire? Of women, or God? - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Minor 7th Webzine Reviews "The Rearview""

By Tom Semioli

As Sir Bono opined a generation ago, all it takes is "three chords, a red guitar and the truth." Though her acoustic six-string appears to be natural wood finish, twenty-four year old urban folk diva Abby Ahmad comes roaring in like a reality freight train on her impressive debut long player (she has two EPs to her credit). Wistful, literal, and occasionally confrontational and cathartic, the young Ms. Ahmad emerges as an authoritative singer, songwriter, and an accomplished guitarist. Akin to her more veteran contemporaries such as Ani DiFranco, Mary Lou Lord, Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman, Ahmad does not require a traditional backing band nor ornate arrangements to grab your attention - though she does employ a moody rhythm section on a few cuts, plus atmospheric / minimalist cello, banjo, dobro, violin, piano, and Hammond B-3 accompaniment on others. Fingerpicking, strumming, and riffing with impressive dexterity and harmonic expertise, Ahmad's guitar wizardry incorporates a myriad of influences ranging from traditional folk and country to blues and R&B. Ahmad's vocal delivery, which morphs from angelic to a down-and-dirty Delta blues rasp, cuts through her often hectic rhythms and tempos throughout every track. When a forceful lyric demands emphasis: "So the big bang / in the center of the sky /i gnites a light / in the pit of your mind's eye" in the stirring opener "Big Bang," Ahmad leaps on top of the beat with a rapid-fire release that commands notice. On the dirge "Seven Year Itch" she simmers beneath Matt Zeiner's gothic keyboards and the mournful, lethargic fretless bass of Chris Anderson. If you had to choose a single it would probably come down to the brisk, overtly melodic "Solo Act," an up-tempo cut that recasts a patented Willie Dixon riff in a fresh new light. For the pure-bred shredders out there, make sure to check out the instrumental "The River Song" wherein Ahmad's blazing technique catches fire on the always challenging 12 string. A talent this promising cannot go unnoticed by the mainstream for long. Ahmad needs that one big song to take her career to the next commercial level. - Minor 7th

"Abby Ahmad: Songwriter's Monthly Featured Artist April '10"

Abby Ahmad is one of those rare talents who is at the ideal position in her artistic journey when craft, skill and talent have all developed to an equal point and coalesced into a magnificent apex of achievement. Her latest album is entitled Curriculum and it is easily on par with the works of Dylan and Dickinson or even Plath. She is stunningly impressive in each and every aspect of what she does. Her voice has a remarkable range both in pitch and emotion while her guitar playing is intricate, passionate and absorbing. Lyrically, Ahmad has a mastery of word usage, imagery and metaphor that is at once scholarly and commercially viable.
“The metaphor that I keep using is when you smother broccoli with cheese to get kids to eat it . . . If it sounds good, the average listener will be intrigued by the music because it is catchy and it is easy to listen to, but they won’t automatically know that what they are listening to is good for them?” She pondered, her voice raising in pitch as if questioning her own statement. Then she laughed warmly and noted, “I was a poet before I was a songwriter.”

Often, songwriters are clever, they enjoy playing with words, rhymes and creatively twirling phrases till they provide new meanings. Ahmad’s lyrical ability is as academic as it is witty, she effortlessly uses words like “regenerate,” “unfettered,” and “sagacious” — which are not words typically found in songs — quite effectively. “I don’t want to alienate listeners by over using vocabulary, I try to use words with purpose,” she stated. “But I like to challenge myself and challenge my listeners . . . I had to look some of those words up, too!” she laughed. “When I was little, I used to sit with my mother and go through the dictionary just to find odd words. I’d learn them and I’d be walking around as an 8 year old saying I was ‘discombobulated.’”

“It’s a fun exercise for me,” she continued. “I’ve always been a wordsmith and I’ve always been really intrigued by the art of language — particularly rhymes — so I’ve been writing poetry since I was very, very young.”

In regards to adding music to her words, Abby’s father was a musician, so she was always surrounded by music. She played a number of instruments growing up, but it wasn’t until she found one that resonated with her and began setting her poems to the “three odd chords” that she knew that her “love affair began.”

But Abby didn’t stick with “three odd chords.” Over the years she has developed her own unique style and sound. “ I use a lot of alternate tunings because I found that there didn’t need to be a method, there just needed to be the sounds and I could shape those sounds into a song with structure. I find that a lot of people who are either classically trained or just trained find a more technical basis to songwriting: ‘This is supposed to happen next, I’m supposed to resolve this chord and go here.’ There are many players who are brilliant that way, but for me it would have been a constraint because I wouldn’t have tested myself to push those limits and to create my own style.”
“Over the course of the years I’ve been able to learn those technical aspects and the more theoretical based music principles and incorporate them into my style. The same thing happened with my voice.”

Ahmad’s vocals can soar powerfully, far above the chord progression, or they can dip low and huskily compete with the bass line. Each register has it’s own unique timbre and she effectively uses those additional colors to add an emotional intensity to her performance that is utterly captivating.

“I started singing when I was young and I didn’t really have a clue of what I was doing,” she noted. “It wasn’t until college that I actually started having a lot of problems keeping up — I did theater in college so my schedule was just really rigorous, when I wasn’t in a play I was doing music on the side and I didn’t know how to use my voice properly. I started training when I came to New York (almost 5 years ago). It was amazing, I took to the training so quickly because I knew what my voice could do, I just wasn’t doing it safely. I didn’t have to adhere to somebody’s preset style, I just got to kind of adapt it into my own ways of performing and singing.”

“It’s funny,” Abby reflected, “I went to college to study music. I was at The University of Pittsburgh which doesn’t really have much of a music department, it’s more based in classical and jazz, so I was ‘The Little Songwriter Who Could’ and they just didn’t really have much patience for me. So I tried out for a theatrical show and they just took me under their wing and I learned more about what I needed to know about musical performance from theater than I ever could have from a theoretical music background. Consequently, a lot of my theatrical tendencies come across in my performance because storytelling is really important to me.”

“My morals as a musician have always been based on the song and what’s being said,” she continued. “If you are telling the story, then it doesn’t really matter what notes you’re hitting or how they come out. In fact, there’s definitely a lot of moments on this album, both in the musical production and in the vocal performances, that aren’t perfect, moments that are a little cracked.”

Abby pointed out there is even one track on the album called “Lost on Me” where, if you listen closely, you can hear a cell phone go off. “It just happened to be the guitar take that was better than any other one . . . and it works! It sounds like it’s on purpose, just one of those magical little gifts from the universe that took place on this record. And we embraced that. We love those little nuances, those little imperfections because that’s life and that’s essentially what the songs are speaking about”

But don’t get the wrong impression, Curriculum, is not an album that is under-produced by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the contrary. Abby spent about a year and a half in the studio with this project and the entire album was crafted with skill, precision and an almost obsessive attention to detail. Leaving the cell phone in the recording was a decision that was carefully weighed and purposefully carried out, it was not a whim. Ahmad expressed that the goal was to emphasize the magical moments, not to clean them up.

Another engaging aspect to the production is the fact that it’s much more than a singer/songwriter album. There are tastefully applied horn arrangements, curious crackles and other sonic gems masterfully intertwined within the poignant guitar and vocal tracks.

“My boyfriend, Mark Marshall, one of the co-producers of the album, kind of introduced the whole technological aspect into the production of the album,” Abby revealed. “My first record was very acoustic based, it was straight-up instruments being played in a straight-up way. But I also have been very influenced by Radiohead and Portishead — there’s so much going on with technology being introduced within song structure there. I wanted to do that in a way that enhanced the songs instead of being, ’Oh, she’s just trying to put something Radiohead-ish into the song.’ Mark was very sensitive and very wonderful and very talented with that.”

Ahmad pointed out that many of the effects on the album were achieved through the use of analog gear such as tape delays, pedals, amps, etc. And overall, the album was purposely mastered at a lower volume than is currently the trend. “Alan Silverman [ARF Mastering, NY] has worked with an abundance of amazing artists and he said, ‘I don’t want to turn this up too high, you don’t want to make it too hot. It reminds me of a Joni Mitchell or a Bob Dylan album that will stand the test of time. I don’t want to blare it out just for the sake of having it compete volume-wise with everything else that’s going on right now on the radio.’ He’s a master of mastering, so I took his advice. And I’m really glad that I did.”

One final aspect of the album that deserves mentioning is the packaging: the artwork and the power and the meanings behind the images used. “People take imagery seriously and make lots of judgements — I do it all of the time, I see an image and I make an assumption based on that image.”

Originally, Abby had been considering using the photo that Songwriter’s Monthly picked for the cover of this issue — is it an apple for the teacher or an apple from Eve? — as the cover of her album. Although sexuality is one of the many aspects of Ahmad’s personality, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t want people “pinpointing” her based on a single image. “I wanted there to be a mystery to the cover and I think the image we decided to use [see photo above] serves that purpose much better. It’s not blatant, it’s not as in-your-face, it’s more like, ‘What’s inside this book?’ It’s intense.”

Abby Ahmad has released an exceptional album with Curriculum. It is alluringly packaged and sonically it displays a genuine commercial appeal, but beneath the surface you will find some truly masterful writing with depth, layers and an overall story arc that encompasses the entire album. “Our hope is that it’s easy enough to get excited by what’s happening musically on a first listen, but then you will want to sit down and hear it again to dissect the songs and get something more out of it every time you listen.”


Album Credits:

Music and lyrics by Abby Ahmad
Produced by Mark Marshall and Nathan Rosenberg and Abby Ahmad
Engineered by Mark Marshall and Nathan Rosenberg
Mixed by Nathan Rosenberg
Mastered by Alan Silverman
The album also features the talents of Gene Beck, Sean Dixon, Morgan Paige McOwen,Trevor Exter and Clark Gayton, Steven Bernstein and Erik Lawrence (who comprise the horn section for Levon Helm) and Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist, Michael Leonhart

Art Direction/Package Design: Tyler Morgan
Photography: Erica Simone
Hair/Makeup: Jerry Lopez


Abby Ahmad will celebrate the release of Curriculum with four weeks at The Living Room (Mondays April 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th at 8:00 PM). The Living Room is located at 154 Ludlow Street in NYC. For more information on the residency, visit:
For more information on Abby, visit:

Allen Foster, Editor Songwriter's Monthly - Songwriter's Monthly

"Abby Ahmad: Curriculum"

The relevance of the music business for those of us who buy the music is that there is always a plethora of available new talent for us to hear and watch. New artists seem to arrive in an endless flow. We are mesmerized by their talent as we look to memorize their songs, understand their individual personas and then be among the first ones to know about the next big musical act before our friends do. And with the advent of home based recording, any person with a reasonable amount of talent and gumption can make a demo or even a finished product while sitting at home for a relatively reasonable cash investment. Whether it’s the latest release from a billion dollar record company or a young musician based in Anytown, USA grinding out an album in their home studio (garage), we certainly have our pick of new music.Sometimes it seems that all that is needed to make it big in the music business today is the ability to play a musical instrument, then compose a song or two, and be able to perform your creations in front of a sometimes skeptical audience. Soon, when the fans love you, you’re on the road to stardom. Oh, did I mention that you need talent? Got to have that! And did I indicate that you need an incredible amount of patience with the ability to handle rejection frequently? Comes with the territory! Also, to be a success you need to have enormous amount of self confidence? Do you have it? Because if you don’t that and everything else I mentioned, then the odds of success in this arena are greatly diminished. And even if you have talent, great confidence, catchy original tunes and a winning smile, the possibilities of achieving even a small degree of stardom in the music business are slim, at best.Still, with the odds stacked against them people travel every day from all corners of the world to the music capital cities of New York, London, Los Angeles and Nashville to play their songs and make appointments with record company executives in hopes of landing the elusive contract that will ensure fame and fortune. It is estimated that approximately 27,000 – 35,000 albums (CD and Vinyl) are released by record companies every year. That’s a lot of music performed by a lot of folks chasing their dreams on to our iPods.Abby Ahmad grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She learned how to play guitar in her early teens and soon began to entertain the locals in coffee houses throughout the city. She went to college in Pittsburgh, majored in theater arts while at the same time continued honing her musical skills and decided that she needed to come to New York to fulfill her dream of being a working musician.I recently spoke to Abby because I had the pleasure of listening to her latest album, Curriculum in which she is credited as writer, performer and co-producer. At 27 years of age, Abby has taken an incredible step forward to fulfill her musical dreams. Abby credits her five years in Pittsburgh as a good stepping stone/buffer as she made her way from Wilkes-Barre to New York She said that those years in Pittsburgh gave her a good basis of living in an environment that featured diversity and culture which has served her well as she transitioned herself to New York. This August will mark her five year anniversary in the city and she is fully acclimated to New York. In 2006, Abby released her first album Rearview. I asked Abby how Curriculum differed from the first one that she recorded almost four years ago. “ Curriculum is not so much a departure from Rearview, but more an evolution” she said. “In both cases, I was lucky enough to work with producers who really understood the heart of who I am as a songwriter and based production values around those ideals.” Abby went on to say that the difference between the two albums is “that Curriculum is fully flushed out; it’s fully produced, but not overly produced, which is a very fine balance.” In comparing the two records, it is clear that in Curriculum the production is more “blossomed” than her first record.Nathan Rosenberg and Mark Marshall were the guiding producers, mixers, engineers and part of the group of participating musicians for the Curriculum sessions. In fact, Nathan also arranged the string section on two of the songs on the album and he owns the studio where the album was recorded. The musical biographies of Mark and Nathan read like a who’s who in the music industry. Their influence, musicianship and guidance on Abby’s work are one of the key reasons for the brilliance of this album. The production and the quality of the songs showcases Abby’s ability to handle a ballad and an up tempo tune with the skill and perfection.“Star Pupil” is the first song on the album and is my favorite. It has a Janis Joplin feel to it and both Nathan and Mark play key roles as they support a horn section that blends, but does not overshadow the power and clarity of Abby’s voice. In referring to her work with Mark and Nathan, Abby commented that the three of them “meshed musically and collectively and understood what they wanted for this record” As is turns out, Mark is Abby’s musical director for her live shows and she recently performed this song with an 11 piece band at a live concert.I asked Abby about a line in “Star Pupil” when she says, “I am bruised, not broken”. Her response was that at the time, she had written a number of songs slated to be included in the album and was coming out of the recovery of the ending of a relationship. She said, “’Star Pupil’ is a disclaimer to future relationships. It was kind of like, here’s what I’ve endured and here’s what I’ll bring to the new relationship with the ‘new me’. Instead of wallowing in the sadness and all of that I had experienced, I would learn from the experience and use it as fuel going forward.”A unique aspect to the album is the diversity in the musical style of each song. Whether it’s a jazz, folk or rock influence or a combination thereof, Abby and her collaborators have crafted a unique collection of songs that speak to many different styles of music. I asked her if that was a conscious effort on her part or that it just turned out that way.“In terms of my musical influences, I have a plethora of different styles and genres that have influenced me over the years. Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell….I was raised on the Beatles. As I got older, I began to have an appreciation for Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, and Bjork. Then later in life getting into hip-hop, getting into country and all different types of music. Stylistically, I write in different ways and as such, we wanted to express the music in different ways. What’s great about the album is that while each of the songs has a distinctly different sound, they all belong under the same umbrella and they all match as a collection. From start to finish, even the song order was carefully decided because we wanted it to have a systematic story to tell.”I pointed out to her than on Landing Gear” she used the same musicians as “Star Pupil” and yet the two songs are completely different from one another. “Landing Gear” is more a jazz, improvisational style than the other. Abby said that “We were very blessed to have the horn section that works with Levon Helm on that session” she said. “Erik Lawrence, Steve Bernstein and Clark Gayton arrived on one of the hottest days of the year in New York in July of 2008 and we set up on the rooftop of the Dog House (Nathan’s studio). Metaphorically what I based that song on was about when I moved to New York, it coincided with Hurricane Katrina, so I felt a lot of the uncertainty that we were feeling as a nation, as in what’s coming next, where do we belong, who’s going to help us? I felt very similarly on a personal level being this new New Yorker and so I wanted that song bridge to be like an explosion of sounds, very chaotic and kind of crazy. So we translated that idea to the guys and said ‘let it break free.’”“Picket Lines” is just Abby and Mark. It struck me that this lady who thrived with tunes backed by horn and string sections could also perform quite well with just one other person accompanying her. In speaking to whether she prefers a duo as opposed to a multi-piece band, she brought up an interesting point about the difference between working in a studio and performing as a live act. “The studio is a completely different beast than a live performance,” she said. “Some of the songs we began, we didn’t know where they would end up. So we had many ideas for these songs but the net result often turned out different than what we had envisioned. And while ‘Picket Lines” was just Mark and I; it has a big sound, a fully realized track”. She went to say “that it was interesting to work with Mark because we operated as though we were in a greenhouse in the studio; we got to nurture these songs, give them a little bit of water, a little bit of sunlight and then say to ourselves, ‘what else does this need?’ ‘How do we accentuate?’ ‘How do we pullback?” She said that this process worked particularly well with “Picket Lines” since it was a brand new song that she literally finished writing it at the studio.Curriculum was a 2 ½ year process to the time it was actually released from the time they began to write and record the album. She told me that she and Mark had been performing many of the tunes live together for about three years before they began to record. That time together gave them both an understanding of musically working with each other. “Mark is a brilliant producer. He started off as a songwriter. He knows how to enhance the message behind the story with sound” she said.One of the aspects of the album that Abby admitted was that there were a number of imperfections that the production team decided to leave on the album as opposed to edit them out. “We kept in some of the imperfections that some people might call ‘mistakes’” she said. “There’s a door slamming on one track; there’s a cell phone (Mark’s) that actually goes off while we recording on another track, but that was the magical track regardless of the flaw and the flaw turned out to be beautiful because it was actually in key with the song”. Listen carefully to “Lost on Me” and you’ll hear Mark’s cell phone blend harmoniously with Abby’s composition.One of the reasons for the depth and character of this album is the people assembled by the production team to support Abby. For example, in “Borders” the horn arrangements are done by Michael Leonhart. He also arranged the horns for two other songs, “Up and Through” and “Going Gone.” Michael holds the distinction of being the youngest person ever to win a Grammy when he won one at age 17. His musical credentials, much like Nathan and Mark could fill many pages as he has worked with such luminaries as Steely Dan, Bonnie Raitt, Wynton Marsalis, Yoko Ono, etc. Abby spoke with great reverence about Michael when she said “Working with Michael was phenomenal…he has such a sensitive ear and stylistically he understood in a very short period of time what was best to showcase the horns tastefully, but still have it be interesting and unique.”Given Abby’s talent and cast of musicians that have been assembled to support her efforts, Curriculum stands as an important next step in her career. It is intelligent, well written and appealing. It will cause you think, it will cause you to reflect and probably make you smile a few times, as well. She continues to write new songs and will be touring this summer. My conversation with her showed her to be introspective and honest about herself and her music. She is grateful for the supporting musicians on Curriculum and clearly has the talent to hold her own in a crowd of very talented people. -


By: Mark Saleski

I had Curriculum sitting atop a small pile on my desk at work the other day, and was asked what kind music it was. Sometimes the answer to that question is a simple one, and often causes the conversation to be cut short — any mention of things like country or free jazz and you're likely to get a quick eye roll and a change of subject. This time around, I had no easy answer..."Uh, I don't really know...."

A generic term that might be used is "singer/songwriter" but that's less than useless here. Abby Ahmad sings, plays guitar, writes songs, and wraps them up in a tasty assortment of styles. Folk? Sure. And blues, and soul, and sorta-funk, and rock and...ah, it hardly matters. I got lost in it and had a great time finding my way out.

The subject matter ranges from disgust with the state of things (which might seems like a cliché in the folk world, but I still like a good rant), to the challenge of dealing with relationships. How we come together and pull apart, it's a complex life we can lead, and Ahmad has some pointed takes on these matters. Dang, I wish I had been so insightful in my 20s.

Sonically, Curriculum has a lot to offer. As much as I like Ahmad's acoustic guitar style, which cuts a percussive Ani-esque slash with some delicate finger picking, it's the clever use of horns that pushes the arrangements over the top. I'll be the first to admit that the opening "Star Pupil" immediately drew me in with its Tom Waits clatter. As the tune progresses, horns pop in here and there to extend the harmonic landscape and give a tremendous boost to the energy level. Use of this "accented" approach lifts the feel of the record into that unknown territory. It might be horns, it might be strings, it might even even be piano...but the results always seem fresh.

While "Star Pupil" is my overall favorite track, the closing duo of "Going Gone" into "In Favor Of Braver Parts" forms a powerful image of what Ahmad has to offer. Two songs dealing with the thread that runs through the "what might have been and what might be" of relationships, the music is by turns uplifting (the swelling horns and soaring vocals of the former, where the the alchemy of Ahmad's and Morgan Paige McOwen's voices bring to mind Lori McKenna in duet form) and darkly hopeful (circular arpeggios on acoustic guitar, gilded with violin and cello). Very inspiring.

In the interest of closure, I'll have to go back to the office and tell my co-workers that I have an answer. Curriculum is just great music. - BLOGCRITICS.ORG

"Ahmad's latest a model of self-expression"

By Alan K. Stout
There's a sense of confidence that comes through when talking to Abby Ahmad, and you also sense it when seeing her perform live. She's also thoughtful, sensitive, dynamic and extremely articulate, and when it comes to her music, she puts it all out there. No emotions are left unrevealed.

The gifted singer/songwriter, a native of the Back Mountain, is now set to release her new CD, "The Rearview," and like her previous work, it features an extremely expressive collection of songs.

"I was a poet before I was a songwriter, so lyrics and lyricism, and just the structure of words, have always been at the forefront for me," says Ahmad. "I really like the process of coupling words together into a pattern and using a lot of alliteration and word twists to bring my point across. I always just prided myself on being honest, and what manifests from that is just how I write. Once people try to mask what they're actually feeling, or putting pretension into what they're doing, the message gets lost.

"What people have told me, as to why they like my music, is because it's honest and it's coming from a place that's very real, and that they can connect to."

Ahmad, 23, of Dallas, studied at the University of Pittsburgh and now lives in New York City. "The Rearview," the follow-up to her first EP, "Headcase," was recorded in Hartford, Connecticut, where she collaborated with her friend Matt Zeigler. Zeigler, along with Ahmad, will perform at Slainte on Wednesday to help celebrate the release of the new album.

"Matt and I have always been fans of each other's talent and musicianship, and we kept in touch over the four years we were both at college," she says. "When I recorded my first EP in Pittsburgh, I sent it to Matt to get his criticism, because I trust his opinion a lot, and he told me that he basically loved the songs, but the production was less than. He'd gone to school for music, and he's an engineer at a studio in Hartford, so he asked me if I wanted to come up and record a few songs. I ended up loving it, and high-jacked all of his musician

college friends."

Ahmad names Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Tori Amos, Bjork, and Jeff Buckley as influences. Tracks on the new CD include "Big Bang," "Stone," "The Sequel" and " Postcards." She says that though she's grateful that people say they can relate to her songs, that's not why she writes them.

"It's for me," she says. "Music is my therapy. I write for myself, but I perform for other people. It's just ... I don't know ... whatever they can take out of it. Whatever I write that they can connect to, and what they can pull from it, is more than enough for me. I feel if you're

speaking truthfully, people will take from it, no matter if it's something they've actually been through or not."

Ahmad, who holds a degree in theater, has been performing live since she was only 15 years old. Like her songwriting, she says taking the stage is also a creatively fulfilling art form.

"It's an element all in itself," she says. "I become engulfed in the art of live performance, and what happens is really out of my control. I give it my all, because I feel people expect that from a performer, and I feel that recently, there's far too few who are unabashed in the way they perform. They're trying to fit into a certain image, or fit into a certain sound, and that's just not me.

"That's never been who I have been." - The Weekender (Wilkes Barre-PA)


LP- Curriculum (2009)
LP- The Rearview (2006)
EP - Headcase (2004)
EP- The P.M. Peeps Sessions (2002)



With edgy, intelligent lyrics and hypnotic melodies, Abby Ahmad's music is as passionate as it is profound. Bridging genres of folk-rock, blues, and alternative, Abby's percussive guitar style and arresting vocals captivate and challenge her audiences. Emotionally-charged, yet playful, she is at once in your face and in your heart.

Curriculum, (the follow up to her acclaimed debut, The Rearview), marks a metaphoric and musical evolution. Inspired by the thrilling yet frenetic challenges of being an emerging musician in NYC, Curriculum documents the path to independence (both musical and personal) navigating the many lessons learned along the way.

The album’s production values were crafted with a similar mentality. Abby teamed up with Brooklyn-based producers Mark Marshall and Nathan Rosenberg. Together, they have produced an organic, searing portrait of sound and emotion.

Adding to the album’s sonic maturity and authenticity are a stellar lineup of NY musicians including Clark Gayton, Steven Bernstein, and Erik Lawrence (who comprise the horn section for legendary musician Levon Helm) and Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist, Michael Leonhart.

With integrity, guts, and skill, Abby Ahmad breaks new ground in the realm of independent music.

"Abby Ahmad is one of those rare talents who is at the ideal position in her artistic journey when craft, skill and talent have all developed to an equal point and coalesced into a magnificent apex of achievement. Her latest album, CURRICULUM, is easily on par with the works of Dylan and Dickinson or even Plath. "
-Allen Foster, Songwriter's Monthly

"Abby Ahmad is a caldron of talent and soul. Her range of music, lyrics and vocals are a fresh hit of unpretentious passion. I feel lucky to have discovered this emerging star."
-Andrew Davis, film director, "The Guardian"

"When the louds and quiets are embraced and explored in guitar-based folk-rock, it can only serve to make the delicate melodies more capturing and the hammering strums more exclamatory. Not afraid to challenge the listener with literate lyricism and intricate song structures, this is an ambitious group of songs that will keep you coming back to catch all the subtleties."
-CD BABY Editor’s Review

“…Beautiful, pliant, passionate.”
–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette