The Internationals give virtue to former vices 

New live album recorded at Smith’s Olde Bar

Jody Abernathy and Mark Mundy have been making music together since they were 14, more than two decades now. But they consider their latest work, featuring their new combo the Internationals, to be their greatest.

Released in September, Live from Smith's Olde Bar is as advertised – a live album recorded at the venerable Atlanta music venue. It showcases their varied interests, from tears-in-your-beer honky-tonk ("Don't Say We're Through") to foot-stomping country rock ("Daddy Was an Outlaw") and electrified bluegrass ("Dang Longdon"). The eclectic mix is a product of their long friendship. "I think we both appreciate music enough to listen to each other's different influences and grow in that way," says Mundy, "not just as friends but musicians, too."

Though they've played in the same bands for years, they got a boost a couple of years ago after Abernathy spent a week at Jeffrey Steele's Songwriting Boot Camp in Nashville. It inspired him to recommit to his own muse after witnessing other writers talk about tailoring their sound for a specific market. "I didn't want to go that route," he says. "I wanted to write sincerely and, if I could, find a niche for that."

His affecting honesty strikes home on such tracks as the autobiographical "A Long Way from Home," about a mountain boy who finds drugs and dissipation in the big city, and on his ode to a restless lover longing for another in the guise of "The Man I Used To Be." They're descendants of George Jones' classic country ache, the offspring of hard-earned lessons.

"[Those songs] were written during a very dark time in my life when I was way deep into alcohol, methand cocaine," says Abernathy, who's been clean and sober for four years. "I wrote ['The Man I Used To Be'] about the people in my life who loved and kept believing and hoping I would change. However, at that time, I believed I was too far gone to ever give up my vices."

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