Monday, April 29, 2013

CD Review - The Gibson Brothers - “THEY CALLED IT MUSIC”

Image635037672395635632I knew it at the time…… I thought about it while I was listening to this CD….. I’m thinking about it right NOW, and getting madder by the minute!!!

Eric and Leigh Gibson were about two hours away from my home doing a show at Byron Berline’s Double-Stop-Fiddle-Shop Theater in Guthrie, OK last year….and I missed it! I’ve been kickin’ myself ever since! Byron’s theater is intimate, warm and diligently refined for acoustic music. In other words, the perfect place to have seen the 2012 IBMA Entertainer’s Of The Year. And I MISSED IT!

I guarantee that won’t happen again…..

“They Called It Music,” their third, and latest release on Compass Records, was recorded at Compass Studios in December, 2012. Eric, Leigh and the “third Gibson Brother,” Mike Barber, their twenty year veteran bass player, produced it with noted engineer Ben Surratt behind the recording board. In 2011, The Gibson’s CD, “Help My Brother,” was the IBMA Album Of The Year, and there’s absolutely no reason why this CD shouldn’t be in the running for that title again.

With Eric on banjo and guitar, Leigh on guitar and Mike on upright bass, they are joined by long time band mates Clayton Campbell on fiddle and Joe Walsh on mandolin. According to Eric, the title song had been worked out and stage tested, but the rest were recorded with minimal rehearsal time. You’d sure never know it by listening! The band grabbed on to these songs and just took off! All the years of being on stage together have seasoned this unit and given them each a sixth sense for how the others are going to jump, move and sway to the rhythm of each song. The dual strength of Eric and Leigh form a middle ground that Mike’s bass just has to add propulsion to, and Clayton’s fiddle and Joe’s mandolin are like hornets darting in and out of the songs stinging your ears with solos and fills.

This recording really shows off the best side of each player, and “Engineer Ben” caught it all in the studio. While working on this review, the band’s press agent released the news that Joe Walsh would be leaving the band to follow another path, and in an e-mail to me from Eric, they wished him well and praised his work on this CD. Although Eric and Leigh have not named a replacement at this time, when the right one comes along, I’m sure he’ll be the “pick of the litter!” New members usually bring vitality, energy and new perspectives, so I fully expect the next incarnation of The Gibson Brother’s Band to be even better than this one.

An even dozen songs are the result of last December’s sessions. Six are originals, and the other six are by such well known and noted writers as Loretta Lynn and Shawn Camp, Joe Newberry, Mark Knopfler, Austin Taylor, Roy Hurd and Elizabeth Hill, and J.L. Frank and PeeWee King. Each one is distinct and interesting in it’s own way. Knopfler’s “Daddy’s Gone To Knoxville” is a favorite. “Home On The River,” by Austin Taylor, dating back to 1913, Image635025992875936050shows just how superb Eric and Leigh carry the gospel message musically. Their duet on this one is zealous and contagious. You’ll be wanting to sing and clap along from the front pew!

Original songs, to me, are the life blood of any band, but when someone takes the time to diligently search for just the right songs that will fit in and mesh with their own sound , that, too, is a very rare form of talent called perseverance. Eric and Leigh found six absolute gems that they have turned into “Gibson Family” property. Sometimes there is a big gap between how good the original and non-original songs are, but that’s not the case here. From start to finish, this CD is a poignant, powerful and cohesive work of art that flows beautifully from one song to the next.

The very first tune, “Buy A Ring, Find A Preacher,” written by Eric, Leigh and mandolin man Joe Walsh, was perfect to kick this project off. Lyrically witty and with an instantly memorable melody line, it’s a hoot! The confirmed bachelor in the song promises matrimonial bliss, but the bride to be doesn‘t know “ it may not be today.” What a great hook line!

The CD’s title song, “They Called It Music,” by Eric and Joe Newberry, is based on the simple premise that music is an all encompassing, universal entity. The lyrics tell a story that any one can relate to, with each verse becoming more inclusive and familiar than the one before, but, it’s the chorus’ that will pull your heart strings. With each line I could see members of my own family “in the church house and the fields,” and what music meant to them. For Eric and Joe to string these words together, presumably about their family history, and make me envision my own family’s history as I listened, is song writing at it’s finest. This song personalizes history and sets it to music. This song also needs to be considered for IBMA Song Of The Year.

Eric and Leigh showed just how positive and upbeat their thinking can be with “I’ll Work It Out.” With “never, ever give up,” as the theme, the entire song will make you smile. Joe’s mandolin solo, and Clayton’s fiddle solo, are both inventive and “cooking” in the songs groove, and Eric plays just enough of a banjo solo to make you wish he had carried on longer. At only 2:56, they could have kept this one goin’ another minute or so and I would have still been asking for more. I’ll bet they do stretch out on this one in concert! Another reason for me not to miss them LIVE!

“Something Comin’ To Me,” written by Eric, Leigh and the talented song spinner Shawn Camp, is a soft spoken plea from a simple man for help from above. The vocals on this one are gorgeous, the mandolin, fiddle and guitar solos are warm and understated, and you’ll be hitting the replay button again after you hear it the first time.


To have your CD considered for review, contact: Rita Small or

W. J. Hallock for specific submission and mailing instructions.

Eric penned the last two original songs alone, and I must say, I admire his way with words. His lines are always more intense and meaningful than the song’s tempo or melody may indicate. “Dusty Old World,” will have you tapping your toes right from the kickoff, with the band throwing out hot licks and Eric and Leigh singing some of the most intense harmonies on the CD, but, when you really delve into the lyrics, which are kindly included in the liner notes, it becomes so much more….. deep and introspective. I pondered each question asked and felt deeply the hard scrabble life dealt with and remembered by the singer as being monumentally confusing, defeating and almost unbearable. Just read the lyrics aloud without the boisterous music and you’ll see what I mean. A younger man might not worry and fret so much, but an older man, who has lost some one, or some thing, in the past, will be pondering life itself more as he grows older each day. I took this song very personally……

The last song on the CD, “Songbird’s Song,” is my favorite….. The lyrics are like an audio Polaroid of a moment at daybreak that the singer has taken the time to stop, listen to and enjoy. It is sweet, simple and lovely, and the way that the instruments fade out at the ending is marvelous. The mandolin, fiddle and guitar have been recorded with such a closeness that you can hear all the little noises that acoustic instruments make, no matter how quiet you try to be in the studio. You have to really listen and feel for Mike’s bass, and Clayton’s fiddle has a dissonance that fits perfectly with the song’s emotion and timbre. Joe’s mandolin is a testament to nuance, he plays it with character and strength, but warmly. Mr. Surratt used his tech talents and nailed this one’s haunting aura perfectly. The vocals couldn’t be more simple, but, as usual, the Brothers give the song exactly what it needs and dictates.

The Gibson Brothers are blessed with those great harmonies that only come from blood, instrumental prowess that magnifies “their” sound, personality and song-writing abilities that truly define them and where they come from. They also have an earthy honesty and dedication to who they are. We should all be so lucky to be talented enough to share the deep seated feelings that Eric and Leigh have shared with the world on this recording.. Yep….. this CD is one you need to have.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great CD. "They Called It Music" has been running through my head on a loop since I first heard it live. I wonder if one can wear CDs out like I used to wear 45s out? If so, this one will is a candidate.


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