From the outset, the Gibson Brothers have made a dramatic mark not only with their heartfelt sibling harmonies, but also with their exquisitely crafted, evocative original songs.
Now that this New York-born & raised, 2010 IBMA award-winning duo has ten albums, a few more gray hairs, and countless touring miles behind them, both their singing and songwriting have accrued even more subtle nuances of world-weariness, spirituality, and nostalgia, along with the melancholy that so often comes with the universal search to find one’s place in the greater scheme of things. You can hear this with disarming clarity in Eric’s haunting ballad, “Frozen In Time” and Leigh’s deeply felt “Safe Passage.”
Though it may seem a contradiction, the Gibsons’ powers of emotional suasion are grounded in their restraint. They never over-sing or over-sell a song. Instead, they have the self-assurance to merely let the quiet beauty of their harmonies reveal the magic of their lyrics and melodies. Without fail, the results are deeply moving. The brothers’ gifts as communicators and movers and shakers of souls are particularly vivid on a trio of original tunes on their new album.
Leigh Gibson’s “Talk To Me” is a quiet desperate plea to a lover who has turned cold and unresponsive. It features a lovely vocal assist from Claire Lynch and some EMT wood banjo flourishes courtesy of Alison Brown. (On Joe Newberry’s “Singing As We Rise,” Ricky Skaggs backs the brothers with harmonies and lead vocals.) The sardonic “One Car Funeral,” an unsettling ballad about a misspent life and cowritten by Eric, Leigh, and Jon Weisberger, stands right at the top of the list next to Tom T. Hall’s classic “The Ballad Of Forty Dollars” in the narrow subgenre of ironic funeral songs. Eric’s “Dixie” is a similarly provocative rumination on a misspent life—in this case, the life of Elvis Presley. Another gem is Leigh’s “Safe Passage,” a haunting, multi-generational ballad about the Gibson family. It begins with the brothers’ forbearers hazarding a treacherous ocean crossing from Scotland in search of a better life. It ends with the Gibsons singing about how a century and a half later, they now crisscross the country and the world pursuing their own musical and spiritual destinies.
The brothers also tip their hats to bluegrass history with fine covers of Jim & Jesse McReynolds’ “I’ll Love Nobody But You” and the Louvin Brothers’ oldie “He Can Be Found.” The Gibsons co-produced Help My Brother with their long-time bass player Mike Barber and are backed throughout by Barber and fellow bandmembers Clayton Campbell (fiddle) and Joe Walsh (mandolin). (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.) BA