Bassist Mike Barber

JoeJoe with Leigh and Mike
Leigh Gibson, JoeJoe Saroyan and Mike Barber

Last Friday when the Gibson Brothers performed at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Leigh Gibson mentioned a band member’s birthday. Bassist Mike Barber was turning 42. The audience spontaneously broke into “Happy Birthday” for the most youthful and senior citizen of the group. I had a big grin on my face when I heard that story. Mike is not only “off the grid” as an expert angler in the North Country, he occupies a “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” place on stage. I was happy to hear him get the more than well deserved recognition.

With Grey Fox gates open and the Gibson Brothers appearing Saturday evening, I take a look back at the festival’s Masters Stage in 2010 with Eric and Leigh Gibson, Joe Walsh and Mike Barber. I pair each Gibson Brothers cut with a song from old-time country and bluegrass in an attempt to identify the greats whose technique and sound may have helped make Barber bona fide.

  • Bobby Sloane, the left hander of Kentucky Mountain Boy, New South and Bluegrass Album Band fame is only seen partially in this cut of “Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee.” It offers a nice comparison to “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane” where you can see and hear the synchronicity between Leigh and Mike.
  • I couldn’t write about the 2010 appearance at the Masters Stage without bringing up Buckaroos, Doyle Holly (bass) and Willie Cantu (drums) who perform on “My Heart Skips A Beat;” “Love’s Gonna Live Here” packs its own Bakersfield womp.
  • Mark Hembree, Bill Monroe veteran and Nashville Bluegrass Band co-founder, propels “That High Lonesome Sound;” Leigh, Eric and Mike return the volley years later with “That Bluegrass Music.”
  • I yelled out for Leigh to play “Early” at one point and heard him say back “Sure John, we can do that.” Mike plucks like “Junior” Huskey, right hand relaxed but precise with accents and light brushes.
  • Jack Cooke along with Ralph Stanley and Keith Whitley on “Will You Miss Me?” tear me up. Mike’s got a good start on the longest serving Clinch Mountain Boy with his 20th year as a Gibson Brother and “Mansion on the Hill.” Happy Belated Mike!

The Gibson Brothers appear on the High Meadow Stage at Grey Fox, 6:30 PM on Saturday July 21, 2012.  The drive is about two and a half hours from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The above links plus more can be found on my YouTube channel under Bassist Mike Barber.

One thought on “Bassist Mike Barber

  1. John, Nothing works better than show and tell. You use the technique here perfectly with excellent examples that highlight one of the finest bass players working today. Mike is a master of his craft. And he’s a very nice fellow as well. Thanks for a great posting.

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