How fortunate fans of the Gibson Brothers in the 1990’s or earlier were! I imagine folks were impressed to hear bluegrass artists in their late teens and early twenties writing and performing their own songs. Another Night of Waiting’s opener, Breakthrough, was written by Eric, and first recorded on a self-produced tape. She Paints a Picture, the ballad he wrote for his wife Corina, still holds its own as a masterpiece of song and imagery. Eric pens the personal recesses of his heart fearlessly. I am still amazed by the empathy and insight into loss that he shows in We’ll Stay Here. When bluegrass scholars go looking for the first song that Leigh wrote and recorded in a minor key, I think they will land on The Next One is Me. Before Iron and Diamonds and Safe Passage, this gut puncher stood alone. Junior’s slide whips like I imagine a cold Clinton County wind does come January.
Another Night of Waiting captures the sweet and unexpected in the Gibson blend. Wanting, Wanting You, a sexy and alluring bluegrass song, rivals younger sibling Cabin Down Below from Iron and Diamonds. The chorus of Loose Talk captures what I consider to be some of the most endearing and trademark characteristics of how Leigh and Eric were apt to arrange their voices during this period.
Roland White’s mandolin dances up, around, and on top of the fretboard on I Don’t Care Anymore. Eric’s ¾ time banjo preens. How Mike Barber seems to support everyone at once with plenty of time in between, I don’t know. On Traveling Blues, Compton’s mandolin solo, which Leigh refers to as “gutsy”, births his final chorus. Singing with banjo cantering beneath, Eric grabs at My Yesterdays Look Better Everyday. He leads his solo with a down strum and bursts into a Scruggs gallop. One of two times we hear solo flatpicking from Leigh comes after the third verse: crystal clear and assertively melodious. Leigh provides beautiful cross-picking in Last Letter Home right before he sings verses one and three.
I clearly missed the extent of the humor in the story of City Water until I re-read Eric’s liner notes on the song. So yes, Eric…, you do have to be from the country—or at least not San Francisco like me—to appreciate “wrap another rag around the wellpipe, honey”. Seth Sawyer, a Vermont based bluegrass musician and festival promoter, writes songs as distinct and full of warmth as the Gibson Brothers themselves. I listened to One More Time (I Must Rise) a lot during the five years before Bona Fide arrived in 2003.
The Gibson Brothers play the DC Bluegrass Festival in McLean, Virginia on April 16, 2011.