Catching up with The Gibson Brothers

Eric and Leigh GibsonExcuse me for a minute while I put the cart way in front of the horse, but after listening to the Gibson Brothers pay tribute on their latest CD to a long list of brother acts that preceded them in bluegrass and country music – Carter and Ralph Stanley, Bobby and Sonny Osborne, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Ira and Charlie Louvin, the Blue Sky Boys and others – it occurred to me that Eric and Leigh Gibson have earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath with them.

In fact, if it all ended tomorrow and there were no more songs, no more CDs, no more shows, the body of work created by two upstate New York farm boys and a handful of friends would one day merit them a spot in IBMA’s Hall of Fame.

But don’t mention that to Eric or his younger brother, Leigh. They’re not ready to rest on their laurels and aren’t about to assume they’re entitled to anything. In fact, Eric still waits in the car to hear a Gibson Brothers song finish on the radio, much to the bemusement of his son.

“I won’t ever take it for granted,” Eric said a few weeks back after a solid set on the main stage at MerleFest. Rain showers kept the crowd down but it didn’t curb the enthusiasm of those who braved the elements for the show.

While Brotherhood is still on the charts and getting a fair amount of radio play, the brothers are already starting to write and collect material for their next project for Rounder Records.

“We’ve been writing new stuff,” Leigh said after signing CDs and hats for fans after their set. “We worked on one this morning.” The fact that they’ve started writing means the next CD is likely to come sooner rather than later because, as Leigh explained, “We’re streak writers. If we write, it seems like we write a bunch, sometimes a couple at a time.”

Eric and Kelly Gibson - photo by Andy FlynnThe brothers sometimes write together, sometimes alone and on occasion with non-family members – Joe Newberry and Tim O’Brien come to mind. But Eric is especially excited to be working with a new co-writer, his son, Kelley.

“I heard him working on a melody for a couple of days, and it was really good,” Eric recalled. “Then one day he came to me and said, ‘I haven’t lived enough life yet. Can you help with the words.’” The way he told the story, it was clear Eric viewed the request as an honor.

While the next CD is expected to be bluegrass-oriented, the brothers have another idea for a record at some point – a Gospel project with their sister Erin Gibson LaClair.

Shows that are close enough to home to allow family and friends to attend are always among their favorites, but one such performance last weekend is likely to stay with Eric and Leigh for the rest of their lives. They received honorary doctor of fine arts degrees from the State University of New York-Plattsburgh, then performed wearing their graduation gowns.

But don’t think of calling either one of them doctor. They much prefer to be called by another title, one they both wear proudly, and one they work hard to keep: Musicians.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.