To say the boys from the North did it again with their latest offering, Darkest Hour, would be an understatement. No, this time they bettered their already pure sound to give a gift well worthy of our playlists. Having teamed up with the inimitable Jerry Douglas for production, and a band of skilled performers, including the one-and-only Alison Krauss for vocals on one rich track, the multiple award-winning Gibson Brothers provide a collection of songs that delve into heartache, betrayal, and yearning. Darkest Hour, which releases today, however, is not dark. It is deep — with talent and emotion.
The album hooks you with its upbeat count-in to track one, What a Difference a Day Makes, and takes the listener on a ride to familiar places of the human experience. The Gibson Brothers’ skillful songwriting comes to the fore on this album in every song. They precisely capture the whiplashed feeling of an unexpected breakup on the leadoff track; shades of soul-searching and regret in Heart’s Desire; grappling with duplicity in Your Eyes Say His Name; and parents struggling to let go as children grow in One Minute of You.
Although each offering shines, some glisten more than others. Take for instance, the gem called I Go Driving. With its lines like “I’m looking at the past; I’m trying not to stare,” and its lap steel, fiddle, and electric guitar woven in, it just stops you in your tracks to take in how expertly the Gibson Brothers have encapsulated nostalgia. Another jewel is the title track where Leigh beautifully lays vulnerability on the table for all of us to reckon with. The simplicity of the song, and the soulful accompaniment by Jerry Douglas, no less, keeps this one with us long after its last note. I Feel The Same Way As You catches you swaying to the tune and then catching your breath when Leigh and Alison Krauss bestow their harmonies.
Let’s not forget that the Gibson Brothers also make you boogie with some honkytonk-esque tracks on Darkest Hour, such as So Long, Mama and Shut Up and Dance, which features the great line: “I ain’t bad lookin’ when the band starts cookin’.”
It is not just the poetry they put on the page, it is their enveloping those words and life moments with perfectly matched melodies that evoke the feelings. And, they execute it all through masterful playing and singing. Leigh’s full-bodied voice and Eric’s high lonesome tenor each stand out powerfully on this album, and when combined, the result is the pure sound that has always defined the Gibson Brothers’ art, but somehow, it sounds even more refined here.
All in all, they provide a winning combination with this effort such that when you take the time to listen to Darkest Hour, we can guarantee it won’t be dark for you. From their already high perch in bright blue bluegrass to their sidestep into groove with their Mockingbird album, Darkest Hour strikes as a solid move into a wonderful place amidst bluegrass, folk, and country — which, perhaps, the Gibson Brothers simply call music.