Northern Adirondack Central School lies in a bleak flatland just south of the Canadian border in far northern New York. While most Americans picture New York as a paved over unrule metropolis, the reality is more like this – formerly useable farmland that has suffered from the decline of farming in America while not having found ways to benefit from gloabalization. From this rough, rural landscape comes the spirit and music of the Gibson Brothers.
Irene and I have come to hear Erin Gibson LaClair, a second grade teacher in the district, in concert accompanied by her brothers Eric and Leigh as well as Mike Barber on bass. By 2:00 o’clock the room is completely full. The reserved seats behind us are filled with Gibson kin and nearly everyone in the auditorium knows the Gibsons as a local family which has made good. The Gibson’s latest album, “Red Letter Day,” spent several months on the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited charts and the title song is still hanging around the chart after seven or eight months. They’re truly a fine, if not yet fully recognized, band.
Erin comes out with her brothers. She is a pleasant looking blond who is obviously not used to singing in front of such a large audience, even though she knows nearly everyone there. Once she opens her mouth, everyone knows they’ve come for the right reasons. Erin has a lovely, mid-register voice, unaffected and clear and clean as her complexion. She chooses songs by Emmy Lou Harris, Iris Dement, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and, of course, Eric Gibson. She is supported by the wonderful instrumentalism and close harmoney of the two Gibson brothers and Barber’s ever reliable, solid beat. Her presentation is simple and almost always spot on. Erin is not a professional performer, and towards the end of the concert she becomes clearly tired, but her fresh personality is well-supported by the brotherly repartee she is surrounded by. She comes across as thoroughly able and ready for prime time.
For us, this concert has provided an opportunity to hear some players we have come to view as friends as well as to interact, however briefly, with their families. The music was fine and we headed home enriched by their singing and more ready to embrace the Christmas season than we had been when we arrived.