How do you go to an event like that and not just want to give everything you own to WAMU Bluegrass Country?
The Gibson Brothers played their hearts out a couple weeks back at the hip, new D.C. area venue, AMP, for a WAMU Bluegrass Country fundraiser. They served it up family style and delivered heaping helpings of good old deep blue bluegrass song after song. The grateful audience devoured it ravenously and begged for more with multiple standing ovations.
According to Emcee and WAMU icon, Katy Daley, the fundraiser was the band’s idea; the Brothers wanted to help out Washington, D.C.’s premier bluegrass radio source. What a great and generous idea! The packed house was testament to WAMU’s listeners’ love for authentic and stellar bluegrass. They flocked to the sweet sounds of the Gibson Brothers.
Eric’s high lonesome and Leigh’s steady true voices combined with expert picking and fiddling give the Gibson Brothers their unqualified pure sound. Eric and Leigh led the ensemble of Jesse Brock bringing heat on mandolin, Clayton Campbell providing grace on fiddle and Mike Barber dispensing flawless time on the bass. All the while Eric and Leigh held it together with sophisticated guitar and banjo picking, unbelievable harmonies and sharp showmanship. No question why their name is solidly on IBMA’s 2015 nominee list for both Entertainer and Vocal Group of the Year, categories they have won before.
The Gibson Brothers treated us to their tribute to musical brothers and their own sibling signatures. From their recent release, Brotherhood, a contender for IBMA 2015 Album of the Year that pays homage to legendary singing and strumming brothers, they immediately got things hopping with the York Brothers’ romp, Long Gone. Eric’s groovy, popping low banjo solo was answered by Campbell’s long yells from the fiddle, Brock’s light-hearted mando, and Barber’s bold bass solo. It was all bound up with Leigh’s mighty rhythm, and true to the title, together they emulated the sound of a train leaving the station. They also delighted the audience with their version of the Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love, to which the crowd sang along but quietly so as not to miss Eric’s and Leigh’s voices work their magic together. Eric traded banjo licks with Campbell’s tasteful fiddle runs on Jim and Jesse’s Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes. Brock’s quick, happy mandolin paired with the brothers’ layered vocals and Barber’s bouncing bass on their rendition of the Monroe brothers’ recording, I Have Found the Way made it hard for us not to rejoice. We were in church with those angelic Gibson voices washing over us. That third “Hallelujah” is just killer: certainly the blessed way.
They kept the toes tapping when covering Big Mon, which Brock picked perfectly, showing all why he is up for IBMA’s mandolin player this year. Campbell rounded that one out with a blistering fiddle solo. They all ground it out on Back Up and Push, which especially featured Campbell’s fiddling prowess. Do not let their pressed, immaculate suits fool you; these five guys can get positively gritty. It is just too cool when they hold their instruments in action stance and let them rip at just the right time.
The air in the room was thick with truth as the Gibson Brothers served up the tunes for which they are known and all came to hear. Brock’s cascading mandolin set us up for the nostalgic trip of Farm of Yesterday, and the constant banjo ping held us rapt, yearning for simpler times and the character that comes from them. Leigh displayed his soulful vocals on Safe Passage, another heartfelt tune about the Gibsons’ roots, the wishful Something Coming to Me, and Wishing Well, the lilting song of unrequited love. The perfectly blended, driving Callie’s Reel had feet bouncing and smiles galore. Digging deep banjo and hearty fiddle, matched with Eric’s low singing on Ragged Man got us, wonderfully, right in the gut. The masterful Frozen in Time grabbed us too; with that repeat of “in my mind” tightening its grip each time. Striking. They closed it out with fan-favorite, Ring the Bell. Heads nodded in testimony as Eric directed us to go ring that bell and Leigh released his rich guitar solo. Echoes of their famous refrain could be heard long after this tune’s last note.
What a show! The Gibson Brothers’ playing was impeccable, their harmonies were spot-on, their diversity was broad and the goodness they provided was as wholesome as it comes. There is a reason they win the awards time and again. When it comes to purity of sound about the things that matter, the Gibson Brothers whip that up from scratch.
Get yourself to one of their shows. Their performance will fill your soul and satiate your appetite for all things right. I just know though that you will be checking their schedule promptly for another serving not too far down the road. They are simply that good.
Pick up a copy of Brotherhood, and check out the Gibson Brothers’ catalog of award-winning albums. And, support WAMU Bluegrass Country: it does a fantastic job of bringing this magnificence to the masses.