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Gibson Brothers rise up from "In the Ground"

By Fred Smith, February 2017

There's no more solid live bluegrass show than the Gibson Brothers. They play with great technical skill and crispness. Their harmonies are just what a brother act should be: sweet, true and never forced. Brothers Leigh and Eric Gibson surround themselves with outstanding sidemen with impeccable bluegrass cred: Jesse Brock (mandolin), Mike Barber (bass) and Clayton Campbell on fiddle. Brock is the newcomer in the group, having been with The Gibsons for the last four years or so. So, continuity and preparedness contribute to the band's assuredness.

Given their standing in the bluegrass community, it's always noteworthy when the Gibsons release a new record.

Leigh Gibson views the release of "In The Ground" (Rounder) as an important step forward for the Gibson Brothers. "This is the first record that Eric and I have done all the writing. We did have a couple of co-writes…one is a song that I wrote with Shawn Camp. But it's the first record where we've pretty much written the whole thing."

Gibson Brothers perform

"If you really get down to it, I think there's more of us in this record than any other record," he says. "By that I mean we include more of our experience as growing up as farmers up on a dairy farm in upper New York State. It's a farm that our family cleared in the 1860s and established a foothold and their descendants ended with us. A lot of our records deal with that, but no more than are on this record."

"The title track has to do with my father's words, which can be heard throughout this record," he says. Eric still lives near the farmstead in upstate New York.

The secret to the Gibsons' recording success, in addition to Barber's work as co-producer and Ben Surratt's sure hand as recording engineer, is that the brothers, who are avid baseball fans, aren't obsessed going for the musical long-ball: "We always look at a new release as a record of where we're at and where are we musically at this point. Because we know a lot of people labor over making a record. The more you make, the more you recognize that you're not trying to get a grand slam. You're trying to be as natural as you can and put on the record where you are."

"It's a time capsule," Gibson says.

" Once I came to that realization a few years ago, it became much more enjoyable, and much less stressful process. And, you gain so much more in the result, by being relaxed and knowing ‘there's gonna be another record'. You can apply this to anybody's career."

So, hitting metaphorical musical singles and double sustains an estimable career for The Gibsons. The harmonies are Everly-esque and the layered subject matter of the writing lends a real dimension to the 2017 snapshot of The Gibson Brothers.

Touring is the lifeblood of musical acts these days, so a new release is an important element in bringing in more fans to a stage show. Leigh Gibson says, "Our job is to create new ways at looking at ourselves. That reaches an audience. In our live shows, you can sense that, and it can be done on a record as well."

And, how does a recording fit with the imperative of live performance? "A record is a tool to get you out. It gives you something new to talk about and for folks to write about it. But the thing that helps us to continue to perform is to grow and to grow in the business. You know there are a lot of other ways to satisfy yourself economically, and I don't think anyone would choose to be a musician unless you have the passion. At some point, you have to feed yourself and your family and things like that."