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The Gibson Brothers

Iron and Diamonds – 2008 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Tim FitzPatrick

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Bluegrass bands and songwriters must find a balance between finding their own voice and respecting the tradition of the genre. The Gibson Brothers meet this challenge on their latest. The instrumentation provided by Mike Barber, Rick Hayes, Clayton Campbell and Junior Barber is good throughout. However, the effort is really centered on the brothers' singing.

While following in a long line of bluegrass duos, the Gibsons owe as much to Buck Owens and Don Rich as to the Monroe or Stanley Brothers. Anchored by close harmonies, they assimilate material from a variety of sources without any hint of an identity crisis. Their renditions of Tom Petty's "Cabin Down Below" and Steve Earle's "The Other Side of Town" are among the more memorable tracks.

The songwriting is nearly as distinctive as their singing. While they tap into time tested themes, as in the superb "Lonely Me, Lonely You," they are not limited by them. The title track tells the story of a mining community, which unites for a weekly baseball game. With so many in bluegrass vying for attention through instrumental flash, it's refreshing to see a band broadening its subject matter.