Singing Duo: The Gibson Brothers Perform at Rooster's Wife
The Rooster's Wife invites area residents to kick off the New Year with some beautiful bluegrass.
The third season of Home Fires Burning continues with Sugar Hill recording artists, the Gibson Brothers, Saturday, Jan. 3, at 8 p.m.
From the front porch of the farm house they grew up in outside the town of Ellenburg Depot, N.Y., Eric and Leigh Gibson could see a place called Lyon Mountain. It was famous for two things: iron ore mining and town baseball. It was from these elements, and their geographical source, that The Gibson Brothers drew the inspiration for their April 2008 Sugar Hill release, "Iron & Diamonds."
Lyon Mountain is part of the Adirondacks, the northernmost portion of Appalachia. Most people don't equate upstate New York with farming, mining, Appalachia, or traditional music, but it's all there. Though the brothers never mined iron, they did play baseball on the Lyon Mountain Miners team, and they shoveled snow and more on their family's dairy farm just a few miles from the Canadian border. And at the age of 12 (Eric) and 11 (Leigh), they picked up a banjo and guitar and began their musical journey.
"Our father and mother had instruments around the house," says Eric Gibson. "A guy was teaching banjo and guitar up at Dick's Country Store, and he gave us a tape of 'Sweet Temptation' and 'Flatt & Scruggs at Carnegie Hall.'"
They began singing after their minister suggested it, and they also began listening to the great duo sounds from the past.
"When I heard Buck Owens and Don Rich singing, it really clicked for me," says Leigh Gibson.
Then they discovered the Louvin Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys, the Everly Brothers, and the Stanley Brothers.
In the early 1990s, they formed a bluegrass band with Eric on banjo, Leigh on guitar, Junior Barber on dobro, and Junior's son, Mike, on bass. Mike is still with them and is regarded as a third brother.
In the coming years they recorded three well-received albums and won the 1998 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year award. In 2005, the brothers signed with Sugar Hill Records. Their first release with the label, "Bona Fide," went to No. 1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited album chart and placed high on the Americana and Billboard charts as well. Two more releases followed -- "Long Way Back Home" and "Red Letter Day." These albums solidified the brothers' reputation as singers, players, and songwriters.
Now, with this new release, "Iron & Diamonds," Eric and Leigh have taken their place on the American jukebox. The Gibsons have made a conscious effort to co-write most of the songs on this album. And by using their own band and a single microphone for their duet vocals, you hear exactly what you hear in a live show: a tight ensemble that plays to the song, toneful and nuanced lead and duet harmonies, and songs that can move you to tears or to the dance floor.
But they're also aware of how a collection of songs should be selected, arranged, recorded, and ordered so that it creates a complete listening experience. They start with a Tom Petty song, "Cabin Down Below," that jumps out of the speakers like some runaway rockabilly hit. Great duos are powerful not because the individuals sound similar to each other, but because they have something unique in each voice that complements the other. In the case of the Gibson Brothers, it's Leigh's warmer tones and Eric's high-lonesome intensity that create a great double-stop fiddle sound, a blending of experience and emotion that all great brother duets have. The arrangement and the affinity of their voices has created a compelling recording.
Tickets are available on line at www.theroosterswife.org, by calling (910) 944-7502, or at the door. Admission is $18 in advance, $20 the day of the show. Children under twelve are $9.
The Rooster's Wife is a private nonprofit association organized to celebrate the performing arts in Aberdeen.
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