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The Gibsons Go Electric | News, Sports, Jobs
Eric and Leigh Gibson are traditionally known for their bluegrass music, but for their 14th studio record, the brothers offer something distinctly different — a sound Eric likes to call county-soul.
“Leigh and I, I guess we were feeling a little bit restless about a year ago,” Eric said. “We love bluegrass, or else we wouldn’t have devoted our lives to it, but we thought we’d like to try something different just for an album, and scratch an itch maybe.”
Nationally known North County band the Gibson Brothers will release their latest album “Mockingbird.” Nov. 9.
Gone are the prominent mandolin, fiddle and stand up bass, replaced with drums, organ, Telecasters and Fenders. The Gibson Brothers have gone electric.
“I didn’t really think about those instruments not being there,” Eric said. “Leigh and I recorded a country album in 2000 that never came out, so we’ve worked with plenty of different instrument. I was thinking about what the album was, not what it wasn’t.”
The end result is something between ’70s country, Americana, R&B and soul.
Eric and Leigh called on an old music industry friend, Dave Ferguson, to help them with the new sound. Ferguson has produced a record for Gibsons before and also worked on the last couple of Johnny Cash records. Recently, Ferguson has produced recordings with singer-songwriters Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers.
“Four days later,” Eric said, “we get a call from our manager, saying Ferg wants to know if it’s alright for Dan Auerbach to co-produce the album. He’d like to write with you guys.”
Auerbach is most well known as the frontman of modern rock band the Black Keys. Some of their popular tracks include “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Lonely Boy” and “Little Black Submarines.”
Plenty of the songs on “Mockingbird” are influenced by the type of music Eric and Leigh grew up listening to in their parents’ cars and when hanging out with friends. Elements of Don Williams, The Eagles, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley can be heard throughout.
“We grew up on a dairy farm,” Eric said, “and a lot of the music we heard was in our dad’s pickup truck. He never had the rock station on. We would hear that kind of music when we go other places you know. But dad didn’t like rock.”
Eric and Leigh still harmonize with a mix of deep and nasally vocals, but songs such as “Sweet Lucinda” and “Not Gonna Be Tonight” feature swooning, steel guitars and herky-jerky drums.
One track that is sure to surprise some listeners is a cover of R.E.M’s “Everybody hurts.” Auerbach asked the Gibsons to think of a popular song from the ’90s that they could re-imagine. One of the sound engineers, Alan Parker, suggested the 1992 hit.
“I’ll be honest,” Eric said, “I wasn’t very familiar with the song. I had heard it, but I didn’t know it well enough to where I could hum you the melody. We learned it on the fly, but it turned out beautifully. Dan called me back about two weeks later and said, ‘R.E.M. loves it.'”
“It’s incredible,” R.E.M. Frontman Michael Stipe said in a press release. “They did a great job. It really re-focuses the song and lyrics in a great way.”
The Gibson Brothers are set to play at Saranac Lake’s First Night New Year’s Eve event. Whether audiences will hear both sides of the band is yet to be determined.
Whether it was in the car are on TV shows such as Hee Haw, Austin City Limits or Tommy Hunter, the Gibsons were surrounded by music. Eric said he remembers being eight years old, lying on the floor in his living room and watching Roy Clark play music.
“I looked up at my dad and said, ‘can I get a guitar this Christmas,'” he said. “My dad didn’t say anything, but sure enough I got a guitar that Christmas. I didn’t do anything with it. I couldn’t figure it out.”
Four years later, the Gibsons picked up their guitar again and started taking lessons at Dick’s Country Store in Churubusco from Eric O’Hara. O’Hara will be playing as part of the electric band with the Gibson Brother’s for “Mockingbird.”
Eric and Leigh have been working as full-time musicians since 1998. Eric said the brother-partner dynamic is an enjoyable one.
“I think we got all of our fighting out of the way and in our youth,” he said. “You know there were some knockdown, drag-out fights. We’re only 11 months apart. That never happens anymore. We’re usually on the same page. If there is a disagreement, we can we can navigate those waters pretty easily.”
Though “Mockingbird” is not a strict country album, Eric said the most important part of a good country song is honesty.
“There’s just a rawness to that,” he said. “You know like any number of Merle Haggard songs or George Jones songs have a rawness. You can put yourself in the in the in the character’s shoes and live it during those three minutes and believe it.”