BRAINARDSVILLE — The title track of the Gibson Brothers latest album isn't just a song.
"Help My Brother" is how Leigh and Eric Gibson look at their partnership, voices mingling in harmony, guitar and banjo driving the beat ...
Nominated Male Vocalist of the Year for 2011 by the International Bluegrass Music Association on Wednesday night, Leigh was quick to say that couldn't have happened without Eric's voice complementing his all these years — and vice versa.
Making that plainer still, he said, "I think a vote for Leigh Gibson is a vote for the Gibson Brothers" band.
The home-grown bluegrass group — also with Mike Barber on bass, Clayton Campbell on fiddle and Joe Walsh on mandolin — nabbed seven nominations from the prestigious organization.
They are also up for Song of the Year for "Help My Brother," by Leigh, and "Walkin' West to Memphis," written by Chris Henry; Album of the Year for "Help My Brother," produced by the Gibsons and Barber.
"He has such great ears, and we rely on him so heavy," Eric said of the bass player.
The song "He Can Be Found" has been nominated out for Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year; and the band is in the running for Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year.
"I thought we might have a chance getting some nominations, given that we got four last year and two awards," Eric said Wednesday from his home in Brainardsville. "But I wasn't expecting this much.
So is having two songs nominated from the same album.
"You can be the best singers and hottest pickers in the world, but if you don't have the songs, I don't think you're going to connect with the audience."
HIT THE ROAD
In 2010, the Gibson Brothers showed up in Nashville with four nominations: Album of the Year ("Ring the Bell"), Song of the Year (title track "Ring the Bell"), Vocal Group of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year.
They traveled home riding on air with two wins, Song of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year.
Their album "Ring the Bell" was their fifth in a row to reach No. 1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited's National Bluegrass Survey; the title track hit the top spot, too, as did "Farm of Yesterday."
"We've been at this for a long time," Eric said. "We're just thankful for the people that supported us through the years."
This year, "Help My Brother," both album and song, rode the No. 1 spot for months.
The airplay and award nominations come from performing all over the country.
They'll go to Nashville for the awards event set for Sept. 29.
Also nominated this year for Vocalist of the Year are Jamie Dailey, Russell Moore, Dan Tyminski and Josh Williams.
"It's a great honor," Leigh said, to be among them. "I was actually very surprised."
"He's in a really tough category," his brother said, "but Leigh holds his own.
"He's just a great singer."
Leigh had something to say about that.
Eric, he said, "is every bit as good a singer as I am."
Leigh is most pleased about the Album of the Year nomination.
"It's always the one I want to be nominated for and really want to win," he said. "We're old-school, and we still hold fast to the idea that albums mean something."
He recalled growing up in Ellenburg, when he'd save up enough to buy one record album only now and then.
"You'd wind up listening to that one over and over," he said, and so hoped every song would get toes tapping.
A good album is one whose songs don't just stand alone, he said, "but carry well into one another."
"Help My Brother" just happened to include a collection of tunes that turned out to "be about the simple things in life, the important things in life," Eric said.
"He Can Be Found," nominated for Gospel Recorded Performance, is an old Louvin Brothers song that Eric and Leigh happened to listen to on Eric's iPod as they were traveling one day. They began singing along, liked the sound.
When they recorded it, Eric said, bass player and co-producer Mike Barber had to leave the room, choked up with emotion.
"He's not a mushy kind of guy," Eric said.
The song fit the album because it had been recorded by another bluegrass-brother duo; it also became a tribute to an iconic performer.
"Charlie Louvin died after we recorded it," he said. "I'm so glad we did it."
PRETTY GOOD JUDGE
Leigh wrote "Help My Brother" after reflecting on the selflessness of a preacher friend; he hadn't thought it good enough to perform, though.
Eric happened to see it scribbled on a sheet of paper in Leigh's guitar case, backstage at a concert in Chazy.
"He ripped it out of my hand," Eric said, laughing.
But then Leigh sang it for him, "and I loved it," his brother said. "A year-and-a-half later, and it's up for Song of the Year."
Yet again another "Help My Brother" kind of thing.
"I didn't write it, but I'm a pretty good judge," Eric said.
Email Suzanne Moore at: email@example.com