April 4, 2013

Harmonies drive new Gibson Brothers album


---- — PLATTSBURGH — More than a decade ago, the Gibson Brothers recorded but didn’t release a song called “I Will Always Cross Your Mind.”

It might have been the song itself crooning that message to Leigh and Eric Gibson, for it stayed in memory.

“I got singing it again,” Leigh said in a phone interview this week from somewhere on the road in Ohio.

And so the ballad, written by North Country musician Roy Hurd and Elizabeth Hill, appears on the Gibson’s newly released album, “They Called it Music.”

Already, the CD is drawing rave reviews. Engine 145 calls it “a serious contender for Album of the Year.” 

Bluegrass Today praises it as “better than anything the upstate New Yorkers have delivered so far, and that’s saying something.”

The reviewer describes “exquisite harmonies,” and that’s exactly what Ellenburg natives Eric and Leigh were aiming for.

“We really wanted to highlight what we’ve been told we do well,” Eric said. 

That’s why the album kicks off with “Buy a Ring, Find a Preacher,” the tale of a rambler who promises his girl he’s ready to settle down — or maybe not quite yet.

“It’s harmony all the way through.”


The title track, “They Called it Music,” is the tune getting the most play so far, Leigh said. 

The nudge Eric got to write that one came from singer/songwriter Joe Newberry, who had told him about visiting with an old-timer who’d been playing the banjo.

He had asked the man what they’d call that style of play years ago.

“Son, they called it music,” came the reply.

When Eric played the tune for the rest of the band a few years ago, Leigh found himself reacting to it the same way he had when he first heard “Ring the Bell,” the song that won the Gibsons Song of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year at the 2010 International Bluegrass Music Association awards.  

“It’s a very honest, simple statement,” he said. “That makes it special.

“It’s not twisting anybody’s arm.”


Leigh’s favorite is the last track on the record, “Songbird’s Song.”

Eric wrote it last year when the band was in Denmark, after three sleepless nights.

Why the insomnia?

Mostly, Eric said, it was his own fault.

“When I first got to Denmark, I took a nap,” he said, laughing. “Leigh said, ‘Don’t do it.’

“I said, ‘Don’t tell me what to do.’

“I hate to admit Leigh is right,” he added as his brother laughed.

The simple tune is Leigh’s favorite.

“It’s not overreaching; it’s in the moment,” he said. 

“I think the thing we’re getting closer and closer to as we go along (is) you don’t do things as if the red light is on,” he said. “(You) play like we’re playing for one another.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, recording in a short amount of time,” he continued. “There’s pressure making a record.

“But sometimes something like (the title song) will sneak up on you, and you can capture a moment.”


“Songbird” is the tune that resonates most with Mike Barber (bass).

“The first time Eric played it, it really hit a chord with me,” he said. “Seems like your mind is most active when you’re trying to get rest.”

He plays a dynamic 4/4 walking bass line on “The Darker the Night the Better I See,” a Newberry song that adds a bit of grit to the album with its honky-tonk swag. The number shows off Leigh’s range, and that’s not surprising — Newberry wrote it with his voice in mind.

“That’s probably the ultimate compliment,” Leigh said. “He didn’t tell me that until after we got ready to cut it.”


The album is dedicated to the memory of Leigh and Eric’s dad, Kelley, who died Jan. 12, 2012.

The song “Daddy’s Gone to Knoxville,” by Mark Knopfler, wasn’t chosen for that reason.

But “Something Comin’ to Me” was penned with Shawn Camp — a songwriting hero to the brothers — about a month after Kelley’s death.

A session with Camp was proving fruitless, Eric said, as sorrow was weighing him and Leigh down. But then, Eric said, “I was just absent-mindlessly fumbling around on the guitar,” and Camp asked him what he was playing.

“Nothing,” Eric told him. “It’s just something coming to me.”

So the song was born. And Camp made sure to include a reference to the Gibson patriarch — “Daddy plowed the fields and worked the land/Said the crops don’t always turn out like you plan ...”

The Gibsons and Barber were heading for Nashville, where they would meet up with bandmates Clayton Campbell (fiddle) and Joe Walsh (mandolin) to promote the album on radio and television.

“Then we’re heading back to the North Country to play a show,” Eric said.

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IF YOU GO The Gibson Brothers' next local performance is set for 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Northern Adirondack Central School in Ellenburg. Advance tickets for the show, which benefit the Ellenburg Senior Housing Corp., cost $18 at the NAC High School Office, Dick's Country Store in Churubusco, LaBarre's Store in Ellenburg, the Adirondack Pennysaver in Plattsburgh or by calling Roman Miner, 293-7292, or Yvonne Taylor, 594-7558. Tickets are $20 at the door; free for 12 and younger. Doors open at 6 p.m. BUY THE ALBUM "They Called it Music" by Compass Records is available at -- click on Music and then Order Now; at Dick's Country Store; and at the show at NACS. The CD is $15 and MP3 album is $9.99.