September 6, 2010

Gibson Brothers nab four award nominations

Features Editor

BRAINARDSVILLE — Appropriately enough, the Gibson Brothers got the news via radio.

Somewhere on the road between Green Bay, Wis., and Gettysburg, Pa., the homegrown bluegrass band had Sirius XM tuned in to hear the final nominations for the 2010 International Bluegrass Association Awards.

They're among five nominees each for 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.

"We had a van full of smiling faces," said Eric Gibson.

He and brother, Leigh, had had high hopes for the Chet O'Keefe gospel song they'd heard first in a barroom in Muncie, Ind.

"I just had to have it," Eric said. "I knew if we got a good recording of it, it would be a song that would really help our career."

He chuckled. "For once, I was right."


The trajectory of the band's most recent album and its title track might have given him a hint. In December 2009, they both hit No. 1 on the December 2009 Albums Chart of Bluegrass Unlimited's National Bluegrass Survey.

"Farm of Yesterday" from that CD, written by Eric and Leigh, made a slower but steady climb to reach No. 1 this month.

"It's been on the charts for 13 months — that's not something you usually see," Eric said.

That song is one that's especially close to the brothers' hearts, as it puts to music cherished memories of growing up on the family farm in Ellenburg.

"I thought that song might be too personal to grab a bunch of people's attention," Eric said.

He was wrong about that.

"Everywhere we go, it's requested. And people come up after and tell us their stories.

"That's a reward in itself."


It has been a good year, one of heavy touring for the bluegrass duo and the rest of the band: Mike Barber on bass, Clayton Campbell on fiddle and Joe Walsh on mandolin.

"I think the awards nominations are a direct result of the touring we've done the last couple of years," Eric said. "We've really hammered it."

In April, the Gibsons made the cover of Bluegrass Unlimited, an accomplishment also fueled by "Ring the Bell," for it was the band's fifth consecutive album to hit No. 1.

"It's richly deserved but still an astonishing achievement for a band that keeps such an even-keeled — and humble — attitude toward the music business," writes Chris Stuart in the cover story.


In the spring, the Gibsons took their guitars, banjos, bass and mandolin to Oldenburg, Germany — their first show across the pond.

The audience didn't get into the music the way the Gibsons are accustomed to seeing folks do in the United States, so the band wasn't sure how well-received they were.

Until the show's end, that is.

"They're so quiet when you're playing, but when you get done, they seem to applaud forever," Eric said.

People traveled from around Germany and from as far away as the Netherlands for the performance, which was gratifying. Others, by sheer coincidence, were from Plattsburgh — students in Oldenburg as part of an exchange program with Plattsburgh High School.

"Who would have thought that would happen?" Eric said.


Last Wednesday, the band left for a second European experience, this time the 19th-annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Festival in Omagh, Northern Ireland.

The Gibsons head for Nashville for the International Bluegrass Association Awards Sept. 30.

In 1998, they won the Bluegrass Association title of Emerging Artists.

"We've never had multiple nominations before," Eric noted. "Win or lose, it's a step forward for us."

And win or lose, they'll head out afterward to do some touring down South, then play a few shows in Arizona and California.

They're scheduled to perform at the Camp Jeanne d'Arc Festival in Merrill on Chateaugay Lake Oct. 2 and 3.

"Right about that time, the leaves are going to be beautiful," Eric said.

And then it's Nashville again, this time to work on a new album.

"We've got a lot of new songs we've written," Eric said. "And we might sprinkle in a few guests well-known in bluegrass circles."

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