Hyperbolic words like “legendary” and “superstar” appear in music reviews to denote artists with lengthy tenures and the abiding respect of their fans, peers and the industry.
To attach those two terms or others of a similar magnitude to The Gibson Brothers almost feels like damning with faint praise; brothers Eric and Leigh Gibson have been simultaneously honoring and contemporizing traditional Bluegrass music for nearly 30 years and seem as though they’re prepared to continue their dual journey into Bluegrass’ past and future for another three decades.
The Gibsons, born less than a year apart in 1970 and 1971, were raised in a hardscrabble region of upstate New York near the Canadian border, and began playing and writing together in 1987. Bassist Mike Barber joined the Gibsons in 1993, in time for their 1994 debut album, Underneath a Harvest Moon, and he was perhaps the most fortuitous acquisition the act could have made. Often referred to as “the third Gibson Brother,” Barber has co-produced the band’s last six albums and his bass tone is the Gibsons’ bedrock solid foundation.
A little over a decade after Barber’s arrival, The Gibson Brothers were awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year award on the strength of their fourth release, Another Night of Waiting, and they’ve been racking up accolades ever since.
Early on, Barber’s father Junior played Dobro with the Gibsons, but he retired in 2002, leading to the addition of fiddler Clayton Campbell. Renowned mandolinist Jesse Brock joined two years ago, replacing Joe Walsh (no, not that one) who had been with the group for nearly five years.
The Gibson Brothers’ most recent album, last year’s Brotherhood, is a perfect representation of their respect for Bluegrass history and their inherent need to make their own illustrious mark. An inventively conceived and arranged covers album, Brotherhood features songs by some of music’s most famous brother acts, including Bill and Charlie Monroe, Don and Phil Everly, Charlie and Ira Louvin and Jim and Jesse McReynolds, along with lesser-knowns like The York Brothers and The Blue Sky Boys, and stands as a catalog highlight.