Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Brothers Concerts - Gibsons and Spinneys

The Brothers Jam
Two great brother duos, two markedly contrasting styles, two marvelous venues, and two enthusiastic crowds will inevitably lead to two remarkable concerts. The Gibson Brothers and The Spinney Brothers each excited and repeatedly drew cheers from audiences in Lexington, MA and Bellows Falls, VT on this mid-January mini-tour. The Gibson Brothers and The Spinney Brothers appeared at the National Heritage Museum on Saturday night to a sold out house, and at the Bellows Falls Opera House in Bellows Falls, VT to a nearly sold out ground floor.  The bands have markedly contrasting styles, making for a grand evening of brother singing combined with first rate picking.  No one could have asked for more.

 Sound Check at Lexington

Eric Gibson at Sound Check

Leigh in Sound Check
Green Room Candids

Rick & Allan Spinney - Sound Check

Stan Zdonik - BBU and IBMA President

Reuben Shetler - BBU Vice President
Introducing the Show

The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA is an ideal site for a bluegrass concert, intimate, with comfortable, raked seating and not a bad seat in the house, the auditorium has fine acoustics and is well laid out for both band and audience comfort.  Nothing stopped a sell-out audience from attending on this chilly Saturday evening with Lexington's streets narrowed by the nearly two feet of snow that had fallen earlier in the week. The Bellows Falls Opera House, a recently renovated theater in the middle of the recovering Vermont mill town, also offers attendees a delightful experience.  The room seats a little over 500 people, also has excellent acoustics and a fine sound system.  The Sawyers plan on sponsoring other events in this venue which is very well suited for bluegrass events. 

The Bellows Falls Opera House
Candi and Seth Sawyer, Promoters

The Gibson Brothers are familiar and loved by audiences throughout the region. The Spinney Brothers come from Nova Scotia and are less familiar to audiences in the U.S.  They appeared last year at the upcoming Joe Val Festival in Framingham, MA and made a good impression. They have worked hard to get the word out, attending IBMA and this year having both Official and after hours showcases.  Fans of these two groups  came from long distances to see them perform this weekend.  In fact, for the concert in Bellows Falls on Sunday, a group of four women had flown from Dallas, Texas for the event and others came from New York to Maine to see both groups.  This was a widely anticipated and joyfully attended pair of events.  The format for both concerts featured the Spinney Brothers opening with a full set followed by the Gibson Brothers. At the end of the two sets, the Spinneys returned to the stage for a delightful jam with the two bands playing together.  Each band received enthusiastic ovations for their work at both concerts with encores being demanded exuberantly. 

The Spinney Brothers

The Spinney Brothers are a hard driving traditional bluegrass band whose members speak with a strong Canadian accent but whose music comes from the heart of Dixie. Although they have been touring for eighteen years or so, audiences in the U.S. have not yet become widely familiar with this excellent group.  We should be seeing more of them in the near future.  The feature an excellent combination of first generation bluegrass and classic country strongly influenced by The Stanley Brothers.  Instrumentally and vocally they are strong with Allan Spinney singing an easy to listen to baritone and a good high tenor.  Rick is a flashy and accurate Scruggs style banjo player with a pleasing voice.  Gary Dalrymple, a veteran of the band, does much of the emcee work and contributes solid mandolin work.  Darryl Hebb on bass provides rock solid bass work.  Here's a sample:

Spinney Brothers - Send Me Your Address in Heaven


Allan Spinney
Rick Spinney

Gary Dalrymple
Darryl Hebb

The Spinney Brothers - Rick & Allan

The Spinney Brothers recordings can be found and bought here.  One of the Spinney Brothers' signature songs is "If I Were Your Brother."  Many friends of the Sawyer Family know that Candi and Seth's son Mathew has been battling a number of health issues and recently endured another major surgery. He and brother Adam have sung this song from the stage at the Jenny Brook Family Festival.  At Bellows Falls, the Spinney Brothers dedicated their performance of it to Mathew.  Here it is:

If I Were Your Brother - The Spinney Brothers


The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers are so frequently recognized for their unique brother style and outstanding song writing that the instrumental talent displayed at every Gibson Brothers concert is too easily overlooked.  From Clayton Campbell anchoring the left side of the band to Joe Walsh's mandolin on the right, every member of this group is a master of his instrument and his role in creating the signature ensemble sound that exemplifies The Gibson Brothers.  Joe Walsh, whose new solo CD "Sweet Loam" is currently in limited distribution, but will soon be more widely available, is one of the most supple and subtle mandolin players around.  His fluid, elegant style provides a perfect complement for the Gibson Brothers' songs.  Clayton Campbell has played his stylish fiddle with the Gibson Brothers for seven years.  Quiet and unassuming, his work is always melodic and tasteful.  Mike Barber, who is often referred to as the "third Gibson Brother, had been a crucial adjunct to this band almost since its inception.  He's one of the best under-recognized bass players in the business and has been listed as co-producer on several of the brothers' albums.  Because they sing so well, neither Eric nor Leigh get enough recognition for the superb instrumental work, either.  Here they all are in "Farm of Yesterday," a song written by Eric that topped the Bluegrass Unlimited charts.

The Gibson Brothers - Farm of Yesterday

Leigh Gibson
Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Joe Walsh

The Gibson Brothers' new CD "Help My Brother" will be released on February 22nd by Compass Records.  The new CD contains a mix of original Gibson Brothers tunes, carefully chosen new works, and a couple of covers with cameo appearances by Claire Lynch, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Witcher, and Alison Brown.  Otherwise, as has become customary of Gibson Brothers' albums, their traveling band remains the core band on the CD, adding to the authenticity and familiarity of their work.  One of the new songs on this CD is "Frozen in Time."

The Gibson Brothers - Frozen in Time

A Few People
Sandy Blankenship with the Spinney Brothers
She Came All  the Way from Texas

The Ladies from Texas at Bellows Falls

Stan Zdonik, Katy Daly, and Reuben Shetler
Photo by Jennie Scott

Red (?) Presents Leigh Gibson with a
Custom Walking Stick

Seth & Candi drawing the 50/50 Winner

The Brother Jam
Both shows ended with a joyful brother jam.  I'll let the pictures tell the story and end with a classic song interpreted by these nine fine artists working together for the first time.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves and conclude with a video of the two bands playing Bill Monroe's great song "Uncle Pen."

The Brothers' Bands - Uncle Pen