Monday, October 14, 2013

The Gibson Brothers at the Cary Arts Center, Cary, NC - Review

The Cary Arts Center

The Cary Arts Center is one of the finest school rehabs we've seen anywhere. Located on the site where the first high school in Cary was built in 1870, it has gone through a series of iterations culminating in the current building, which was constructed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the period 1938 - 1940. This Federal program, which helped end the Great Depression of the 1930's, hired fine architects and artists as well as first rate builders to construct some of the most durable and beautiful schools and other public buildings ever seen in America.  The Cary High School graduated its last class in 1960, becoming Cary Junior High and closed as a school building in 2003 and was purchased by the Town of Cary. It re-opened as the beautiful Cary Arts Center in 2010, providing a marvelous central arts venue for performance and creativity.  The Gibson Brothers appeared as this year's opening act in the Marvelous Music Series, a subscription series offering a variety of musical performances. The auditorium seats nearly 450 people when stretched to its largest, offering a warm, comfortable setting and wonderful acoustics for all kinds of performances. 

A Near Sell Out at the Cary Arts Center

The Gibson Brothers
Fresh from their triumph at the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) annual Awards Show in nearby Raleigh two weeks ago, the Gibson Brothers hit the stage to a warm welcome from a crowd not largely familiar with their music or them. By mid-way the crowd was cheering after every song and they were rewarded with an enthusiastic standing ovation at the close of their two set performance. At the IBMA World of Bluegrass they were recognized with four awards. Eric Gibson was named Song Writer of the Year at the Special Awards Luncheon. His new song, written on an idea and tale of Joe Newberry, "They Called It Music" was awarded Song of the Year and they were recognized as Vocal Group of the Year. In the culmination of the Awards Show, they were named Entertainer of the Year for the second consecutive time.  This fine bluegrass band, with perhaps the best "barnyard cred" of any band on the bluegrass circuit, has labored on the bluegrass trail for twenty years, establishing an unequaled record of seven straight number one recordings featuring their brother harmonies and wonderful song writing. Their recognition over the past several years has been well-deserved and earned.

The Gibson Brothers -They Called It Music - Video

Having spent considerable time at the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited charts, as both a song and a CD from Compass Records, "They Called It Music" seems bound to join other Gibson Brothers songs around the jam circle and among discriminating bands which cover them as an iconic bluegrass song capturing the authenticity and direct emotional appeal of this music that has only grown in popularity as it maintains its connection with the folks who originated it and spreads to new urban and suburban audiences in the twenty-first century.

Leigh Gibson

Eric Gibson

A Gibson Brothers appearance, whether at a small or large bluegrass festival or a concert setting like the Cary Arts Center always features a high proportion of songs from their now quite lengthy and distinguished catalog as well carefully selected covers from bluegrass standards, pre-bluegrass works from other brother duos, and bluegrass versions of rock or country songs from other contemporary writers like Tom Petty and Shawn Camp.  The songs are interspersed with their humorous brother banter and heartfelt tributes to the rural, hard scrabble life presented by growing up on a marginal dairy farm in northern New York State, just south of the Canadian border.  Their shows are never scripted, nor do they work from a set list. Their spot-on ear for their audience's reactions determines the direction each show will take, thus contributing to the sense of spontaneity in a Gibson Brothers performance. 

The Gibson Brothers - The Mountain Song - Video

The Band
Mike Barber & Jessie Brock
Clayton Campbell

A great band requires great side musicians, people willing to sublimate their own musical genius to the needs of the band itself, while still offering standout individual performances. Bassist Mike Barber has been with the Gibson Brothers for the entire twenty years of their existence as a band. He is the co-producer of their more recent recordings. Always placed right on Leigh's left shoulder, he provides an always subtle beat while producing thoughtful and creative licks that superbly complement the song. Clayton Campbell has been been in the band for over nine years, always clean, clear, and melodic. His fiddle solos and breaks are models of good taste and soaring fiddle virtuosity. Jesse Brock, the only mandolin player to interrupt Adam Steffey's decade long stint as IBMA Mandolin player of the Year, was given the award in 2009 and nominated again this year. He joined the band this summer, and has made consistently excellent instrumental and vocal contributions.

The Gibson Brothers - Big Mon - Video

Concessions were provided by Sweet T Cakery's Tammy Calaway-Harper who will be opening a lunch and dinner restaurant and bakery across the street from the Cary Arts Center. If what she served and showed at this concert is any indication, her shop and restaurant will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, not only providing pre- and post-performance meals and snacks, but delightful meals in a newly renovated historic building.

Don't tell Irene, but I bought one of her superb lemon bars just before the intermission and took a good second look at the cookies and cupcakes and brownies. Wow!


At the Busy Merch Table

The Cary Arts Center was a welcoming and well-run arts center, with a first rate staff and helpful, willing volunteers. The room provided excellent acoustics and comfortable seating with unobstructed sight lines. If I have one suggestion to offer, it would be to put a person at the sound board familiar with the demands of bluegrass as a genre. Instrumental breaks were not always properly featured in the sound, and Eric's banjo and vocal seemed too muted at the beginning.

Clayton Campbell

Jesse Brock

 Mike Barber

The Gibson Brothers - Gone Home - Video