The Gibson Brothers bluegrass at the LPCA
LAKE PLACID – The Gibson Brothers (gasp) return Saturday evening (gasp) to the stage (gasp) of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
A summer LPCA appearance delivered an electric set as the Mockingbird Band, but this time around it’s straight bluegrass.
“I love doing both,” Eric Gibson said.
“What Leigh and I discovered is that wearing different hats is a good thing, not literally. He does wear a hat. I don’t. Being versatile is a good thing. Sometimes a venue will want us to come and play bluegrass. Sometimes, they want us to come to do more of a singer-songwriter thing.
“Sometimes they want us to do the revved up rock and electric country thing that we got going. We primarily play bluegrass. It’s been fun to do other stuff, too.”
Eric points out that all of his heroes have tried other things.
“To me if you’re an artist, sometimes you do the unexpected,” he said.
Saturday’s lineup includes Mike Barber (bass), Shawn Lane (mandolin) and Eric O’Hara (resonator guitar) round out this engagement.
“Eric O’Hara who plays steel with us, he is the same guy that taught Leigh and I to play when we were kids,” Eric said.
“He bought a dobro in May, and he’s killing it. He sounds so good already, and he’s getting better all the time. It brings me back to when we first started with Junior Barber in the band. That’s when we had a dobro.”
O’Hara has been listening a lot to recordings of the late Junior Barber, well respected in the U.S. dobro community, who also played with his cousins Tom and Julie Venne in Beartracks as well as Gary Ferguson.
“It’s got to be tough for Mike sometimes, but in a good way I guess,” Eric said.
“Sometimes, Eric will hit lick, and it’s just reminiscent of what we had. Eric is such a good guy.”
Lane, co-founder of Blue Highway, is a thrice Grammy nominee and a 28-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) winner.
“We’ve had a rotating cast of mandolin players,” Eric said.
“Shawn has played enough shows with us now, he knows our material backward and forward. It will be great.”
Siblings Eric and Leigh were named back-to-back IBMA Entertainers of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
“Mockingbird” was included in Americana Music Association’s Top 100 Americana Albums of 2019.
The Gibson Brothers were touring in western Massachusetts in March of 2020.
“We could see what was coming and not really wanting to believe it,” Eric said.
“I had seen little things on the news about the virus. I didn’t realize how dangerous and the enormity of it until I was talking to a friend of mine from Italy on Facebook.
“He’s a professional musician over there. He said, ‘I can’t play any shows. They closed down the schools.’ I thought, what is going on here? Oh, my God. This seems surreal.
“I went downstairs and told my wife, and she said, ‘Are you sure?’ I texted our manager, and he said, ‘We are watching this closely.'”
Eric remembers picking Mike up and heading to meet with the rest of the band down in Massachusetts.
“I was thinking this might be the last time we play for awhile,” he said.
“We didn’t want to believe it to be true. We played in Pennsylvania, and then we played in Massachusetts. Then from there, the three of us went to Nashville. We were very careful. We bought masks, and we were washing our hands every chance we got.”
Eric, Leigh and Mike started recording an album with one of their heroes, Jerry Douglas.
“We got about half done,” Eric said.
“We were just seeing how everything was shutting down, and we’re thinking, ‘My gosh, we better get home.’ So, we stopped making the record, and we headed home and hunkered down like everybody else. We went back this past February and finished it with Jerry in Nashville.”
During lockdown, the band did a few online streaming concerts, and Eric wrote a lot of songs, solo, and with his son, Kelley.
“We weren’t really playing for live audiences in person,” he said.
“Nobody was. This has been the great equalizer. All musicians were affected by it. By August, it felt pretty normal again. It felt kind of like it used to feel, but now as we head into the fall we’re all kind of wondering what’s going to happen with these events moving indoors.
“Every place we go, it seems people are careful. This is with us the rest of our lives, right? It’s just going to be a part of our lives, and we all have to learn how to deal with it. It feels good to be playing again.”
Going back on tour, Eric discovered he wasn’t a banty rooster anymore.
“There’s a rhythm to traveling and doing this,” he said.
“You get used to just running on fumes. When we went back to playing again, I was exhausted.
“Now, I’m back to where I’m used to it again. But the first several trips I was like did I age 10 years in a year and a half?”
Rites of passage
The legendary Tom T. Hall, “The Storyteller,” passed away Aug. 20.
“One of our songwriting heroes,” Eric said.
“He was very encouraging to us early on. Here’s this guy in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and he liked us. He liked our writing. He encouraged us to write.”
Del McCoury recently cut a song that Eric and Mike co-wrote.
“It’s going to be the title track to his new album,” Eric said.
“It’s called ‘Almost Proud.’ We started it maybe eight or 10 years ago. We always drop Leigh off in the Albany area, and then we head up the Northway home. We started this song late one night.”
The song was in a notebook, which Eric left in a van he gave his brother-in-law.
“He showed up to the house with the notebook,” he said.
“I got looking through it, and it was a bunch of my songs. Most of them not finished. Just little chicken scratch, you know.”
After rediscovering the song’s verse and chorus, Eric wrote another verse and finished it.
“I sent to those guys, and they recorded it,” he said.
“You never should throw anything away if you’re a songwriter. I have notebooks all over the place. There may be good songs if I just go back or parts of good songs.”
“Almost Proud” will drop in February 2022.
Mike and Eric are very excited, and Leigh wishes he had been in the song’s mix.
“But, he wasn’t with us,” Eric said.
“I wished he had, too. Del’s the king of the whole shooting match right now as far as bluegrass goes. He’s the elder statesman. He doesn’t have any peers right now. It’s him.”
Eric has sent the McCourys half dozen songs over the years, but this is the one that caught.
“You can’t let rejection bother you,” he said.
“If somebody else doesn’t want to do it, I’ll do it if I love it. We’re doing that song, too. We’ll do it in Lake Placid. Maybe down the road, we’ll record it. But we don’t have to. Del did it.”
Eric recalls when he and his brother were in their 20s watching Del and his band.
“We never would have dreamed that something like this would happen, you know,” he said.
IF YOU GO
WHO: The Gibson Brothers
WHEN: Saturday, October 30 at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Dr. Lake Placid.
ADMISSION: Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 the day of the show and are available by calling 518.523.2512 or online at www.lakeplacidarts.org.
COVID PROTOCOLS: The LPCA currently requires proof of vaccination and masking for all indoor performances. Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 may accompany a vaccinated adult and must wear a mask at all times. Any updates to public health policies will be posted on the event page for the concert at www.lakeplacidarts.org/performances/gibson-brothers.