Review: The Gibson Brothers – They Called It Music

They Called it Music is a confident tour through the themes and traditions of bluegrass music, prefaced conceptually by the title and the title track, which is a statement about the genres of traditional music. Old-time, bluegrass, gospel—before the record shops needed genres in order to organize records, it was all just music. And it’s the players from the time before music became commercial that the Gibsons, to some extent, are eulogising here. In the title track they sing “I swear their ghosts are with me, I can feel ’em when I play/It wasn’t all about the money like it is today.”

“Something Comin’ To Me”

They Called it Music is the Gibson’s third album for Compass Records, and the relationship has been a good one. In their time with Compass they won the IBMA entertainer of the year award and also have released what they feel is there best music yet, and in fact they might be right. They are confident professionals with nothing to prove.

The Gibson Brothers’ harmonies are their calling card, and they remain stellar here. It’s not the smooth approach of Dailey and Vincent, but rather one that remains much closer to the high lonesome sounds of the first generation of bluegrass musicians. There are rough edges, and they provide the drive behind the faster-paced outings on this disc, such as the opener “Buy a Ring, Find a Preacher” and “Sundown and Sorrow.”

Elsewhere, there is a nice breadth to the material, including a gorgeous ballad “Something Comin’ To Me.” It’s set among a collection of songs that reach to the past, such as “Home on the River” which is more than a century old, to newer tracks, including two co-penned with Joe Newberry. Loretta Lynn and Mark Knopfler have writing credits here too, though the album is truly of a piece, and the tracks sit nicely alongside each other.

Indeed, that’s one of the charms of this collection: all the material is chosen to reflect a whole, and there’s a very seductive confidence in the delivery. The musicianship remains uncomplicated, bringing out the most traditional bluegrass sounds you might hope to find. Fiddle and mandolin retain a lovely old-time feel, as does the banjo intro to “I’ll Work it Out.”

Ultimately, this isn’t an album that is going to challenge you. It’s a bluegrass album nicely played and programmed, though, frankly, what more could you really want?

Compass Records

Glen Herbert

Glen Herbert is a writer, editor and amateur musician. He lives in Burlington, Ontario.

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