Unlike a hipster nation marked by trucker hats and weird-beards, Otis Gibbs has walked the walk after deciding to “drop out” at an early age and pursue only things that would fulfill him on an intellectual and creative level. It sounds romantic, but it’s also been hard, as Gibbs himself admits on “Beto Junction” when he sings that he’s “making far too little progress for a man that lives like this.”
It’s not really a moment of self-pity, though, as Gibbs merely presents it as a lonely cost of following his path. It’s a theme that’s informed Gibbs’ songs throughout his career, and it’s hard to find a better example than “Everyday People”, which not only contributes the title of Grandpa Walked a Picketline, but which also continues Gibbs’ chronicling of working-man concerns. Armed with a booming, grainy voice and lightly countrified arrangements, Gibbs has always been just as interested in singing songs of protest as he is in chronicling the loneliness of the road, but Grandpa Walked a Picketline might be one of his best balancing acts yet. On Grandpa, he’s helped out not only by Chris Stamey’s light-touch production, but also by the talents of Tim Easton, Don Dixon, Will Rigby, and Al Perkins. They provide backing that complements Gibbs’ heartworn style well, rather than overwhelming it.