Within the bluegrass realm, few artists can stand to match the accolades shared by the brothers Gibson, Eric and Leigh. The two have been performing since the late 1980s, with their Another Night of Waiting album nabbing them their first award in 1998. More recently, they’ve been receiving accolades left and right with thanks to the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards (IBMAA) and Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America Awards (SPBMAA), including recognitions for their songwriting. Never one to stay in a singular place while paying homage to bluegrass convention, however, the Gibson Brothers have managed to find another way to surprise longtime listeners: by crafting themselves a cover album.
Aptly titled Brotherhood, the Gibsons’ latest release is a celebration of other brotherly outlets in bluegrass and western-leaning music, including the Everlys, Churches, and Louvins. Embracing the old school convention of bluegrass songwriters submitting their tracks to producers and agencies for distribution to artists as an appeals to cover their song in a unique way, Eric and Leigh never quite keep their delivery orthodox on Brotherhood. Composition arrangements are oftentimes flipped entirely on their head and reconstructed to fit a totally new interpretation of the song, such as with their rendition of The Monroe Brothers’ “I Have Found A Way”. While maintaining the call and response style of Bill Monroe’s initial cut— a characteristic style of bluegrass-slash-gospel that has found its way into contemporary releases such as Mumford & Son’s “For Those Below” —the brothers increase the tempo considerably, bringing it to more of a lively jig than one might’ve initially considered of the song.
In some instances, it stands as arguable that The Gibson Brothers even manage to outdo some of their predecessors at their own game. Their cover of “Long Time Gone” maintains a tributary respect towards the Everlys, who had originally performed the track, easily being one of the more conventional renditions on Brotherhood. What sets it apart, however, from The Everly Brothers’ 1958 original is an intangible feeling that could only be set by genuine emotion. Maybe it’s because Eric and Leigh Gibson have considerably more experience than Phil and Don Everly did during the initial cut of their rendition, but the former manages to outweigh the latter with the hefty weight of melancholy on their shoulders.
The Gibson Brothers notably stretch their innovative musical muscles on the similarly titled “Long Gone”, which was originally cut by The York Brothers in the 1940s. Quite unlike the Yorks’ original arrangement, the Gibsons swap out electric instrumentation for an acoustic collective primarily performed on sprightly mandolin. Embracing accidentals and rhythmic breaks, the Gibsons show off their impressive musicality on this track quite well while retaining a listenable, easy performance style that is equally as admirable. The tune is accentuated by a violin solo on the bridge and welcome tinges of an upright bass that really help in accentuating the rollicking overall sound of the cut.
Other essential tracks on Brotherhood include, but are not limited to, their beauteous rendition of The Blue Sky Boys’ “Eastbound Train”, with an accentuation on the beauty of simple, grand harmonization, and Jim and Jesse McReynolds’ “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes”, performed with a vocal vivacious enough that you know that the Gibsons and company are having themselves pure, unadulterated fun. Ultimately, in Brotherhood, the Gibsons prove that they aren’t just brilliant songwriters, but also great interpreters of others’ songs. If you’re a bluegrass fan, Brotherhood is, without a doubt, a must-have.