A Production of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and Jamie Downs, Editors


CD Reviews: “Roots & Wings,”
(dba The Digital Folk Life. Org)

The Gibson Brothers, " Long Way Back Home" (Sugar Hill Records),

Coming out of a tradition that includes the Everley Brothers, Hank Williams, Roy Orbison and Ralph Stanley, the Gibson Brothers’ new release from Sugar Hill is a 13-song set of alternating uptempo and mournful singing, with their typically expert fiddle and mandolin breaks on this concert-sized set of songs (with some guitar), rather than that breakneck instrumental-band focus many people have come to expect from bluegrass. It’s a top-shelf release from one more brother duo, paying tribute to their rich singing tradition, and going beyond it in very melodious ways.

The first two cuts “Mountain Song” and “Callie’s Reel,” are, as the titles might suggest, uptempo, happy bluegrass, but the third song, “Dreams That End Like this” breaks the 2-for-1 pattern with a slowed-down, measured and mournful cry that comes as close to Roy Orbison or Hank Williams as this brother-duo comes up with. And then it’s back to the expert, jump-tempo mandolin/guitar duet accompaniment for the next song, “The Way I Feel”; from then on the CD alternates up-tempo and mournful music, in a way that keeps the interest of the listener, just as it would keep a concertgoer – or a radio listener – plugged into the sound.

“I’m Not Wanted Here (It’s Over, it’s Over)” sounds like a concert closer, but it’s followed by the love-song, “I’ve Got to Get Back to You,” and the album closes, as Ralph Stanley has made almost obligatory, with a hymn, in this case, “Satan’s Jeweled Crown.” All in all, a very satisfying listening experience, and well worth getting if it’s bluegrass singing you like, and not just those lightning, rippling “I can play faster than you can – let’s do the Lester Flatt Run” breaks that have come to characterize a lot of bluegrass these days. I like this CD. I think you will too.

(Copyright: John McLaughlin, 3/28/2004)