There’s a reason why Ricky Skaggs pulled Eric and Leigh Gibson off the stage at the Ryman two decades ago and offered to produce their debut record. The same thing that led David Ferguson and Grammy Award winning producer and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach to co-write and produce their 14th album “Mockingbird” (2018) and release it on his own label Easy Eye Sound alongside cultural icons such as Hank Williams Jr. and Dr. John: the Gibson Brothers are the real deal. They can pick. They can sing. And they can write a damn good country song. They’ve won about every bluegrass award you can name and released albums on almost every premier Americana label you can think of including Sugar Hill and Rounder, and, if that’s not enough, their songs have been recorded by bluegrass legends no less than Del McCoury. It’s a resume almost anybody in country music would be proud to have. But despite all of this, the Gibson Brothers are not yet household names. Their latest album, “Darkest Hour,” produced by dobro master Jerry Douglas might just change that.
The result is arguably the strongest record the Gibson Brothers have ever made. The songs recorded in the first recording period featured Mike Barber (bass), Justin Moses (mandolin), Eamon McGloughlin (fiddle), and of course, Jerry Douglas, adding in John Gardner (drums), Guthrie Trapp (electric guitar), and Todd Parks (bass) for the final tracks, “Darkest Hour” showcases just how easily Eric and Leigh move from what Dan Auerbach dubbed “country soul” (“I Go Driving”) to high octane bluegrass (“What a Difference A Day Makes” and “Dust”) with Douglas always keeping the spotlight on the songs themselves. “That’s what I love about those guys,” Douglas told me, “they are just great songwriters.”
Growing up on a dairy farm in northern New York and then traveling around the world in a bluegrass band has given them a unique vantage point on life, and the songs on “Darkest Hour” are a testament to that. “Jerry wanted to hear everything we’d written,” Eric told me, “so we just sent him songs: brand new songs, old songs, there's stuff on that record 20 years old that we never recorded. We wanted to see what he would do with us as singer-songwriters. We respect him that much. Some of my favorite records are Jerry Douglas produced records. He didn’t disappoint.”
If the Gibson Brothers had stayed in Nashville in 1999 they might possibly be Grand Ole Opry members by now. At the very least they would be hit songwriters on Music Row. But, just like their buddy Del McCoury , they chose family over success (McCoury was in his 50s when he moved to Nashville and didn't really see major success until he was approaching 60). All they need is someone to shine a light on them. Their talent level is well-established, the only producers they have ever worked with are Ricky Skaggs, Dan Auerbach, David Ferguson, and Jerry Douglas. I dare say not many musicians can stack up a list of producers that strong. For the Gibson Brothers though, they just want to keep writing, singing, and standing on a stage.
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