The Gibson Brothers Bring Home A Bluegrass Christmas Thursday Night at Proctors
“I love Scotia. I mean I’ve lived in the Capital Region and Schenectady County since 1998. I guess people don’t think about that, but it’s been a long time. We’ve done very well here. Our marriage has done well here. Our family is doing well. It’s nice. It’s a nice community.”
Leigh Gibson lives a few blocks from my home in Glenville, and when he drives by my house, he looks into my back yard to see the deer that often graze on the apples that fall from one of my trees. His son goes to Scotia Glenville High, and his brother Eric lives in the North Country, in the small town of Brainardsville. Together, The Gibson Brothers perform a North Country Christmas show at Proctor’s GE Theater Thursday night, but what we’ll hear is far more advanced than the average regional pickers doing traditional holiday standards.
These two brothers are bluegrass superstars, arguably the best in the world, certainly among the most lauded for a style that started with Bill Monroe in Kentucky. So, why do they live here?
“I love music, but when you have family, it’s not the only part of your life. It’s a big part of our life, but it’s only part of your life, and if it’s not going well at the time, then you’re going to think your life isn’t good.
“So, you have to have a second life. You have family and friends, and when your career in music is doing great, that’s great. But if it’s not, you have the other stuff, too. I find people who say the same thing. ‘Why don’t you move to Nashville? I thought you lived in Nashville. Wouldn’t your career have been better?’
“I don’t think it would have been because I don’t think I would have had the support system to be happy making music let alone if I’d walked away from my family that lives in New York.”
The Gibson Brothers have released 14 bluegrass albums in 28 years on respected heritage labels Rounder, Sugar Hill and Compass. They’ve taken home 13 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards including songwriter of the year three times, Song of the Year three times and twice Gospel Recorded Performance of The Year, once for “Singing We Rise” with classic country picker Ricky Skaggs.
Mockingbird, their most recent release, was produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach with Fergie Ferguson whose credits include Johnny Cash, Sturgill Simpson, and Tyler Childers. It was written and recorded in a whirlwind three-and-a-half-week Nashville session and is one of The Americana Music Association’s Top 100 Americana Albums of 2019. Their next album due out in the first quarter of 2022 will contain all originals on Rounder, home to Allison Krause.
In other words, The Gibson Brothers are one of the most decorated bluegrass bands since Bill Monroe left the farm in Kentucky and invented the bluegrass style seven decades ago.
So, again, why Scotia?
“It took me a while to figure that out,” says Leigh Gibson. “You try to measure yourself by how well you’re playing, and you can’t do that with this. I grew up in a small community, and there was somebody (else) who shoots the big buck in the fall. You say there’s no justice in deer hunting. Music is kind of like that because you see person A who puts very little time into something and does well financially. Person B dedicates their whole life to playing, and they barely get by. There’s no justice in it.
“It has to do with people and taste. It has to do with timing, luck if you want to call it that. So, you can’t really measure yourself on something you have very little control of. You can’t! I have a year I felt was going backward on our gross or whatever. You can’t measure music like that. You have to measure it based on experience and relationships.”
So, we get to hear comfortable Christmas classics in The GE Theater right here in Schenectady by two brothers who are loved by people around the world who just happen to live close enough to enjoy the deer in my back yard.
Even though Leigh lives blocks from me, he was having cell phone reception problems. “Well, just turn into my driveway,” I told him. “And beep your horn. Come in and have an iced tea with me.”
Success in the music business often separates artists from their fans who identify with them. The musician’s drive to stardom becomes an all-consuming obsession. That obsession takes them away from experiencing the very simple joys in life they sing about in their music.
Bluegrass is a style of folk music usually produced by Appalachian musicians who, like the genre’s inventor, Bill Monroe, hail from below the Mason-Dixon Line, and more specifically Kentucky. Leigh admits that growing up on a farm near the Canadian border he and his brother never dreamed they would become not only the keepers of the bluegrass flame, but innovators of the genre at a time when “Americana” has become the catchall moniker for any act that pushes a traditional regional style of music into a more mainstream acceptance.
So come hear a couple of the best pickers in the business with voices that recall The Everly and the Louvin Brothers, and say hi, neighbor!
Thursday, December 9 Proctor’s GE Theatre North Country Christmas Show 7:30 p.m.