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The Gibson Brothers

Brotherhood – 2015 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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Over the more than 20 years since upstate (way, way upstate) New York natives Eric and Leigh Gibson debuted on the bluegrass scene, it has been more or less de rigueur for the journalists and reviewers who write about them to link them to the long and proud tradition - especially in country music in all its forms - of siblings whose voices combine in mystical ways for some of the most enduring sounds going back more than a century. And while there have been superlative sister acts, from the Carter Sisters to the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, there's nothing quite like the depth and breadth of the "brother duets" that are woven throughout the tapestry of country music from the 1920s to modern times.

It almost seems like the Gibsons, from their earliest days growing up on a dairy farm, soon came to understand that their future lay in music, not farming, and that they were destined to make this album. And, by their own admission, they've been planning it for years. Considering their status as multiple IBMA award winners and one of the top bands in the bluegrass world, due in no small part to their sidemen (Mike "Third Brother" Barber on bass, Clayton Campbell on fiddle and the highly regarded Jesse Brock on mandolin), it's no surprise that there are nods to the legendary "brother act" names of bluegrass - Monroe, Stanley, Osborne and McReynolds - but they've widened the scope to range from the "old country" music of legends like Bill and Earl Bolick (the Blue Sky Boys, "The Sweetest Gift") to the more modern sounds of the Glaser Brothers ("It'll Be Her").

The keynotes - and keystones - of the disc, though, are the opening and closing tracks associated with the Everlys, respectively, "Bye Bye Love" and "Crying In The Rain." While Phil and Don are largely thought of as rock-n-roll pioneers in the larger culture, many if not most of their devoted fans probably never quite comprehended how deeply their music was tied to their Kentucky roots. The Gibsons' rendition of "Bye Bye Love" is at a more relaxed tempo, yet retains the essential harmonic essence of the Everly original. As for "Crying In The Rain," thanks to a haunting and powerful steel guitar accompaniment by Russ Pahl, it's among the single best tracks you're going to hear, whether it's a "brother" theme or not. It's quite simply an extraordinary piece of music.

But that's what Eric and Leigh Gibson have been doing for more than two decades now, putting out extraordinary music. It may be mostly in the bluegrass realm, but "Brotherhood" highlights their keen sense for and knowledge of what great country music sounds like.