Brotherhood, an ode to many great brother duos,is the Gibsons’ twelfth album since their 1993 debut, Underneath a Harvest Moon. 20 years on, Eric and Leigh have matured considerably as musicians, writers and performers, causing an ever-growing legion of bluegrass fans to take notice and garnering impressive amounts of critical acclaim: not only did the band win IBMA’s Entertainer of the Year Award in 2012 and 2013, but the organization presented Eric with the prestigious Songwriter of the Year Award last year as well. The Gibson Brothers have come into their own, combining their wide-ranging influences – live shows are often peppered with a variety of covers ranging from Buck Owens to Tom Petty – into a unique style that honors tradition while still sounding refreshingly new. The material is familiar, yet in some ways Brotherhood is an album of firsts. It’s the Gibson Brothers’ first album on Rounder Records, their first covers project, and it’s also the first release that includes the newest member of the band, award-winning mandolin player and vocalist Jesse Brock, who joined the group in late 2012. Fiddler Clayton Campbell has been with the band for a decade, and bassist Mike Barber has played with Leigh and Eric for so long that he’s affectionately known as the third Gibson Brother. While their stunning harmonies capture most of the fan and critical attention, Eric and Leigh are also accomplished musicians, playing banjo and guitar, respectively. While this impeccable five-man team is the heart of the record, which was largely recorded live in the studio, several guests appear on Brotherhood, giving the album a welcome dose of variety while still remaining true to the original songs and the Gibsons’ own sound. Listeners will immediately recognize material released by familiar names like Phil and Don Everly (“Bye Bye Love” and “Crying in the Rain”), Charlie and Ira Louvin (“Seven Year Blues”), Jim and Jesse McReynolds (“Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes”), and Carter and Ralph Stanley (“How Mountain Girls Can Love”), but Brotherhood includes covers of songs recorded by some lesser-known acts as well, including The Blue Sky Boys (“The Sweetest Gift”), The York Brothers (“Long Gone”), and The Church Brothers (“Angel with Blue Eyes”). These are duos whose harmonies fit together so tightly that you can’t tell where one voice stops and the other begins. The concept of families singing together is a tradition that stretches back through the history of folk music, and with 20 years of professional musicianship behind them, the Gibson Brothers, using those groups as a compass, have established themselves as proud keepers of that musical heritage.
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