The Gibson Brothers, arguably northern New England’s most popular bluegrass players, are bringing their special holiday program, “A North Country Christmas,” to the Barre Opera House at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, in what should be an evening of great bluegrass music with a holiday flavor.
This New York State-based band, with brothers Leigh and Eric Gibson who grew up in Ellenburg Depot on the family farm, is a two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of the Year. They have 14 albums to their credit and are returning to Barre for the third time.
Should you be unfamiliar with the Gibson Brothers, this is a band with lots of awards including IBMA Songwriter of the Year, Album of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance prizes. They are currently at the top of their genre.
The Gibson Brothers’ brand of bluegrass is known for its mix of heritage and soaring harmony. They have become the premiere brother duet of the genre. Today they follow in the footsteps of legendary acts such as the Stanley Brothers, Jim & Jesse, and the Osborne Brothers.
Leigh and Eric Gibson are part of the sixth generation to grow up on their Ellenburg Depot family farm in Upstate New York. They pen original songs with themes that have emerged from their farm life, their childhood and the region in which they were raised. One can hear their dedication to the songs, from the lighthearted to the profound, in the modernity of the lyrics, matched with a virtuosity that feels somehow both traditional and revelatory.
The Gibson Brothers’ “A North Country Christmas” show is not new. It has become an annual tradition in the Northern Adirondacks since 2013 and this year they are taking this show on the road to Vermont, bringing family and friends along to celebrate the holidays.
The show has turned into an annual sellout in Ellenburg Depot giving fans a chance to see a little bit different take on the Gibson Brothers. These shows are known to have drums, electric guitars and a few more surprises that you wouldn’t normally expect from the band.
The essence of the Gibson Brothers doesn’t necessarily shine through on their recordings. What sets them apart from other bands is what goes on between the songs and is nearly as important as the music they make. The loving yet humorously biting interaction between two brothers only separated in age by 11 months is crucial to a full appreciation of their appeal.
This year’s band will include their long time bassist Mike Barber, mandolinist Jesse Brock, guitarist Eric O’Hara and drummer Sam Zucchini. They will also have special guest singer Dre Anders, as well as family and friends.
Last year the band performed a remarkable song called “Christmas in the Trenches,” which recreated a moment from a Christmas a hundred years ago in the Ardennes Forest of France during World War I. If their new album just released is an indication, this show will have a more country and electric feel to it. For their 14th studio record the brothers offer something distinctly different, what Eric Gibson calls country-soul.
“Leigh and I, I guess we were feeling a little bit restless about a year ago,” Eric said in a recent interview. “We love bluegrass, or else we wouldn’t have devoted our lives to it, but we thought we’d like to try something different just for an album, and scratch an itch maybe.”
For this album, titled “Mockingbird,” the prominent mandolin, fiddle and stand-up bass, instrumentation is replaced with drums, organ, Telecaster and Fender electric guitars and electric bass guitar.
We’ll see how much of the sound their new album contains transfers to “A North Country Christmas.” But whatever the sound, this Adirondack-based bluegrass band is certain to bring high entertainment values to the holiday season.