Otis Gibbs

One Day Our Whispers

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Otis Gibbs has a gritty vocal style that seems to automatically give his music an air of authenticity. Like Steve Earle or Tom Waits, this gives the impression of a man who carved his songs from hard-lived experience. The folk-country arrangements, from twangy steel guitars to backwoods mandolins, deepen these impressions on One Day Our Whispers. But Gibbs, like Earle, isn't just a good old boy, and has a thing or two to say about the world we all live in. "I Wanna Change It" gives a good impression -- at first glance -- of some rootsy, good-time love song with the refrain "I wanna change it with you." But the "you" of the song is the listener, and Gibbs' song finally ends up as a rustic, post-millennium version of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." "The Peoples Day" makes this connection even more obvious with allusions to Big Bill Hayward, Mother Jones, and Sacco & Vanzetti, leading one to realize that Gibbs' real roots lie with Woody Guthrie, early Bob Dylan, and Nebraska-era Springsteen. Like Guthrie, though, Gibbs isn't just a pamphleteer, and he's perfectly capable of writing catchy throwaways like "Daughter of a Truck Drivin Man" and fine story-songs like "Get Me Out of Detroit." With a deep roots sound, One Day Our Whispers may end up in the country section of the local record store, but that's just because there's no category called socially conscious folk.

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