William F. Gibbs

My Fellow Sophisticates

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On the inner jacket of Gibbs' debut CD, My Fellow Sophisticates, there's a drawing of the artist supporting his chin with his right hand, elbow on his knee. It's a pose that brings to mind Hoagy Carmichael or Johnny Mercer, a hard working, hard drinking, hard living songwriter with stubble on his face, a cigarette dangling from his lip, and a sad heart full of song beating behind a vest covered with ashes and ink stains. Gibbs was born in Alabama and lives in North Carolina, and his songs lean heavily on archaic musical visions of the American southland with hints of blues, jazz, rockabilly, country, and rock & roll bubbling down into a rich gumbo of retro sounds. "Darling, You Were Beautiful Once" opens things on a cynical note, a dark kiss off of a relationship that's seen better days. The murky mix and Gibbs' sneering vocal adds to the tune's sinister feel, a bitter love note from the '40s lost in a time tunnel to nowhere. "Oh Pollyanna" brings the Band to mind with a swooning, moonlight drenched R&B organ playing long sustained notes to complement the melancholy piano notes Chuck Lichtenberg sprinkles behind Gibbs' weary vocal. "Here Comes Your Steamboat Brother! Here Comes Your Freightline Sister!" blends twangy Sun Records bounce with '40s Andrews Sisters' jive. Gibbs turns in a jumpy scat accented vocal that'll have you up and doing the Lindy. "Operate" suggests the Beatles with Gibbs delivering a pure pop vocal in a McCartney-like falsetto. The lyric compares love to a fatal disease and slowly sinks into a pool of desolate tears. "Tomorrow Never Comes" is a Howlin' Wolf meets T. Rex stomp driven by a distorted guitar solo that sounds like the ghost of '70s glam rock staggering down a deserted Chicago back alley while "Ankle Deep in the Atlantic" is a solemn folk song that pledges eternal fealty to a departed lover with acoustic guitar and ghostly piano. Gibbs' sighing, emotional vocal gives the track a hopeless aura the fits the desperate lyric. The low budget, retro mix gives the tracks a burnished quality that's both timeless and timely. Like all good songwriters, Gibbs digests the sounds of yesterday and uses the echoes of those styles to add nuance to his reinterpretations.

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