In 1998, after two studio albums with two different producers, Vance Gilbert decided to take matters into his own hands. Shaking Off Gravity is Gilbert's first self-produced effort, and it is also his best to date. In his liner notes, Gilbert suggested that a spontaneous hands-off approach was the key to his success as a producer. "This album is full of pops, clicks, hisses and flubbed notes," he said. "Very little 'fixing' was done to a performance once we had it top to bottom. That makes this a very 'true' album, and I'm proud." This was a winning strategy, to be sure, helping to conjure some of the anything-can-happen electricity that characterizes his concerts. The arrangements are sparse and restrained but they also exhibit more of Gilbert's funky side than his previous albums, drawing on his pre-folk background as a jazz singer. The record snaps and crackles with jazz guitar solos, slinky bass riffs, wicked wah-wah guitar, and swinging background vocals from the likes of Vinx, Everett B. Pendleton, and Deborah Dill. These jazzy elements are integrated seamlessly with more traditional folk touches like harmonica, Dobro, accordion, and mandolin. Gilbert's skill as a guitar player, which is often overshadowed by his silken vocal gymnastics, is enthusiastically showcased here. The mix sometimes favors Gilbert's already powerful voice too much, stealing power from instrumental jams and rendering the accompaniment almost inaudible in the softer numbers, but this is a minor complaint. Shaking Off Gravity is the third album to bear Gilbert's name, but it may be the first to contain his soul.
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AllMusic Review by Evan Cater