Otis Gibbs (XIV)

Otis Gibbs at the Crystal Theatre — Woody Guthrie Folk Festival

The Show

A Singer, a Songwriter, a Storyteller

I’m silly enough to believe that I’m the world’s fore­most author­ity on what an Otis Gibbs record should sound like. I tend to enjoy stripped down arrange­ments that high­light the song and the vocal.

With his full beard streaked grey and his horn-​rimmed eye­glasses, Otis Gibbs might be mis­taken for one-​time Nashville res­i­dent Steve Earle, had the lat­ter not grown tired of the big city and moved back to Texas, leav­ing Nashville to Gibbs.Gibbs orig­i­nally hails from Wanamaker, Indiana. Nonetheless, the com­par­i­son stands: with lyrics about the down­trod­den, the mis­fits, and the vic­tims of injus­tice, his songs get com­pared to Earle’s, as well as to those of Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, Billy Bragg, and Bruce Springsteen. The title to his 1st release, 49th and Melancholy, give a clue: the songs are earthy, inti­mate, bit­ter­sweet, and yearn­ing; the imagery vivid and the atti­tude uncom­pro­mis­ing. He often sings about social or polit­i­cal issues, lend­ing fur­ther cre­dence to the com­par­isons.

Gibbs made his Woody Guthrie Folk Festival debut in July, appear­ing on the Crystal Theatre stage at mid­day to a nearly full house. A noted racon­teur, Gibbs sprin­kled the set with pithy sto­ries between songs, evok­ing no small amount of laugh­ter and the occas­sional approv­ing nod.

Gibbs hosts a pod­cast, Thanks for Giving a Damn, in which he con­verses with musi­cal acquain­tances. Recent episodes have fea­tured record pro­ducer Grant Showbiz (The Smiths, Billy Bragg), har­mon­ica player Delbert McClinton, and singer-​songwriter Tim Easton, who also made his fes­ti­val debut this year.

— Chris J. Zähller

Gallery

Gallery: Otis Gibbs at the Crystal Theatre

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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