Welcome To Stay

Melissa Gibson

Java Joe's Records, 2003


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Where does the border lie between admiration and imitation? When do influences threaten to become inhibitions?

These are the hard questions faced by talents like as Nashville singer-songwriter Melissa Gibson, who is perfectly frank about the fact that her greatest influence is Mary Chapin Carpenter. Well, yeah -- it takes maybe sixty seconds of opener "Miles To Go" to register Gibson's devotion to Carpenter's highly personal brand of confessional country-folk. The subject matter, the instrumentation, arrangements, chord changes, Gibson's vocals -- taken as a whole, this track sounds like nothing so much as a lost outtake from Carpenter's 1996 album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 A Place In The World.

Gibson's adoption of an approach so closely identified with a unique and well-known artist is a choice that's simultaneously safe and dangerous. On the positive side of the ledger, Welcome To Stay, Gibson's second independently published disc, shimmers with warm melodies and well-crafted, mature lyrics. It's a consistently pleasant listen, the kind of soft-spoken, thoughtful music that goes equally well sitting in the back yard on a sunny day watching the kids play in the pool, or on a quiet, rainy evening alone in the house.

And yet, the arrangements and lyrical approach -- introspective, wry, compassionate, analytical -- are at times so thick with Carpenter-isms that it can become disconcerting. This is particularly the case on upbeat numbers like "The Right Road," where Gibson's phrasing and inflections are dead-on MCC, lacking only the truly remarkable honey-richness of Carpenter's instrument. She even mirrors Carpenter's one weakness -- the occasional too-heavy reliance on an obvious metaphor, as in "Shade" ("And when the heat is beating down on me / You are my shade").

Fortunately, she's able to break through at times with a voice that's truly her own, as on the lilting "No Room For Blue." Better yet, on slower tracks such as "The Journey" and "Sleep Well Tonight" Gibson lets her phrasing stretch out and the real beauty of her voice shines through. To get to the next level creatively, Gibson needs to build on the confidence she displays on these tracks. On others, there's something careful about her singing -- her enunciation is at times a little too crisp and precise, hindering the kind of relaxed, grooving, intimate performance that these songs demand.

All in all, Welcome To Stay offers much to enjoy and plenty of reasons to keep an eye on Melissa Gibson. She has proven she's a gifted songwriter with a firm grasp of an appealing style; her next challenge is to develop one that's more fully her own.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Java Joe's Records, and is used for informational purposes only.