Shaking Off Gravity

Vance Gilbert

Philo Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


It's gotten to the point where any time I go to the used CD store, I automatically look at everything released by Philo/Rounder/Rykodisc Records. The music is always odd, unique, refreshing, and I've discovered a lot of fun artists on those labels. Christine Lavin comes to mind; so does Disappear Fear. This is how I found Vance Gilbert, and I consider myself damned fortunate to have done so.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Gilbert's hard to compare. The closest I can come to explaining it is a more articulate Richie Havens, or a more earthy Harry Chapin; his lyrics are crystalline, complex, on the level of Neil Peart. His guitar playing is exceptional, and his voice murmurs like a lover or trumpets like a clarion, versatile and expressive. If it sounds like I'm hooked, I am. Shaking Off Gravity is a 'semi-live' release; the songs on it were recorded spontaneously, but cleaned up in production. The sound is sparse, scaled-down, and fits the songs well.

The CD kicks off with the bittersweet "The Hey La Dee Dah Song", and never lets up. "Taking It All To Tennessee", "Watching A Good Thing Burn", "House Of Pain", all are clear, unflinching photographs of a breakup happening in slow motion. (One wonders what Gilbert was going through personally while this CD was being recorded.)

Through it all, Gilbert's lyrics sting like angry hornets and soothe like a mother's voice; I wish I could just quote you all of them, badgering you all into purchasing this outstanding CD. One line that stands out: "I haven't heard you mention tomorrow and my name in the same phrase/Since this Smoky Mountain conversation started..." Gilbert is a master of the casual turn of phrase, and when you add his sense of humour that bubbles right below the surface, he's a joy to listen to.

Gilbert has two other CDs. I've not found them yet, but I intend to. Even if you're not as lucky as I was to stumble over this CD, go find it if you like intelligent folk-rock at all. It's worth the search.

Rating: A

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© 1999 Duke Egbert 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 Philo Records, and is used for informational purposes only.