Gig: Otis Gibbs – dates in the region – 20 Jul and 28 Jul 2010

Posted on: Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010

The highly regarded Americana artist Otis Gibbs has gigs coming up in the region.

  • 20 Jul – Ruby Lounge, Manchester
  • 28 Jul – Grants Arms, Ramsbottom

Otis grew up in the rural town of Wanamaker, Indiana. He first stepped on stage at the age of four, when he sang Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘Waiting for a Train’ at a neighbourhood honky tonk. While his parents worked countless hours trying to make ends meet, Otis was often in his uncle’s care.  Not accustomed to parenthood, the uncle was sometimes bored, so the two would frequent bars, where Otis sang for tip money (which meant more booze for his uncle). Otis was hooked, and would often ask if they could go back and sing some more songs. The answer, “Only if you promise to never tell your parents.”

Otis started working when he was in high school. He stacked concrete blocks, flipped burgers, drove an ice cream truck, pumped gas, and did countless other crummy jobs. After discovering writers like Edward Abbey, Henry Miller and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he started questioning what he was doing with his life. He was tired of working jobs that didn’t stimulate, or interest him in the least. So, in his own words, he decided to just “drop out.” Over the next four years, Gibbs earned and lived off less than $3,000 a year and had never been happier. He got rid of his car and shared apartments with artists, musicians and radicals (often living with 5 to 10 people). He also took advantage of the free time and wrote hundreds of songs.

The next few years were spent touring and releasing four indie records. The most notable being 49th and Melancholy, (a stripped-down acoustic record, that was recorded to two-track reel-to-reel in a friend’s laundry room). There was also Once I Dreamed of Christmas, a collection of songs he’d written “for people who don’t like Christmas.”

In 2004, his critically acclaimed, “One Day Our Whispers” was released. It was an unpopular time to speak truth to power, but the album’s optimism and anti-war undertones resonated deeply with people who felt uncomfortable with the direction America was heading. Though songs like ‘I Wanna Change It,’ ‘Thirty-three’ and ‘Ours is the Time’ have been described as protest songs, Otis prefers to call them “love songs for young radicals.”  ‘The Peoples Day’ was later included in a Wall Street Journal list compiled by Billy Bragg of the “Top Five Songs with Something to Say.” This placed Gibbs in the company of Bob Dylan, The Clash, Sam Cooke, and Chuck Berry.

In 2009, Gibbs released Grandpa Walked a Picketline.  He spent most of the year touring to support the record, including 4 tours of the UK, Ireland and Holland.  The album spent 6 weeks in the top 5 on the Americana Radio Chart (USA), peeking at number 4. It reached number 2 on the Euro Americana Chart.

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