This past year has
been a testament
to the long-held assertion that
Susan Gibson is a road warrior in the truest sense in addition to being
a dedicated singer, songwriter, and performing musician. The CMA
award-winning songwriter (the Dixie Chicks took the Gibson-penned
“Wide Open Spaces” to the top for four weeks) has
hitting the road consistently over the past 14 years, touring
nationally in support of her own brand of Texas-Americana-folk music.
However, 2010 started off as the year where the road unexpectedly hit her back, and in February she suffered a severely broken arm, dislocated elbow, and shattered wrist in a car accident. Doctors estimated she wouldn’t be playing guitar until early fall, and her record release plans were put on hold indefinitely. Road warriors don’t sit around for too long when their livelihood involves playing music and traveling, however, and Gibson was playing full shows a mere two-and-a-half months after the accident with the help of some physical therapy, fan support, and a lot of determination. The latter half of 2010 made up for lost time with two tours to the northern Rocky Mountain region, a Southeast tour, and her well-worn paths across Texas.
Gibson’s 2011 release, Tightrope, is both right at home with and a departure from her previous albums. While the album was recorded before her accident, the mood and tone are fitting of a year spent in reflection. Gibson and producer Gabe Rhodes are the sole musicians on Tightrope, which manages to be beautiful in its sparseness, easily accessible yet full of sophisticated notes for those who take a careful listen. A pencil eraser on a cigar box for percussion, a plucked grand piano string, or a dobro with a neck so warped it isn’t a dobro anymore; these elements create an intimate album that only two creative minds sitting in a studio together for days at a time can create.
The songs themselves are tried and true Susan Gibson, whose craftsmanship in songwriting has made her one of the most respected artists in the Texas scene and beyond. Tightrope features co-writers that run the gamut from established songwriters like Michael Hearne, Monica Smart (“Evergreen” and “Never Enough”), and Jana Pochop (“Lovely When You Cry”) to first time writers but longtime friends Amy Patton, Michelle Moss, and Marian Brackney (“Hope Diamond”), proving that Gibson draws inspiration from many creative stimuli. From a powerful narrative about a guitar and the lives it touched (“The Wood Wouldn’t Burn”) to the assertive and fiercely independent title track, Gibson continues to affirm her place on the list of troubadour songwriters who have an innate need to affect the lives of their fellow humans through song.
While the road literally stopped Gibson in her tire tracks last year, it also gave the motivation to heal and is now the means to bring Tightrope to an audience. Gibson plans to debut it in Texas and beyond with a series of Spring album release dates as well as with an official showcase at the 2011 Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis.
|the not-so-serious but mostly accurate bio|
In 1990 Susan
went to college;
it was there she found her love of trees and open mics. When pressure
grew to pick one or the other, she moved to Amarillo to join forces
with the Groobees, a choice that produced 3 albums, 5 sets of hard
feelings, and one shoulder tattoo. During that time, esteemed producer
Lloyd Maines, in an effort to get his daughter out of the house, sent
Natalie Maines and the Gibson penned “Wide Open
Spaces” to the Dixie Chicks. The rest is political and
socioeconomic history. Recently, after being asked enough about it for
the past decade, Gibson had to look up just what exactly the Dixie
Chicks did win at the Grammy’s in 1999. Google affirmed that
she did indeed write the title track to a Grammy award-winning album.
In 2002, the promising solo album debut of Chin Up went horribly awry after an unfortunate typo coupled with a proofreader afflicted with glaucoma ended in Gibson mistakenly offering a “free bonus truck” with each purchase instead of a “free bonus track.” Regardless, the album was met with acclaim from fans, critics, and members of the United Auto Workers alike.
2005 brought about the release of Outerspace, which against the wishes of esteemed producer Jack Saunders, has no title track because no song on the record is actually called “Outerspace.” Gibson embarked on several blind date writing sessions that birthed tunes like “Happiest when I’m Moving” with Jim Lauderdale and “Together Strong” with Randy Scruggs and Jack Saunders. “Happiest” spends summers with Lauderdale on his record “Hummingbird” and school years and alternate Christmases on Gibson’s album.
A hefty touring schedule and 137 oil changes later, Gibson released 2008’s “New Dog, Old Tricks,” which, against the wishes of esteemed producer Walt Wilkins, has no title track because no song on the record is actually called “New Dog” or “Old Tricks.” It is a simply resplendent collection of re-recorded Groobees tracks and new songs. Tracks include “Baby Teeth,” and “Start Over.” Tracks include “Baby Teeth,” and “Start Over.”
In 2011 Gibson did what no one ever expected would happen; she titled her fourth album after a song on the actual album. TightRope was birthed even though she expressed uneasiness at the title decision because the obvious choice was "Susan Sings the Songs of Wang Chung" (as there are no Wang Chung songs on the record). It was released to acclaim from fans and critics alike, with the exception of one Mr. Wayne Mansfield in Carbondale, IL, who probably listened to it on poor quality headphones after a bad day at work and did not acclaim over it as much as everyone else.
Gibson’s performance style is suited to any venue, from solo acoustic in living rooms to raucous full bands in Texas dancehalls and everything in between. She will get uncomfortably close to broaching your personal space boundaries at a house concert, or tell just-inappropriate-enough jokes to make the crowd in an attentive listening room blush but feel good about it.
These days you’ll find Gibson on the road anywhere from Terlingua, Texas to New York City, flirting with Freightliner Sprinter and Honda mechanics in every state. Her immediate plans consist of touring the U.S., Canada, and Europe in support of TightRope and working on her yet untitled next album, which against the wishes of whichever esteemed producer she chooses, will probably not have a title track because no song on the record will actually be called whatever she ends up titling it. When asked about her long-term future plans, she says she often wishes she were a scientist.