William F. Gibbs
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William F. Gibbs

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William F. Gibbs makes what I might term pop Americana. His music takes the country, folk, soul, and rock that fills our past and provides an indie rock distillation that's easily accessible and, if not terribly unique, pleasant to listen to. His tendency to leap into his falsetto range in otherwise normal-range passages is his most distinctive vocal calling card-- regardless of the register he sings in, his voice has just a touch of grit at the edges. On his debut album, My Fellow Sophisticates, the South Carolina songwriter sounds comfortable in his songs and gives the overall impression of mid-1990s Grant Lee Buffalo viewed through the lens of M. Ward.

At the album's heart lie two songs that indicate Gibbs' future potential. "Brother John!", a song about an unbelieving priest, opens with a brief choral passage (not a full choir, just Gibbs and some friends) before leaping into a locomotive rhythm that buoys an excellent vocal melody that leans away from the falsetto in favor of a rapid-fire delivery that boosts the song's momentum. Shouted backing vocals and a wild, ragged guitar solo add even more frazzled energy to the song. "Here Comes Your Steamboat Brother! Here Comes Your Freightline Sister!" has a similar underlying rhythm, but the country-ish lead guitar lines and female backing vocals give it more of an Appalachian feel-- he sounds like he's learned from M. Ward's propensity for combining roots music with flowing electric guitar lines.

The album's musical extremes provide its two other most pronounced high points. Gibbs spins a wonderful, organ-soaked ballad on "Oh Pollyanna", keeping the rhythm moving forward with acoustic guitar and piano as he sifts through love's contradictions, singing "If I could lie to make you happy/ I think I should." At the other end of the spectrum, "Streetfighter" is a tough, funky rock song with heavy drums and chicken-scratch guitars that offers a late burst of energy near the end of the album, where it feels needed after the slow and hazy "Operate" and "Ankle Deep in the Atlantic". On the former of those two, his falsetto trick begins to feel like a lazy ornament, though the guitar solo, which sounds a bit like George Harrison, is nice. The album's low point is "LA Money", which is just a generic slice of modern singer-songwriter fodder.

Gibbs is at his best when he can cook up a good rhythm to push his songs along, and he does that often enough to make this a solid debut. He has clear talent as a songwriter and an interesting voice that he should be able to do great things with if he can break out of simply using his range to borrow an occasional note from a neighboring octave. While it may be uneven, the good parts of My Fellow Sophisticates outweigh the bland.
- Picthfork


William F. Gibbs
My Fellow Sophisticates
(Old Man Records, 2008)

William F. Gibbs kicks off his debut recording with the dark, rollicking “Darling, You Were Beautiful Once”, a tune that sounds like Cab Calloway and Tom Waits trading punches in a Kansas City honky-tonk during a total eclipse of the moon as the power fails and the band goes falling down a flight of stairs while Vanilla Ice stands in the background mumbling bitter recriminations. Chuck Lichtenberg’s dissolute piano adds to the tune’s stygian feel. “Come Back to Me (for My Love)” is a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a 1940s Bing Crosby flick, with Gibbs crooning poetically about the heartless Juliet that he still loves. Then there’s a sudden shift, a time warp if you will, and the chorus soars into the psychedelic ’60s with cascading, Beatlesque harmonies oohing and aaahing and some dreamy keyboard effects rising up like the bubbles in a glass of pink champagne. “Operate” keeps the Beatle thing going with a vocal that suggests McCartney at his most sincerely soulful, with a slide guitar solo that’s pure George Harrison.

“LA Money”, a fantasy of West Coast excess, gets a smooth Memphis soul arrangement. This time Lichtenberg’s Hammond B3 has a restrained, churchy feel, while Gibbs turns in a subtle Al Green-influenced vocal with hints of mortality and repentance in the lyric. Then it’s back to the ’50s for the rockabilly of “Here Comes Your Steamboat Brother!, Here Comes Your Freightline Sister!” and back even further for “Brother Jon!”, a taste of jumpin’ jive that brings to mind a smoky Paris cabaret in the heady days just after World War II. Gibbs’ guitar on “Here Comes Your Steamboat” combines bass twang, jittery high string fills, and great female backing vocals from Stephanie Morgan, while on “Brother Jon!” the guitar has a pleasing, jazzy influence with just enough grit to remind you that it’s 2008, not 1948. Lichtenberg’s piano adds plenty of boozy energy to the playing.

The music throughout is pleasingly retro, but it isn’t just holding up a broken mirror to the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. “Tomorrow Never Comes” starts with a processed vocal that once again trades on that ghostly radio vibe but quickly morphs into a clanking, glam-rock stomp that suggests the kind of music Marc Bolan of T. Rex might have made had he lived in South Side Chicago instead of East London. Gibbs evokes both Bolan and Howlin’ Wolf in his wailing vocal and delivers a nasty distorted guitar solo before the disjointed horn charts of the New South Jazzmen take the tune home with their joyful cacophony. “Streetfighter” sounds like the portrait of an underground DJ suffering from too many nights without sleep, and looks to the ’70s for musical inspiration with its grinding punk/funk sound—think KC and the Sunshine Band on belladonna. Gibbs drops some hip-hop flavor into his rapid-fire delivery to keep things from getting too retro. The combination of 21st century language, chattering noise guitar, and a swinging funky backbeat give the tune a delightfully impenetrable aura.

Gibbs was born in Alabama and lives in North Carolina, and the humid feel of the southland in the summer pervades his music, 10 feverish visions steeped in the steamy soil that gave birth to all of America’s best music: Blues, jazz, rockabilly, country and, yes, rock ‘n’ roll. The overall feel is retro, definitely in the roots/Americana pocket, but there are enough modern rock, funk, and indie asides to keep the youngsters from getting too restless. It’s obvious that Gibbs has done his homework, and probably has a mountain of ancient LPs that he plays over and over in the wee hours of the morning, but the production and arrangements keep the tunes from being nostalgic exercises or clever recreations of blasts from the past. Every time you think you know where a tune is going, Gibbs and his collaborators change direction just enough to keep you off balance and pleasantly surprised.

http://crawdaddy.wolfgangsvault.com/Article.aspx?id=8174

- CRAWDADDY Magazine


South Carolina singer/songwriter William F. Gibbs is a little from column A, and a little from column B. His swing-filled jaunts often recall sweaty days spent in a saloon with player pianos. His smaller-scale ballads offer introspective moments in an empty chapel over sacred organ. All the while, Gibbs maintains an adult contemporary finish and a constant look towards the past. At some times whispering and other moments forceful, Gibbs explores characters as different as the music stylings themselves. Throughout, Gibbs provides instrumentation such as acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and mandolin, while various contributors fill out the sound. Producer Holiday Childress adds synthetic textures, while the New South Jazzmen provide their trumpets and trombones.

The disc begins with an ostensibly chiding tone and moves into a tear-jerking love note. “Darling, You Were Beautiful Once” opens in a crowded dive bar with the aforementioned jaunty piano (by Chuck Lichtenberg) that feels quiet haunted. The hushed notes fade out before a rough tribal beat (by Mike “C.C. Medallion” Allen) shoves a piano-banging soiree into the forefront. Gibbs uses the dichotomy of loud and raucous with soft and surreal to create an effervescent energy. The subject of the song sweats her aging looks more than Gibbs does, as he sings, “You are all that I want / You’re all that I need” in a growing falsetto. Throughout the song, and in many other tracks, there seems to be something altogether different going on in a quiet sector of the song. Light tin percussion and far away big band music seem to fill the softer decibels of the sound space.

The disc flows through junk band Americana ("Come Back to Me (For My Love)") and steamboat blues with 1940s scat and siren singing ("Here Comes Your Steamboat Brother! Here Comes Your Freightline Sister!"). Sometimes the ballads feel like lulls in the disc and involve great similarities to one another. “Ankle Deep in the Atlantic” brings tears with Gibbs’ drifty vocal harmonies and unabashed honesty. The speaker goes further and further into the ocean crying, but he brings himself back before throwing himself all the way in. “I stand neck deep in the Atlantic and I cry over you”, weeps Gibbs over the delicate instrumentation. The earlier ballad “Oh Pollyanna” brings a resounding organ into the introduction, while the guitar parts sound awfully like “Ankle Deep”. Gibbs wears his sorrow on his sleeve.

Dynamic standout track “Brother John” begins with divine four-part female vocal harmonies that fold into a trotting murder ballad not about death. Impeccable vocal harmonies bring this thrilling track up a notch or two. Gibbs spouts the lyrics as though a decipherable auction caller; a rough and tumble tirade echoes and punctuates in the form of an angry band of men. A second standout, disco-funk “Streetfighter”, takes full advantage of distortion, while Gibbs’s processed vocals are reminiscent of the Chili Peppers’ version of “Love Rollercoaster”. While some of the tracks feel partially redundant, the variety of genres spanned and the skill of executing such a diverse disc both set this disc apart from other singer/songwriters today.

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/61365/william-f-gibbs-my-fellow-sophisticates/
- PopMatters


When we first introduced William F. Gibbs, we gushed about his sepia-tinged jazz Americana creations. We spoke to soon; the guys got a sickly eclectic musical range. Gibbs' track "Streetfighter" could fold in easily between George Clinton's "Flashlight" and "We Want the Funk". The brash, ballsy funkadelic tune features Gibbs rapping off slick lyrics G. Love-style over the bad-ass soulful electric guitar and bass sliding. Get your groove on. His album, a veritable tour de force, "My Fellow Sophistocates" is out now. - RCRDLBL.com


The hooks come with baroque ornamentation on this debut that was original and eclectic enough to cut through the dozens of singer/songwriters that come across my desk. The South Carolinian is all over the musical map, but it's an interesting trip. - Paste Magazine


It's a shame most CDs come with stickers that are jammed to the gunnels with RIYL and hyperbole laced descriptions. As I flip through the countless records on my desk, seeing that an artist might sound like, oh I don't know, M Ward, Langhorne Slim or Ryan Adams, increases the expectations to a staggering height. I know those are there to help the record bubble to the top of reviewers piles (note, it rarely works), but for a poor fella like William F. Gibbs it really pigeon holes a creative artist.

Now, at times I can see how the comparisons really fit (like the prototypical Adams sound on the nice piano tracks Oh Pollyanna and Ankle Deep In The Atlantic), but Gibbs song writing is really more soulful and genre bending than those listed on his one-sheet. Now, I'm not trying to say he should be placed above those great artists, more that he shouldn't simply be lumped into the masses that try to emulate them. On LA Money he shows that he can craft a soulful, Amos Lee like ballad. It's laced with nice acoustic guitar and organs and Operate is an almost Brit-pop, heavy falsetto, piano number that catches you off guard, but he his work really crackles when he takes his style down to the Bayou.

You can't ignore the horns and piano breakdown that dominates the last half of Darling, You Were Beautiful Once, especially after Gibb's vocals builds the intensity for the first three-minutes. Here Comes Your Steamboat Brother! Here Comes Your Freightline Sister! And Brother John! have a bit of that Cajun swagger mixed with some Red Elvises guitar styles. When the high pitched, 50's female vocals come out of nowhere on Here Comes.. or the piano dances behind hand claps, shouted choruses and strings on Brother John!, his music is about as far away from what you'd expect as it could get.

If I had to pick faults with his constant sound shifts, it's that probably he tries to do too much with this record. Streetfighter - which doesn't reference Van Damme or Deion and Hammer collabo Straight to My Feet - is a disco, funk heavy track that explodes (or maybe implodes) before you. It sticks out like Ginobli's nose and really makes it hard to recover when he shifts back into a more familiar style on Tomorrow Never Comes. - Herohill.com


Really cool melodic indie pop with a classic feel. William F. Gibbs is quite different from the average modern underground pop singer/songwriter. Instead of creating noisy, artsy, trendy music he composes surprisingly accessible tunes that are basically pop...occasionally treading into other territories like folk and even ragtime. My Fellow Sophisticates is a very mature album. The tracks often remind us of some of the more offbeat songs written by Ray Davies in the mid-1970s. Gibbs has a great voice which is an integral part of his overall sound. His loose, genuine style of singing gives his songs a nice, refreshing warmth that is most inviting. "Come Back To Me (For My Love)" has a really cool ethereal melody that is instantly catchy. "Ankle Deep in the Atlantic" features, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful melody lines we have heard this year. Don't expect a quick fix here. Sophisticates takes a few spins to sink in. But, if you're like us, about five or ten spins later...you will be addicted to this album. Recommended. (Rating: 5++) - Babysue.com


We haven’t felt this sort of quirky down-home, jazz-infused Americana blues since, well, our grandpapas frequented 1920s red-velour smoking lounges. In "Beautiful Once" you imagine William F. Gibbs floating from guitar to piano effortlessly, throwing instruments in the air and catching them with bravado, while still stirring his martini. In his album "My Fellow Sophisticates" (to be released in June), the Alabama native proves he's undoubtedly talented- in the way he’d probably still figure out how to churn out music if his palms were tied behind his back. He describes his guitar as his “gateway drug to songwriting, arranging, singing, and exploring music” with long fingernails and non-standard tuning. Keep an eye on this maverick…..his music is a precious drug. - RCRDLBL.com


Discography

My Fellow Sophisticates

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Bio

Gibbs' debut Album, MY FELLOW SOPHISTICATES receives high prase from national tastemakers.

REVIEW EXCERPTS:

"A solid debut. Gibbs has clear talent as a songwriter and a unique voice" -PITCHFORK MEDIA

"The hooks come with baroque ornamentation on this debut that was original and eclectic enough to cut through the dozens of singer/songwriters that come across my desk." - PASTE MAGAZINE

"It’s obvious that Gibbs has done his homework, and probably has a mountain of ancient LPs that he plays over and over in the wee hours of the morning, but the production and arrangements keep the tunes from being nostalgic exercises or clever recreations of blasts from the past. Every time you think you know where a tune is going, Gibbs and his collaborators change direction just enough to keep you off balance and pleasantly surprised." - CRAWDADDY!

"The variety of genres spanned and the skill of executing such a diverse disc, set Gibbs apart from other singer/songwriters today." -POP MATTERS

"My Fellow Sophisticates is a very mature album...without a doubt, some of the most beautiful melody lines we have heard this year. Don't expect a quick fix here. Sophisticates takes a few spins to sink in. But, if you're like us, about five or ten spins later...you will be addicted to this album. Recommended. (Rating: 5++/6)" - BABYSUE

"the Alabama native proves he's undoubtedly talented- in the way he’d probably still figure out how to churn out music if his palms were tied behind his back...the guys got a sickly eclectic musical range...Get your groove on. His album, a veritable tour de force" -RCRDLBL.com

"William F. Gibbs is melting together garage music sounds with the great gospel spirit to create an interesting soundtrack for the neo-religious/spiritual groups...William has created a very specific sound and, by the title, it looks like he dedicated it to folks who share his thirst for this sound" - URB MAGAZINE

"I’ll get this out of the way . . . buy this album. You won’t regret it, unless you’re the type of person who just can’t stand really good music...This guy is no amateur trying to macbook his way to stardom, he’s the real deal...this is the kind of album that I was hoping to find when I started working for Greenville Scene" - GREENVILLE SCENE

"It's a shame most CDs come with stickers that are jammed to the gunnels with RIYL and hyperbole laced descriptions...for a poor fella like William F. Gibbs it really pigeon holes a creative artist...Gibbs song writing is really more soulful and genre bending than those listed on his one-sheet...more that he shouldn't simply be lumped into the masses that try to emulate them." - HEROHILL