Sunday, June 28, 2009

Otis Gibbs: folk artist and activist

Rose's West End Bar, Wednesday July 1st at 8.30 pm

Otis Gibbs is a man in search of an honest experience. Some people refer to him as a folk artist, but that is a simplistic way to describe a man who has planted over 7,000 trees, slept in hobo jungles, walked with nomadic shepherds in the Carpathian Mountains, been strip-searched by dirty cops in Detroit, and has an FBI file. Otis has played everywhere from labor rallies in Wisconsin, to anti-war protests in Texas, Austria and the Czech Republic, Feed & Seed Stores in the Midwestern U.S. and in countless, theaters, festivals, bars and living rooms. Much of his work concentrates on the world that is ignored by pop culture. Sometimes forgotten, obsolete or simply marginalized, it is a world that doesn’t fit into a twenty-second sound bite or a White House talking point. Otis has spent the last fifteen years traveling across America and abroad documenting this world, and has a story to share about each stop along the way.

His latest album, “Grandpa Walked a Picketline,” is a glimpse inside of an America that you don’t see on the evening news, but it is the America most of us see at our doorsteps. The album showcases Otis’ ability to breathe life into the characters of his songs. One such example is “Caroline.” The song tells the story of a woman who married too young. She finds herself stuck in an abusive relationship and secretly fears that her children will suffer the same fate. The populist anthem, “Everyday People” shines a light on the struggles our grandparents endured in the workplace. As the line in the song suggests, their generation’s willingness to take a stand, “made things better for you and me.” “Preacher Steve” is certain to ruffle some feathers, but a closer listen will reveal that the only people who should be offended by the song are those cynical clergymen who prey on fear for profit. This album is a reminder that Otis, above all else, is a damn fine songwriter. “Grandpa Walked a Picketline” was produced and mixed by Chris Stamey, engineered by legendary Motown engineer, Bob Olhsson, and was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with an impressive list of players including, Al Perkins, Don Dixon, Tim Easton and Will Rigby.

Otis currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with his long time girlfriend, Amy Lashley, their dog and two cats. Recently, he’s been examining ways of using bird feeding as a form of civil disobedience.

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