Monday, November 27, 2017

Brandon Gibbs - October Twenty Four EP

What if...  What if there were a performer that came from a small town in Iowa, belonged to a couple of "super groups" and has sang lead vocals for a legendary rock band and he released a new EP, do you think he would be interesting?  What if I told you this same guy recorded music with some of the biggest names in '80's heavy metal and he is as humble as a dove?  And what if I were to tell you that he is as big a talent as there is in music today?  Would you want to hear more?

About three and a half years ago I attended a show at the Mississippi Moon Bar at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, Iowa for a band called "Cheap Thrill" and I was mesmerized.  That band consisted of Eric Brittingham and Jeff LaBar (from Cinderella), and Cheney Brannon (from Collective Soul) and a guy named Brandon Gibbs.  I was blown away by the talent in that band, they played everything which included music from the bands represented by Brittingham, LaBar and Bannon but also music from Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and others.  It really was my "A-HA" moment with Gibbs because I knew the talent before me with the others and I knew their pedigrees but Gibbs became a "star to watch" if you will.

Since that night I have seen Gibbs in several iterations including Cheap Thrill, Devil City Angels and as a solo performer and every time it got even better.  Take Devil City Angels for a moment, the band consisted of Gibbs, Brittingham, Tracii Guns (LA Guns) and Rikki Rockett (Poison) a true "super group" if you will.  When DCA started it was much like Cheap Thrill, they played music from their other projects and music from other people but this band was different, they weren't content simply playing that music, nope they recorded a record.  It was an incredible debut album, one of my favorite releases of 2015 and it really made fans crazy for the band.

Brandon Gibbs at the Mississippi Moon Bar
November 2nd, 2017
© - 2017
The album was exceptionally well-written, musically spot on and it really filled a void for those fans of the bands represented and those that respect that genre of music.  I truly loved the album and it really made me want more.  DCA toured with a couple of changes in their lineup but the product stayed true and as other projects took precedence they performed together a little less but that will be changing.  The great thing about DCA was that it was an album full of new material and it showcased the writing abilities of the band as a whole.  This album had another feel to it though, it felt "bluesy" and "grounded" if you will, it seemingly had Gibbs' fingerprints all over it and I think that helped make it as solid no, as great as it was.

If I learned anything about Gibbs in the three and a half years since I first saw him it is he is tenacious, talented and he is one hell of a performer!  What was so impressive through the iterations he has gone through professionally is that he has grown but at the same time remained static as a man.  As a performer he gets better every day which is scary because his vocal skills and musicianship are at the top of the game but as a man he remains static, a humble father and eager to make sure every fan feels like he cares for them because he simply does.  With all of that said when Gibbs announced on Facebook that there was an upcoming EP release I was excited because I wanted to see how much more he had grown.

That growth would be put to the test with the release of October Twenty Four if not for the basic reason that I had heard Gibbs perform at least one of the songs live previously (which I'll talk about shortly) and I was curious as to hear recorded.  I work in radio and I have seen enumerate bands play music live before recording it and I treat it as a "litmus test" if you will because there are things that can be done in post-production to modify the song so the live version is always the real test for me.  I made an executive decision and decided to wait to buy October Twenty Four until I saw Gibbs live at the Mississippi Moon Bar on November 2nd. 2017 for that very reason actually, I wanted to put it to the litmus test if you will and I'm glad I did (more on that in a bit).


The first thing I noticed about the album was the five songs upon it and what felt like it might reflect the quiet, melodic side of the rocker that is Gibbs.  I was surprised at the immediate depth of the album and within the very first song it became apparent that this album might be indicative of the soul within Brandon Gibbs.

Brandon Gibbs at the Mississippi Moon Bar
November 2nd, 2017
© - 2017
Take that very first song "His Name" for instance.  The song is reflective of personal loss and shows that depth.  What the listener can take from it is their own emotional state after a deep personal loss of a loved one and their pain following that loss.  Gibbs is asking a seemingly invisible person that we have all encountered after a loss that almost unintentionally flippantly says "I'm sorry for your loss" and he almost begs you to just make that personal acknowledgement of that person by name.  He apologizes to God for yelling at Him about the pain in the loss of that loved one.  This song reflects that pain but shows how much love he has for them and it is powerful.

His Name is basically all of our emotions during our attempts at healing during a sorrowful, a mournful time in which nothing seems to be said or taken right by the person experiencing that loss.  If I'm being honest this is one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard, I can see myself in that situation on both ends of the spectrum and I can feel the devastation in his heart.  What a PHENOMENAL introspective look into his soul, I LOVE THIS SONG!

Song number two or as Gibbs calls it "Just Say" is a much lighter song than His Name but is so well written.  It's a bouncy song which might make you think its a happy little ditty but its deeper than that.  With lyrics like "Say the words that mean forgiveness, you know this love is like a river, and on and on it runs right through us, staring back at vengeful currents..." you might ascertain that his isn't a love song rather it is a song about breaking up, separating and realizing that it is indeed over.  It's a deep song and so well written, its one of those songs that will stay with you for some time.  Brilliant!

Within the song "Talk Softly" we see another side of relationships that each of us has seemingly faced.  It's a song of "a long gone wrong" and it feels like the emotional roller coaster of the end of the relationship and the "stuff" that descends upon the young, now separated couple.  It's powerful and has a feel of almost trying to will just one more good emotion for at least one side of the couple.  The experience within the song is heartfelt sadness and heartbreak this is Gibbs "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" (the Poison blockbuster hit) if you will, it is that raw.

Having seen Gibbs previously I had seen the live version of the song "The Hero" and it has always had this power to the song that is truly one of respect.  When performed live Gibbs has always prefaced the song by introducing it explaining that his twin brother and former bandmate, is a police officer and that the song is about the men and women that have become police officers, those we call on to protect us every single day.  He goes on to say that it isn't a political statement, rather it is out of respect for those that serve in that capacity that he wrote the song.  It really is a great song, you can hear reverence and respect in the vocal and the bluesy feel of the music makes it so strong.  It really is a testament to those that risk everything for us daily to keep us safe and protected with very little thanks or respect.  This song reflects that respect and is the gleaming crystal tower on the album.

Brandon Gibbs at the Mississippi Moon Bar
November 2nd, 2017
© - 2017
Gibbs is an incredibly gifted musician and it really shines in the music that really references his blues influences.  The final song on the EP is blues-rich, and it has the emotions that one comes to expect from any blues song.  "Walk Away" is that song, it is powerful and steeped in the emotions that every good blues song must have.  Imagine the person you really, really liked at some point in your life and you never made a move to tell them how you really felt about them, that is this song.  Its a song about what happens later when you run across them once again, when you are either ready or have the courage to approach them and discover that they have moved on.  I would love to call it a song about teenage angst or "young love" but it can be related to our adult lives as well I would bet.  The song is heartfelt and powerful and really reflects those parts of our lives where we should have done something differently and now are faced with regret.  It is the quintessential blues song and I absolutely love it!

The five songs that are on the October Twenty Four EP by Brandon Gibbs are special songs, they could cross genres and probably should.  The EP really is excellent and should be another notch in a wonderful career that Gibbs has forged for himself already.  This EP has gone into my rotation of favorite music that will be hard pressed to be replaced because it is not only solid, it is brilliant.

Mississippi Moon Bar - November 2nd, 2017

I mentioned earlier that I waited until the appearance at the Mississippi Moon Bar for a reason, to test the EP in its purest, its rawest state that being an acoustic performance.  I really am glad I did because it presented the entire EP in a different way and it shows the intelligence in the material that Gibbs put forth on the release.  Each of the songs shined in their presentation and reflected the inner spirit of the writer that his Gibbs.  It was incredible to hear the stories behind some of the songs but also to see the power of the stripped down acoustic versions of the music.

Not only did Gibbs perform those five songs but he performed material from his other projects and some from projects that members of his band are also in.  From an incredible acoustic version of the Collective Soul classic "Shine" to a version of the Michael Jackson hit "The Way You Make Me Feel", Gibbs shined.  He really has a presence on stage that is usually reserved only for those performers that have decades under their belts, an old soul I suppose and I have to look no further than his performance of the Poison super-hit "Something To Believe In".

I have seen the song performed by Poison live on several occasions, and even more by Bret Michaels with his solo band (in fact I think I have seen his four times this year perform the song) and I can tell you hands down that Gibbs performance was indeed the best version I have ever heard live.  I mean that, it was simply brilliant.  Remember it was only Gibbs on guitar, with Diane Gibbs doing some backup vocals and he stripped the song down to its core.  The song showed its power, its lyrics are reflective of pain and sorrow and at this level, in this form it was simply the best I had ever heard regardless of band or lead vocalist (apologies to Poison and Michaels but it's indeed true).  I was blown away by this version as were others in the crowd that echoed the same sentiment.

During the performance there were three other songs of note that must be discussed that Gibbs performed that were poignant and so well done that they have to be talked about AND... recorded.

Of the three songs two were originals of Gibbs, "Walk Off of the Earth" and "Goodbye Forever" and are the songs rock bands would kill to have in their catalog.  Walk Off of the Earth was a song pitched to Disney and it is absolutely one of the finest songs Gibbs has written.  It is powerful and has a feel of a song that could be a hit right now in Adult Contemporary and should be released because it is that amazing.

Of the two however my favorite is "Goodbye Forever" if not for the reason that it is about the passing of Gibbs grandfather and the emotion that fills each of us in that time of sorrow and unbelievable grief.  Gibbs explained how close he was to his grandfather and how devastated he was at the loss of this person that touched his heart so powerfully and it shines through the lyrics.  This one song is his career in a nutshell, it shows Gibbs as a man and not just a performer.  It cries to his character and beckons you to open up and be vulnerable about the loss in your own life.  It is truly the one event in our lives that we can be not only open with our sorrow but real and pure with our emotions and I beg Brandon to record this song in is purest, acoustic form.

I made mention earlier to some of the bands that Gibbs has "covered" over the times I have seen him (Something to Believe In, The Way You Make Me Feel and Shine as an example) and others I have mentioned in other articles including Michael Jackson EPIC HIT "Billie Jean" and while those songs are indeed phenomenal there is another song that Gibbs does that I like even more: "Just the Way You Are".

I am not a Contemporary radio kind of person, I have seen performers such as P!nk but I don't go out of my way to see 99.99% of them live nor do I listen to their music often BUT the Bruno Mars "Just the Way You Are" is one exception as it is an incredible song.  Not to get off of the subject but this is a hit of epic proportions for Mars, having gone #1 on the following Billboard charts: Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that someone would want to cover the song and Gibbs has.  It's fascinating to me the songs people choose to cover at times and rarely they explain their reasons or intentions for doing so but in seemingly every performance I have seen with Gibbs he has closed with this song and he offers an explanation as to why.

Gibbs has a young daughter, and the life of a musician takes him away from his family, sometimes for periods of time and that can be brutal on a parent.  Gibbs explained the reason he performs this song is simply because before he would leave for his adventures he would sing that one song to his daughter before departing for the road.  I think that might make this the reason this song seems so special from a fans standpoint.  Its a connection between the fan, the song and the performer that makes the song an individual memory and not simply a cool remake.  I don't know how complicated it would be for Gibbs to record this song but I would encourage it because he could single-handedly take such an iconic song for one artist and make it the same thing for himself.

I took so much away from the performance of Gibbs that November evening, I thought I was there to see some music from the new release of October Twenty Four from Brandon Gibbs but there was so much more.  The two songs I mentioned earlier have never been recorded and released and in fact Brandon told us that one of the songs he had never performed live before.  That is an honor if you will because of those two songs I couldn't pick a pure favorite because they are that impressive.  Both of those songs are extraordinary as is the entire EP itself.  I took away from the experience something that I didn't think I would, a deeper appreciation of the artist that is Brandon Gibbs.

I would highly recommend picking up a copy of October Twenty Four (or Devil City Angels debut album for that matter) and following Gibbs on social media so as to not miss him if he is in your area.  Gibbs is a special performer, songwriter and musician and it is imperative that you find out for yourself.  This is a musician on a meteoric rise and will be one of the powers in rock for quite some time.  What an incredible EP and performance!!!

For more information about Brandon Gibbs visit his WEBSITE or his Facebook PAGE.


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