Otis Gibbs – Joe Hill’s Ashes
Otis Gibbs has been described as ‘a man in search of an honest experience.’ As someone who has only recently discovered Otis Gibbs, I found his story fascinating. 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 even has an FBI file. He has, it seems, 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. Many of those stories, have, through the songs they inspired, found their way onto this CD.
This is combination of messages, political and personal, and explores how the two are often inextricably linked. The title track is excellent and inspired me to go and read about Joe Hill. The stirring Twelve Men Dead in Sago and Outdated, Frustrated and Blue share a common, if moving theme; the decline of industrial America. Anyone who has travelled in the States will immediately recall places they have been on listening to these two tracks; Butte, Montana was the first to register with me.
The Town That Killed Kennedy brings to mind Tom Waits, Walked Out in the River takes on a spiritual sound whilst Where Only the Graves are Real ponders the concept of those people who are genuine when one achieves fame. Other stand out tracks are Something More and My New Mind.
Somewhat dark in tone at times, there is something about this CD that just makes you want to listen. Again and again. Whether that be the stories, his voice, or both, I am not entirely sure. Perhaps that is the magic of it. A little like those he brings to mind; Sam Baker, Tom Waits, even Tom Russell, you love it and you want more but you have no idea why. Wait – yes you do – because it is great.