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49th and melancholy

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Album Review

Sounding like a typical troubadour, Otis Gibbs takes an acoustic slant to most of the songs on 49th and Melancholy, starting with "East Texas Sutra." With a gravel-like vocal and basic guitar strumming, the track has a lovable country twang in the style of Steve Earle circa Guitar Town or Ralph Boyd Johnson. Unfortunately, it tends to drag too long near the ending. "Waltzin With You" is a down-tempo ballad that resembles Soul Asylum or a polished Tom Waits. It has the same feeling as "Here Comes a Regular" by the Replacements, but packs a little less punch. "Don't Have to Take It So Hard" features some harmony vocals and dobro. It's also one of the less than stellar tracks here. "The Great American Monkey Choir" is a nice melodic track that finally gives some percussion to the album, however subtle. "This town sucks, this town sucks," Gibbs sings over the song, which would fit in well with John Mellencamp's Lonesome Jubilee. His strong lyrics are one of the album's many selling points, creating some vivid imagery with simple words. "Both Sides of the Line" is similar to an earlier track, but is more heartfelt in its tone. When he stretches his vocals on the Americana-sounding "Bernadine," Gibbs brings to mind Bruce Springsteen. Some Celtic touches on "Thinkin 'Bout Jolene," courtesy of a mandolin, are a welcome change for the album. The song also features a bit more instrumental work, while Gibbs wishes for Los Angeles to "fall into the sea." "Wanamaker" is the oddest track, a rambling story about getting out of town with some tinny vocals and an accordion. "Ghost of the 587" has an eerie Nebraska flavor, with Gibbs giving his best performance. Hopefully, this isn't the last listeners will hear of this talented singer/songwriter.


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Raised in Wannamaker, Indiana, folksinger and songwriter Otis Gibbs' raspy vocals and sharp lyrics have had him compared to Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, and early Tom Waits, but his socially conscious writing style also puts him in a line that reaches back to Woody Guthrie and Peter Seeger. His introduction to performing came when he was four years old and was being babysat by his uncle, who had recently been released from prison and had a drinking problem. The uncle would take Gibbs to a local bar with...
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49th and melancholy, Otis Gibbs
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