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Shaking Off Gravity

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Album Review

In 1998, after two studio albums with two different producers, Vance Gilbert decided to take matters into his own hands. Shaking Off Gravity is Gilbert's first self-produced effort, and it is also his best to date. In his liner notes, Gilbert suggested that a spontaneous hands-off approach was the key to his success as a producer. "This album is full of pops, clicks, hisses and flubbed notes," he said. "Very little 'fixing' was done to a performance once we had it top to bottom. That makes this a very 'true' album, and I'm proud." This was a winning strategy, to be sure, helping to conjure some of the anything-can-happen electricity that characterizes his concerts. The arrangements are sparse and restrained but they also exhibit more of Gilbert's funky side than his previous albums, drawing on his pre-folk background as a jazz singer. The record snaps and crackles with jazz guitar solos, slinky bass riffs, wicked wah-wah guitar, and swinging background vocals from the likes of Vinx, Everett B. Pendleton, and Deborah Dill. These jazzy elements are integrated seamlessly with more traditional folk touches like harmonica, Dobro, accordion, and mandolin. Gilbert's skill as a guitar player, which is often overshadowed by his silken vocal gymnastics, is enthusiastically showcased here. The mix sometimes favors Gilbert's already powerful voice too much, stealing power from instrumental jams and rendering the accompaniment almost inaudible in the softer numbers, but this is a minor complaint. Shaking Off Gravity is the third album to bear Gilbert's name, but it may be the first to contain his soul.

Customer Reviews

This is the one to listen to first...

The problem with most folk albums is that they're never quite as good as a live performance. Not so with Shaking Off Gravity. The production makes for an experience distinct from Gilbert's concerts, while at the same time capturing the emotion of the lyrics, the technical brilliance of the music, and the sheer power of Gilbert's voice. Shaking Off Gravity is Gilbert's third album, and anyone hearing Vance Gilbert for the first time should listen to this album first. It's a truer representation of Gilbert's music as a whole, and the quality of the songs doesn't get lost in the production, as was the case with Gilbert's previous albums. Shaking Off Gravity contains almost all original songs, with covers of "Do What You Gotta Do" and an amazing rendition of "Could You Believe?". "Icarus By Night," which first appeared on One More Song, the benefit album for Club Passim, is more fully realized and fleshed out, and it showcases Gilbert's talents as a guitarist. "Twice Struck" also features terrific instrumentation, and "Charlene" is a marvelous example of what Gilbert sounds like live. The only weak track, "Nothing For You," isn't weak in and of itself, but because of its production. For a superior rendition of that song, look for the version that appears on This is Boston, Not Austin, volume 2. Still, one weak track does not make for a weak collection, and this collection is one of Gilbert's best, and until iTunes gets Gilbert's Somerville Live album, Shaking Off Gravity will be the next best thing to seeing a Vance Gilbert show.

You have to give this a listen......

I first heard him at private concert he gave at a private school in Concord, Massachusetts - I ran out and had to find his stuff. This album is a little more mellow than his first but every song is still wonderful. This is one of the few albums where I love to listen to every song! I'm only sorry that more people aren't into him. "Twice Struck" is witty as well as heartfelt. His acapella selections are awesome! I just love "Icarus by Night". Trust me - just listen.

Shaking Off Gravity

I saw this guy at a private university a few years ago and loved him! His albums sound just as good as when singing live. I highly recommend Vance Gilbert and if you like him, try Ellis Paul as well. Both are amazing folk singers!


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of many self-styled contemporary folk singers to have come on the scene in the 1980s, Vance Gilbert was inspired to begin writing his own material after hearing Shawn Colvin perform at a Boston theater. While Gilbert has become recognized on the folk festival circuit as a songwriter of substance, performance for him is second nature. Gilbert is not a middle-of-the-road folk singer, and his diverse set of influences includes Kenny Rankin, Roberta Flack, Carmen McRae, George Benson and Stevie Wonder....
Full Bio
Shaking Off Gravity, Vance Gilbert
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Customer Ratings