HPPR Living Room Concert: Susan Gibson—CD Release Party on 11/16
HPPR is thrilled to present the hometown release of 7th full-length album from Texas singer-songwriter, Susan Gibson. Catch her LIVE in concert in celebration of her new CD, The Hard Stuff. Don't miss your hometown, High Plains hero, SUSAN GIBSON. Please RSVP here….and please bring friends! We'll have a blast.
SUSAN GIBSON – Album Release Party!
SATURDAY, November 16th
Live in Amarillo @ The Rockin' OT
(3100 SW 6th Ave.)
Doors @ 7p / Show @ 7:30p
Sugg. donation: $15
***Make life easy, and please bring CASH!***
RSVP ONLINE HERE, or call 806.367.9088.
BYO + Coffee by Palace Coffee Company
Plus, bourbon tasting by STILL Austin Whiskey Company
Cookies by Pan-Handlers Cafe
MORE ABOUT SUSAN & THE NEW ALBUM: Take it from Susan Gibson: "Nothing lifts a heavy heart like some elbow grease and a funny bone." That's the conclusion that the award-winning singer-songwriter reaches on the title track to her long-awaited new album, The Hard Stuff (due out Oct. 4 on Gibson's own For the Records), and it may be the best bit of practical advice that she's put to music since, well ... "Check the oil."
That "oil" line, a father's reminder to a young daughter heading out on her own in pursuit of "Wide Open Spaces," has been sung along to by millions of fans around the world ever since the Dixie Chicks recorded Gibson's song as the title track to their major-label debut back in 1998. It became one of the biggest songs in modern country music history, but Gibson wasn't aiming for a "hit" when she wrote it some 28 years ago. She was fresh out of college and had yet to officially embark on her professional music career, let alone to have figured out the basics of what she calls the "craft part" of songwriting. All she had to work with at the time, sitting at her parents' kitchen table in Amarillo, Texas, and wanting to tell "an honest story with some universal truths," was "sincerity and instinct."
Three decades, thousands of miles and countless songs and performances (both as a member of the ’90s Americana group The Groobees and as a successful solo act) down the road, Gibson is now recognized by fans, critics, and peers alike as a master troubadour who very much has the "craft part" of her art down cold. But check under the hood of The Hard Stuff, and it's clear her songwriting engine still runs on pure emotional honesty. The only difference, really, is the mileage: Instead of reflecting the carefree exuberance of youth, these are the songs of a life-wizened, full-grown woman whose indomitable spirit springs not from untested naïveté, but from hardened and tempered choice.
The Hard Stuff is Gibson's seventh release as a solo artist and her first full-length album since 2011's Tight Rope. Much like the stop-gap EP that preceded it, 2016's Remember Who You Are, it's a record deeply rooted in grief, as Gibson wrote many of the songs while in the midst of coming to terms with the death of first one parent and then the other in the span of four years — a time during which she admits her career became far less of a priority to her than her family. But it was that very period of slowing down for emotional recalibration that ultimately pulled her out of the dark and back into the light, resulting in the most life-affirming and musically adventurous recording of her career.
Producer André Moran (of the Belle Sounds) had a lot to do with helping Gibson expand her horizons at Austin's Congress House Studio. "I'm a fan of the Belle Sounds, but André was a bit of an unknown to me to going into this, and I didn't really know what he was going to do," Gibson admits. "But I liked what I did know about him. The thing is, I've actually never used the same producer twice, which I think sometimes makes it hard for me to measure my growth or compare one album to the rest and go, 'Was that forward or backwards?' But for this one, I knew that I definitely wanted to stretch a bit more than usual. I've been very inspired lately by my friend Jana Pochop, who's a brave writer and just the most unassuming pop star you could ever meet, but also a really good study in how to trust a collaborator enough to let them do their thing, instead of just what you might want them to do. She's been getting some really good stuff that way, just by not putting limitations on herself in the studio or being tied to her acoustic guitar."
Moran took Gibson's "no limits" directive and ran with it. Although still unmistakably a Susan Gibson album, with her warm, friendly rasp of a voice front and center in the mix and an abundance of buoyant melodies brightening even the darkest corners (with a special assist from her beloved banjo on the bittersweet closer, "8x10"), the arrangements throughout The Hard Stuff are full of surprises. Rife with bursts of pop elan, splashes of funk (horns!), and even flirty hints of jazz, it's a bright, technicolor palette delightfully unfettered by the constraints of her usually solo acoustic live shows. But far from seeming even remotely out of her element, Gibson embraces it all with arms and heart wide open, delivering her most spirited performances on record to date — and 10 of the best songs of her career, each one illuminated by her refreshingly clear-eyed perspectives on life, love, work, and yes, true to album's title, even death.
Which brings us back to that line about nothing lifting a heavy heart like "some elbow grease and a funny bone": the key point being, it takes both. And of course, a little time helps, too.
"I feel like Remember Who You Are came out of a lot of really raw and immediate, direct grief," she says, recalling the EP she made not long after her mother's death and her focus at the time on "the ache of loss and the balm of letting go." A lot of that ache lingers still on The Hard Stuff, compounded of course by the loss of a second parent, but the sense of healing is palpable. But the difference with this batch of songs is, they're not scabs anymore — they're starting to become scars: scars that you can talk about and tell stories about, and even find humor in. I don't think it's a particularly 'humorous' record, but I do feel like the common thread in a lot of the songs is me trying to not take myself so seriously."
To wit, in the title track, inspired by conversations with her concerned older sister (and an old John Wayne quote from the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima), Gibson reminds herself that, "if you're gonna be stupid, you better be tough," while in "The Big Game," she baits a light-hearted account of frustrated desire with the winking tease, "Why you gotta make it so hard / for me to be easy?"
A little bit of that kind of playfulness goes a long way; but its the elbow grease — and hard-earned experience — that ultimately does the heaviest lifting. In the opening "Imaginary Lines," co-written with her aforementioned friend Jana Pochop, Gibson shifts seamlessly from a country mouse in the big city anecdote (and an account of a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a contract-waving industry business suit) to an exhilarating chorus reaffirming her commitment to the independent music back roads less traveled — but traveled hard and with a joyous sense of purpose. The extended metaphors in "Diagnostic Heart" and "Hurricane" hit like brutally honest, tough-love therapy sessions, and the achingly beautiful "Wildflowers in the Weeds" — ostensibly written for her friend and fellow independent Texas songwriter, Terri Hendrix, but by Gibson's candid admission just as much about herself — is a portrait of courage and resilience painted in rich hues of empathy and bittersweet truth. And even when Gibson gets around to directly singing about how much she misses her mother (in "8x10"), or about the heartbreak of watching her elderly father struggle just to keep up in the world as a widower in the final years of his own life, her sadness is counterbalanced with equal measures of deeply felt gratitude for the memories she shared with them and the wisdom she learned from them. As she sings in "Antiques," "Getting older ain't for the weak / it only happens to the strongest ones."
That's the kind of "hard stuff" that The Hard Stuff is really about. Not the kind that breaks, but the kind that endures.
1. Imaginary Lines (4:12)
2. Antiques (4:07)
3. The Hard Stuff (3:48)
4. Lookin' For A Fight (3:19)
5. The Big Game (3:41)
6. Diagnostic Heart (4:06)
7. 2 Fake IDs (4:21)
8. Hurricane (3:52)
9. Wildflowers In The Weeds (3:35)
10. 8 X 10 (4:05)
All Songs by Susan Gibson except:
"Imaginary Lines" - Susan Gibson, Jana Pochop, Michael Scwartz