This past year has been a testament to the long-held assertion that Susan Gibson is a road warrior in the truest sense in addition to being a dedicated singer, songwriter, and performing musician. The CMA award-winning songwriter (the Dixie Chicks took the Gibson-penned “Wide Open Spaces” to the top for four weeks) has been hitting the road consistently over the past 14 years, touring nationally in support of her own brand of Texas-Americana-folk music.
However, 2010 started off as the year where the road unexpectedly hit her back, and in February she suffered a severely broken arm, dislocated elbow, and shattered wrist in a car accident. Doctors estimated she wouldn’t be playing guitar until early fall, and her record release plans were put on hold indefinitely. Road warriors don’t sit around for too long when their livelihood involves playing music and traveling, however, and Gibson was playing full shows a mere two-and-a-half months after the accident with the help of some physical therapy, fan support, and a lot of determination. The latter half of 2010 made up for lost time with two tours to the northern Rocky Mountain region, a Southeast tour, and her well-worn paths across Texas.
Gibson’s 2011 release, Tightrope, is both right at home with and a departure from her previous albums. While the album was recorded before her accident, the mood and tone are fitting of a year spent in reflection. Gibson and producer Gabe Rhodes are the sole musicians on Tightrope, which manages to be beautiful in its sparseness, easily accessible yet full of sophisticated notes for those who take a careful listen. A pencil eraser on a cigar box for percussion, a plucked grand piano string, or a dobro with a neck so warped it isn’t a dobro anymore; these elements create an intimate album that only two creative minds sitting in a studio together for days at a time can create.
The songs themselves are tried and true Susan Gibson, whose craftsmanship in songwriting has made her one of the most respected artists in the Texas scene and beyond. Tightrope features co-writers that run the gamut from established songwriters like Michael Hearne, Monica Smart (“Evergreen” and “Never Enough”), and Jana Pochop (“Lovely When You Cry”) to first time writers but longtime friends Amy Patton, Michelle Moss, and Marian Brackney (“Hope Diamond”), proving that Gibson draws inspiration from many creative stimuli. From a powerful narrative about a guitar and the lives it touched (“The Wood Wouldn’t Burn”) to the assertive and fiercely independent title track, Gibson continues to affirm her place on the list of troubadour songwriters who have an innate need to affect the lives of their fellow humans through song.
While the road literally stopped Gibson in her tire tracks last year, it also gave the motivation to heal and is now the means to bring Tightrope to an audience. Gibson plans to debut it in Texas and beyond with a series of Spring album release dates as well as with an official showcase at the 2011 Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis.
Susan Gibson plays her Voyage Air guitar singing “Wide Open Spaces,” the tune she penned for the Dixie Chicks which jump-started her career.