Madison-based musician Nate Gibson plays in the wake of an ambitious country collaboration. Info
Nate Gibson, who moved to Madison a couple years ago for a job as a curator at UW-Madison's esteemed Mills Music Library, is both a musician and a historian of music. The two pursuits perhaps inevitably blended together as he researched the contributions of Starday Records, an independent label founded in the early 1950s in the east Texas city of Beaumont. Starday released an influential run of country and rockabilly records throughout the '50s and '60s, including George Jones' first recordings, and Gibson digs into its significance in his 2011 book The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built, co-authored with label co-founder Don Pierce. (Madison's resident country-music authority, Bill Malone, has praised the book as “a meticulously-researched and highly-detailed account of one of the most important record labels that helped to introduce country music to an international public.”) In the course of researching the book, Gibson interviewed dozens of the artists and behind-the-scenes players involved in Starday, and some of them became collaborators.
A miraculous number of Starday's artists are still alive and playing music, some of them pushing 90. Over time, Gibson managed to line up sessions with about a dozen of them, recording new duet versions of some of Gibson's favorite Starday songs for a 25-track album released this June, Nate Gibson And The Stars Of Starday. Gibson is clearly having a lot of fun here with artists he looks up to as influences (the charming music videos accompanying the album portray Gibson and his collaborators as marionettes), but he's a flexible foil, never getting in the way. Margie Singleton's "My Special Dream" becomes both richer and more ethereal in a new duet version here—Singleton's voice has become more raspy and breathy, and with some low-register backing from Gibson, offers a fond but ethereal take on the original's starry-eyed teen romance. On three different tracks here—"Lonely," "All The Time," and "I'm Through"—Gibson pairs his voice with the still massive baritone of rockabilly trooper Sleepy LaBeef. While gathering together a cast of players that also includes Betty Amos, Darnell Miller, and Little Roy Lewis, Gibson also demonstrates a grasp of a moment where staunchly traditional gospel-country intersected with rough-hewn hillbilly music and the raucous modern rhythms of rock music, in arrangements that get a boost from versatile country master Marty Stuart.
Gibson won't be bringing along any of the original Starday performers at this show, but will be performing some of the songs from Stars Of Starday, alongside original material that draws on honky-tonk, rockabilly, and western-swing sounds. He will have some other far-flung collaborators along in guitarist Kari Kunnas and bassist Jarkko Lähdeniemi, both of the Finnish rockabilly trio (!) Hi-Fly Rangers. Joining them will be Tim Moore on drums and Mark Roeder on steel guitar. —Scott Gordon