Sepia-tinted panoramas and meticulous song craft: Across the breadth of the 12 songs that comprise his latest release Buffalo Hotel, singer-songwriter Geoff Gibbons breathes life into lyrics with facile economy, metaphoric ease and an ear for conversational proximity.
As verses turn the pages of the stories, Gibbons drops the listener directly into the dramas as he silhouettes a vibrant cast of characters in sheer authenticity. Backed by players from a tight community of first call studio musicians, Geoff’s soul deep vocals are imbued with experience and empathy. Against the intimate grain of his voice, the players reflect his themes with subtle flourishes and stellar musicianship.
Among the highlights: We encounter a traveler “worn out and weary,” seeking the light of true love against a backdrop of Memphis grooves and tight harmonies in “Back To You.” A daring couple in love head drive a Cadillac Eldorado toward the desert in “Blinded by Tumbleweeds”; an elegy in “Lonesome Angel,” for an elusive singer with “songs like velvet arrows falling somber rain.” The wounded but reconciled protagonist framed by vocal harmonies and banjo reaching his truths on “The Other Side,” the resolute drifter departing down a well-traveled road, far from the romantic wreckage on “Ain’t Goin’ Back.”
From Vancouver, BC, Canada, Geoff is a full time working musician and a producer-engineer who has lived his life immersed in music. Captivated in his teen years by classic singer-songwriters like Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, he played in a steady succession of bands; then at 20, thanks to earnings from a local talent show, he headed off for Australia's Gold Coast to perform for tourists in the evening and luxuriate seaside during the day. Teaming up with a visiting Canadian friend, he formed the duo Silverlode, returned to Vancouver and performed on bills with Emmylou Harris, the McGarrigle Sisters, David Crosby, and Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band.
As a solo artist, Geoff advanced his songcraft with a string of well regarded, ever more ambitious albums. As as a songwriter for visual projects, he created songs for television shows including Higher Ground, Just Cause and Robson Arms plus animation: Mook and the adult comedy series The Mr. Dink Show - winner of the jury prize for Best Animation at the New York International Film Festival. He also composed the score and songs for Wolf Moon (aka Dark Moon Rising.)
While Geoff enjoys the challenge of orchestrating others’ visions, the time was right for a new solo project. “It began with me compiling,” he says. “I combed the material until it started taking shape.” To bring the project to fruition, he reached out to John McArthur Ellis to co-produce. “We’d been trying to work together for years. We started going to the next level with it. I had probably 20 songs demoed. We focused in on 12.”
Seventies country-rock of Southern California is a prime influence on Geoff. “I couldn’t get enough of long-haired guys playing country-influenced music,” he recalls of the bands like the Byrds, Fool’s Gold and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Co-producer John McArthur Ellis, a multi-instrumentalist, imparts this influence, adding the essential guitar and pedal steel to Buffalo Hotel.
A trip to the cradle of North American music was a signpost of the journey to the Buffalo Hotel. Geoff and two friends flew South to the cities of sound: Muscle Shoals, Nashville and Memphis. “When I got back home I wasn’t just inspired, I was altered,” Geoff remembers. “It was like traveling to a musical Mecca.” Echoes of this experience permeate the musical tapestry, most pointedly with the harmonies of The Sojourners, a soulful trio of male backing vocalists who impart an ecclesiastical aura of Southern gospel.
Geoff Gibbons avows that the tales he tells on Buffalo Hotel are real stories that he needed to turn into songs. “As writers we have big worlds inside of our brains and there’s always something we’ve not experienced. ‘What If I had done this? If I was there what would it feel like?’ There’s an element of that -- like a lush dream that permeated my consciousness. This is who I am. I have always been true to music. I’d like to have this music come out and affect peoples’ lives; to haunt them in the best possible way.”