Geoff Gibbons - Buffalo Hotel (Self-released, 2017)
Geoff Gibbons’s newest album “Buffalo Hotel” is a cliché country ride that panders to formula, but is salvaged by the musician’s free flowing, pop-y songwriting. The Vancouver artist, now several decades into his career, rests on the side of redeemable only by a hair. The saving grace of the release lies not in the instrumentation or composition, but in the sincerity of his craft.
With vocals that echo greats like America, Seals & Crofts, and The Eagles, Gibbons preaches of the good ol’ US of A’s imperfections in platitudes that surprisingly entertain—albeit with a tinge of inadvertent tackiness. Tunes like “Lonesome Angel” and “Carolina Bound” seem to slither out from some illusory Midwestern dream. The mandolin and dobro both tickle my fancy, while shattering any sense of realism in the singer’s words. But hey—the songs would be an easy soundtrack for sharing a cigarette in a small town somewhere north of Memphis.
Onto “The Other Side,” the LP’s sixth track, and there’s a change of pace. A muted piano and banjo create a curtain of suspense as Gibbons adds in gospel refrains. Vocal backing from The Sojourners compliments the piece with an extra coating of reverence that adds dimension and variety. The song ends with a sweet mix of dialogue scooped up from the studio sessions and a few dreamy high notes from the piano. While it verges on melodramatic, the feeling remains sweet.
The LP continues to sway between Americana and alt country, trailing off into the distance much like the images Gibbons sings of. A couple more noteworthy tracks with a flare of originally make their debut, including “Blinded by Tumbleweeds” and “Where Midnight Rolls.” To say the least, the album does not stray from safety, and remains a pillar of certainty for soulful country fans to cling to. But sometimes, that’s just what you need.
- Gabe Kahan
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