If I was going to describe Otis Gibbs’ discography I would call it solid and steady. I own the previous four records, as well as the brand new Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth, and there isn’t a misstep to be found. Gibbs clearly knows who he is as an artist and he has taken the time to craft another batch of stellar story songs for us to hear. Souvenirs …is Essential Listening.
To call the music Otis Gibbs creates a throwback or the product of an old soul is probably accurate. In these ten new songs there are stories of middle America, of working people trying to survive, and of reflections from times past. I think that description could be used for several of Gibbs’ records but what that means is that he has truly found his voice as an artist. If I was going to differentiate Souvenirs from other records I would say that the instrumentation here is more at the forefront than before. The players Gibbs brought in do it exactly right; rough when it needs to be, furious when called for and understated when appropriate.
It might be trite and cliché to say these song feel like songs Woody Guthrie would have sung, brought from one town to the next. Like a newspaper or a journal set to music. Beautiful despair mixed with intelligent storytelling.
As a guy who’s gotten angry at a boss or two, “The Darker Side Of Me” is one of my favorites. But what makes the story most compelling is how a larger significance can be found. A lesson, not about one person in the story, but about the condition of the working class, the obstacles they face and how even doing the right thing can turn out wrong. “The Darker Side Of Me” follows the linear narrative of much of Guthrie’s work instead of the vaguer side of Bob Dylan.
I could go on and on about these stories but I’m ready for bed and Otis did us all a favor and told the stories around a couple of the songs on Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth on his glorious podcast Thanks For Giving A Damn. I suggest you listen to it HERE.