NEW FACE TO WATCH
"She Believes In Me" Pushed the Steve Gibb name
Quite what it is that elevates certain brilliant singer-songwriters to wide acclaim—Billy Joel and Gerry Rafferty being two current examples—While others are being left at the starting gate, continues to be a mystery. It’s one of the reminders of the music business that fame restS on the time and place factor. Sometimes, this is disheartening, because it means that an artist’s tendency to be unfashionable can work against him, no matter how fine his work.
Steve Gibb, a talented pianist and struggling singer-songwriter, writes lovely old-fashioned melodies and bitter-sweet laments of lost love. His original material is excellent with gorgeous melodies and graceful lyrics, mostly in a pop-country vein.
He still prefers to classify himself primarily as a songwriter, and he has enjoyed some notable successes. He wrote the reflective She Believes In Me, a number one pop-country hit for Kenny Rogers, and a song that has been recorded by everybody from Johnny Mathis to T.G Sheppard.
Eddy Arnold has recently released If I Ever Had To Say Goodbye To You, a song that Helen Reddy included on an album a couple of years ago. Brenda Lee recorded Now He’s Coming Home as an album track five years ago, and Marty Robbins included Look What You’ve Done on his THE PERFORMER album.
Last year Steve released his first album, LET MY SONG, a one-man parade of meaningful songs embracing a variety of musical disciplines, including ballads, country, pop and tight rock ditties. It’s sometimes hard to believe when listening to this LP that Steve has not made a whole basinful of records. There’s none of that first album hesitancy here.
Born in Virginia 35 years ago, Gibb is a typical southern boy. He grew up listening to country, classical and blues, without bothering to differentiate between the musical styles. He was stricken with polio when he was only two years old, which left him unable to walk. He learnt to play the piano by watching his mother, and by the age of eight was playing everything and anything from Hank Williams to Beethoven.
He began to walk when he was 14, and after high school was the recipient of a special scholarship in music to the University of Maryland. He left following two years of learning botany, Latin and of course music, and subsequently graduated from Baltimore’s prestigious Peabody Conservatory. By this time he could play almost two dozen different instruments, and he decided to put his talent to work by taking to the road as a musician.
To begin with Steve worked in a succession of clubs, lounges and bars around the Mississippi delta area. He took to songwriting seriously and when on one of his club dates he was ‘expected’ to sing, he pacified the club manager by singing and has been ever since.
Then came the struggle to get his songs published and recorded. Following many setbacks, Sammi Smith recorded one of his early creations, so he decided to move to Nashville. He spent several years becoming well-known and respected on the Nashville piano bar circuit. Eventually he met Buzz Cason, whose Creative Workshop studio produces some of Nashville's best-known pop music.
The two hit it off quickly and they formed Angel Wing Music, a company established to exclusively publish and exploit Steve’s songs worldwide. Steve has written something like 400 songs to date, and with a return to more romantic-flavoured songs, his works are being increasingly recorded by the big name stars.
The first album was recorded in Nashville with a clean sound enhanced by strings. Steve’s major strength in this tasty surprise package is his romantic lyrics and more specifically his various uses of poetic style and original imagery. His songs are often stuff that singles are not made from—but he has a string of powerful, incisive ballads that enhance his album debut.
Included is the much recorded She Believes In Me, which so sensitively gives the listener intimate insight into Steve’s private world with his lovely lady Romy, who has ‘believed’ all along. Another superb offering is Tell Me That You Love Me, mainly a quiet, low-key ballad, though there is an excellent mid-tempo melodic hook that comes around a couple of times.
He is given superb support from the Nashville session players, including Jack Williams, Steve Gibson, Jerry Carrigan, Bobby Ogdin, Fred Carter and fellow songwriter Randy Goodrum, who adds some distinctive keyboard work.
Steve’s vocal delivery is pleasant if not overly distinctive, with a particularly fine feel for classically delivered ballads such as his beautiful If I Ever Had To Say Goodbye To You. He is in every sense of the word a foolish romantic. A country musician who has to make his own creative path since the music is in his soul, and doesn’t pop out merely because someone yells ‘take one’. His songs are felt and not contrived, natural emotions that directly hit you. He could well be the Nashville 'writer' of the next ten years.