Wisconsin native singer-songwriter and award-winning guitarist Greg Gilbertson has an engaging charm that often belies the subject matter of his lyrics. His live shows are, in turn, energetic, then reflective. His warm tenor singing voice complements his guitar playing, which is at once smooth and complex. His countenance might shift abruptly as he adjusts his baseball cap and rips into an energetic instrumental that renders his unsuspecting audience slack-jawed. As is true of all absorbing music, the world is brought into sharp focus and then melts away.
Released in May, 2018, Greg’s full-length record, Surviving the Echoes, expertly balances dark themes of war and depression with a promise of hard-scrabble grace in the face of cynicism. In a close artistic collaboration, Milwaukee-based artist Matthew S. Bailey has created a magnificent hand-drawn piece for the album cover. Taken together, the songs and the art suggest that, if we look and listen closely, glints of light and hints of sound might be enough to guide us through. Layered with biblical imagery and haunting stories, the record feels at times like a spiritual handbook, at times like a love note through the ages. The songs feel both timely and timeless.
Long intrigued by the work of the soul, Greg often seeks both inspiration and solace in literature. “It’s an exploration of how our best ideas and intentions have bitten us in the ass. At the same time, the record is redemptive; what I imagine Kurt Vonnegut might write if he had been able to hope in something.”
There is an agony that can come from trying to hope in our modern society, and Gilbertson’s music presses us to think and feel simultaneously, but it refuses to tell us outright what to do or how to do so. Listeners who are only vaguely expecting to be entertained will have to reorganize their thoughts and pay attention.
Karen Wells Verlander
KWV Creative Brand Communications