Otis Gibbs is a man in search of an honest experience. Gibbs is often referred to as a folk artist, but that is a simplistic way to describe a man who has planted over 7,000 trees, slept in hobo jungles, walked with nomadic shepherds in Romania, was a fifth grade yo-yo champion and once wrestled a bear (and lost). Otis Gibbs is making a new record. @OtisGibbs If youv’e never helped anyone self-fund, now is a good time to start: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1334337373/souvenirs-of-a-misspent-youth
Otis has played countless, theaters, festivals, bars and house concerts and has managed to carve out a living, while remaining happily independent. Much of his work concentrates on the world ignored by pop culture. Sometimes forgotten, obsolete, or simply marginalized, it is a world that doesn’t fit into a twenty-second sound bite, or talking point. Otis has spent the last fifteen years traveling across America and abroad documenting this world, and has a story to share about each stop along the way.
Harder Than Hammered Hell, is Otis Gibbs’ sixth album. It’s also the fourth release by Wanamaker Recording Company, the East Nashville based independent label he started in 2008 with long time partner Amy Lashley. The album title was inspired by experiences Otis had when he worked as a tree-planter in Indiana. Much of what he learned came from a seventy-year-old friend/co-worker. The man would describe ground that is too hard to dig as, “harder than hammered hell.” He would also use the phrase when referring to a difficult job, or a particularly tough person. Otis found it a fitting metaphor for the difficulties of leading a creative life The album features performances by Thomm Jutz on guitar, Mark Fain on bass, Paul Griffith on drums and Amy Lashley on vocals. When asked about his approach to making records Otis replied, “I’m silly enough to believe that I’m the world’s foremost authority on what an Otis Gibbs record should sound like. I tend to enjoy stripped down arrangements that highlight the song and the vocal.” Jutz’ tasteful playing style blends perfectly in this setting. Gibbs produced the record, with Jutz engineering, making this their third collaboration.
There is a feeling of strength and perseverance that resonates throughout this record. Otis’ work often speaks of accepting the harsh realities of life without giving into them. Songs like Never Enough, Made To Break and Broke And Restless are a reflection of that spirit.
“When the suffering world is about to uncurl and reaches up and under your skin, you might sit there alone, but you’re about to be thrown into a box you never could fit in, we were made to break.” -Made To Break
Don’t Worry Kid recalls childhood feelings of not fitting in. “I wish that more people would be honest with kids and let them know that there’s nothing wrong with feeling different. Any sane person would feel out of place in a society that idolizes celebrities and trash culture while catering to short attention spans. The good news is they’re not alone and it does get better.”
Big Whiskers was inspired by a childhood memory. In1966, the World Record Flathead Catfish (79lb 8oz) was caught out of White River near Gibbs’ childhood home. Otis fished that same river countless times and heard many stories of huge catfish spotted there. Otis asked his friend, Adam Carroll to help him finish a song based on some of these tall tales. Gibbs and Carroll met up at a rundown hotel outside of Austin, Texas and finished the song in an afternoon. “There are only two people in art that matter. There’s the creative individual and the person experiencing it. Everything else is an artificial filter. This a way for me to share my work with you without any filters whatsoever.” –Otis Gibbs
Otis currently resides in East Nashville with his partner Amy Lashley.