Gibson Brothers to play benefit concert this weekend

WESTPORT - One of the North Country's most prominent bands will be returning to the area this weekend for a special concert.

Bluegrass dynamos The Gibson Brothers will perform at the Essex County Fairgrounds this Saturday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. with proceeds to benefit the Essex County Mental Health Association.

"We're doing this for two reasons," said George King, board president for Essex County MHA, "first, as a fundraiser, and second, to get information out about the Mental Health Association.

King explained MHA gets much of its funding from the state, but those monies are directed for specific programs and are being cut in some cases. The agency is undertaking the fundraiser to pay for some of the expenses not covered by their funding.

"Our biggest need right now is we have a heating system in the Westport building that's about to die," said King.

Brothers Eric and Leigh Gibson, natives of Clinton County, formed a band and produced their first album, "Underneath a Harvest Moon" in 1994. Since then, The Gibson Brothers band has gone on to release eight additional albums, including their latest, "Ring the Bell," in 2009.

In addition to Eric on banjo and Leigh on guitar, the band also includes Mike Barber on upright bass, Clayton Campbell on fiddle, and Joe Walsh on mandolin.

Speedy Arnold, Keeseville's jack-of-all-trades, will open for the Gibson Brothers, strumming and singing some of his tongue-in-cheek tunes, including "They're Blowin' Up the Champlain Bridge" and "I Don't Play Golf."

"It's an honor to open for them," said Arnold, "They're a North Country success story."

Arnold recalled performing at events with the Gibsons when they were just starting as a band. Today, they tour internationally as a widely popular bluegrass group.

"It's nice that they've had so much success and still remember us locals," Arnold said.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with children's activities and games. Attendees are reminded not to bring coolers or alcohol on the fairgrounds, but food and soft drinks will be available for purchase.

Advance tickets are available from several local outlets and from the Mental Health Association in Essex County and are $15 for adults and $5 for children younger than 12. Tickets will also be available at the gate: $18 for adults and $7 for children. For more information, call 962-2007 or 1-800-440-8074.

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