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Gibson Brothers begin new tour with guests on mandolin

Members of the Gibson Brothers bluegrass band perform May 17 at the Strand Theatre in Old Forge. From left are Clayton Campbell, Eric Gibson, Leigh Gibson, Mike Barber and guest mandolin player Jesse Cobb.

Members of the Gibson Brothers bluegrass band perform May 17 at the Strand Theatre in Old Forge. From left are Clayton Campbell, Eric Gibson, Leigh Gibson, Mike Barber and guest mandolin player Jesse Cobb. Photo by Andy Flynn.

OLD FORGE -- The North Country's Gibson Brothers are maintaining world-class caliber performances this spring while promoting their newest album thanks to a succession of professional guests on the mandolin.

In mid-April, mandolin player Joe Walsh announced he was parting ways with Ellenburg Depot natives Eric and Leigh Gibson after being with the band for more than four years. It came at a challenging time, as the Gibson Brothers began the busy festival season on the road without Walsh. They also began touring with a new CD, “They Called It Music,” recently released by Compass Records. Then there’s the added pressure of being the 2012 IBMA Entertainers of the Year, an honor the brothers recognize but take in stride.

As their song “They Called It Music” topped Bluegrass Today’s weekly chart for airplay on May 17, the Gibson Brothers were taking the stage at the Strand Theatre in Old Forge with guest mandolin player Jesse Cobb, formerly of the Infamous Stringdusters, who gave a “blistering” performance, as Leigh described it. Cobb will be filling in on a few more dates, as will Sierra Hull, until the brothers choose Walsh’s replacement. Adam Steffey will also be playing mandolin with the Gibsons and was with them this week at Bluegrass & BBQ in Branson, Mo.

“We are using different award-winning mandolin players for the next month,” Leigh said in an email. “I wanted to make sure we had a quality performer with us while we decided who would take over the job without rushing to a decision. While you can never be certain someone will be the right answer for the long term, giving ourselves time to find the next player can only help make a better call.”

Using a variety of mandolin players takes the pressure off of finding a full-time player right away, according to Leigh, who expects to have a new member in place by July.

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