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Interview:
Vance Gilbert Covers Styles For Latest Batch Of Songs
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Vance Gilbert’s latest project is a covers album of all original songs.

It’s not as confusing as it sounds. The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter composed 11 all-new tunes for his ninth release, “Up on Rockfield,” but each is done in the style of another artist. So he apes the likes of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Steve Earle, and also mashes together some disparate influences — Shawn Colvin with Raffi, for instance, or Al Jarreau with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“At some point in time I think any of us writers need a different impetus to move us along in our songwriting process,” Gilbert explains. “I just thought it would be a great way to push me along to write some songs if I was invoking the spirit of some other songwriters — like, ‘Hey, this is kind of a Tom Waits song. What would he do at this point?’ or ‘Hey, this song has a sing-songy bridge like Raffi but the chorus sounds like Shawn Colvin ...’

“It was just a great way for me to fill up my notebook and ratchet the songs up another notch.”

Gilbert is hard-pressed to acknowledge any one mixture as stranger than another, but he agrees that “Sweetwater,” the Jarreau-Skynyrd blend, is certainly a left-field listening experience.

“I started playing some chords, and they sounded like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ played backwards, sort of these climbing major chords,” he recalls. “Then when I started getting the lyrics, I thought the only way to approach them was to spit them out clearly and approach them with an Al Jarreau kind of feel to the lyrics.

“So there you have it. What a strange thing — a song that sounds like Al Jarreau and Lynyrd Skynyrd got together in a hotel room in Colorado. In a snowstorm. It was a blast, man.”



Vance Gilbert performs at 8 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 17) at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $15. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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