“Trig, did you see this?!? That guy from the Bee Gees made a country record?!?”
Yeah, yeah, I saw it. And you might be surprised to find out that I don’t have a whole lot of problem with it. Am I looking forward to it? Eh, I’m just not much for collaborative albums or tributes of previously-released material in general. But the first song they released from it featuring Jason Isbell sounds pretty damn good to me (listen below). And looking over the list of contributors, it’s pretty interesting as well, aside from a few bad apples.
I just know too much about the untold history of Barry Gibb and his dalliances with country music to be perturbed that at 74-years-old, he wants to make a country record. It’s not like he’s Darius Rucker looking to exploit country to revitalize his career. This is a guy putting together a passion project with folks he has respect for, and Dave Cobb producing it. I think it’s kind of cool.
To be released on January 8th, 2021, Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1 will feature songs from the Gibb catalog, performed with cohorts such as Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, the aforementioned Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Brandi Carlile. And yes, there’s also a few less savory names, like Keith Urban. You can see the full track list below.
As part of the three-headed hydra of The Bee Gees, Barry Gibb will always be a pariah to some, if not many, especially in the country music realm. Before there was widespread public outrage and mass-produced T-shirts decrying Bro-Country and country pop, disco was the most dubious form of popular music for a generation. And look, even though I would assert that time has been much more kind to “Staying Alive” than it will be to “Body Like a Backroad,” disco was still a derivative of the much more cool elements of funk and soul, and deserves much of its ridicule, even in retrospect.
But the story of Barry Gibb and even The Bee Gees is much more expansive. They had been around for nearly 20 years before they became the face of disco, and Barry Gibb had a solo career beyond the band, including one that at times interfaced with country music very directly. Barry Gibb’s first ever solo record called The Kid’s No Good from 1970 has been described by many as a country record as much as anything.
Then of course there was Barry Gibb’s collaboration with Kenny Rogers in the early 80’s. Rogers approached Gibb for some song ideas, and Gibb started by sending Rogers a demo of the song “Eyes That See in the Dark.” This resulted in an album of the same name that Barry Gibb produced and wrote for Kenny after the two formed a friendship. Among other things things the album resulted in, it’s where the song “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton came from, which you don’t need me to tell you is one of the most well-recognized country songs and duets of all time, even if it is more pop than country.
And there’s more stories of Barry working as a songwriter and collaborator in the country realm. He also wrote Conway Twitty’s #1 “Rest Your Love” from 1981. It’s probably one of those subjects that deserves its own deep dive someday. And yes, both Barry’s output, and much of what you can expect from this new record is probably better to call “Americana” than country. But regardless of what you call it, you can’t discount Barry Gibb as a songwriter.
But screw it. If Barry Gibb wants to make a “country” record, what’s the harm or foul? Especially if he’s tapping cool folks to do it with. It won’t be at the top of my wish list to Santa, but it sounds promising so far, and I’ll give it a spin.
1. “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” with Keith Urban
2. “Words of a Fool” with Jason Isbell
3. “Run to Me” with Brandi Carlile
4. “Too Much Heaven” with Alison Krauss
5. “Lonely Days” with Little Big Town
6. “Words” with Dolly Parton
7. “Jive Talkin’” with Miranda Lambert, Jay Buchanan
8. “How Deep Is Your Love” with Tommy Emanuel, Little Big Town
9. “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” with Sheryl Crow
10. “To Love Somebody” with Jay Buchanan
11. “Rest Your Love On Me” with Olivia Newton-John
12. “Butterfly” with Gillian Welch, David Rawlings