The main problem with solo musicians, especially singer-songwriters, is that people tend to forget them too easily. Words and notes bounce around in the collective mind until there is nothing but a nameless blob. That being said, Ferrill Gibbs‘s sophomore album Significant Trees is easy enough for anyone to dig but not ephemeral like so many others. Even the name “Ferrill Gibbs” is memorable and familiar, as if he’s half-feudal worker, half-pirate.
When StGa premiered “The Happy Ones,” we dubbed it “one hell of a way to kick off an album.” And it truly is, densely (but not overly) packed with careful arrangements, a style that defines much of Trees. The Ben Folds comparisons are apropos, but Gibbs embodies many schools of thought that clash together in grand compositions. Cryptic and metaphorical lyrics dance over folk-inspired melodies in a rather pleasing combinations. Gibbs knows how to decorate a song, too; the background guitar lines and sudden string appearance make the opening track one of the album’s best.
One of the standout features of Trees is its ability to weave between styles without leaving the genre. On “Blitzkrieg,” Gibbs croons almost like Elton John or a Broadway soloist, leading up to a blues-esque chorus with more fantastical lyrics. The song shuffles through its five-and-a-half minutes without ever really losing steam, no doubt a testament to Gibbs’s talent for songsmithing. “Wind In My Soul” has some of the record’s best lyrics, as they are both heartfelt and creative without getting bogged down by cliche or meaninglessness. It once again displays the huge-sounding creations at which Gibbs so nicely excels. The break toward the end with only vocals and piano lets his voice emerge as an instrument itself, and it’s a great moment.
With regard to versatility, the album hits every note. The intro of “A Ghost Who’s Familiar” consists of nostalgic (yet almost creepy) muted honky-tonk piano. “You And Your Misery” is perhaps the record’s most grooving track, temporarily shaking off the folky melodies in exchange for a more pumped-up sound. It simultaneously reminds the listener of fifties rock and more modern indie rhythms. All in all, Trees is a well thought-out album, but it’s for the quieter crowd who finds joy in subtle guitar licks and shuffled drums. Gibbs’s future is interesting to consider, as it seems he could reach even further. For now, Trees shows off the knack for songwriting and melody Gibbs has, and it’s well worth the listen.