Vance Gilbert burst onto the singer/songwriter scene in the early 90's when the buzz started spreading in the folk clubs of Boston about an ex-multicultural arts teacher and jazz singer who was knocking 'em dead at open mikes. The word spread of this Philadelphia-area born and raised performer to New York; Shawn Colvin invited Vance Gilbert to be a special guest on her Fat City tour. Gilbert took audiences across the country by storm ("With the voice of an angel, the wit of a devil, and the guitar playing of a god, it was enough to earn him that rarity: an encore for an opener" wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in its review of a show from that tour.)
Gilbert's three albums for the Rounder/Philo label - EDGEWISE (1994), FUGITIVES (1995), and the celebrated, arrestingly sparse SHAKING OFF GRAVITY (1998) - are all essential additions to the American singer-songwriter collection. With guests as varied as Tuck and Patti, Jonatha Brooke, Patty Larkin, Vinx, and Jane Siberry, all three albums found significant niches on NAC (New Adult Contemporary) and Non-Commercial A3 (Adult Album Alternative) radio.
These discs were followed by the self-released SOMERVILLE LIVE (2000), his live recording lionized by the Boston Globe as the disc "young songwriters should study the way law students cram for bar exams," and ONE THRU FOURTEEN (2002), a stylistically varied offering that New York's Town and Village calls "lively, eclectic, electrifying and transcending." Follow that with SIDE OF THE ROAD (2003), a duo album with Ellis Paul, lauded as "haunting, artful, and lovely" by Boston Magazine and nominated for a 2004 Boston Music Award. UNFAMILIAR MOON (2005) follows as a most impressive continuation to this mostly original composition discography. “ The songwriter’s most compelling work; literate, heartfelt, rippling emotionally resonant songs” says the Boston Globe, placing the album in its’ Top 10 CDs of the year (#4).
On ANGELS, CASTLES, COVERS Gilbert’s latest release, Roberta Schwartz of FAME writes, “Gilbert sings the songs that have influenced him as an artist. From the sounds of Motown, through the R&B of Al Green and Gladys Knight, to classic Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin, the song palette represented here is rich and lively.” Highlights follow of his 11-song tour de force:
“The recording opens with Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, a Motown classic made famous by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Tyrell. Gilbert supplies the warmth and charm in his buttery tenor, with Lori McKenna providing the right touch of soul.” Yet there are ever present folk sensibilities... “Motown and mandolin–who would have thunk it?”
Todd Rundgren's It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference is a show stopping, heart achingly beautiful song made even more so in Gilbert's tenderly soft, interpretation. It's hard to top Aretha Franklin, but Gilbert does just that in his cover of Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do). He slows down the original arrangement and puts the focus on his voice with a solo guitar accompaniment. It feels and sounds like a slice of heaven. Tracy Grammer lends a gorgeous harmony vocal to Stevie Wonder's rousing prayer of a song, Heaven Help Us All, which closes the recording.
After seven CD's of original tunes, Gilbert's choice of an album of covers seems both fitting and fearless. Never one to shy away from taking chances, he displays his vocal virtuosity with some unexpected choices from the late 20th century songbook. He makes each and every tune sound fresh and new. It will be Gilbert's voice you hear when you think of the classic songs on Angels, Castles, Covers. Bravo!” Roberta Schwartz, FAME
This is Vance Gilbert at his most timeless, compelling best. Whether with classic original songwriting or ageless interpretations of covers, his is a presentation steeped in deep humanism and bravery, stunning artistry and soul, and unbridled joy - inarguably the blue ribbons that tie and seal the seemingly impossible package that is Vance Gilbert.