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Gibson Recommends John Lennon's The U.S. vs. John Lennon - Music from the Motion Picture

For those born after 1970, it may be hard to imagine that rock bands and activist musicians could represent a significant political force in the United States. But anyone who experienced the social upheaval of the ’60s can attest to the subversive power of the era’s music. The Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, the Doors, the MC5, Sly Stone, James Brown, and the Beatles—particularly John Lennon—were among the many agents of change during a period of profound cultural transformation.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends Johnny Cash At San Quentin: Legacy Edition

In early 1969, following the success of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, the Man in Black entered California’s notorious state penitentiary at San Quentin to play a concert and make life a bit more bearable for the inmates. And he wasn’t alone: In addition to his fabulous band, the Tennessee Three, Cash arrived with Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, and the four members of the Carter family—the family matriarch Mother Maybelle and her daughters Helen, June, and Anita.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends Kathleen Edwards Back to Me

There’s a vulnerability behind Kathleen Edwards’ tough lyrics and tomboy persona that makes her stories about lost love, seduction, jailbirds, and gamblers so compelling. Released in 2003, the Canadian guitarist and singer’s debut Failer thrust her into the limelight and drew enthusiastic praise from fans and critics alike. Almost overnight, the lanky Edwards found herself performing on Leno and Letterman, and opening for the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and AC/DC. Her latest album, Back to Me is even more musically and sonically focused than its predecessor, though it hasn’t lost any of the heartache that made Failer so potent.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends Kleveland Kleveland (Free MP3 Download!)

The second album from Portland, Oregon’s tomboy-fronted garage rockers Kleveland proves that Stephanie Smith is the woman to pick up where Courtney Love and Melissa Auf der Maur left off with Hole in the ’90s

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends Los Lobos The Town and the City

Kicking off with intertwined, chimey arpeggios and snaky, backward feedback, The Town and the City provides a feast of progressive guitar tones. The latest from East Los Angeles’ Los Lobos, the album has the same combination of edgy production and beautiful songwriting that made the band’s Kiko one of the best records of the ’90s. On “The Valley” and “The Road to Gila Bend,” layered guitars roil and drone, weaving fat, fuzzy textures through Louis Perez’s narrative lyrics. Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo have been sharing six-string duties for more that 30 years, and it shows: Their parts merge seamlessly, and they share the ability to pick up a theme where the other drops it off.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends Paul Westerberg Open Season Featuring the Songs of Paul Westerberg

With a joyfully hollered “looky here,” a hard-strummed acoustic guitar, and a bellowing harmonica, Paul Westerberg kicks off this great soundtrack of bouncing, Small Faces-inspired rockers. Without question one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll records ever written about bears, it is another tribute to Westerberg’s staggering gift as a songwriter. Who else could come out of a meeting with Sony executives about scoring their new animated feature, crank out a rocker called “The Right to Arm Bears” in his home studio, and turn it in a day later to nab the gig?

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America (Free MP3 Download!)

With their mix of grinding power chords, poppy background vocals, and penchant for blue-collar narratives, the Hold Steady teeter between brainy songwriting and brash rock. Lead singer Craig Finn isn’t one to hide his influences: In “Hot Soft Light” and “Southtown Girls,” fans of Thin Lizzy will hear echoes of such classics as “Jailbreak” and “The Boys are Back in Town,” and the crunchy melodies of Dream Police-era Cheap Trick permeate many of the album tracks. Cool organ, Clavinet, and piano add sonic intrigue to the double-tracked guitar riffs—which blare with the subtlety of an ambulance tearing toward a wreck on the Interstate—but except for the acoustic “Citrus,” it’s a vicious six-string attack that forms the sonic backbone of Boys and Girls in America.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM

Gibson Recommends The Lemonheads The Lemonheads

Back alley run-ins with G.G. Allin notwithstanding, Evan Dando never made much of a punk. Wistful and disheveled, with a knack for an aching melody and an ability to turn a phrase with the best of them, Dando has always come across as an almost reluctantly great songwriter. Even on early Lemonheads records like Hate Your Friends, there is a melancholy tunefulness that was more Jackson Browne than Gang Green, despite the deafening guitars. With his stoned matinee profile and hints of privilege, Dando has always seemed more a natural extension of Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt. But where Parsons’ songs can seem labored and meticulous, and Van Zandt’s blister with fever-dream surrealism and hopelessness, Dando’s feel effortless, breezy, and sweetly fleeting. It is both his great gift, and not surprisingly, his easiest target for critics to hit. On '90s albums like It’s a Shame About Ray and the underrated Car Button Cloth, the songs fly by like leaves off a tree; it takes a moment to realize what a great songwriter he is. If you’re not listening closely, songs like “Confetti” and “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” can sound slight, but they’re not.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006    9:36 AM