Someone much wiser than me once said, “Cliches became cliches for a reason; that they usually hold at least a modicum of truth, and the following cliche is truer than most: You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” There is certainly nothing cliche about the music that Geoff Gibbons makes, but within it, there is a clear indication of where he has been, musically speaking at least.
Waitin’ on a Train draws a line through some classic sounds and signature styles, from 60’s cosmic cowboy country to 70’s folk rock to modern alt-country. It moves through them with a gentle, lilting swagger and panache, reminding us of the warm vibes of everyone from The Eagles to Ryan Adams along the way. I’ve never really been sure what the term Americana truly means but I suspect this song, at least to some degree, is it.
You can hear the many miles he has travelled, the years of gig experience, the time spent honing his songwriting skills oozing from every musical pore of the song: its deft musical lines, its dexterous understatement, it’s less-is-more quality (see, another cliche that works perfectly,) its rich tones and delicious textures. It is a song which might seem simple on the first pass but which through successive plays reveals itself to be elegant rather than empty, eloquent rather than ordinary, poised rather than plain.
And it is this common sense approach which is the natural charm here. It would be very easy to fill the space with all manner of verbose musical tricks, faddish sounds and unnecessary weight, but Gibbons avoids all such traps. Instead, he opts for delicate finger-picked acoustic guitars and parred down percussion, simple narratives and poetic imagery that paints the scene in a few, potent words. And it works, it works brilliantly.
The result of this mix of the fresh and the familiar, this clash of modernity and tradition is a song and a sound that just screams “future classic.” It is country balladry in the same vein that the likes of Gram Parsons made his own, and such sonic travelling companions can only be a good thing, right? Quite right.