Bob Gibson – Ski Songs (Elektra/Collectors’ Choice, 1959/2005)
This 1959 album has the hallmarks of a cash-in: a famous folk singer, a comical cover, and a seemingly lightweight theme. And while the subjects may seem trivial in comparison to those of Gibson’s better-known originals, neither the songs nor performances were tossed off lightly. Signed to the roots powerhouse Elektra, Gibson was living in Aspen, and turned his love of skiing into an album of song. His banjo is backed by Russell Savkas’ acoustic bass, Joe Puma’s guitar (which offers a swinging solo on “Ski Patrol”), with Eric Weissberg filling out the arrangements on all three. The result is a surprisingly clever, joyous and fulfilling album, with Gibson telling the imagined conquests of insufferable ski braggarts, the gory demise of a hot dogger, the ennui brought by Spring and the rebirth furnished by Winter. He interweaves skiing lingo the way Brian Wilson and Roger Christian did with hot rod talk, offering up a wry introduction to winter sport with the talking blues “Talking Skier,” and showing affection for snow-covered landscapes in “In This White World.” Several of the tunes are familiar, as Gibson practices the folk tradition of repurposing melodies from well-known songs. “Super Skier” borrows from “The MTA Song” (which, itself was borrowed from “The Ship That Never Returned”) and “Super Skier’s Last Race” borrows from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” While many of Gibson’s albums have were anthologized and reissued over the years, this one remained elusive until this welcome reissue.