by John Ellis
Mother’s Day may dominate the battle of progenitor holidays, but I think that Fathers may very well have the unfortunate edge, albeit slight, in weighing heavily on the psyche of adult children – at least the psyche of adult children who are writers. Classic works of literature like Fathers & Sons, The Brothers Karamazov, and even The Glass Menagerie, a play with an absent father, have motifs that are dominated by fathers. The creators of pop culture often rely on the father/child dynamic as platforms for plotlines, too. The tension between fathers and their children is played out on TV shows like Parenthood, Frasier, and the comedy That 70’s Show. There’s no mistake that many adult children often view their relationship with their father through a complicated lens of love and tension. 1532, the new album from DC based musician Drew Gibson, while no less complex than many of the tension filled portrayals of father/child relationship, is a beautiful testament to the positive influence that a loving father holds over his children.
After his father passed away in 2012, Gibson turned to making music for solace and healing. During the process of songwriting, he came across a security deposit box that had belonged to his father. The box contained pictures, letters, and old WWII era articles from Virginia newspapers about the soldiers from Virginia who had died in combat. Drew Gibson’s uncle, his dad’s eldest brother, never returned from World War II.
The album’s title, 1532, pays homage to that uncle. Before heading overseas, Uncle Jack tried to change his license plate number to match the family’s address. 1505 was already taken, so he chose 1532 instead – the three and two equaling, of course, five. Gibson’s father inherited that license plate from his parents. The number is now Gibson’s mothers; he explains that, “these numbers have resided in my family for over 70 years and with each changeover their meaning continues to grow.”
1532 is a wonderful testament to how loving and deep Drew Gibson’s familial roots are. I can think of very few albums that are as hauntingly comforting as Gibson’s latest. The music and lyrics have a contemplative serenity that speaks to tight bonds and deep affection that even death doesn’t render asunder. In the current epoch, when much seems to exist in a permanent state of transiency, 1532, Gibson’s well-crafted statement about how familial love binds times and places together, pushes back on our tendency to view the past as deadweight to be shed.
Gibson invites the listener in with him as he explores the past that shaped him; and, if the listener accepts the invitation, and the listener should accept the invitation, there are riches even beyond the well-crafted songs and Gibson’s warm baritone voice. 1532 becomes the story of the listener’s family; the photo album with the fading photos of the smiling people posing in front of the family home, placing the star on the Christmas tree, and peering into the Grand Canyon that you smile at with a tear in your eye whenever you make it back home – which isn’t often enough, you tell yourself as you remember the moment that your dad snapped the photo you’re looking at of you and your siblings catching crawfish in the creek behind your home.
Like the family photo album, the best way to engage with 1532 is with a physical copy. Of course, you can recall, with almost perfect clarity, the photos from your grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, but seeing the happiness in the eyes of those at the party is a tangible reminder that the moment had a physical existence that transcends your memory. Likewise, holding the liner notes for the album and reading the lyric sheet as you listen connects Drew Gibson and his songs honoring his family with the emotional response elicited by the music. One of my favorite moments in the lyric sheet is the comment Gibson wrote in conjunction with “Bright as Gold.” The song lyrics are great in their own right, but adding a connection to the moment, Gibson adds, “Saddened my father would never meet the woman I would marry.” That confession, by no means, speaks to a nostalgic melancholy that dominates the marriage, or the song, but it does reflect the reality that Drew recognizes that healthy marriages do not happen in a vacuum, and his happiness is, at the least, partially owed to his father’s legacy.
My favorite track on the album is the title track, “1532.” Drawing from his Uncle Jack’s letters home, Gibson tells the story of a homeward directed longing. Painting the memories of life at home as a source of strength, the song tells the story of classic Americana; the stories of families and communities that live together in a fullness that allows for people to face hardship with whimsy and resolve.
Drew Gibson’s music, like most good art, is personal. And, like most good art, it’s not a personal that is shrouded in moments and thoughts that are so private as to be inaccessible. Gibson has the dual strength of a songwriter who crafts lyrics that allow for the listener to use their own lives as the primary means of navigation through the songs, and the strength of a singer that shares without narcissism – his voice allows the listener to enter into the story as a participant, not as an awed and yet distant observer. These strengths are bolstered by tightly crafted music played by musicians who love their craft.
2015 is only in its third month, and good music has already been released with much more to come. My fear is that 1532, an album that should be considered among the finest of 2015, will be lost in the shuffle of a glutted marketplace. Please don’t read this review and then simply plug Drew Gibson’s name into the black hole of your favorite music streaming site’s algorithm. Buy the album. Sit with loved ones and listen to it from beginning to end. Good music should be inserted into the midst of your life, not just on the fringe as white noise. 1532 by Drew Gibson is an album that should be a part of your life.
Learn more about Drew Gibson and buy the album: http://www.drew-gibson.com/
 To be fair, that’s probably reflective of the fact that the tension between successive generations has historically been cast between father and son. How and even whether that reflects oppressive patriarchalism is beyond this review and this reviewer’s knowledge of literary analysis.
 Contrast the relationships that the matriarch and the patriarch of Parenthood have on the children and how those relationships affect plotlines.