The Bee Gee’s evergreen songbook gets the Country twang of Nashville

The release of this album poses a question: how do you replace the sibling songwriter trio whose songs have unequivocally defined contemporary music since the release of Bee Gees 1st in 1967? In this case by Barry Gibb’s vision to reimagine The Gibb Brothers’ songs with a stellar cast assembled in the colosseum of Country music: RCA Studios, Nashville, Tennessee.

Greenfields - The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook Volume 1 turned from idea to reality after Gibb’s son Stephen, played his father a song by Dave Cobb, the multi-award winning Country music producer which had him reeling: ‘I want to work with that guy. If I make any more records, it’s with him’. From there the collaborations just fell into place: the attraction of recording with the last living Bee Gee and Cobb’s artist connections made the project irresistible.

Keith Urban pitches up, with wife Nicole Kidman tagging along, to perform the album opener I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You, before Words of a Fool which is welded in true pedal-steel guitar. It’s a mark of Gibb’s humility that he is wowed by Dolly Parton’s reveal that the position she takes at the microphone for Words, is the very same place she stood to record the classics Jolene and I Will Always Love you. Whilst it’s fair to say the sun is setting on Gibb’s vibrato voice, it’s still a delight to hear the two harmonising.

Jive Talkin’, a Number One in 1975 and the song which announced The Bee Gees to the US Disco scene, is slower and arguably loses a little punch. Alison Krauss delivers a songbird-like performance on Too Much Heaven with nuanced phrasing. How do you choose a standout track from this collection? Possibly How Deep Is Your Love, taken from Saturday Night Fever, with its sparse acoustic guitar and a sublime pause just before the second chorus, as Gibb’s voice fades to make way for the hook.

To Love Somebody which was covered by the likes of: Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Janis Joplin remarkably only reached number 17 in the Billboard chart on release and this time it’s Jay Buchanan who delivers a audacious vocal which sees him soaring to the limits of his range. Looking back, surely It was the case that the music world was yet to realise how much greatness would flow out of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. There is time for a sultry cameo from Sheryl Crowe on the timeless How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.

Barry Gibb, a life-long Country and Bluegrass fan, was quick to praise the generosity of his guests artists. Fortune favours the brave: with Greenfields, Barry Gibb and David Cobb have delivered an admirable recording and if the title is an indication on what is to follow, bring on Volume 2.
Best wishes

Stuart Large is a Music Writer follow him on twitter @boyaboutsound