March 2000

The Groobees
Blix Street Records G210067
Released: 1999

by Marc Rigrodsky

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

[Reviewed on CD]You may fantasize how glamorous the life of a part-time music critic must be. It’s a non-stop medley of supermodels, drugs, and cash, all courtesy of the record companies.

How wrong you are. In fact, you have no idea how much I suffer for my art. The loneliness, the boredom, the flubbed harmonies, all of which I must put up with to enlighten you regarding the latest offerings of musical fare. So you can imagine the indignity I felt when I was asked to review The Groobees on Blix Street Records.

Groobees? What kind of doofus name is that? It’s a character from an episode of Gumby & Pokey. Real cool, yeah. And look at the band picture! A blonde and four dorks! The cover of the jewel case has a sticker that says "Includes Original Version of "WIDE OPEN SPACES." This may mean something to you.

Well, they pay me good money to listen to this stuff, so I popped the disc in my trusty Yahama and prepared for the worst. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The first track, "Ahead of Time," starts with a simple acoustic guitar lick, then -- whap! -- singer Susan Gibson’s growl grabs you in a headlock and doesn’t let go until the disc stops spinning. Why is this Ferrari engine in an old pickup truck? She has the intensity of steel-lunged belters such as Joan Osborne or Beth Hart, although, unlike them, she keeps her voice firmly tethered to the song (for the most part).

Most of The Groobees consists of Gibson’s voice riding herd on some decent country-pop-rock reflections on the weariness of small-town life. Highlights include "Shut This Place Down," a wonderful piece of country swing on which Gibson cuts loose, and the aforementioned "Wide Open Spaces" (yeah, yeah, I know, the Dixie Chicks). The arrangements are a fairly simple and standard mix of acoustic and electric instruments, and seem to be designed not to intrude on Gibson’s magnificent voice. Wisely, she is always kept on top of the mix.

Ultimately, the songs and the arrangements are not enough to push the album towards greatness. But Gibson’s husky vocals are themselves worth the price of admission. She makes me feel, well, groobee.