One of many self-styled contemporary folk singers to have come on the scene in the 1980s, Vance Gilbert was inspired to begin writing his own material after hearing Shawn Colvin perform at a Boston theater. While Gilbert has become recognized on the folk festival circuit as a songwriter of substance, performance for him is second nature. Gilbert is not a middle-of-the-road folk singer, and his diverse set of influences includes Kenny Rankin, Roberta Flack, Carmen McRae, George Benson and Stevie Wonder. His voice has been compared to everyone from Al Jarreau to Bill Withers and Donny Hathaway.
Gilbert, born and raised in Willingboro, N.J., moved to Connecticut to attend Connecticut College, relocating to Boston after graduating in 1979. Gilbert's brother had brought him a bass to keep him studying in the dorms, but he later switched to acoustic guitar and singing, because it satisfied his need to be up front, doing his own thing. Before he began performing his own songs in concert, Gilbert worked in cocktail lounges, performing a wide repertoire of songs that ranged from Gershwin to Top 40, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire. After the lounge work dried up, Gilbert began teaching in Boston-area public schools.
Later, as a singer/songwriter, all his training as a lounge singer paid off, as he's blessed with an uncanny ability to read the moods of his audiences, and he's learned to trust his intuition in his song selection on stage. Gilbert has released three excellent albums for the Philo subsidiary of Rounder Records, 1994's Edgewise, 1995's Fugitives, and 1998's Shaking Off Gravity. Gilbert continued to tour around the U.S. and Canada throughout the making of these records, eventually recording a live album in 1999 that garnered critical praise the following year. It wasn't until 2002 that Gilbert recorded a new album, the self-produced One Thru Fourteen. ~ Richard Skelly