"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." Ralph Waldo Emerson said that. "I want to walk through the night without fearing a thing — outdated, frustrated and blue." Otis Gibbs sang that. The Wanamaker, Indiana native, with his Trotskyite beard and politics, trucker cap and acoustic guitar, is his own kind of American genius. A folk troubadour to his core, Gibbs is one of our best chroniclers of small-town lives and landscapes, especially of the Midwestern persuasion. He recently celebrated his 50th birthday by setting up in his living room to record some snapshots of his travels – from Wigwam Motels to the world's largest ball of twine to the Great Divide – and add to a truly sui generis body of work that provokes and portrays the ever resilient, always non-conformist spirit of working-class communities.
Thanks for Giving a Damn: Gibbs' podcast, now at 140 episodes, weaves together witty and thought-provoking stories of music and history. It's a must download.
Stream "Great American Roadside" from the upcoming Mount Renraw, to be released next week, below:
8 p.m. Thursday, January 5. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $10. 314-773-3363.