Eric Bibb has recently produced a series of excellent and relevant albums highlighted by 2014’s Blues People. He has a laid back and simple approach that often belies the messages of his music.
His latest release, titled Migration Blues, is centered around a fusion of past and present migrants or migrations that are explored within a folk and blues format. The 15 tracks include 12 original tunes and three cover songs. Bibb (vocals, acoustic guitar, and banjo) is joined primarily by JJ Milteau (harmonica) and Michael Jerome Browne (guitar, banjo, and mandolin).
Keying off the Southern American migration of Afro-Americans from the rural south to the industrial north due to segregation and poverty, he moves his music to present-day reasons for escaping various home countries. “Refugee Moan,” “Four Years No Rain,” “We Had To Move,” and “With A Dolla In My Pocket” focus on the effects of war, prejudice, and starvation in their home countries and the hopes and realities of their new homes. Particularly chilling is “Prayin’ For Shore,” which presents the dangers at sea and of their destination as well.
The Three cover songs are a laid-back version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War,” a hopeful interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land,” and a moving version of the spiritual “Mornin’” Train” that ends the album.
Despite the seriousness of the topics, Bibb’s voice and music make it all very listenable. Milteau’s Harmonica is an important component to the sound on many of the songs as it provides a nice counterpoint to Bibb’s guitar work.
Eric Bibb has paid homage to the American blues through his stories and music. Migration Blues is an album that deserves a listen.