Migration Blues By Eric Bibb

October 19, 2017

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.

 

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The Happiest Man In The World By Eric Bibb

February 28, 2017

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I don’t know if Eric Bibb is the hardest working person in show business but he has to be one of the most prolific, Whether alone or with a wide assortment of friends, he releases albums with regularity.

The Happiest Man In The World finds Bibb combining his talents with the Finnnish group North Country Far and English jazz/folk bassist Danny Thompson. His music tends to tread the line between blues and folk. While most of his albums tend to be more blues oriented, this times he comes down more on the folk side of the equation.

Bibb wrote of co-wrote 11 of the 14 tracks. My only criticism is the set could have used a little bite in places but his wonderfully soulful voice carries the day. His acoustical approach to such songs as “Tell Ol’ Bill,” “Prison Of Time,” “Toolin’ Down The Road,” “Wish I Could Hold You,” and “Creole Café” are smooth and laid back. His cover of the Kinks classic rocker “You Really Got Me” is unique as it opens up new textures as he re-invents the song.

One thing that remains consistent in most of Bibb’s work is the positive nature of his music. In a world that is many time bleak, he tends to explore the sunny side of life.

The Happiest Man In The World is a consistent album that will mke you smile and relax and sometimes that is enough


Blues People By Eric Bibb

February 27, 2015

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The music of Eric Bibb can be defined as acoustic blues, Americana, folk or more appropriately a fusion of all three. The music is gentle but  the lyrics many times have an edge and carry a message.

He has just released his newest album titled Blues Power. It is a combination of original compositions and carefully selected covers. They all fit into his theme of exploring the history of African Americans, which all adds up to his most cohesive effort to date.

His own co-written compositions such as “Driftin’ Door To Door,” “God’s Mojo,” “Rosewood,” and “Dream Catchers” keep the focus on his thoughts and stories.

His cover of the Reverend Gary Davis’ “I Heard The Angels Singing” is both subtle and soaring thanks to The Blind Boys Of Alabama. The vocal group re-appears on the traditional “Needed Time,” which also includes vocals by Taj Mahal and Ruthie Foster.

Eric Bibb has created a minor masterpiece as he explores elements of his and America’s heritage. Blues People is a thoughtful and entertaining release, which is a combination that is rarely attained.

 


Jericho Road by Eric Bibb

November 22, 2013

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Counting solo, live, and duet albums, Eric Bibb’s count has now passed the 40 mark. He will shortly release his newest effort, Jericho Road, this month.

Bibb is a blues singer/songwriter who incorporates some African rhythms into his traditional brand of American blues. Much of his work has had a somewhat simple and even stark sound at times. On his newest release, however, he has filled in the sound with a band and even horns in places. Through it all he remains an excellent story teller who travels in a gentle direction.

He has often added spiritual elements to his music. The title of the album is taken from the road that connects Jerusalem and Jericho where the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan took place.

All of the songs were written or co-written by Bibb and he has a knack of producing incisive lyrics. While songs such as “Freedom Train,” “The Lord’s Work,” and “With My Maker I Am One” are suited for his laid back brand of folk and blues; they can also be translated in other musical styles and directions as well.

“Death Row Blues” and “One Day At A Time” tell wonderful stories and present the more traditional blues side of his music.

Eric Bibb has been producing excellent music for decades and his Jericho Road is the latest in his chain of releases. He continues to combine American and African elements into his music, which allows him to create a unique brand of blues that can move in a folk direction at times. It is an album that is well worth a listen.


Brothers In Bamako by Eric Bibb and Habib Koite

June 3, 2013

Eric Bibb is an American blues singer/songwriter who is proficient on both the guitar and banjo. Habib Koite is also a singer/songwriter and guitarist but he is from West Africa and his rhythms and styles reflect that continent. They have now combined their talents to create a unique blend of blues, world music, and even a little gospel that fuses their very different origins and styles.

They wisely kept it simple on Brothers in Bamako. The only other constant in addition to their vocals and instruments is percussionist Mamadou Kone. They added background vocals to one track and a pedal steel guitar to another, but that’s it.

They also wrote singularly or in tandem, 11 of the 13 tracks. The two covers, which close the album, serve as bookends for their approach. The old blues song, “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” is about as close as they come to a traditional sound. On the other hand, their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” takes the song to places it has rarely, if ever, traveled. Bibb’s vocal, Koite’s rhythms, and the blending of Olli Haavisto’s pedal steel into the mix creates an intriguing and memorable performance.

One other interesting and poignant track, “On My Way to Bamako,” sees Bibb sharing his feelings about his first visit to Mali. Koite returns the favor with his “L.A.” Also, “We Don’t Care” has some bite as they tackle the mining problems of West Africa.

Bibb and Koite have united to forge a fusion of not only two distinct musical styles and forms but of two cultures as well. Brothers in Bamako may not appeal to everyone but if you are in the mood for something a little different and want to take a chance, then this is an album for you.

Article first published as Music Review: Eric Bibb & Habib Koite – Brothers In Bamako on Blogcritics.


Deeper In The Well by Eric Bibb

April 24, 2012

Eric Bibb comes from an outstanding pedigree. His father, Leon, was a part of the early 1960s folk revival movement in the United States, Paul Robeson was his godfather, and John Lewis of Modern Jazz Quartet fame was his uncle.

He was exposed to music as a child and received his first guitar at the age of seven. He is a traditional folk/blues artist who relies on an acoustic sound. During the course of his long and prolific career, he has released close to three dozen albums and received a number of blues awards.

During the past 40 years, he has recorded for a number of labels but has now signed with the Stony Plain label out of Canada, which specializes in folk, blues, and roots music. If his debut album for the label is any indication, it will be a good match.

Deeper In The Well finds Bibb continuing to explore the folk and blues heritage. As with many traditional blues artists, he is a virtuoso on the guitar, be it a six, seven, or nine-string, plus can also play a mean banjo when required. He is supported by harmonica player Grant Dermody, who plays a prominent part in his sound, upright bass/accordion player Dirk Powell, fiddler Cedric Watson, drummer Danny DeVillier, and Cajun triangle player Christine Balfa.

He is at his best on a couple of traditional folk tracks when he presents “Boll Weevil” and “Sinner Man” in all their raw starkness. He also gives a smooth and precise interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin.’”

“Bayou Belle” is a modern folk/blues song right out of the southern Delta. It has an ominous style as it spins its tale of love’s longing. Oddly, the title track is the one that moves him farthest from his roots. “Dig A Little Deeper In The Well,” written by deceased Nashville songwriter Roger Bowling, comes close to being a conventional country song, complete with fiddles, banjos, and harmony vocals.

He is also a noted songwriter. Tracks such as “In My Time,” “Music,” “Movin’ Up,” “No Further,” and “Sittin’ In A Hotel Room” all find him fusing folk and blues traditions.

Deeper In The Well is a fine addition to Eric Bibb’s large catalog of releases, as it is a modern interpretation of some old traditions. Bibb remains one of the better practitioners of his chosen style of music.

Article first published as Music Review: Eric Bibb – Deeper In The Well on Blogcritics.