Eric Bibb (Stony Plain Records)
The thing about bluesy folk guitarist Eric Bibb — to me, one of the most underrated musicians of that genre — is his passion, his heart, and what appears to be an undying interest in going outside his comfort zone to try new things. A deep thinker with a social consciousness and a warm, rich baritone voice to match, Bibb traverses the globe with this two-CD set of 24 songs he recorded in France, Sweden, England, the United States, Jamaica, Canada, and Ghana. Guests include World Music star Habib Koite and West African musician Solo Cissokho, the latter of whom is best known for his mastery of the kora, a 22-stringed harp.
The set opens with Cissokho and Bibb performing “Gathering of the Tribes,” a moving piece gracefully underscored with these can’t-miss lyrics repeated several times in the refrain: “Drink the pure water of forgiveness/Sing the sweet song of mercy/Let the cornerstone of the temple be love.” There’s nothing phony or pretentious about this project or anything Bibb does. He warms your heart, often in different ways.
It’s been noted many times the 67-year-old Bibb is the son of folk singer Leon Bibb, the nephew of jazz pianist-composer John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and the godson of actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson. The Bibbs occasionally had Pete Seeger, Odetta, and Bob Dylan over to their New York City home while young Eric was growing up, and — by the time he was 16 — Bibb was playing guitar in the house band of his father’s local TV talent show. But it bears repeating that anyone from Robeson to Dylan has helped shape Bibb’s musical vision. You can hear them in him, even though Bibb is very much his own artist. That’s even more so the case with this project, one of the most ambitious and worldly Bibb has taken on.
It’s a great follow-up to Bibb’s 2017 Migration Blues, an album dedicated to the current refugee crisis. And Koite, a West African banjo master, performed with Bibb on the acclaimed Brothers in Bamako album in 2012.
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