Thank God another Taj Mahal finally showed up on the scene. Inimitability is one thing, but being deprived of a great hybrid style is another, and Taj has stood unaccompanied for far too long, Eric Bibb now stepping into the breach, to the great relief of myself, Eric and Mahal's past audience, and what will prove to be a goodly new crop of very satisfied listeners now that he's on the Stony Plain imprint. The gentleman comes well founded in a certifiable lineage, his father a known theatre singer who showed up in the 60s folk scene, his uncle none other than the esteemed John Lewis of MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet) fame, and his godfather Paul Robeson. Add to that the fact that Pete Seeger was a family friend and that Bob Dylan advised the 11-year old Bibb to "keep it simple, forget all the fancy stuff", and you see someone for whom a factory job just was not going to be the gig.
Bibb followed Dylan's advice…but not quite. He manages to pack a hell of a lot into a fairly simple baseline, resulting in a highly attractive and indeed infectiously mellifluous presence that shines with light, ambrosia, and old school down-home righteousness, a potent combination. Every cut sings and whispers with a gently rolling Summer-y feel perambulating amid grace and dignity…but not airs, 'cause this is just about as ground-level as it gets. And, man, those rhythms! Bibb possesses an all-too-scarce ability to fall into the pocket each and every time he picks up pen (most of the cuts are his) and guitar, so much so that it appears he was born in the groove and will scarcely ever have to worry about it.
The backing band is, ironically enough, kinda like The Band was to Dylan, an extension of Bibbs' spirit and completely in the zone, more fingers to his deft hands. Jerry Douglas (and, lord almighty, ya just can't miss him on In My Time, the guy's one of the very best), Michael Jerome Brown, and Michel Pepin show up, but I was particularly taken with Grant Dermody's harmonica work standing foursquare with Bibbs' gentle but richly convincing vocals, a contrast between the two making the singer's way cool inflections all the more appreciable. More, Bibbs guitar work can be very subtle, as in Sinner Man, and he plays eight different axes: 6-string acoustic, 7-string acoustic, 9-string acoustic, baritone, resonator, contra-bass, cigar box diddly bow, and 6-string banjo. So, toss off those hard-heeled shoes, don a pair of sandals, tip that straw hat to a rakish angle, and ease on into this CD. You need it, times is too damn tuff, and we need respite like this. Badly.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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