Whoa! Eric Bibb starts out his latest by sounding like Chris Rea before fading back into his own wont. Didn't expect that very cool move. Regardless, though, there's a real satiny feel to this CD, and producer / co-writer / session player Glen Scott is responsible for fining out Bibb's already smooth delivery to the last possible iota. I suspect it's not just that Scott's a player but equally as much because he's a multi-instrumentalist, damn good one too, thus sympathetic in sorting out just how all the axes should arrange themselves in the mix (which, by the way, good grief!, he also co-engineered and co-recorded). I mean, this is the sort of stratospheric quality one expects in a John Martyn, Al Stewart, Marvin Gaye, Bruce Cockburn, or Danny O'Keefe release…and you can hear various elements of those guys all through this soothing, delightful, and meditative album.
Bibb's mission is to reconcile the world to itself, just as his father before him, Leon Bibb, a folk singer, became so adept at, a gent presently unjustly ignored but once a lion of the media, a friend of Paul Robeson (and Leon found himself blacklisted alongside him), a cat who appeared on Ed Sullivan, Hootenanny, and Bill Cosby tours, and who fought racial segregation in the 50s and 60s with Dick Gregory and others. As with father, so with son, and Leon's legacy is thusly alive in both song and spirit here. Unlike so many others on the present-day scene, though, Eric doesn't distance himself from the problems he laments and has candidly said "Given all this exposure to so many cultures, I'm amazed, over and over again, at the prejudiced attitudes and the tendency to judge that lingers in my own thinking. Making assumptions about people based on appearance is what we've all been conditioned to do, and falling into that trap is surely a big part of what keeps us in conflict with each other".
That is a much too rare form of confessorial humility and self-awareness inside any social context, and, given that, we might expect his work would be didactic, dogmatic, and reflexive…and we'd be dead wrong. There's a gentleness born of the compassion displayed in his remarks as well as a masterful blending of art with intent that cannot help but ease the listener into agreement with such a universalist modality. And when I refer to Bibb's art as gentle and beautiful, I mean 'exquisite'. Funky too, as in Can't Please Everybody, but in soft suede shoes, straw fedora, and a wide smile. In this and other cuts, one would not be surprised to find Colin Linden in the credits, but Jericho was recorded in Sweden with a buncha Swedish (and other) musicians and singers who certainly share much with all fans of Americana.
By the by, you'll find the CD credits 13 cuts plus 2 bonus tracks, so don't worry when the player read-out shows only '13' - the bonuses are packed, after a lengthy pause, into track 13, so definitely listen all the way through, as the last cut, Nanibali, is a kalimba/vocal solo by Solo Cissoko, and the guy's work is impressive.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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