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Eric Bibb

Introducing Eric Bibb, whose music harkens back to all the blues greats and finds fresh inspiration in the man who shined his shoes.

Weighing his words carefully world renowned blues/roots recording artist Eric Bibb said, "Musicians have the possibility of using music as a healing force. Music has great possibilities and great innate qualities that make it a healer's tool and then the choice is whether you want to focus on that or delve into it or if you want to keep it light and let the vibrations be dictated by entertainment agendas only."

Speaking to me from his hotel room in Minneapolis while preparing for a gig on his most recent concert tour the New York native now living in southwest England said, "Because of the kind of music that I am attracted to I have always been aware of the great spiritual qualities in music. Folk spirituals and praise music was a big part of what I grew up listening to. I have discovered for myself how powerful (that type of music) can be."

Noting that the world in which we live is rife with wars, suffering, animosity and misunderstanding between many cultures Bibb has concluded, "It is obvious to me as a music maker that I ought to let that music be used in the service of bringing people together as opposed to simply entertaining people."

Bibb's rich baritone voice offers comfort and hope, "When you're lonely an' discouraged/An' misery has no end/When you need that helpin' hand/An' no-one wants to lend/When you're down on your knees/When you're beggin' for a friend/Yes, you know you're gonna find one/In my Father's home/" The opening stanza of "In My Father's House" also makes the declaration that there are no requirements for special membership in "My Father's house."

"I am more comfortable with and it is becoming clearer to me that my role as a musician involves those things that I spoke about in answering your last question (Should an artist speak out on social issues?). I am not untouched by the pull of the market place and the pressure to be more commercially successful such as selling more records, being better known and all that kind of stuff," he continued. Once again, Bibb measures his words carefully and said, "I must say that I have had the good fortune of having a career and building a career that was from the beginning coming from another place. I didn't start out in music to be a star. I pursued it because I felt I had to personally and that nothing else made as much sense as being a music maker, songwriter, singing and playing. It just seemed to be the most natural of things to do with my time. I have become more and more comfortable as it has become clear to me how I have prepared to do just what I am doing. Once you reach a certain amount of celebrity and
success, you are exposed to an increasing amount of (pressure) from people on your team or that you are associated with in business. There
is the pressure to reach further, sell more units and become more mainstream."

Bibb said that the business side of music always creates the pressure to follow the most recent trends and strategies for those who the
industry deems to be successful. The unique quality of an artist and their music is often sacrificed to adopt what is considered to be more
popular. While Bibb is conscious that attention needs to be given to the business aspects of his music, he has consciously tried to present
a career that is true to his values and creative instincts. "It is a tough industry, jobs come and go and people always are thinking about holding onto what they have or (questioning) if they are going to be losing their stature in the business their job, their salary whatever," he said before adding, "We are all trying to be ourselves and at the same time we are trying to maintain what we have worked hard for and not lose it."

Eric Bibb is also a deeply personal man who cares enough to write a song ("Dr. Shine") about a shoeshine man that he encountered in an
airport and then after making a demo of the song returned to play it on a walkman for the man to hear. "Dr. Shine" provides a glimpse into
the side of Americana to which Woody Guthrie devoted so much of his own music.

"It was a wonderful experience. He was a pleasant guy; his whole demeanor appealed to me and (prompted) me to ask a little about his background. I stuck with the idea that there was a song in all of this," recalled Bibb.

When Bibb returned later with the demo version of the song, "He was amazed that somebody would find his story important enough to write
about and that it had actually turned into a song. I think he was a little in shock," he said.

Continuing to explain why the shoeshine man's story interested him Bibb said, "I know that everybody has a story to tell and I am interested in those kinds of stories. I think that when you make a hero out of somebody like an elderly shoeshine gentleman it is the kind of folk hero that I grew up with." Like all good storytellers, Bibb paints such a vivid account of the dialogue and circumstances that the listener becomes a participant in the  conversation. The easygoing melody of "Still Livin' On" from the CD Diamond Days, introduces us to more folklore in the persons of legendary
blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt simply described as a "farmin' man," and Elizabeth Cotton who at age eleven penned the infamous song
"Freight Train." Groups as diverse as Peter, Paul and Mary to the Grateful Dead covered the African American folk picker in later years. "The Singing Gospel Preacher" Reverend Gary Davis's life is chronicled in the third stanza of "Still Livin' On." In his lyrics, Bibb refers to Mississippi bluesman Son House, a former Baptist preacher, as being one of his heroes and Sam (and Ann) Charters who during a racially turbulent America used their music to bridge the gap between whites and blacks. Our final encounter takes place with Roebuck Staples whose gospel music evolved into the legendary The Staple Singers. Bibb's words in the song encourage us to, "Read 'em in a book, look 'em up on the net/Blues people we can't forget/," I almost forgot to look them up but I am glad I did. Bibb's song is a fine tribute to the men and women who left an incredible legacy of blues music that originated within their African American heritage.

I asked Bibb about his earthy finger picking approach to music and he replies, "The kind of phrasing that appeal to me musically harkens back to an older time. What appeals to me most musically is perhaps an older way of putting together a phrase. Certainly, the themes are more matched with acoustic sounds than electric guitars. I have always played acoustic guitars and never had a burning passion to pursue playing electric instruments although I enjoy many fine collaborative relationships with people who play electric instruments. There is something about the sound of the acoustic guitar that resonates with me."

When you listen to the easygoing lilt of the bonus track "Worried Man Blues," it is difficult to imagine Bibb playing in any other fashion than the raw organic notes that he enriches with fabulous word pictures. At times, it seems that his gentle vocals and the guitar chords are almost indistinguishable as the two enjoy perfect unblemished harmony. While touring you will often find Bibb alone onstage with a signature Fylde guitar or perhaps playing his baritone six string fashioned by Sydney Australia's Gerard Gilet. During the entire month of March Eric Bibb is touring in Australia before briefly touching down on the east coast of the United States in early April. Fans in western Canada will have many opportunities to
take in one of Bibb's concerts during the month of April before he splits for three gigs in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague



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