Eric Bibb ‘Blues People’ (DixieFrog) 4/5

eric-bibbFolk-blues with a contemporary twist is where Eric Bibb is at and he is unquestionably one of the finest practitioners among his generation, and this latest offering features an all-star guesting and a lovely varied selection of styles. A truly melodic folk-blues number comes in ‘Chocolate Man’, written by guitarist Guy Davis, who contributes on vocals and this is a contender for most enjoyable song on the album. The soulful mid-tempo ‘God’s Mojo’ impresses with a lilting piano accompaniment and general relaxed ambience, and Bibb lays down an intimate vocal delivery. Soul-blues is a sub-genre that Bibb ought to showcase more often, especially when he is in the company as here of that fine vocalist Linda Tillery. Here the instrumental accompaniment has all the feel of the Staple Singers with guitar riffs out of the Stax school and the two duet magnificently. The storytelling quality of the blues and its umbilical cord to social reality has never been more in evidence than on the album’s most stunning and thought-provoking tune, ‘Rosewood’. It tells the true life story of an African-American neighbourhood in 1923 that was deliberately set on fire and here the addition of strings contributes a chillingly dramatic edge to proceedings. One of Eric Bibb’s most political statements thus far and delivered with the just the right level of human emotion as well as factual objectivity. Another reflective piece with social dimensions is ‘Silver Spoon’ featuring Popa Chubby and catchy bass line, and guitar riff make this a memorable song while there is more of a country-blues feel to ‘Needed Time’ with pedal steel guitar in attendance and the learned presence of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Ruthie Foster and Taj Mahal no less. Reggae beats meet folk-blues on the excellent ‘Turner Station’ that includes some lovely soulful keyboards. The Blind Boys of Alabama return alongside J.J. Milteau on the Reverend Gary Davis composition, ‘I heard the angels sing’, and gospel tones are the order of the day. A fine overview of contemporary acoustic blues from one of the major talents to take blues kicking into the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Tim Stenhouse