Eric Bibb and North Country with Danny Thompson ‘The Happiest Man in the World’ CD/ (Dixiefrog) 4/5

eric-bibbThis largely new set of original recordings by singer-songwriter folk-blues guitarist Eric Bibb has a distinctive Anglo-Finish input with the former comprising of veteran bassist Danny Thompson joining the fold, laying down some of his trademark jazzy basslines in the Norfolk countryside while the album as a whole is co-produced by the leader and fellow musician, Finn Olli Haavisto. Nonetheless, the overall sound conjurs up the laid back hues of warm southern states. A mood vibe permeates, ‘Born to be your man’, where the leader name checks one Mohammed Ali as well as Prince. Both are prescient choices given their sad departures this year.
Of the one cover on offer here, there is a terrific alternative reading of Ray Davies’, ‘You really got me’, with the original tempo taken down a notch or two, with a quasi-spoken delivery adding a new vitality to the song. Elsewhere, Eric Bibb excels on songs that, on the surface, are seemingly simple and speak of humanity such as, ‘King size bed’, and Bibb’s songwriting skills are showcased to the fore here.
A real favourite of this writer is the laid back instrumental with acoustic guitar, banjo and steel guitar all working in tandem on, ‘1912 Skiing disaster’, and surely there needs to be more of this kind of music on future releases when the instrumentation is so compelling. Hawaiian guitar makes a welcome appearance on, ‘I’ll farm for you’, which has a relaxed atmosphere throughout

Little wonder that a comprehensive UK tour that took place throughout April was so well received. Eric Bibb is one of the modern masters of the folk-blues idiom and he is currently in a rich vein of form. Bi-lingual English and French sleeve notes.

Tim Stenhouse