Eric Bibb – Good Stuff (1997)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Son of little-known folk singer Leon Bibb, Eric Bibb grew up listening and meeting musicians like Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan — and his uncle, pianist and composer John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Eric has become more of a name in folk and blues circles in Europe and released his first album there in the 1990s already in his mid-forties.

This album gets Bibb off to a grand start, mixing together country blues, folk and gospel and other influences effortlessly. His vocals, like his contemporary Keb’ Mo’, conveys just the right emotion without being overly emotive- a big plus in folk blues. And the instrumentation is kept to down to the bare necessities: a small ensemble track here and there, some unaccompanied acoustic guitar on other tracks and something in between elsewhere.

For instance, “Too Much Whiskey” has a looping bass line played on an acoustic guitar paired with sparse banjo lines is just enough to convey the despair of a drunken life as sung by Bibb. But perhaps the strongest aspect of the album is Bibb’s songwriting; “Where The Green Grass Grows” is a solemn, beautiful traditional-type gospel tune with sublime backing vocals by The Deacons and simple but inspirational lyrics:

I don’t want to be left behind when the saints come marching in
I don’t want to be left behind when the soul sets sail
I don’t want to be left behind when my friends all join the band
I want to walk where the green grass grows
I want to feel God’s glory under my feet
Where the sun does shine and the warm wind blows,
keep me walking where the green grass grows

“All Of My Love”, on the other hand, is an uplifting Creole-flavored number with an accordion and a two-step rhythm. Almost every song has a distinct character to it, but never strays from Bibb’s mission to deliver uncompromising traditional American music that is quite palatable for a wide variety of tastes.

If you like Keb’ Mo’, and if you really like Keb’ Mo’s first album, wait ’till you hear Eric Bibb’s debut.

He later recorded “Me to You,” featuring an appearance by Pops and Mavis Staples, on Code Blue. A subsequent duets album included Charlie Musselwhite.

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