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Musician: Eric Bibb


Sixty year old Eric Bibb is an interesting figure in the roots music tradition. he’s the son of folk musician Leon Bibb, nephew of Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis, and heard musical advice from Bob Dylan when he was only six. (Reportedly, Dylan told the younger Bibb to keep guitar playing simple.) But while steeped in Americana, Bib has lived most of his adult life in Finland and Sweden even as he continued to pump out a string of 36 albums of blues, folk, country, and meldings of such genres.

But I admit a bit of confusion regarding the publicity for his new release on Stony Plain Records. Deeper in the Well is billed as a Louisiana centered album, and it’s true it was recorded at Dirk Powell's Cypress House studio. For the 13 songs, Powell played banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Jerry Douglas played Dobro along with Cedric Watson (guitar), Danny Devillier (drums), Grant Dermody (harp), and Creole fiddler Cedric Watson.

But you won’t think bayous or New Orleans for this collection; rather, you’re likely to hear the rural South as a whole. Bib has a bit of  Hank Williams, Bukka White, Son House, Jimmy Reed, Woody Guthrie, and Jimmie Rodgers in his blood which he’s cooked into one of the most relaxed, laid-back, and intimate  performance styles currently being recorded. How would a listener pigeon-hole a song called “Music,” at least in the hands of Eric Bibb? as the lyrics tell us, call it what you want to, but “If I feel it, that’s good enough for me.” After all, there aren’t any “rules and regulations” and why would you want any?

Perhaps the most energetic track on the album is “Bayou Belle” which opens the set with contrasting drums, percussion, guitar, fiddle, and harmonica rhythms. Then, it’d be harder to go much further back in roots music styles than “Could Be You, Could Be Me” with its blend of country-folk. Equally old, old school is the Appalachian hillbilly sing-along, “Dig A Little Deeper In The Well.” Bibb even takes us to the cotton fields in “Boll Weevil” before offering the simple guitar and Dobro supported standard, “In My Time.” The singer then warns you about the fate of your very soul in the haunting Gospel/blues “Sinner Man,” a stand-out track for both the urgent vocal delivery and slick guitar picking.

But, in the main, warmth and optimism are the spirit, tone, and theme of the album. For example, the accordion spiced “Money In Your Pocket” is the “sho nuff” blues with a twist—the singer has a kind woman, a good job, and is feeling very blessed with life. The polished musicianship comes through again in “Every Wind In The River” where Bibb rests his mind “inside my dreams” and says we all find our own river to get out to the sea. His contentment is still there in “Sittin' In A Hotel Room” where he observes a picture in which there’s nothing needing fixing.

The water imagery concludes in the album’s closer, a slow version of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin'.” Bibb takes Dylan’s lyrical challenge to another generation and turns it into a gentle plea. Strangely, a relaxed album with such optimism ends on notes dipped in resignation. Perhaps that’s why an instrumental “hidden track” was added, a lilting harmonica solo that resurrects the uplifting feel of the rest of the selections.

Deeper in the Well is drawn from deep sources indeed, and the water is warm and inviting. It’s down-home, back-porch, old-fashioned rocking-chair music that’s reassuring, calming, and perhaps even healing. Stony Plain thought enough of this collection to issue it in a nice package with a high-quality color booklet. You might find the voice of Eric Bibb and the jamming folks playing with him a nice package yourself.           


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