Eric Bibb: das neue Album des Blues-Meisters

Werte Musikliebhaber, keine zehn Jahre hat ERIC BIBB benötigt, um im Blues-Sektor ein Haushaltsname zu werden. Mit seinem einzigartigen Spiel und seiner kreativen Vision hat BIBB die amerikanische Roots-Musik einer neuen Generation von Fans näher gebracht. BIBB ist und bleibt ein Erlebnis. In diesen Reigen fügt sich auch sein exzellentes neues Album „Deeper In The Well“ ein.

Die Details liefert Euch Eric persönlich:
„Anyone with an avid interest in the traditional folk music of North America knows that Louisiana has long been, and still is, a place where the old styles survive and thrive and new sounds are born. Its rich history of African, French, Spanish, Caribbean and Native- American influences has gifted the world with a unique culture that no catastrophe, natural or man-made, can ever destroy. Arriving, mid-September, at Dirk Powell’s Cypress House Studio in Pont Breaux, Louisiana, with a satchel of new songs, I felt the thrill of great expectations. The last time I’d met up with Dirk was back in January when we both had been invited to be a part of the BBC’s „Celtic Connections“- filmed in the Scottish countryside. That was the first time we’d had the opportunity to playmusic together and we really hit it off.

The original idea to record in Louisiana was hatched even earlier during a meeting with Matt Greenhill from Folklore Productions. His many talents include getting like-minded musicians together in interesting combinations. Anyway, knowing that I was looking for a versatile multi-instrumentalist to record with alongside harmonica virtuoso Grant Dermody, he suggested Dirk, an amazing musicianer who also has a wonderful studio.

Matt also later came up with the idea of calling in the fabulous Cedric Watson, a young lion of the new Creole music evolving in and around Lafayette. Also on hand was the sublimely groovy Danny DeVillier, on drums, and Michael Bishop, sound engineer extraordinaire, who flew in from Ohio with his gear and million-dollar ears. Thusly assembled, in beautiful, not-too-hot, bayou weather, the seven of us, brothers of varying hue, came to record a celebration of our shared Americana héritage: „Deeper In The Well“.“
Eric Bibb (October, 2011)

In less than ten years, Eric Bibb has become a household name for blues fans in America, Europe, Australia, Canada and the rest of the world. A beacon for the next generation of folk music lovers, Bibb has opened new ways for the future of American roots music with his subtle playing and creative vision.

Eric was born in New York in 1951, a time coinciding with the emergence of the „New Negro“-a term coined by the black intellectuals of the day to reflect the prevalent hope of black Americans at the dawn of the Civil Rights era. Even though times were not changing as fast as they should have in the wake of a war largely fought against racism and fascism, mentalities were slowly evolving.

Only four years before, Jackie Robinson had opened the doors of major league baseball to black players by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, months only before President Truman desegregated the US Army. In 1950, the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to black diplomat Ralph Bunche for his groundbreaking work in the name of peace in the Middle-East. That same year, a young actor named Sidney Poitier was featured on the screen for the first time in No Way Out, playing the role of an African-American doctor, worlds apart from the grinning Negroes and other degrading stereotypes largely peddled by Hollywood until then. Also featured in the same Joseph Mankiewicz movie were Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, who regularly visited the Bibb home in Queens with their son Guy.

Like those of Guy Davis-who, like Eric, would go on to make a noted career in the acoustic blues world-Bibb’s parents belonged to the left-wing New York intelligentsia that included such folk music luminaries as Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Woody Guthrie and Josh White. While Eric’s mother, who would later become the dean of students at the Cooper Union-a renowned college specialized in architecture, engineering and fine arts-was a respected educator, his father Leon was a classically trained singer from Louisville, Kentucky, who had moved to New York City in the hope of making a career on Broadway.

Although Bibb senior did appear in the original productions of shows like Annie Get Your Gun in 1946 and Lost in the Stars three years later, it wasn’t long before he realized that Blacks were mostly assigned to the chorus, or chosen at best as understudies, as Eric remembers: „He discovered that African-American males were not given lead roles. He became very frustrated by the everyday racism of the stage world, and he said, ‚My future is not on Broadway, obviously, so I will return to the songs that I grew up with, what they call folk songs, spirituals, work songs.'“

Leon Bibb’s leftists views didn’t help either, especially at the height of the McCarthy era when being black and red was the worst possible color combination for an artist. „My dad was influenced by Paul Robeson,“ Eric confirms. „As his friend and his mentor, Paul became my Godfather.“ A singer, actor, athlete, writer and activist, Robeson was a towering figure whose outspoken denunciation of racial bigotry, fascism and colonialism made him a favorite target of the FBI. According to Eric, „the music and the politics were pretty closely entwined in the fifties and sixties. I always made the connection between music and trying to improve your life socially and politically.“

Bibb, who got his first guitar from his father before he turned ten, says the best advice he ever received actually came from his mother: „My father was my hero and I wanted to sing the songs he sang. I remember, I was about eleven years old and I was down in the basement, playing guitar and singing songs from my father’s concert repertoire, when my mother came downstairs. She said, ‚That’s good, but you must find your own way. It’s good that you like your dad’s music, but find your own songs.'“
A lesson was taught, but it certainly didn’t hurt that the likes of Odetta, Josh White and Bob Dylan all visited the Bibb home as Eric grew up. By the time his family moved from Queens to Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the mid-sixties, he patronized the hootenannies of Greenwich Village consistently. Folk music, however, was not his only interest. Eric realized that blues was an essential part of the jazz idiom thanks to his uncle, pianist John Lewis from the Modern Jazz Quartet, and bassist Bill Lee (Spike’s father), a regular in Leon Bibb’s backing band.

The radicalization of the black movement, especially after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, took its toll on the Utopia of racial harmony that prevailed until then in intellectual circles. At the dawn of the seventies, aware that musical fraternity was in an impasse, Eric took his guitar to Paris where an unexpected encounter with American expatriate Mickey Baker opened his ears to the diversity of acoustic blues styles. „I was in Paris for about a year, and Mickey was really the one who got me interested in the Delta styles. He would sit me in a room with my guitar and a cassette of Robert Johnson’s songs.

Then I met somebody from Scandinavia and I traveled to Sweden. I stayed in Stockholm mostly, and I decided I liked it there, got involved and started a family. Sweden in the seventies was pretty much like Greenwich Village was in the sixties. It was just an open, idealistic, maybe naïve community, leaning to the left, and it felt very comfortable.“

Life in Sweden felt so comfortable in fact that he ended up staying there until the end of the decade, fingerpicking his way around the country („I think I played just about every little church in Sweden“) and even making his first recordings with fellow American singer Cyndee Peters on the Opus 3 label in 1977. „Then I went back to the States in 1980. I decided I should give New York another chance and got involved with the Greenwich Village folk scene, but things didn’t quite work out the way I expected and after five years, I returned to Sweden where I started teaching school.“

One of the highlights of this period was performing „Mandela Is Free“ for the South African leader when he stopped in Stockholm in 1993, on his way back from Oslo where he had just received his Nobel Peace Prize. Eric was back in the studio one year later, and the release of Spirit and the Blues for Opus 3 really started the ball rolling. „It was all about being at the right place at the right time,“ he says modestly. „That was when a whole new generation of African-American artists started following in Taj Mahal’s footsteps. People like Keb‘ Mo‘, Alvin „Youngblood“ Hart, Corey Harris and my ’soul brother,‘ Guy Davis.“

The word soon got out that Stockholm was the home of a very special acoustic blues player who performed his own material with the finesse of Mississippi John Hurt and the poetics of Son House. In the wake of a successful 1996 concert in London, Eric put himself in the hands of a manager, and invitations to perform started pouring in, from Europe at first, then from Australia, Japan and the States, until he’s become today the 21st Century equivalent of a rambling hobo, rarely sleeping two consecutive nights under the same stars.

Those who’ve followed his career, know that Bibb owes much of his success to the subtle balance he’s achieved between tradition and modernity. This is true of his music, and even more so of his lyrics, as he treats themes such as love, the universality of man, and his belief in mankind with a sincerity that never sounds jejune, a simplicity that’s never trivial, an empathy that carefully avoids pathos.

With these songs, Eric has toured throughout the world, enjoying success in USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia… In all of these countries, Eric has appeared on major TV and radio shows. During this period Eric and his band have played at many major festivals incl. Glastonbury (twice) Cambridge Folk Festival in the UK; Byron Bay & Port Fairy in Australia; Vancouver, Calgary & Edmonton Folk Festivals in Canada; Poconos & Bull Durham Blues Festivals in the USA; Midfyns Festival in Denmark, Womex in Sweden, and the Cognac Blues Festival in France.

Eric’s talent for both performing and songwriting has been recognised with a Grammy Nomination and 4 W.C. Handy nominations. Eric is at the top of his game on stage, giving performances often met with standing ovations, and all blues lovers concur in saying that an Eric Bibb concert is a truly unique experience.

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