Bluesman Bibb's disc is solid delta collection
Reviewed April 2010
By Eric Bibb
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Eric Bibb's new disc is "Booker's Guitar," and this is one of those blues discs that goes back to the delta for its inspiration. A fan connected Bibb with the actual National Steel guitar owned by the late Booker (Bukka) White, and the title tune is played on, and about, this relic. Some of the other 14 tunes, 12 by Bibb, seem to be inhabited by White's ghost as well.
The lineup on the disc is mostly Bibb with unaccompanied, acoustic blues guitar. The aim was clear: to sound like a delta blueman, a sort of White tribute, but because Bibb doesn't play slide guitar (like White did) and the recording is so pristine, it seems to have a bit too much gloss in spots. Still, the music as a whole works.
Bibb is a student of blues styles and has a great voice; his guitar playing has the kind of steady, fundamentally solid blues foundation that the songs here need. After his reverence for White is evident on the title tune opener, "With My Maker I Am One" gives him an opportunity to spin gospel lyrics over some nicely finger-picked blues patterns. Bibb's baritone guitar and harp combine to give "Flood Water" an unusual, dark feel that steps outside the box of usual delta blues as he sings about a 1927 flood. He manages to adopt a shifting persona from song to song that keeps this project from becoming laborious as he plays several originals that are built around traditional delta blues themes: "Walking Blues Again" and "Sunrise Blues."
Two of the best songs on the disc are covers. "Wayfaring Stranger" is done with picked baritone guitar and a great vocal by Bibb, a memorable traditional folk song with plenty of melancholy atmosphere. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" has just Bibb's voice and hand clapping with Grant Dermody's harp, but is a fully realized blues song; sometimes less is more.
The disc feels too long, and after some filler ("Turning Pages," "A Good Woman"), things get back on track with "Tell Riley," written as a message to B.B. King from his cousin Booker White.
"Booker's Guitar" is a treat for blues fans, especially those who enjoy modern acoustic bluesmen paying their respects to the old masters. Eric Bibb can create his own, interesting blues, and this disc shows it.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.