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Eric Bibb

Eric Bibb is an American roots music singer, songwriter and guitarist, currently based in London, England. His sound exists at the crossroads of Delta blues, American folk, pre-war gospel and retro soul. He made his recording debut with 1972's Ain't It Grand, followed by the acclaimed Rainbow People in 1977. After releasing 1983's Golden Apples Of The Sun, he stopped recording under his own name for a decade. He returned in 1994 rwith Spirit & The Blues, and in 1997 issued the Grammy nominated Shakin' a Tailfeather. Touring nearly non-stop, he issued Roadworks on his own Manhaton label in 2000, and in 2002 recorded A Family Affair with his father, folksinger Leon Bibb. 2008's Get On Board peaked at number three on the blues charts; 2010's Booker's Guitar topped them. After 2012's Deeper In The Well became an international bestseller, Bibb released 2017's acclaimed Migration Blues. In 2021, Bibb made his Provogue debut with the topical Dear America. with guest spots by bassist Ron Carter and guitarist Eric Gales. 2023's Ridin' was the modern-day blues troubadour's similarly-themed sequel, grounded in the folk and blues traditions with contemporary sensibilities. Like Josh White, Jr. -- son of folksinger Josh White -- singer, songwriter, and guitarist Eric Bibb was raised in the folk tradition. The New York City-born son of folksinger Leon Bibb, his uncle was Modern Jazz Quartet pianist and composer John Lewis. Bibb was raised in a music-filled household, and family friends in the 1950s and 1960s included Pete Seeger, Odetta, Bob Dylan, and the late Paul Robeson, his godfather. Bibb got his first steel string guitar at age seven. On that occasion, Dylan gave him advice he never forgot: "keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff." At 13, Bibb entered New York City's High School of Music and Art, where he studied double bass, vocals, classical guitar, and piano. He also began writing his own songs. When he was 16, his father asked him to play guitar in the house band for his TV talent show, Someone New --its bass player was Bill Lee, film director Spike Lee's father. In 1970, Bibb left New York City for Paris, where he met folk and blues guitarist Mickey Baker. There, he began to focus on blues guitar, and after moving to Stockholm, Sweden, he became enamored with Pre-War blues and gospel. He continued writing his own songs and performing them in clubs and coffee houses. He signed a one album deal with Sweden's MNV and released his debut Ain't It Grand. In 1977 he signed an ongoing, non-exclusive deal with Opus 3, Sweden's premier roots music label. His first outing for them was the now classic Rainbow People. Bibb returned to New York in 1980 to pursue a career as a folk and blues singer. He ciut a pair of albums in the early part of the decade for Opus 3, including Eric Bibb & Friends and Golden Apples Of The Sun. Given the era's musical trends --postpunk, new wave, hair metal, etc--it proved nigh on impossible to make a living. Four years later he returned to Stockholm. He continued performing, but also taught music in school. He didn't cut another record until 1994 when he issued Spirit and the Blues. The set showcased the sounds of bouzouki, mandolin, accordion, and a gospel vocal group. He performed at the London Blues Festival in 1996, where he shared a set with Corey Harris and Keb' Mo'. Bibb quickly followed up with 1997's Good Stuff for Rhino-distributed Earthbeat. Also issued that year were Me to You on Code Blue, that featured performances and collaborations with some of his musical heroes, including Pops & Mavis Staples and Taj Mahal. He collaborated with the latter and Linda Tillery for the Grammy-nominated chldren's album Shakin' a Tailfeather. (1997). Thanks to tours of the U.K., U.S., Canada, France, Germany, and Sweden, Me to You became an international bestseller. He followed with Home to Me in 1999, Roadworks in 2000, Painting Signs and Just Like Love in 2001. The following year, the artist in collaboration with his folksinging father Leon Bibb, released the widely acclaimed, A Family Affair. Bibb opened for Ray Charles on tour that summer. A prolific songwriter, forever brimming with new musical ideas and an undying enthusiasm for performing, Bibb kept up hectic performing and recording schedules. He recorded Natural Light for Earthbeat in 2003, and Roadworks and Sisters and Brothers in 2004, the latter year also netted the globally acclaimed Friends. His late-2000s recordings include A Ship Called Love, Diamond Days, and 2006's Twelve Gates to the City, and another collaboration with his father, Praising Peace: A Tribute to Paul Robeson. He released the live An Evening with Eric Bibb, for the Telarc Blues in 2007, followed by Get on Board a year later. It featured guest performances by Bonnie Raitt and Ruthie Foster. Bibb described the sounds and songs on the album best when he said it was "a further exploration into the place where blues meets gospel and soul." Thanks to a higher profile buoyed by near incessant touring, 2008's Get On Board peaked at number three on the blues album charts., and 2010's lauded Booker's Guitar wentr to number one and also placed inside the top five at Folk/Americana. Troubadour Live was recorded at a 2010 concert in Stockholm and featured guest guitarist Staffan Astner; it appeared in 2011. 2013's Jericho Road, was produced by engineer and multi-istrumentalist Glen Scott. Another impressive Scott-produced album, Blues People, arrived the following year to near universal critical acclaim. In 2015, Bibb paired with harmonica player Jean-Jacques Milteau for the Lead Belly tribute album Lead Belly's Gold. His next project was a collaboration with Finnish musicians Petri Hakala and Olli Haavisto and legendary British bassist Danny Thompson. Billed as Eric Bibb and the North Country Far with Danny Thompson, they released The Happiest Man in the World in 2016. Migration Blues followed in 2017; its songs reflected the stuggles and histories of refugees and immigrants. In 2018, Bibb released Global Griot on Dixie Frog/Stony Plain. The double length outing featured Senegalese kora master Solo Cissokho and Malian guitarist Habib Koete'. That same year he issued the digital-only Pray Sing Love, a collection of relationship songs in collaboration with his wife, vocalist and songwriter Ulrika Pontén Bibb. Now London-based, Bibb turned his gaze back across the ocean for 2021's Dear America. Recorded in Brooklyn during 2019 with a crack studio band -- anchored by drummer Steve Jordan -- it included guest spots from jazz bassist Ron Carter, singer Shaneeka Simon, and blues guitarist Eric Gales. The 13-song set showcased topical material covering history, politics, spiritual, familial, and social concerns. Following a world tour, Bibb re-entered the studio, and in March 2023, released Ridin'. A direct continuation of the work begun on Dear America, Bibb and co-writer/producer Glen Scott created a concept album meditating on the neverneding cultural task of understanding systemic racism and purging it. Despite its very serious subject matter, Bibb infused it with funky grooves and hope. The set included several guest appearances as well: Taj Mahal, Jontavious Willis, Russell Malone and Habib Koité, all contributed. Bibb wrote of the recording: "I felt that, at a time when popular political movements are attempting to delete truth from the historical record, I feel called upon to sing songs that contribute to greater understanding and much-needed unity."
© Richard Skelly, Thom Jurek /TiVo
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