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Eric Bibb from the album Ridin’ on Stony Plain Records (By Lee Zimmerman)
Eric Bibb makes music with a message. As demonstrated by his last album, Dear America, he’s unafraid to confront the anger and injustice that continues to permeate the national psyche. ‘I ain’t gonna waste your time trying to sell my point of view, you know who I am’ he insists on opening track “Family”, maintaining a mantra that’s become part of his stock in trade. So, while the album would seem to focus on a love of horses, it mostly offers a series of vignettes that once again deal with the sordid state of America’s race relations. The breezy Blues of “The Ballad of John Howard Smith” relates the story of the man who authored the book ‘Black Like Me’, and managed to change his skin color to experience life as a black man in the rural South. “Tulsa Town” recalls the massacre of the black population of that city 100 years ago and the forgotten legacy that infamous incident left in its wake. “Call Me by Name” is an assertive demand for dignity.
Eric Bibb comes by this affinity naturally. A two-time Grammy Award nominee with multiple Blues Foundation awards to his credit, he inherited his social concerns from his father, the late Leon Bibb, an activist, actor, and Folk singer who marched shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama. Bibb himself became immersed in the Greenwich Village folk scene, mingling with people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger. Here, he offers moving renditions of two classic Folk standards, “500 Miles” and “Sinner Man”, further affirming his populist precepts.
While most of these songs conform to a rural Blues template, Eric Bibb gets an added assist from fellow travelers Taj Mahal, Jontavious Wills, Russell, Malone. Amar Sundy, Harrison Kennedy, and Habib Koite. Yet at the same time, he still manages to keep matters simple by peeling them back to basics. Propelled by a series of clip clop rhythms and shared sentiment, these offerings become unfailingly uplifting and inspiring, flush with exhortation and encouragement. ‘The only remedy I see is a tidal wave of love everywhere’ he reckons on the song titled “Hold the Line”, a further indication of hope in the midst of happenstance. The two closing tracks — “People You Love” and “Church Bells”, an instrumental outdo — help secure the sentiment.
Of course, one can only hope that folks are listening and willing to follow his lead. Should that be the case, Ridin’ might someday evolve into a journey all of us might make together. (by Lee Zimmerman)
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