The title of Eric Bibb’s new disc works on several levels. A longtime resident of Sweden, Bibb was born in the USA, the son of music legend Leon Bibb and has spent a long time soaking up the music of West Africa, revisiting his heritage. After five decades of recording and performing internationally, we can easily call him a ‘global griot’ – a keeper of an oral history and revered storyteller. He has invited some other griots on board as well: our own Harrison Kennedy, American Linda Tillery and Africans Habib Koité and Kora master Solo Cissokho among many others too numerous to list. He also brings a global perspective to some problems not everyone recognizes as being global. The first single, “We Don’t Care”, is a stinging litany of practices we all do with no thought of their environmental damage, from buying trendy sneakers without thinking about who made them to driving everywhere without thinking about polluting the atmosphere. Big Bill Broonzy’s “Black, Brown and White” dates back to the fifties and perhaps even earlier but is all too relevant today. “Wherza Money at” attacks corruption in high places, particularly from oil revenues. Harrison Kennedy provides a grittier edge compared with Bibb’s light tenor, especially on “Black, Brown and White”, which also features Michael Jerome Browne on electric guitar. Kennedy & Browne (on harmonica) also contribute to “Brazos River Blues” a searing indictment of prison conditions, a song co-written by the trio. But Bibb spends much more time here advising us of the possible solutions with songs like “Gathering of The Tribes”, “Remember Family”, “Race and Equality” and “Spirit Day”. (On the latter, Kennedy adds vocals and Browne plays his fretless gourd banjo & guitar.) In “Human River” he describes his calling: he’s one of a million people telling the world the solution is love. The gently lilting African melodies serve to highlight the way forward, a stark contrast to the harder sound of the songs pointing out what must be dealt with. The instrumentation is also very ambitious, fully utilizing a modern recording studio without detracting from the informal, acoustic vibe of the program. His vision encompasses two CDs, recorded in twelve studios in seven countries, yet another level of meaning. After absorbing this masterpiece, you may well want to join that ‘human river’. Lyrics are at www.ericbibb.com.

November 2018 - Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin