The Long Road
After more than four decades in music, Eric Bibb shows that he’s far from being done.
By Samuel J. Fell
One of the absolute joys of music, is discovering something new. You’ve got your favourites, you know them well, you’re constantly drawn back to them, again and again. But when you stumble across something you’ve not heard before, something that ticks all the boxes your regulars do, that’s a fine moment – something else to get drawn back to time and again, something that soon becomes one of the aforementioned favourites, that gets you excited all over again.
Eric Bibb was one of those finds for me. It was his 2006 record, Diamond Days, that began the love affair – the wistful ‘Tall Cotton’, the grin-inducing ‘Shine On’ and ‘Storybook Hero’, the rollicking ‘In My Father’s House’, and my all time favourite Bibb song, ‘Dr Shine’, with its jaunty melody, an old blues for new times. From Diamond Days, I became a convert, and via Get Onboard (’08), Booker’s Guitar (’10), Blues, Ballads & Work Songs (’11) and Deeper In The Well (’12), Bibb has become one of my favourites.
One thing surprised me about him though, not long after I ‘discovered’ him. To my mind, here was a young blues-folkster just getting into his stride. He was American-born but based in Europe, and so here I was thinking he’d only recently begun his musical journey, somewhere on the other side of the world. Imagine my surprise then, when I was researching prior to the first time I interviewed him, to find Bibb had been releasing records and touring, sharing his songs with people from all corners of the globe, since 1972.
But it made sense after a bit of thought. Because this music I’d been listening to had this worldly quality about it, this depth and wisdom that one doesn’t acquire unless one has lived it for a long time. Bibb was born in 1951, and so he’s not old as such, but his music carries a weight that comes with experience. Once I’d come to this realisation, I began to wonder why I’d not gotten on to him before; I counted myself lucky that’d I’d got there eventually, finding this man and his music some four decades into his career.
“I do,” he laughs when we catch up once more, when I ask him if he ever thinks about how long he’s been doing this, and whether or not he stops occasionally and says, ‘Wow!’. “The last decade or so has been a real sharp curve upwards [though]. I’ve spent a lot of time making music, trying to figure out what kind of artist I am, in the earlier days… the last decade or so has been intense touring and recording, and I realise that the distance I’ve come is a good bit of mileage.
“Basically, I’m amazed that I’ve been able to realise so many of my musical dreams. I was talking about that last night with some friends – I’ve had a chance to collaborate with some of my heroes: Pops and Mavis Staples, Taj Mahal, I’ve recorded with the late, great Wilson Pickett, Hubert Sumlin from Howlin’ Wolf’s band, I mean, the list just goes on and on, [sometimes it’s like], ‘Is this really true?’. So yeah, I’m grateful.”
For the full version of this story, check out the January issue of Rhythms Magazine.