IN THIS DAY OF POWER GUITARISTS AND THE RESURGENCE OF ROCKING THE BLUES, THE FOLK ACOUSTIC GUITAR SOUNDS BY ERIC BIBB STAND IN REFRESHING CONTRAST. GROWING UP IN A MUSICAL FAMILY INCLUDING JOHN LEWIS AND FRIENDS WITH THE LIKES OF BOB DYLAN, AND WOODY GUTHRIE AS WELL AS HAVING PAUL ROBESON AS HIS GODFATHER, BIBB HEEDED HIS CALLING TO CARRY THE TORCH AS A BLUES MINSTREL.
A MAN WITH A DEEP FAITH, BIBB HAS RECORDED ALBUMS THAT REFLECT HIS HOPE IN GOD ON BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND GET ON BOARD, WHILE HIS CURRENT ALBUM, MIGRATION BLUES, HAS THE SINGER/COMPOSER SOUNDING LIKE THE PROPHET ISAIAH AS HE FOCUSES ON SOCIAL ISSUES.
WE RECENTLY HAD A CHANCE TO CATCH UP WITH MISTER BIBB. AS WITH HIS MUSIC, HIS ANSWERS WERE CONCISE, TO THE POINT, POIGNANT AND OF DEEP REFLECTION.
- Very few people wake up and say “I’m going to be a blues singer.” What was the major motivation?
EB: The music called the blues isn’t everybody’s cup of tea-you either feel it or you don’t. For those of us who decide to sing and play the blues, we feel it as a calling, something we MUST do. I heard this music as a child and my attraction to it was immediate. By the time I heard Son Hous in person in 1965, I knew it was part of my destiny.
- You come from a family that had friends in the folk/blues scene. How did you first meet Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan? What life/music advice did they give you?
EB: I met Pete Seeger when I was 3 years old. He came to visit and I remember him teaching my teddy bear to play his banjo.
Bob Dylan came to a party my parents hosted at our home in Queens, N.Y. when I was eleven years old. He told me “Keep it simple.”
- Your uncle was the famed pianist John Lewis. How did he influence you? Did you grow up listening to the MJQ? Did you understand at the time of your youth his place in music? What advice did he give you?
EB: I grew up listening to the music of the MJQ. It’s a part of the soundtrack of my life. My uncle John was a powerful influence just being who he was-someone who lived for Music and had a great love of the blues.
- What draws you to the blues/folk genre? Is it possible to have your own voice in such a traditional field?
EB: Authentic folk music has a certain power that is hard to analyze. This is what captivated me from an early age. Finding one’s own voice within a traditional genre is not only possible, but necessary.
- You have release a number of albums with deep spiritual ties, such as Sisters and Brothers and Get on Board. Do you have a spiritual faith/path?
How does your faith guide you as a musician and composer? In your approach to the blues?
EB: The spiritual dimension of Life & Music are attractive to me. I know that the keynote of the universe is Love and I enjoy spreading this Good News through my lyrics.
- What about the old adage that “the blues is the devil’s music”?
EB: How can something as beautiful as the blues be “the Devil’s music”? Some blues musicians may live lives that church-going folk consider “sinful,” but the blues comes from the people and the people are Divine.
- What role does acoustic blues have in this modern day of electronics and high tech?
EB: In this modern tecno age, blues reminds us of a slower tempo of life and helps us “stay real.”
- Have you ever had a desire to do an electric blues album?
EB: While I personally favor acoustic sounds and enjoy a reputation as an acoustic blues musician, I blend electric instruments with acoustic ones on my recordings.
- What blues or folk albums influenced you the most, and you return to most often?
EB: Robert Johnson-King of the Delta Blues, the early recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James and Blind Willie Johnson & Howlin’ Wolf-Moanin’ at Midnight. I would also add Taj Mahal’s double Giant Step album.
- You did a tribute album to your godfather, Paul Robeson. What are your recollections of him, and what his legacy is to you?
EB: He was not around much during my childhood, but his spiritual presence was felt at home in a big way. We were inspired by his courageous artistry.
- Your latest album reflects issues of migration and immigration. Is it a bit autobiographic, since you live in a foreign country?Your songs speak of struggles between people, as well as their own spiritual struggles. Yet, you point out that there are problems only God can fix. Is that a message of hope or resignation?
EB: One reason why I had such a rewarding experience recording the songs on Migration Blues is that I, too, am an immigrant. I can see how my own experience is related to all people who have “had to move.” The message I h ope to convey is: There’s always HOPE where there is empathy and compassion.
- You currently live in Sweden. Is it possible to “play and live” the blues there?
EB: The Blues has become a universal form of musical expression. You can find it anywhere.
- What are your current goals in music and life?
EB: Music is a deep mysterious well. I’ll just be keepin’ on haulin’ that cool sweet water!
- Thank you!
EB: Thank you for your engaging questions
IT’S A RARE OASIS TO COME ACROSS A MAN WHO HEEDS HIS CALLING. ERIC BIBB KEEPS TRUE TO BOTH HIS SPIRITUAL AND MUSICAL VOCATIONS, SHARING MESSAGES VIA ONE OF THE OLDEST TRADITIONS, THROUGH SONG. TAKE A DRINK FROM HIS DEEP RIVER.