14 tracks / 52:35
The Happiest Man in the World is a cool title for an album, and if you had a musical career like Eric Bibb’s you would probably be happy too! For this project Eric teamed up with English double bassist Danny Thompson and a few fine Finnish fellows from North Country Far, and the end result is 14 tracks of cool folk/country tunes with a tasty blues flavor.
In case you are not familiar with the man, Eric Bibb was born in the Big Apple where he took up the guitar early, joining his father’s show while he was still a teenager. His serious devotion to his musical career resulted in a relocation to Paris (and later Sweden), and from his home base in Europe he has been touring the world with his band ever since. Along the way he cut three dozen of his own albums, and he has made countless guest appearances on others’ discs, earning serious credibility and a Grammy nomination.
The musicians on Bibb’s latest CD are some of his friends from Finland, including Olli Haavisto on guitars, his brother Janne Haavista on drums, and Petri Hakala on mandolin, mandola, fiddle, and guitar. The aforementioned Danny Thompson also joined in, while Eric laid down the vocals tracks, the lead guitar lines, and the banjo parts. The studio sessions took place at The Grange near Norfolk, England, with Dave Williams behind the recording console.
The fourteen songs on The Happiest Man in the World are mostly originals, and there is an overwhelmingly positive feel to the songs, which are mostly love songs with an overwhelmingly personal vibe. The band kicks things off with the title track and the folk sound is right up front with a clearly picked banjo, thumpy upright bass and a well-played slide guitar. The lyrics are an ode to woman who is there for her man, and Bibb has a nicely aged timbre to his voice that brings the whole thing together.
Positive spins on relationships fill most of this set, making it a bit different than the usual blues fodder of deception, infidelity, and heartbreak. There is the story of a lady who does not mind taking the wheel (“Toolin’ Down the Road”), a suggestive list of agricultural chores (‘I’ll Farm For You”), the joy of making a life together (“Creole Café”), and the destiny of true love (“Born to Be your Man”). But there are a few elements of darkness to be found, such as country blues of “Tossin’ an’ Turnin’,” the thoughts of a man who is getting ready to lose everything and move on to greener pastures.
The originals are good, but there are a few surprises tucked away in the playlist. One of these is the traditional “Tell Ol’ Bill” which has a lush sound and lovely backing vocals from Ulrika Ponten Bibb. Then there is a funky acoustic take of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” complete with extra guitar work from Michael Jerome Browne and harp courtesy of Pepe Ahlquist; this is hands-down the best cover of this tune since Van Halen re-did it in 1978.
The Happiest Man in the World is a cool album,with good songs, fine musicianship, and solid production values. Eric Bibb and his friends should be proud of what they have put together, as they have managed to create something a little different than what other blues artists are producing today — check it out for yourself, and see what you think. You have missed your chance to see him in the U.S. this year as Eric is touring Europe until the December, but we can hope that he schedules another tour of the states sometime soon!