Eric Bibb – Jericho Road | Album Review

ericbibbcd3Eric Bibb – Jericho Road

Stony Plain Records

13 songs – 59 minutes

 Eric Bibb proves once again that he’s a standard-bearer for the most basic of blues traditions with this warm and lovingly produced CD. With more than 35 discs to his credit during a career that began in the early ’70s, the New York native has cut a groove for himself as one of the foremost songsters traveling the world today. Like stars from the first generation of the art form, he melts blues, folk, jazz and other stylings into a rich tapestry clearly identifiable as his own.

The son of a musical theater star and folk artist and the nephew of John Lewis, the pianist in the Modern Jazz Quartet, Bibb received his acoustic guitar at age seven and cut his teeth on the works of Leadbelly, Big Maceo, Josh White and Mahalia Jackson. Now touring extensively out of his new home in Helsinki, Finland, he’s joined here by a collection of international superstars. Multi-instrumentalist Glen Scott produced “Jericho Road” and contributed keyboards, percussion, vocals and guitar.

The extensive and eclectic ensemble includes Ale Moller (clarino), Staffan Astner, Chuck Anthony and Oskar Winberg (guitars), Neville Malcolm and Victor Wooten (bass), Jerry Brown and Scott (drums), Julian Wiggins (pennywhistle and accordion), Grant Dermody and Jenny Bohman (harmonica), Michael Jerome Brown (banjo), Solo Cissokho (kora), Olli Haavisto (dobro), Knut Reiersrud (Turkish saz), Samantha Banks (spoons), Goran Kajfes (trumpet), and Ruthie Foster, Mamadou Sene, Andre De Lange, Chinika Simon, Linda Tillery, Tammi Brown, Bengt Skogholt, Paris Renita, Sara Bergkvist, Cyndee Peters and Oscar Bibb on guest vocals. Session Horns Sweden add power to four tracks.

Recorded in Sweden, all of the material on this CD is original, and, as Bibb explains in the extensive liner notes, reflects the influence world music has had on all of the participants. The album title refers to a Bible passage in which the Good Samaritan stops to aid a stranger in distress after others had passed him by to suffer alone.

The first cut, “Drinking Gourd,” is a reworking of a traditional song made popular by The Weavers, one of the most important groups in the folk revival of the ’60s. Referring to the astrological Big Dipper, it’s an allegorical message for folks traveling the Underground Railroad to escape slavery.  The theme continues with the new tune, “Freedom Train,” in which Bibb emphasizes the courage necessary to reach the intended goal.

“Let The Mothers Step Up” was inspired by a poem by Alice Walker. The message: “Callin’ all brothers/the world around/Take all your weapons/Lay ’em down/Stop killin’ each other/dyin’ in the mud/While someone’s makin’ money on/Our children’s blood.” Next up, “Have A Heart” offers a plea for humanity to be more acceptant of pilgrims from foreign lands who should be treated as friends, not enemies. “The Right Thing” borrows on an idea from the Rev. Martin Luther King, that “It’s always time/To do the right thing.” Written for a film, the next tune, “Death Row Blues,” simply states: “No matter who you are when your time has come/You got to go.”

“Can’t Please Everybody” was inspired by Bill Cosby who joked that failure to please the multitude keyed his success, before Bibb turns to the teachings of the Dalai Lama for “The Lord’s Work,” delivering the message that world peace begins with peace from within, that society should teach love instead of hate.

More positive thoughts gleaned from Mother Teresa and Eastern philosophers Khahil Gibran, Jidda Krishnamurti and Rabindranath Tagore follow before two bonus tracks: “Now,” a call for a new world order, and “Nanibali,” performed and sung solo by Cissokho, a celebration of international understanding.

Beautiful messages, beautiful dreams delivered in a beautiful way. Highly recommended, both for musicality and thought.

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