Eric Bibb – Ridin’
15 tracks/60 minutes
Eric Bibb is a child of the 1960s, growing up in Greenwich Village with an activist father who marched with Dr. King. Father Leon Bibb was also an actor and folk singer, so Eric was influenced by him along with Bob Dylan, Odetta, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Richie Havens and Taj Mahal (who appears here on one track). Many of those artists hung out at the Bibb’s home.
Ridin’ follows on the success of Eric Bibb’s 2021 acclaimed album Dear America. A dozen of the tracks were composed at least in part by Bibb. The other three are traditional tunes that Eric puts his stamp on. Guest appearances by Taj Mahal, Jontavius Willis, Russell Malone, Amar Sundy, Harrison Kennedy, and Habib Koité
“Family” opens the album and it’s a great song about how we are all family and need to treat each other that way. There is a deep groove that drives the song along, cool backing vocals and Bibb’s inimitable vocals. The title track follows, a great cut about riding together on the freedom train. He mentions getting off the track but that things are now back on track, picking up survivors so the movement growing and growing over time. Powerful lyrics, a throbbing beat, some wickedly cool slide and a great guest artist make this one another top-notch cut. “Blues Funky Like That” features Taj Mahal and Jontavius Willis backing Bibb up. Great finger picking, shared lead vocals and another vibrant beat help to make this a winner.
Next is “The Ballad of John Howard Griffin” and features Russell Malone on guitar. Griffin was an American journalist and author from Texas who changed his skin color and posed as a black man in 1959 and traveled the south to experience segregation and injustice first hand. He wrote about and championed racial equality and wrote the book Black Like Me. Griffin and family were threatened, he was beaten and experienced what it was like to be a black man in the ugly times of the late 1960s. The song celebrates his efforts to expose the abuses and evils of our society, “500 Miles” is a traditional tune that Bibb delivers with reverence and feeling. Some pretty fiddle and banjo are added here to good effect. Up next is “Tulsa Town” where Bibb pays homage to the history of the racial massacre in 1921 in Tulsa, the Black Wall Street where African American businesses thrived. 1,200 homes were burned and 300 people were killed. After 100 years reparations were paid to the three survivors and their families. Another moving piece.
The instrumental interlude “Onwards” follows, with some pretty finger picking and slide guitar. Malone returns on guitar for “Hold The Line,” a beautiful and simple number about sometimes just maintaining the status quo is the best we can do. “I Got My Own” is next with the French Saharan blues guitarist Amar Sundy adding his electric guitar prowess to this cool cut. Bibb picks on his acoustic guitar and sings while Sundy tastefully wails along with him.
Canadian guitarist and singer Harrison Kennedy appears on “Call Me By My Name,” a song that pays respect to those black soldiers, sailors and airmen who served in the military and deserve recognition for their service and certainly not to be called “boy.” Kennedy plays electric guitar while Bibb stays on acoustic guitar and the two trade vocal leads. “Joybells” follows with unlisted accompaniment; the other vocalists and players add beautiful depth to the cut as the names of many whose lives were cut short are recited. “Sinner Man” is a cut recorded live at the Wheatland Festival featuring Bibb and his String Band. Harp, bass, fiddle and other accompaniment add depth to this one as Bibb sings. Another powerful cut.
“Free” features West African musician Habib Koité accompanying Bibb. Electric and acoustic guitars interplay as Bibb sings about maintaining your gains and letting go of impediments will make you free. Koité chants in his native tongue and plays traditional instruments to great effect. “People You Love” is a beautiful ballad which has acoustic guitar, piano and slide guitar added. Bibb sings with emotion and feeling. “Church Bells” is the instrumental outro interlude to take us home. Guitar, fiddle, flute, piano and other sounds merge into a beautiful concluding cacophony of gentle sounds.
Bibb delivers another truly superb album here. His performances and guests make for an outstanding set of tunes that will surely get noticed and paid high regard in the awards world. Bubb has won many a blues music award and was nominated twice for Grammy’s; this album is destined to garner that sort of recognition. I most strongly recommend this one to all blues fans!