10 songs – 48 minutes
Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Giba “Guitar” Byblos is no stranger to straight-ahead Chicago blues, and he delivers it in heaping helpings on this self-produced CD, the second in his brief, but extremely tasty catalog.
In addition to being a string-bender and vocalist who delivers his lyrics in almost totally unaccented English, he’s also a music promoter who’s worked closely with some of the best musicians the Windy City has to offer, including guitarists Jimmy Johnson, aka the Barroom Preacher, rising superstar Toronzo Cannon and Jon McDonald, a longtime fixture with Magic Slim, and drummer Merle Perkins, a 40-year veteran timekeeper and bandleader whose resume includes long service time with James Cotton, Lonnie Brooks, Freddy and Albert King, John Littlejohn and Son Seals, just to name a few.
The second disc in Byblos’ catalog, Tomorrow is a follow-up to the 2011 release, My Duty. It came about after a conversation with Johnson at the conclusion of a Brazilian tour three years ago. The pair were stuck in traffic and Giba, the driver, was feeling anxious. Johnson tried to calm him, drawing from 60 years on the road. “Listen to me,” he said. “Yesterday have came and gone. Tomorrow is unknown.”
That kernel of wisdom evolved into a song on which Byblos and Johnson share writing credits as well as this album, which includes eight other Giba originals and three covers. Johnson joins Byblos in the studio on rhythm and lead for a cover of his classic tune, “Heap See.” Rounding out the sound are a collection of several top Brazilian musicians, including Fabio Basili (bass), Paulinha Sarriso (drums), Dada Tristao and Adriana Grineberg (keyboards), Mauricio Sahady (guitar), Clayton Silva (sax) and Miqueias Nascimento (trumpet). Edu Gomes, who produced the disc, adds tambourine and shakers.
It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of listening to “Tomorrow,” the title cut, which opens the album, to realize that, which being totally current, Byblos’ attack on the strings is a throwback to the clean approach that was popular in the Windy City from the ‘60s onward, but is quickly becoming a dying art. Like Johnson, Giba’s notes fly off of the fretboard through the amp and into the soundboard in their natural state, virtually free of the many effects than contemporaries rely on today. His voice is as powerful and clear as his single-note guitar runs.
Up next, Byblos takes Junior Kimbrough’s “Lord Have Mercy On Me” out of the Hill Country and makes it his own with a contemporary Chicago feel before a horn-fueled cover of Johnson’s “Heap See,” on which the Windy City octogenarian lends a hand himself. “Earn A Dime” delivers the thoughts of a heavy drinker who thinks the only way he can make any money is by shooting dice. Unfortunately, he realizes that all of his efforts are in vain as he struggles without a penny in his pocket. Giba’s guitar solo cries out to reveal his pain.
Another sweeping guitar solo kicks off an updated version of Freddy King’s “She Put A Whammy On Me,” which tells the story of falling for an unforgettable woman who’s cast such a spell on him that he’s left in misery. A block of five more originals follow. “Up For No Good” is a medium-paced shuffle with more fine work on the strings about a woman who’s playing kiss-and-tell, while “Riverside” recounts Byblos’ journey through the Mississippi Delta and a stay at Clarksdale’s legendary Riverside Hotel, which served as a home to dozens of top musicians before integration and where Bessie Smith died. “17 Years” is an expression of lasting love after a long separation while “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” is a slow blues lament about the end of a love affair before the uptempo instrumental “Catch You On The Flipside” brings the album to a close.
Available through iTunes or direct from the artist’s website (above) and www.bear-family.com in Europe, Tomorrow is a thoroughly modern disc that anyone with an appreciation of straight-ahead Chicago-style guitar blues absolutely will love. And it will provide even more proof that the blues is alive and thriving far beyond the U.S. border. Giba’s delivery is rock-solid throughout and his guitar playing is always powerful, but never forced. Pick this one up today. You won’t be disappointed.