By Reverend Keith A. Gordon, About.com Guide
Born: August 16, 1951 in New York NY
Acoustic bluesman Eric Bibb may be better known in Europe than he is to the typical U.S. blues fan, but the talented guitarist and songwriter has quietly forged a career of musical excellence and artistic dignity the equal of any contemporary bluesman.
Infatuated with acoustic-oriented pre-war blues, Bibb has retrofitted the string-driven Delta blues tradition for a new century, and through the years his music has largely moved away from his early reliance on traditional blues and folk tunes towards his own imaginative and intelligent original material. Performing in a vein similar to artists like Otis Taylor, Corey Harris, and Keb’ Mo’, Bibb’s career is still enjoying an upward trajectory in the 2000s.
Childhood Full Of Music
Growing up in a household filled with music it was, perhaps, pre-destined that Eric Bibb would find a career in music himself. Bibb’s father is folk artist Leon Bibb, his uncle noted composer John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. During his childhood, Bibb was exposed to the music of family friends like Odetta, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan, so it comes as no surprise that he began playing guitar at the age of seven, when he received his first acoustic guitar.
As a young teen, Bibb studied at the New York City’s High School of Music and Art, learning double bass, classical guitar, and piano. At the age of 16, he played guitar in the house band on his father’s TV talent show, Someone New; by 18, Bibb was playing guitar for the Negro Ensemble Company at St. Mark’s Place in New York City. He would later study Psychology and Russian at Colombia University, but left school before graduating, traveling to Paris in 1970.
An American Abroad
While living in France, Bibb met guitarist Mickey Baker, who is credited with spurring Bibb’s interest in blues guitar. Relocating to Sweden during the early-1970s, Bibb landed in Stockholm, where he immersed himself in pre-war blues, honing his songwriting craft, and performing with local musicians. Bibb returned to NYC in 1980 to purse a career as folk and blues artist, but would return to Sweden five years later, working as a musician, but also working as a music teacher in local schools.
Through the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Bibb released a number of low-key albums, several in collaboration with Bert Deivert, through the independent Swedish label Opus 3 Records. In the early 1990s, Bibb formed the band Needed Time and released Spirit & The Blues, widely considered to be Bibb’s debut album, in 1994. A collection of original tunes and traditional folk songs, the album earned Bibb universal acclaim. Bibb would perform at the London Blues Festival in 1996 with Keb’ Mo’ and Corey Harris.
A Family Affair
Bibb’s album Good Stuff followed in 1997, the album released by Opus 3 in Europe and Earthbeat! Records in the United States. Bibb signed with England’s Code Blue Records for Me To You, which he recorded with some of his musical heroes in Pops and Mavis Staples and folk-bluesman Taj Mahal. During the late 1990s, Bibb and his manager formed the Manhaton Records label in the UK, subsequently releasing albums like Home To Me (1999), Roadworks (2000), and Painting Signs (2001). In 2002, Bibb recorded an album of duets and solo performances with his father Leon titled A Family Affair.
Bibb has pursued a hectic schedule in the new millennium, touring the world with artists like Robert Cray, Ray Charles, John Mayall, and Robben Ford and releasing nearly an album a year during the first decade of the ’00s. Bibb has received numerous W.C. Handy/Blues Music Award nominations through the years, and his music routinely appears in TV shows in both the U.K. and America.
In 2006, Bibb once again teamed up with his father to record Praising Peace, a tribute to his godfather, activist Paul Robeson. In 2008 Bibb released Get Onboard, recorded in Nashville with guest appearances from Bonnie Raitt and Ruthie Foster. The album proved to be the best-selling and highest profile of his career, Bibb’s popularity still rising after 30 years in the blues.
Recommended Albums: Most of Eric Bibb’s catalog was released in Europe and remains unavailable in the United States, although the enterprising Internet surfer can find copies of many of the albums. Any of Bibb’s Telarc Records releases are worthwhile, showcasing his six-string skills and imaginative songwriting, and Get Onboard remains the artist’s most popular work to date. Booker’s Guitar, released in 2010, promises to push Bibb’s star even higher in the blues stratosphere.
Edited by In2TheBlues on 17 Jun 2012, 00:31
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