He's the son of folk singer Leon Bibb, nephew of Modern Jazz Quartet founder John Lewis, and was directly exposed to several legendary performers like Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan growing up. It would seem that Eric Bibb was destined to go down a similar path as his father, but it took a while. He was in his mid-forties when he finally put aside songwriting and music teaching for others long enough to record his own records about twelve years ago. Since then, he's been recording and performing seemingly non-stop, picking up notice slowly but surely.
To me, Eric Bibb has always been like a newer model of Taj Mahal or the debut-album version of Keb Mo: that laid-back, confident folk blues that made few concessions to modern times. Now, I still like Mr. Moore's later records, but they strayed off a bit from his original, humble mission. More than a dozen albums since 1997's Good Stuff, Bibb has remained steadfastly true to the sound of his beginnings. Even when he shared the spotlight with his dad (A Family Affair), Maria Muldar and Rory Block (Sisters & Brothers), or a revolving cast of blues and folk greats (Friends), Bibb has stayed true to himself.
Simply put, Bibb's warm, reassuring voice, gently picked guitar and solid songwriting are hallmarks on every one of his records.
That consistency remains with the release earlier this week of Get Onboard. Bibb's stated mission for this album is "to get people onboard, not only with me as an artist, but with the spirit of what drives this record - the spirit of unity." This falls in line with the message of hope and faith that's found throughout all of Bibb's songs.
Get Onboard gets off on solid footing and doesn't let up. The opening "Spirit I Am," may have a touch of contemporary sounds with a programmed drum track that frankly isn't even perceptible for most of the song. Instead, the things that grab the listener are The Rolling Stones' "Beast Of Burden" rhythm and the impassioned backing vocals that sounds right out a rural Southern church.
The soulful ballad "If Our Hearts Ain't In It" gets a lift from Bonnie Raitt, not with vocals, but her signature slide guitar. The other special guest appearance is by arguably the next "Bonnie Raitt," Ruthie Foster. She lends a co-lead vocal in her Aretha-evoking style to this slow, jazzy blues.