The extraordinary blues musician ERIC BIBB combines different cultures and musical influences on his new album Global Griot. The record, produced together with a multitude of first-class artists, will be released again at the end of October on the established blues label Dixiefrog Records. Eric Bibb seems to have found the perfect mix of blues and world music by combining his grooving modern blues with his African roots as well as reggae and gospel.
As its title implies, this is a spiritually based collaboration from three distinct – even disparate – yet surprisingly harmonious voices. Mostly, but not entirely acoustic, the trio of rootsy singers trade lead vocals on smooth jazz/blues ("Bessie's Dream"), folk-blues ("Good Stuff"), Delta blues ("Rolling Log"), gospel (an a cappella version of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Rock Daniel"), and combinations of those genres. On paper it sounds scattershot, but in actuality this is a thoughtfully paced combination of styles, united by three affecting voices. Eric Bibb's smoother Keb' Mo' approach meshes surprisingly well with Rory Block's more penetrating Delta croon and Maria Muldaur's sassy, sexy, throaty growl.
With Painting Signs, Eric Bibb makes a fine case for blues as a music of introspection, warmth, and supreme nuance. Easily his most mature album to date, Painting Signs continues Bibb's formula of socially aware songs performed from an acutely personal point-of-view; standout tracks "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down" and a cover of "Hope in a Hopeless World" hammer home his message of individual freedom and the responsibilities that accompany it. (It's no coincidence that Pops Staples, to whom Bibb dedicates this album, once recorded the latter song.) That's not to say Painting Signs is overly didactic or, indeed, "heavy" in any way; even the most serious songs here, like the plea for peace and unity "Got To Do Better," are leavened by a musical backdrop that's soulful and immediately accessible. Gospel-leaning backing vocals by Linda Tillery and her Cultural Heritage Choir help flesh out several cuts, and robust accordion fills by Bibb's longtime accompanist Janne Petersson add a subtle Louisiana flavor to the rolling, propulsive "Kokomo" and, to surprisingly good effect, the deep-grooved version of Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do."