Booker's Guitar - Eric Bibb

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Booker's Guitar - Eric Bibb

1 CD(s) - Contemporary Blues - Label: Telarc Distribution - Distributor: Proper Note - Released: 15/02/2010 - 888072317567

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Review of "Booker's Guitar - Eric Bibb"

published 05/04/2016 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
Reviews : 265
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About me :
Bit worried about my wife's driving. She told me the other day that she nearly ran over a squirrell on her way to work - hey, this is an animal that LIVES IN A TREE!!
Super
Pro Pleasant voice, adept guitar, thought provoking songs
Cons Blues - not to all tastes
exceptional
Originality
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money
Lyrics

"A modern tribute to the old "bluesmen""

Booker's Guitar - Eric Bibb

Booker's Guitar - Eric Bibb


This album has an intriguing story behind it that is outlined in the sleeve notes. After a concert in the UK, a fan approached Eric Bibb as he was signing CDs. He offered to show Eric the guitar that had once belonged to the legendary 1930s bluesman Booker White (sometimes spelled “Bukka”, much to the late player’s annoyance). Eric duly met the man the following day and declares that holding and playing that guitar was very much a “spiritual” experience. His connection with vintage country blues was rekindled and he considered the time right to “offer a handmade tribute to the music and musicians of a bygone era.”

The guitar in question was a “National” guitar, one of those iconic metal-bodied resonator guitars. They may be shiny and silvery in appearance but that is due to the chrome plating. Genuine National guitars (and other high quality metal resonator instruments) are made of “bell brass” – brass of the quality used for church bells and the like.

Inside the body is an inverted aluminium cone (some had three, and produced a similar but distinct sound from the single cone ones) that acoustically amplified the sound and gave a ringing, slightly clanging sound. (My understanding is that although the “National” brand exists today it is in effect a re-invention of the original which ceased production when electric guitars burst on the guitar scene).

The great thing about these guitars was the volume they could produce – just the thing when busking on street corners or playing in bars, and at least one bluesman (I can’t remember which one now!) stated that they were useful for shielding oneself from bottles flying through the air when things got a bit lively in a bar!


Booker White was indeed a legendary player who also served two years in the infamous Parchman penitentiary; he wrote a song about it.


Who?

Eric Bibb is a contemporary singer and guitar player who records and performs music that leans to or is derived from blues. In other words he isn’t strictly a blues man – though he often comes near enough.

To the person who hasn’t listened to a lot of blues this has the advantage of making his music more accessible.


The album

Sadly this album comes in an open-out card sleeve – time for me to get a slimline jewel case to store the CD in so that the sleeve doesn’t get scuffed and tatty as it comes in or out of my CD rack! The sleeve proper has a mute-toned photograph of Eric cradling the headstock of the National guitar against his face; the rear cover has a photograph of the unadorned, business-like headstock of the guitar itself with the words “National Duolian” on it.

On the other hand the album contains a booklet with notes about the songs and an enhanced picture of Eric with the great guitar. It plays for 49 minutes and contains 15 tracks (one of which is a very short instrumental; the others are songs). The arrangements are very stripped-down with just Eric and one of his guitars, and with the addition of some fabulous harmonica on several of the songs.


The songs

Booker’s Guitar

It’s no surprise that the title track comes first. The verses are spoken and the chorus – which changes slightly each time – is sung. Eric’s sentiments come through clearly:

“Booker’s guitar’s got a story to tell/ of hard-earned hope and unshed tears.../
of boxcars and scars, moonshine and beer/ a story the world needs to hear.”

Eric’s playing is adept and his voice is rich and velvety. I like the way that his main guitar licks use “harmonics”, a chiming effect, most appropriate for his singing that “Booker’s guitar rings like a bell”. I think it’s a strong start to the album and a fitting tribute.

With My Maker I Am One

Blues and spirituals share a common root, and many bluesmen sang both; some found themselves torn between the two lifestyles advocated in each type of song, and still others made a transition from one type of song and lifestyle to the other pretty decisively.

This song is a kind of picture in words of the entire tradition and ethos, and I find the words quite thought-provoking. It consists largely of a list of people who share similar experiences historically; for example the native American is mentioned as well as the “slave from a distant land”.

What brings a good song to a different level to me, though, is the harmonica playing of Grant Dermody (whom I haven’t come across previously) He’s a pretty awesome player and produces that real bluesy “wah-wah” harmonica sound as well as some fabulous licks.

Flood Water

In 1927 there was a devastating flood in the Mississippi Delta. First one levee collapsed, then another until eventually almost the whole levee system crumbled. About 250 people died. Hundreds of thousands lost their homes and land over a 23,000 square mile area. Black Americans had the worst of it (of course); evacuation of whites was the priority, and many blacks were forced to assist with the clean-up operation – on inadequate rations.

It was the flood itself, though that fixed itself on the minds and memories of the people of the area, and numerous blues songs tell of the shock, trauma, deaths and the closest of escapes.

Again Eric creates licks that soon become embedded in the mind as the song progresses. The harmonica really adds a sense of despair to it all, in my opinion.

I feel that Eric came up with a great association of ideas and images in this song:

“Don’t you know it rained – Noah, where were you?
Don’t you know it rained – Noah, where were you?
Cows couldn’t swim, drowning two by two.”

Walkin’ Blues Again

I think this is another strong contribution to the album, and Eric’s rich voice and gentle guitar playing are in sharp contrast to the words which he says in the notes “tap into the righteous anger that many of my heroes must have felt but were reluctant to voice for obvious reasons”.

At the risk of drifting off-topic, exploitation and maltreatment of black people isn’t confined to America’s distant past. I think it does us good to remember that when we hear American politicians lecturing the developing world about freedom and human rights.

Sunrise Blues

I like the catchy rhythm and groove that Eric sets up in this on his guitar. Again there’s a stark contrast to his easy voice and the lyrics. There’s a powerful reference the “them” crucifying a church deacon like they did Jesus.

Wayfaring Stranger

This is the same song that Eva Cassidy sang, but with a quite different mood to it. Eva sang it beautifully and powerfully with a triumphalistic air focussing on the life beyond this one; Eric’s take is more melancholic and homes in on the here and now, and the haunting feel is enhanced once more by Grant Dermody’s harmonica. An impressive rendition.

New Home

This song is more upbeat in tempo and mood, and I think it adds a nice change of feel. Eric’s guitar is good, and the harmonica is more exuberant than on the other songs.

Nobody’s Fault But Mine / One Soul To Save

This song was made famous by the great Blind Willie Johnson, who played and sang spirituals exclusively. (He’s also well known for his “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed”. The story goes that after his home burned down he and his wife slept on damp newspapers in the charred remains. He contracted pneumonia, was refused hospital admittance – presumably because he had no money – and died). This song has an interesting arrangement with Eric singing to his own hand-claps and to the harmonica.

“One Soul” is a rather sermonic song, aided by a rather understated guitar accompaniment with effective gentle strums and fingerpicking.

Turning Pages

Here we have a lighter-hearted song. It’s a celebration of a love of books. Eric tells us he reads “sitting down, standing up, in the tub...” and that he has been a book-lover since early childhood. I think it provides some nice relief from some of the heavier topics and darker lyrics of some of the other songs, and Eric plays a 12-string guitar that gives his slightly funky strumming a full sound.


Concluding remarks

This is more bluesy than some of Eric Bibb’s other albums, which I like. But I’m struggling a bit to know how to rate it. To be honest I like pretty much all the tracks, and think that they are all solid pieces. But in my reviews to give a 5-star rate I feel that there should be two or three tracks that “wow” me. This is all very subjective, but that’s how I do it.

I hate to say that although I think that this is a strong album with few weak links, none of the tracks have had that impact on me, none have made me go back and replay a second time in succession. Perhaps that’s because I haven’t had it very long and haven’t listened to it that many times yet. I don’t know.

On the other hand, this is most certainly a very good album. It has thought-provoking lyrics, great instrumentation, and a variety of moods and emotions encapsulated in it. I also think that the relatively gentle sound of Eric’s voice and subtle guitar are very accessible. I’ll rate it 4 stars, then!


One final note: the sleeve advertises that the album contains a web link that enables a musical download. To be fair this was offered as a bonus, not a big part of the deal, but the link is no longer valid.


This is currently available from base.com for £10.79 and from Amazon for £9.49 (new hard copy), from just under £6.00 through their Marketplace (cheapest prices from US suppliers), prices for new hard copy. MP3 can be had for £8.69 from Amazon.


___________


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© 2mennycds 5th April 2016

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Comments on this review

  • CelticSoulSister published 10/04/2016
    Excellent!
  • littleowlski published 09/04/2016
    vh x
  • Chippytarka published 08/04/2016
    Fabulous write up!!x
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Product Information : Booker's Guitar - Eric Bibb

Manufacturer's product description

1 CD(s) - Contemporary Blues - Label: Telarc Distribution - Distributor: Proper Note - Released: 15/02/2010 - 888072317567

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EAN: 888072317567

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