The latest album from Eric Bibb is personal, blues framed with gospel, and the simplicity of delivering his hallmark style a beguiling mix of laid back and intense as Eric writes a thirteen-song letter. Dear America. A literate expose of the realities of America. The good, bad and ugly. A reflection of his experiences from the 50’s through to the present day. From early memories from the folk revival of Greenwich village to the dark flashpoints of 2020 shining a torchlight on the open wound of US race relations.
Opening with Whole LoPa Lovin, featuring Ron Carter you are immediately transported to the front porch to be mesmerised by the guitar, voice, and words. Totally immersing you in the world conjured up by Eric’s musicianship and charm. The opening song is country blues, gentle and soothing as a list of music styled food and drinks are narrated. The simple things that shape our everyday. It reminds me of Pockets his 2008 album, Get On Board.
The tone changes with Shaneeka Simon joining Eric on Born of a Woman. The lyrics are harsher, demanding change in societies attitudes towards women. The horrors of abuse. Misogyny leaves a distasteful taste of society and we are reminded every man is Born of a Woman. Blues shapes the third song, Whole Worlds Got The Blues. The guitar playing by Eric Gales is electric, and sublime the guitar has the blues as it joins in with the feeling that resonates across the world. A response to the sad news that surrounds us whatever media we dip into. The collective hurt, depression wherever you look there is an absence of smiles. The rhythm and mood of the endless cycles of destruction are captured in the persistent drumbeat. A strong dark track. Hope, yes in the refrain, will we make it time will tell… again this song is yearning for a new pattern of behaviour.
The title track, Dear America, invokes the words of Martin Luther King… and the appalling silence of the good people. It is a lament. Following o perfectly from the feeling of blues across cultures in the previous number. This is stripped back blues the feel and texture of a holler. Ghosts of the past join in as slavery is at the heart and the lack of America’ making amends for the actions taken. This is a song standing on the shoulder of the past imploring that hatred does not shape the future. An urgent call for action.
Different Picture, is reflective, internalise it has an inherent sadness. The exploration of the society, broken, battered and bruised. We start in the heat of the here and now. The sound swells the instrumentation fills out and the clock turns back to decades before, same people but a different picture as racisms and events that shape society are explored through the power of the song lyric, stripped back capturing the truth.
A gentle blues with a powerful message. Listen and then act not in silence. Tell Yourself is a message to everyone. Uplifting, with the seeds of hope and helps everyone through the flow of blues a moment of wellbeing, enjoying a moment that is curated for you. A song for healing.
Emmets Ghost (feat Ron Carter) is immense. This track is the stand-out track for me. Blues story that is authentic and so relevant for the now with the killing of George Floyd and all the others that are abused and hurt and killed on our streets in 2021. The ghost of Emmet is played out with a sensitive blues guitar and his picture is a message for every one hate should never be tolerated or ignored.
Eric’s gently delivery continues the melody acting as a perfect backdrop to the lyrics that sting and say something directly to our conscious. This is a call to action to hold our words and actions to account to change the narrative for good that white does not equate to White is pure and good whilst Black personifies bad, the evil side of life. Judge people by how they live their lives, their honesty, not by the colour of our complexions. We continue the journey finding peace of mind, a place we all belong collectively together in harmony, captured in Along The Way.
Now we step aboard for a train song. The tempo picks up with the awesome harp from Billy Branch. This is a foot-stomping, hand-clapping ditty. Retro and modern. This is the clacking of iron wheels on the rails as Eric is Talkin’ ‘Bout A Train Ride Part 1. Neatly flowing into Part 2 – This is faster the beat is in the here and now. The retro feel is lost. This is the journey we are all experiencing. The backing vocals add soulful depth with some horns to sharpen the vibe as we are told to choose and spread the news on a gospel fused ride.
The penultimate number Loves Kingdom, pace is uplifting with an easy vibe on the ears with guests adding to the tonal glory and textures. The final track features the glorious vocals of Lisa Mills on One-ness of Love, the closing message of love and being in harmony with each other. Duetting at its best.
The listening is easy on the ear. The message is tough in this love letter to America and beyond. Listen, enjoy the melodic blues and remember the roots and the lived experience of people today. We all have a choice. We call can take actions that making the world a more harmonious and equal place to live.
“This album is a love letter,” Bibb says again, “because all of America’s woes, and the woes of the world, can only come into some kind of healing and balance with that energy we call love. That’s my conviction. You see young people now and it’s amazing, with the whole Black Lives Matter movement. All of those things let me know that there is a kind of reverberation from that Sixties energy. You can’t keep a good thing down. Now we’re at that ‘watch and pray’ moment, and it’s an incredibly inspiring time to be writing songs…”
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – Dear America, beautiful musicianship combines with lyrics that are times are difficult. This is a true love letter for 2021 as Eric Bibb delivers tough love with charm.
1. Whole Lotta Lovin’
2. Born Of A Woman
3. Whole Worlds Got The Blues
4. Dear America
5. Different Picture
6. Tell Yourself
7. Emmett’s Ghost
8. White & Black
9. Along The Way
10. Talkin’ ‘Bout A Train Part 1
11. Talkin’ ‘Bout A Train Part 2
12. Love’s Kingdom
13. One-ness Of Love
Eric Bibb: guitars, vocals
Steve Jordan (drums)
Ron Carter: (track 1, 7)
Shaneeka Simon: Vocals (track 2)
Eric Gales: guitar (track 3)
Chuck Campbell: (track 5)
Billy Branch: harp (track 10)
Tommy Simms: bass (track 12)
Glenn Scott: (track 12)
Lisa Mills: vocals (track 13)
“Dear America” is out now on Mascot Label Group