Release Date: Mar 27, 2012
Record label: Stony Plain
Eric Bibb's version of the blues is calm, wise, hushed, and elegant, as much or more about redemption as it is about despair, and above all, Bibb sees the blues as narrative, part of the story we all drift through. His best songs, often built on traditional patterns and rhythms, are wise and affirming, and they fall to the brighter and more hopeful side of the blues. There are several such gems on Deeper in the Well, including the opening track, a delightful piece of Louisiana shuffle funk called "Bayou Belle," the string band gospel bounce of "Dig a Little Deeper in the Well," a modal and relentlessly driving "Boll Weevil," "Sittin' in a Hotel Room," which is a wise and hopeful story of contentment, and the final track, a stunningly beautiful banjo version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'.
Eric Bibb delivers an album of down-home country blues. Anyone looking for some kind of raw, primal exorcism of passion a la Elmore James or Buddy Guy can look elsewhere. This is a much more stripped-down version of the genre, more akin to the delta blues, with the most obvious point of reference being the laid-back yet intense folk-stylings of Mississippi John Hurt.
Eric Bibb is such a genial, easy-going performer that it's easy to overlook his importance. One of the finest black American exponents of acoustic blues, he was brought up in New York (where his father, Leon, played a key role in the radical 50s folk scene) but spent much of his life in Scandinavia. Now he has travelled to Louisiana to expand his range to include Creole and country influences, with a set that has the slinky, rhythmic charm of JJ Cale.
The genteel bluesman – if that's not a contradiction in terms – is in danger of spreading himself too thinly, with three albums last year alone. Happily, he hits his best form on an album recorded in Louisiana and permeated by deep southern flavours. A gentle bayou beat propels the title track and alongside subtle touches of banjo, accordion and harmonica, Creole fiddler Cedric Watson excels.
Deceptively powerful stuff from the well-travelled bluesman. Sid Smith 2012 Eric Bibb is undoubtedly one of the busiest musicians on the scene, but as Sittin’ in a Hotel Room makes abundantly clear, you’ll hear no complaints from him about an itinerant life on the road. Whilst some road songs describe the collateral damage and ennui resulting from such occupational transience, Bibb celebrates a beatific moment wherein the singer and guitarist can’t believe how lucky he is.