Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Guitar legend still has the blues

Acoustic blues maestro Eric Bibb greeted his Belfast audience like old friends, and from the beginning of a wide-ranging and often revelatory set, the warmth was returned in spades.

Now aged 62 and with a back catalogue running to dozens of albums, Bibb is a true American original, joining the dots between blues, folk, gospel, old spirituals and country, always with a wise, hopeful and even redemptive perspective.

Bibb's weapons are twofold – his fingerpicking acoustic guitar playing, and a voice of uncommon depth and character.

Whatever the style – and Bibb covered everything from gentle country ballads to spectral, John Martyn-esque acoustic blues, to deeply grooving numbers showcasing his crack band – Bibb was in complete control.

His rendition of the traditional Wayfaring Stranger, which he told us was brought from "these Celtic lands" and taught to southern slaves, was a haunting lament sung with real emotion.

It was when Bibb and band cut loose, though, that the evening really took flight. The 12-bar blues won out on the likes of With My Maker I Am One, Michael Jerome Browne's lead to the fore as Bibb locked in with the rhythm section.

By the end, they were dancing in the aisles as Bibb added to his long list of Belfast friends.

CHRIS JONES

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