Thursday, September 16, 2010

“Booker’s Guitar” - Eric Bibb (Telarch)

By Malcolm Kennedy
Booker's Guitar
Booker’s Guitar is an album of country blues and songster in the tradition of Bukka White and the many other Delta master’s. It opens with a solo tribute to Bukka and his National Steel Duolian guitar that, through chance, Eric got the opportunity to play for the one song. With Bukka’s old set list in his own handwriting still taped to the side, Eric half sings half speaks the original lyrics: ‘Booker’s guitar’s got a story to tell, a story the world needs to hear, Booker’s guitar rings like a bell, it’s gonna keep on ringin’ for a thousand years.’

I had anticipated there to be at least a couple of Bukka’s songs to be included and performed on his guitar; but that is not the case. The 15 tracks are mostly originals; many clearly inspired by past Mississippi legends like “Flood Water” with Grant Dermody’s pleading harp adding texture. There is one cover song, this, an outstanding version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” featuring Grant on harmonica and Eric only adding vocals and handclaps. Grant is the only other performer on Booker’s Guitar with his impeccably tasteful harmonica playing featured on nine cuts.

Several of the tracks are melodically slow paced with simple plucked rhythms as opposed to intricate fingering which Bibb is also very adept at. The traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” with Eric’s heartfelt vocals and Grant’s soul filled harp reaches deep inside you. Another standout track is “Tell Riley” A song Eric wrote with lyrics as if sung by Bukka dictating a message to his younger cousin Riley “BB” King. Booker’s Guitar may not be what I had anticipated by the title; but I didn’t enjoy the first rate music any less for it and it is well deserving of a good listening.

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