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Eric Bibb: The Happiest Man In The World

Chris Mosey By

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Like his mentor Taj Mahal, Eric Bibb plays and sings acoustic country blues in praise of the simple things in life. He doesn't go in for flashy solos or what used to be called "the old moody." His career spans five decades and this is 36th album. In "Prison of Time," the best, most heartfelt song on it, he sings: "One day becomes another / So quickly, I'm left behind."

His songs are superbly well crafted and deceptively simple: little, self-contained vignettes about life that stick to a country blues format but don't get stuck in it.

In "Creole Café" the song's protagonist skips work to help his partner with the chores in her café "just 40 miles west of Newport News, where she serves the gumbo and I serve the blues."

In "Tossin' and Turnin'" he's a dirt farmer worrying about the future—"I remember when the land was green / Plenty dollars in my pocket / Worst drought I ever seen / Grandpa's watch, I had to hock it."

Bibb puts his own, new spin on old tales. Whereas Taj Mahal frequently laced his blues with Carribbean influences, he keeps things straight and folksy ("Tell ol' Bill when he comes home/Leave them downtown girls alone.")

The title track, "The Happiest Man In The World," built around a simple banjo figure, refers back—no doubt unconsciously—to a calypso-flavoured number recorded by Taj Mahal in 1971, titled Happy To Be Just Like I Am, lauding the joys of "working like a natchl man."

In "I'll Farm For You," Bibb goes futher: "I'll milk your cows at the crack of dawn / When the harvest comes, I'll shuck your corn."

Son of Leon Bibb, who sang at the first ever Newport folk festival, Eric Bibb is aware of his roots but refuses to be bound hand and foot to them. "Born To Be Your Man" contains references to Dr Seuss, Stevie Wonder, Muhammad Ali, Louis Jordan, Prince, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Jimi Hendrix... among others.

Bibb is an excellent guitarist. Here he plays with brothers Janne and Olli Haavisto of the Finnish folk band North Country Far and veteran British double bassist Danny Thompson (ex-Pentangle and Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated). Various other musicians sit in, including Mary Murphy playing adventurous Irish whistle on the instrumental "Blueberry Boy." It's a regular hootenanny, y'all —but one that will keep you thinking about the things it says long after the music comes to an end.

Track Listing: The Happiest Man In The World; Toolin’ Down The Road; I’ll Farm For You; Tossin’ And Turnin’; Creole Café; Born To Be Your Man; Prison Of Time; King Size Bed; On The Porch; 1912 Skiing Disaster; Tell Ol’ Bill; Wish I Could Hold You Now; Blueberry Boy; You Really Got Me.

Personnel: Eric Bibb: vocals, guitar, banjo; Danny Thompson: bass; Olle Haavisto: guitars, dobro, pedal steel; Janne Haavisto: drums, percussion; Ulrika Pontén Bibb: backing vocals; Petri Hakala: mandolin, fiddle; Mary Murphy: Irish whistle; Michael Jerome Browne: slide and 12-string guitars; Pepe Åhlqvist: harmonica.

Title: The Happiest Man In The World | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Dixie Frog

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