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Interview:
Eric Bibb "Flying" On Eclectic Path
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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Eric Bibb likes to describe himself as “a bit of an unidentifi able flying object.”

And that, he says, isn’t easy.

The singer-songwriter — who was born in New York but has lived mostly in Europe since he was 19 — has been a darling of the blues, folk and roots music scenes, all provincial communities that tend to keep a tight grip on their interests. So when he wants to branch out, as he has on his new album, “Diamond Days,” it can be problematic.

“There tend to be people who are not as enthusiastic about my eclectic approach as others, so it’s been a bit of a challenge,” explains Bibb, 55, who these days lives in southwest England when he’s not touring.

“Musicians tend to follow the lead of the marketplace. When you get the kind of exposure I’ve gotten on the blues scene, especially, it’s a good thing. So I think I stuck there ’cause I had to. It didn’t make any sense for me to tear away some essential part of what I want to say.”

Bibb’s upbringing is responsible for his broad range of infl uences. His father, Leon Bibb, was a folk musician and TV personality who invited his son to play guitar in the house band of his program when the younger Bibb was 16. Bibb’s uncle, meanwhile, is John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

So growing up, Bibb was surrounded by all manner of music and artists. Consequently, he notes, “I was never about just one thing but tried on whatever came my way,” including New York’s Negro Ensemble Company in the late ’60s.

Even now, he says: “I really am comfortable being featured on blues stages, folk festival, jazz festivals, singer-songwriter symposiums. ... All of that touches on what I’m doing. I can draw from audiences that are sort of different in orientation, but they do cross over. We all cross over. When it comes to this kind of music, American roots music, it really is pretty interrelated.”

But the 13 songs on “Diamond Days” represent his most ambitious recording attempt to demonstrate that range. There’s blues in “Still Livin’ On” and “Worried Man Blues,” but Bibb also turns a funkier corner on “In My Father’s House,” while he hews toward folkier troubadour flavors on “Tall Cotton” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain.”

It’s ultimately a portrait of a multifaceted artist, and Bibb hopes it will be received that way, and in a positive light — particularly by those who happen to be attached to any of the particular facets from his past.

“It’s been a work in progress, you can say, for quite some time that I’ve been making a record as cohesive as ‘Diamond Days,’ that really refl ects where I’m coming from,” Bibb says. “We made a kind of melange that really is its own thing and not just separate parts trying to be melded together.

“It’s been a challenge to bring people on board to this idea that you’re not this and not that, but you’re this, which is a combination of this and that. I think we really nailed that his time, and I think a lot of people can relate to it, no matter which school of thought they come from.”





Eric Bibb performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 8) at the Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. Tickets are $10-$12. Call (313) 582-2266 or visit www. theaanm.org. Bibb also will sign autographs at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Borders Books & Music, 612 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. There is no charge. Call (734) 668-7652 or visit www. borders.com.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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