25 Nov 2013

Eric Bibb, the perfect folk-blues?

I have been to two of Eric Bibb's concerts, each time within the context of the Marciac Jazz Festival, which takes place each year in the South-West of France late July and early August. Marciac is one of the many bastides (14th century "new-towns" in France) that are built on an orthogonal plan and feature a central square surrounded by arcades. They were initially conceived as a way of fixing populations disturbed by the ravages of wars. The one below is actually from another town, Fleurance, as the Marciac square, during the festival, is now packed full of tents (too many of them) sellling mostly crap, but occasionally also some good jazz CDs.

The arcades of a typical bastide town in the Gers (Fleurance)

Both of Bibb's concerts have entranced and moved me and I would say that he is currently the best proponent of what is sometimes called "folk-blues". I suppose this means blues that uses, partly or entirely, an acoustic guitar as the major instrument, and whose general accompaniement is not heavily electrified. But also a repertoire that calls, at least partially, on many long-standing blues or folk classics. Bibb equally composes himself and has also played, such as in the first concert I heard, with musicians from other countries and cultures, such as the Malien Habib Koité.

There is something pure and elegant about Bibb's style as a guitar player (also banjo occasionally), and his voice is beautiful, both soft and deep. He also has a very extensive repertoire that constantly evolves. Below are a few shots takn with my phone during the 2013 Marciac concert, which was quite fantastic. Initially this was a double-bill event, with Taj Mahal to follow, but unfortunately a storm came just as Taj Mahal was starting his first set and we had to evacuate the marquee and that was the end of that. But I went away feeling that here was a case of the pupil surpassing the master, as Mahal seemed a bit tired that night.