Time and again over the past three decades and beyond, Bibb has demonstrated his ability to not only capture those singular moments when the spiritual and the everyday come together, but also extract the priceless nuggets of truth and wisdom that emerge from those moments. Diamond Days is filled with just such gems.
The twelve-song set leads off with "Tall Cotton," a track whose title was inspired by a guitar maker friend in Canada, says Bibb. "As I was walking out the door of her studio, she said, `Man, you're walking in tall cotton,'" he recalls. "I said, `What?' She said, `My mother used to tell me that. It means you're doing fine. You're on top of your game.' So the expression eventually turned into a song." The track features Congolese guitarist Kahanga "Master Vumbi" Dekula, who plays in a distinctly African style. "For me," says Bibb, "to talk about tall cotton, which is a very southern American expression, and to connect it to African culture is musically, historically and personally very resonant."
Further in, "Story Book Hero" is a tongue-in-cheek tune reminiscent of the romantic ballads of the 1930s, when male singers would brag to the ladies about their masculine charms. "Smooth talkin' playboys may try an' get your number," Bibb sings, "but I wanna show you how good a man can be, I long to deliver your every heart's desire, Darlin' you're my destiny." The song closes with the singer rattling off names like Robin Hood, John Henry and other folk heroes who emerged from the collective consciousness of past generations to embolden the downtrodden. "It's intended as a spirit-over-circumstances kind of song," says Bibb, "but in a lighthearted way."
"Heading Home" is a song that Bibb considers very autobiographical. "My roots are really in American folk music in all of its glorious forms - from Southern blues and gospel to mountain music, bluegrass and country - and later on, the folk singers of the `50s and `60s who gathered all of that together and made their own statements," says the New York native, who has lived in various parts of Europe and the UK since the early 1970s. "The song is about being disillusioned in the late `60s," he says. "It's about finding a way to gather up those wonderful threads that made us so optimistic at that time, and try to bring it back home."
Bibb ratchets up the energy to a near rapturous pitch in a live rendition of "In My Father's House," a driving, spiritually charged profession of brotherhood that's reminiscent of the soul classic "People Get Ready." On a more intimate scale is the earthy "Buckets of Rain," a song originally penned by Bob Dylan and delivered here in a cheery midtempo arrangement featuring guitarist Martin Simpson's intricate fingerpicking.
The closer, "Still Livin' On," is Bibb's nod to past masters and musical influences - Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotten, Pops Staples and other heroes of blues and gospel whose spirit and influence still lives in their music.
On the good days as well as the bad, Bibb continues to channel these resonant voices from long ago and make them an integral part of his own music and world view. The lesson in Diamond Days is that the road of life is filled with peaks and valleys, and Bibb's sage advice is to accept it all with courage and grace.
Calm, cool, and collected, folksinger Eric Bibb approaches his craft in a style similar to that of Keb' Mo'. His honeyed voice and clean acoustic guitar wrap around songs like a flannel blanket. Bibb's music is filled with hope and uplifting sentiments without being spiritually pedantic. "Forgiveness Is Gold" and "So Glad" tell their stories in the titles alone. Even the lowly shoeshine man can approach his job and life with exuberance ("Dr. Shine") as he helps others improve their lives in his own small way. While these feelings could be juvenile, or--worse--corny, in the wrong hands, Bibb's songwriting and presentation elevate the material with a persuasive professionalism and integrity achieved through a career that spans ten years and as many albums. Credit also goes to producer Glen Scott, who brings just enough changes to the mix. Occasional tuba, snare drum, muted trumpet, and his keyboards add deeper, richer shades to these smooth watercolor sketches. The disc's lone live track, "My Father's House," injects subtle rawness into the proceedings and is certainly a highlight. "Still Livin' On" name checks Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton, Rev. Gary Davis, Son House, and Pops Staples. It shows Bibb's dedication to, and love of, the folk/blues artists who have influenced and preceded him. The music and soul of these legends is imbedded in Bibb's own style that connects on this fine release despite--or maybe because--of its breezy, easygoing charm. --Hal Horowitz