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Eric Bibb – Get On Board

Telarc Records

Every now and then, a true musical gem lands on your turntable.  Get On Board, the 16th and latest CD by New York City native and current London resident Eric Bibb, is simply the best fusion of new and traditional blues, folk and soul that I’ve heard in some years.  Bibb combines great writing—he wrote or co-wrote all but one song on the disk; great singing—reminiscent of George Benson; and great instrumentation—his own guitar work plus some standout Nashville cats; with some outstanding production, to bring forth his best disk yet.   And, the man knows how to wear a Panama hat!

The twelve songs of Get On Board were recorded starting last year in Nashville, and finished with producer and back-up musician Glen Scott in Stockholm, Sweden, where the 57-year old Bibb lived for several years between New York and London.

Get On Board kicks off with “Spirit I Am,” a great soul-blues-gospel song about seeking out the good things in a troubled world.  It begins with a catchy guitar hook that draws the listener in, to both the song and the rest of the disk.  Next is, “The Promised Land,” a song that would have the listener believing Bibb knew all too well the cotton fields of the old south.  It features Glen Scott on organ and Staffan Findin on slide guitar.

The third cut is titled, “New Beale Street Blues,” a traditional-sounding track paying homage to the musical and ethnic importance of Memphis and Beale Street. “Get On Board,” the title track, is a happy sounding tribute to all the love train songs that have rolled through musical history. 

Bibb reminds the listener of George Benson with, “If Our Hearts Ain’t In It,” a southern soul admonition to put your heart and soul into something if you really believe in it.  And just when you think this thought-provoking song couldn’t get any better, in comes a slide guitar solo from Bonnie Raitt.  “Pockets” is a nice, cleverly-worded, folksy-sounding transition to an up-tempo ode to….pockets!  And what we find—our should find—in them. 

Then we get introspective again with “River Blues,” a tune that suggests watching the flowing river and blowing leaves if we need a distraction from our troubles.  “Deep In My Soul,” an all-acoustic melody featuring the steel pedal guitar of Chuck Campbell for a bit of country gospel, keeps us looking inward in search of what’s positive.

“Conversation” is an old-fashioned big-band ballroom duet with Ruthie Foster, about making the most of not very much.  It’s followed by “God’s Kingdom,” a straight-up old time religion gospel cut with a hint of anti war sentiment. 

Bibb dedicates “Step By Step” to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as he encourages the listener to not give up the fight for freedom and equality. 

Last but not least is “Stayed On Freedom,” a simplistically but stylishly arranged and performed traditional civil rights song that you can almost imagine drifting up from the hot and humid plains of Mississippi not too many generations ago.

This one will be in my ride’s CD player for many miles to come.  Two Mariestads up for Eric Bibb and Get On Board.

Reviewed By Rob Paullin

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