Live at the Performing Arts Center Feb. 11
By Morgan Tate
Eric Bibb, Grammy nominated artist, has been described as having a gift with his rich vocals and harmonious fingerpicking. On Feb. 11, Hilo will have the opportunity to experience Bibb’s mix of gospel, folk, soul and country blues.
Born in 1962, raised in a music-filled family and surrounded by soulful composers in New York City, Bibb grew up in the heart of folk tradition. “Bibb got his first steel guitar at age 7,” wrote Richard Skelly, “and some advice from [Bob] Dylan that he never forgot: keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff.” While composers like Bob Dylan were friends of the family, Bibb’s uncle, John Lewis, was a part of the Modern Jazz Quartet and his father, Leon Bibb, was a folk singer. As a teen, Bibb played guitar for the house band in his father’s TV show, Someone New.
Since then, he has been on a roll. He began to compose as he left for Paris and continued when he later moved to Stockholm. There, he became enchanted by pre-war blues. He hopped back and forth from New York to Sweden as he sought a career as a folk and blues singer, even teaching music to students in Sweden. He continued to perform and compose as he traveled.
Bibb’s debut album, “Spirit and the Blues” (1995), gained much recognition with what critics called his warm lyrics and memorable tunes. Becky Byrkit wrote in a review of his debut, “Bibb blends the muddy-river style of Delta gospel and the drive of white vagabond balladeers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.”
Bibb continued to exercise his talent when he performed at the 1996 London Blues Festival and released his second album, “Good Stuff ” in 1997. He pursued his immeasurable inspiration and composed his third album Me to You, which featured collaborations and performances by musical role-models, Pops and Mavis Staples and Taj Mahal.
After the success of “Me to You”, Bibb participated in multiple tours around the U.S., Canada, and parts of Europe. He then composed five more stunning albums by 2001, the last of which featured solos and duets by Bibb and his father. After touring the U.S. twice with Robert Cray in 2001 and 2002, Bibb opened for Ray Charles in 2002. Bibb’s passion and hard work took the form of a Grammy for his piece Shakin’ a Tailfeather and multiple W.C. Handy Awards for various categories.
A collaboration with Bibb’s father, “Praising Peace: A Tribute to Paul Robeson”, was released in 2006 in honor of Robeson’s legacy. Robeson was not only a close friend of Leon Bibb, but also Eric Bibb’s godfather. Bibb’s most recent album, Blues People, was released in 2014 and is a tribute to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It has already received great reviews.
Bibb’s lyrics illustrate strength of heart, and his chords speak the blues with each and every syllable. UH Hilo Performing Arts Center will be hosting Eric Bibb at 7 p.m., Wed., Feb. 11. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the PAC Box Office. Costs are $12 for UH Hilo students, $20 discount and $25 general admission. Be sure to bring your student I.D. on the night of the show if you have purchased student tickets!