Born in 1951, Bibb is a native New Yorker with deep roots in the American blues and folk tradition. He is the son of 1960s folk and musical theater singer and television personality Leon Bibb. His uncle was the world-famous jazz pianist and composer John Lewis, a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. His godfather was singer/actor/activist Paul Robeson. Surrounded by major musical figures of the day, young Eric was inspired and influenced by Odetta, Richie Havens, Pete Seeger, Earl Robinson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and many others.
Bibb got his first steel stringed guitar when he was seven. By the time he was in junior high school, he was consumed by music. When Bibb was 16, his father invited him to play guitar in the house band for his television show, Someone New. In later years, Bibb played guitar for the Negro Ensemble Company in 1969 at St. Mark’s Place in New York City. He left for Paris at age 19, where he played in restaurants, then headed to Sweden, where he settled in the ‘70s. He returned to New York in the 1980s for a brief five-year stay, where he continued to write and opened for headliners such as The Persuasions, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Tania Maria and Etta James.
Bibb’s first signing was to BMG/Sweden as a writer in the early ‘80s. He later signed to the independent Swedish label Opus 3, where he produced several albums. Two of these, Spirit & The Blues and Good Stuff, were later released in the U.S., which helped to expand Bibb’s international audience. Bibb appeared at the London Blues Festival in 1996, and has toured the world many times since, appearing at festival and club dates in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Europe, Australia and Japan.
A performance by Eric Bibb is an enriching experience, both musically and spiritually. His music, like his personality, is intimate, assured and passionate, drawing listeners into the moment more as participants than as spectators. His rich and sensitive vocals and lyrics provide a perfect balance to his fine fingerpicking technique. Purveying a beautifully realized and deftly accomplished soulful and gospel-infused folk-blues, Bibb has no problem blending various genres effortlessly, melding a traditional rootsy American style with a subtle, contemporary sensibility. As one critic wrote, “Eric’s singing and versatile guitar playing fuses a variety of genres to become a New World Blues.”
Bibb joined Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, in 2004 as one-third of Sisters & Brothers, a gospel-flavored blues collaboration that also featured musical soulmates Rory Block and Maria Muldaur. Later that same year, he recorded Friends, a solo effort with guest appearances by several longtime friends and collaborators, including Taj Mahal, Odetta, Guy Davis and Charlie Musselwhite.
In September 2005, Bibb released A Ship Called Love, a 14-track tapestry of blues, folk and balladry. He followed up with the release of Diamond Days (September 2006 in the UK, January 2007 in the U.S.) and Get Onboard (2008), a 12-track set that featured guest appearances by guitarist/songwriter Bonnie Raitt and blues/folk/gospel singer Ruthie Foster.
Booker’s Guitar, Bibb’s 2010 release, was inspired by the discovery of a 1930s vintage Resophonic National steel-body guitar that had belonged to Delta blues legend Booker White – an older cousin to B.B. King. The encounter inspired the album’s half-spoken, half-sung title track, which Bibb recorded in England using White’s guitar. The remaining tracks, although recorded in rural Ohio on Bibb’s own guitars, sprang from the same well of inspiration. Booker’s Guitar hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums Chart and won the 2010 DownBeat’s Critics Poll for Best Blues Album.
Bibb’s latest effort on Telarc, Troubadour Live, is scheduled for May 2011. Featuring Swedish guitarist Staffan Astner and gospel trio Psalm4, Troubadour Live was recorded in December 2010 at Katalin and All That Jazz in Uppsala, Sweden (about 50 miles north of Stockholm) and captures a powerful live performance in an intimate but emotionally charged setting.
“After many ambitious studio albums, I really wanted to document and share with a wider audience what I’d been doing live on stage,” says Bibb. “Given my intensive touring schedule over the past couple years, there was a window of opportunity to involve some fine musicians whom I really love working with live as well as in the studio, and it all seemed to come together around this gig.”