Folk Fest - Eric Bibb Gathers "Friends" From Some High Places

As a child, singer-songwriter and guitarist Eric Bibb was fortunate to find all the elements of his artistic heritage at home. His father--Vancouver resident Leon Bibb--was a leading figure of the folk revival in New York's Greenwich Village back in the late 1950s and early '60s, and Eric was weaned on music in the family living room.

"It wasn't just records," recalls Bibb, on the line from his home in London. "I met people like Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan at parties my dad gave. I heard Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Reverend Gary Davis, and John Lee Hooker from an early age. Judy Collins and Odetta were personal friends. It was fabulous."

Over the past decade, Bibb has emerged on the international stage as one of the new masters of acoustic blues. But despite his deep love of that tradition, he doesn't want to be limited by it. "I think of myself more as a songster," he states. "For me, the blues is an integral part of my musical DNA, and it finds its way into a lot of what I do. I've derived a lot of juice from it; however, I think that it's a jumping-off point for me."

For his latest recording, Bibb sought assistance from musician friends working in a variety of genres and styles. Appropriately called Friends, it features 15 collaborations with leading artists, including Guy Davis, Mamadou Diabate, Taj Mahal, Djelimady Tounkara, Ruthie Foster, Martin Simpson, Charlie Musselwhite, Led Ka'apana, and Odetta.

"My aim really was to make an album with people who inspired me, more than thinking I had to have an allegiance to any particular style," says Bibb, who, with Odetta, plays the Vancouver International Folk Festival this Saturday and Sunday (July 17 and 18).

Bibb is already thinking of a follow-up to Friends, one that will further underline his eclectic approach to music-making. "I might make it a double album," he reveals. "One record would be with songs that are accessible in a commercial way without losing what I feel is my own identity and integrity, and the other record with folk-gospel material--the legacy left by people like Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson, 'cause that's a big part of what's really moved me. It would show another two related sides of who I am and what I do."