The plight of troubled people on the move seeking a new, safe home is the theme of Eric Bibb’s heartfelt Migration Blues. It tells the tale of various peoples – refugees and migrants – who have hit the road to escape violence or grinding hardship. With the album, Bibb says he hopes to “encourage us all to keep our minds and hearts wide open to the ongoing plight of refugees everywhere.” The album is a somber yet beautiful testament from the talented bluesman.
Bibb seems to have been destined to take a prominent place music world. His father, Leon, was a prominent folk singer in New York City and his uncle, John Lewis, was a jazz composer and pianist with the prestigious Modern Jazz Quartet. Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Odetta and Paul Robeson were visitors to Bibb’s boyhood home, and Robeson was Bibb’s godfather. But Bibb made an unexpected choice to pursue a career in blues when he became fascinated with pre-war blues. A true jet-setter, Bibb’s career has taken him back and forth to Europe, and he has lived in Sweden for periods of time.
After a couple of isolated recordings, Bibb began recording in earnest in the late 1990s, and his discography already includes more than 20 albums. Like his contemporaries, Bibb is no mere country-blues mimic. His music includes many influences. Highlights include 2001’s Painting Signs, 2004’s Friends, 2012’s collaboration with Malian Habib Koite, Brothers in Bamako, 2013’s fine Jericho Road, and last year’s tribute to Lead Belly with french harmonica player J.J. Milteau.
For Migration Blues, Bibb once again enlisted the help of Milteau. The album also features the work of Michael Jerome Browne on vocals, guitars, banjo, mandolin and triangle. There are some powerful compositions on the album, including “Refugee Moan,” “Diego’s Blues,” “Prayin’ For Shore,” the title track, “Four Years, No Rain,” and “With a Dolla’ In My Pocket.”
About the author: Bill Wilcox is a roots music enthusiast recently relocated from the Washington, DC area to Philadelphia, PA and back again.