His latest record, out last year, is called, quite simply, Friends, and it shows what kind of magic can be cooked up when you tour a lot and virtually everyone playing music is your best friend. Each of the fifteen tracks features Bibb in deep, complex collaboration with some pretty impressive luminaries: Guy Davis, Martin Simpson, Taj Mahal, Harry Manx, Charlie Musselwhite, Odetta, Mamadou Diabate, Ruthie Foster, and lots more. Track 3, St. Louis Jimmy's "Goin' Down Slow," satisfies my infrequently satisfied jones for blues fiddle, courtesy of Michael Jerome Browne. Harry Manx's mohan veena (Indian lap-style guitar) takes the traditional "Needed Time" to someplace far away. How cool to hear Bibb and Odetta, the grande dame of folk music, singing so sweetly together in "'Tain't Such a Much." (If Odetta's not your own personal legend, then you should check your legend list.)
Friends is really a terrific album so many different sounds bound together by Bibb's voice and careful, artful production. When he plays the Ark on Thursday, February 16, it'll be just Eric, his husky voice, and his wide-brimmed hat. And maybe the ghosts of the Virgin Queen and her boyfriend, united at last, digging the blues.
[Review published February 2006]