Booker's Guitar

Eric Bibb

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Booker's Guitar Review

by Rick Anderson

The genesis of this deeply moving album was in an almost chance encounter at a London hotel, where Eric Bibb had just played a set. He was approached by a fan with a beat-up guitar case, which turned out to contain a 1930s National steel guitar that had been owned and played by legendary Delta blues legend Bukka White. Bibb was inspired to write a half-spoken, half-sung ode to White, which he then recorded in London using that guitar; the remainder of the album, though inspired by that experience, was recorded in the U.S. on his own instruments and finds Bibb approaching the Delta blues tradition from a variety of highly personal angles. There's the gospel-inflected blues of "With My Maker I Am One" (which features harmonica player Grant Dermody, and which you won't realize is inspired by Deepak Chopra unless you read the notes), the possibly (but not necessarily) Katrina-inspired "Flood Water," a wonderful version of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger," and an equally spectacular rendition of the Blind Willie Johnson classic "Nobody's Fault But Mine." One of the album's best and most affecting tracks is an all-too-brief guitar instrumental, a deceptively simple-sounding and decidedly not blues-based piece; another is the gently beautiful "Rocking Chair," which evokes '50s doo wop as much as it does the Delta blues. The overall impression given by Booker's Guitar is that of a richly varied but deeply rooted tribute not just to a particular man, but also to the great tradition he exemplified and the wide variety of musical streams that flowed into it.

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