Eric Bibb's newest release, Dear America, is his most timely, and perhaps, his greatest work. Which is quite a claim coming after the glories of the double disc set Global Griot.
Bibb is unique among troubadours in that his catalog and his career serve a higher purpose. The son of the late Leon Bibb, actor, folksinger, activist, and civil rights champion, Eric Bibb legitimately carries the torch for Dr. King's vision.
It is that fire in the belly that drives Eric Bibb's life and career. In a time when frustration has led to anarchy, Eric Bibb still believes in non-violence. And even more than that, he believes in hope and love.
Dear America, as Bibb describes it, is a letter of love to the land of his birth. In that letter he casts an unflinching gaze on America's troubled and brutal history of race relations. From any other artist you might expect a set of blistering protest songs. But Bibb's vision is bigger than that. His eyes - ever on the prize of a new world where we can do better - are full of hope.
Which is what makes this record so important and so special. Rattling off a list of grievances is one thing. To do it well requires skill. To rise above history and tragedy and offer vision, especially a hopeful one, requires spirit and a heart wide enough and deep enough to transcend mankind's darker impulses. To see all the evidence of man's injustice and hate, to look that devil in the eye and still point towards a better day, one has to draw from a deep well of faith.
To do all that, and make a record that is eminently listenable, deeply rewarding, and truly inspiring, is the mark of a true artist. Bibb has the wisdom to know when to take the view from 30,000 feet, and when to scale it down to the living room. Nowhere is that more evident than on Emmett's Ghost. The story of Emmett Till has long been a defining one in the history of the Civil Rights movement. But here Bibb makes it personal, recalling the time when, as a young boy, he saw the pictures of Till's disfigured face,and started to cry. It is a stark reminder of the impact of generational sin.
The musicality of the record is wonderful, brought to life by a group of talented performers. Bibb has been building a musical community over the course of his career, and the fruit of his labors are displayed on Dear America. Bibb, along with his producer/collaborator Glen Scott, has assembled a dream team of musicians and singers including such virtuosos as Ron Carter, Steve Jordan, and Eric Gales, to name a few.
The result is a banquet for the weary soul. Eric Bibb invites you to come to the table and feast.