It’s not always easy to find the right words to describe what a musician is all about. In the case of singer, songwriter and guitar player Eric Bibb, "roots musician" and "bluesman" come to mind first. But Bibb himself has offered perhaps the best synopsis of his oeuvre with the African word “griot,” the name given to a storyteller who relates oral history through music. Bibb has always done this, but now fans may become more aware of the concept through his new release, Global Griot.
The notion of global can be taken literally on Global Griot as Bibb worked with internationally-based players on the recording and recorded it in various spots around the world. He’ll be performing in far-flung locations in 2019 as well, including on the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean cruise in August, a floating festival that’ll also feature Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Larkin Poe, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bernie Marsden and many others. We had a chat with Bibb by email about the new album and the cruise; his commentary below is given exclusively to AXS.com.
AXS: You co-wrote most of the songs on Global Griot with a host of different writers. Did you know going into it that the album was going to be a 2-CD offering, or did it become obvious as you went along?
Eric Bibb: As the project evolved, I realized that I had more to say, musically and lyric wise, than a single CD, could contain. The list of global griots I wanted to work with kept growing!
AXS: You once again work with African artists on Global Griot and the album was in part recorded in Ghana. During your visits to Africa you’ve likely gone out to see local “unknown” players perform; could you describe one of these instances?
EB: I remember being in Bamako, Mali with Habib Koité a few years back and hearing live music at the French Cultural Center. The band was comprised of local musicians who often played there in shifting constellations. It was groovy! I also remember a night in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, years ago hearing a hotel band featuring wonderful Congolese-style guitar players. That sound was totally intoxicating!
AXS: Kora player Solo Cissokho is one of the African players guesting on Global Griot. How are you with the kora? Has Solo given you any lessons, and do you have one at home to play around with?
EB: I once owned a beautiful kora from Gambia. I’m looking forward to some lessons from Solo when we begin touring next year.
AXS: You’ve sailed with Joe Bonamassa on his Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea cruise before and you’ll be on board for the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean in August of 2019. Besides playing your own sets, do you look forward to possibly jamming or just hanging out with any of the other players?
EB: I’m looking forward to hearing my contemporaries perform in that relaxed cruise environment. As it doesn’t happen so often, it’s gonna be a treat!
AXS: The Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean cruise calls at Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Valetta, Malta, destinations that are a bit off the path of a typical tour. Do you enjoy going ashore when you cruise, either to take an organized tour or explore on your own?
EB: Exploring on my own is the way I usually go. These will be new destinations for me and I’m excited.
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