Eric Bibb’s music is full of one thing not all that common to his folk-blues style: hope. On Diamond Days, the New York-born, Sweden-based singer-songwriter is positively buoyant as he sings not only about paying dues but the rewards doing so can bring.
“Keep on when your mind says quit/ Dream on till you find you’re livin’ it,” he sings on the bouncy, uplifting “Shine On.” One tune later, the easygoing blues number “So Glad” demonstrates where that optimism can lead you: “I’m so glad I kept goin’ on the rocky road to my dreams/ Seeds I’ve been sowin’ are growin’ for the world to see.”
The title track mentions payin’ dues as well. It’s a laid-back tune all about taking the bad with the good. “Some days you get diamonds/ Some days nickels and dimes/ Some days life’s a poem/ Some days nothin’ rhymes,” Bibb sings.
All this relentless positivity could be cloying in the wrong hands. But listening to Diamond Days you can get a sense of exactly where Bibb is coming from.
“My great grandma tol’ me when I was young/ Keep a song in your heart an’ a truth on your tongue/ You’ll be walking in tall cotton all your days,” he sings on the stirring opener “Tall Cotton.”
Later on, Bibb rattles off a few of his personal blues heroes on “Still Livin’ On.” Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Pops Staples all get namechecked. “One of my heroes, dead an’ gone — still livin’ on,” he sings after each one. Not even the subject of dead heroes can bring this guy down.
The son of New York folksinger Leon Bibb, Eric got the chance to meet many of Dad’s running buddies at a young age including Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. So it should come as no surprise when Eric offers a nicely finger-picked, faithful take on Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” here.
Bibb also offers the sunny shoeshine man character study “Dr. Shine” and “Heading Home,” a musically unlikely get-out-of-Iraq protest song that’s ultimately about the guiding power of love. “You say you want peace, though your heart craves war/ Work that one out — that’s what we’re all here for/ Eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind/ Let’s make up our minds and head on home,” he sings.
He continues that theme later on the pretty acoustic shuffle “Forgiveness is Gold.” “Love is real — fear is just a dream/ Love is all — nothing else is what it seems,” Bibb sings.
I really like Bibb’s take on the blues. It’s the kind of blues that doesn’t give you the blues.
Eric Bibb: www.ericbibb.com