PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Eric Bibb: Troubadour Live

Photo by Jan Coleman

Bibb's new live album succinctly captures his aesthetic, summing up who he is without sating the desire for more.

Eric Bibb

Troubadour Live

US Release: 2011-05-10
UK Release: 2011-05-16
Label: Telarc

After a lifetime playing music, most musicians probably have a sense of what their sound is. Maybe it's because he's made a career and an art out of slipping between genres, but singer and guitarist Eric Bibb might not have officially named his role until 2005, nearly 30 years after his solo debut, Rainbow People. That year he released “Troubadour” on A Ship Called Love. The mantle of troubadour fits Bibb perfectly, so it's no wonder he named his new live album simply Troubadour Live. The album, which features guitarist Staffan Astner as well as Psalm4, succinctly captures Bibb's aesthetic, summing up who he is without sating the desire for more.

The track “Troubadour”, of course, made it onto the album, taken from a live set in Sweden last December. This performance bounces more than the original recording, probably fitting for the tone of the concert. Coming third in the show, the song's positioned to explain what's to come. Bibb explains himself when asked (in the song) what kind of music he plays: “Gonna hear some blues …. Gospel, soul, and some good ol' rock 'n' roll … They call me a troubadour”. All those styles and more do show up throughout the rest of the set.

Listeners might most quickly categorize Bibb as a blues guitarist. Cuts like the BB King ode “Tell Riley” wouldn't dispel that idea, and Astner's electric work here builds a classic sound beautifully against Bibb's acoustic. You can trace the blues sound throughout the album -- “Walkin' Blues Again” is an obvious choice for more than just its title -- but the folk influences probably stand out more, particularly in Bibb's situating himself as an acoustic guitarist-storyteller.

At other times, it's hard to miss the heavy gospel influence (in both the traditional sense and in the soul sense of someone like the Staple Singers). “New World Comin' Through” starts out almost like a rolling Mississippi blues cut, maybe somewhere between Burnside and Hooker, but it quickly turns into the sort of number that Mavis Staples might record these days. Psalm4 adds to the sound with their gospel vocals, and provide the musical lift to match Bibb's vocals. The lyrics and performance leave interpretative room to place this “new world” in either an eschatological or an earthly social context. The effect, either way, is memorable.

The album's not nearly as heavy as that might suggest, and following “New World Comin' Through” with “Thanks for the Joy” returns the balance, brightening the mood with a happy song of thanksgiving. The backing vocals and song's placement don't resist a spiritual reading of this number, though it's not essential. That sort of possibility probably says more about the more broadly spiritual sense of Bibb's music than it does anything else.

The two new studio numbers included at the end of the disc are fine, but their inclusion is a little odd. “Put Your Love First” is a competent but not memorable duet. “If You Were Not My Woman” shines happily into reggae. Its placement represents Bibb's long-running interest in international musics, but otherwise adds little. These tracks serve the hardcore fan, and keep in mind that it's not that hard to just stop the disc after the live material.

Even so (and maybe partly because of that ending), Troubadour Live provides a strong take at Bibb's work. Over the course of a live set, Bibb merges his wide variety of genres, not in a musical historian way, nor in discrete moments (despite the way individual track analyses might suggest that). Instead, he crafts a particular, coherent sound, full of both his musical vision and his personality. Combine that aesthetic with strong performances and fitting guests, and you've got a show worth hearing.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.