Album Reviews

Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau

Lead Belly's Gold

Artist:     Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau

Album:     Lead Belly's Gold

Label:     Stony Plain Records

Release Date:     11/06/2015


New York’s son, Eric Bibb, is one of those guys who, it seems, can do no wrong. With each release, he gets stronger, better, more polished and digs deeper in the blues well. With Lead Belly’s Gold, he has mined a singularly rich seam filled with diamond tracks from old man Huddie Ledbetter’s extensive back-catalogue or songs associated with the late, towering traditional country- bluesman. Joined by French harp-player JJ Milteau on this album, Bibb again pulls out all the stops to produce a wonderful 16-track offering, with eleven tracks recorded live in Paris, and the remainder stripped-down studio cuts.

The pace is varied and includes soulful takes on old traditional numbers like “Bring A Little Water, Sylvie,” “Pick A Bale Of Cotton” – recalling the birth of skiffle – to Memphis Minnie’s “Chauffeur Blues” and some positively towering harp-work from Milteau on the ringing romp of “Midnight Special.”

When Leonard Cohen sang “I was born with the gift of a golden voice…” – presumably with tongue firmly in cheek – some years ago on his composition “Tower of Song,” he might well have been looking in a mirror and seeing Eric Bibb in the reflection.  And this album is no exception, with Bibb’s standard, soulful, smooth and mellow voice driving the whole package home, albeit with an at times slightly scratchier, grittier grip on the songs that give the CD a decidedly bluesier feel than usual. Add a delightful self-composed track, “Swimmin’ In A River Of Songs,” to close the mix, and you have a top-quality release from a true master.

– Iain Patience

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