Guitarist Eric Bibb has spent more than three decades developing a reputation as one of the finest folk-blues balladeers of his generation. In that time, he has inspired audiences and listeners on either side of the Atlantic with music that is more than just entertainment. Amid the compelling melodies, masterful acoustic guitar work and stirring lyrics is an unmistakably spiritual element that enriches the lives of every person Bibb's music touches.
Over the years, Bibb's multi-faceted career has taken him from his native New York City to various European locales and other far-flung places—often for extended stays—and has instilled in him a decidedly global view of the human condition with all of its joys and sorrows. Steeped in various shades of blues, folk, gospel and reggae, A Ship Called Love is a reflective fourteen-song set that reaches out across boundaries with simple yet straightforward messages of love, unity and peace.
A Ship Called Love opens with the title track, which is a direct nod to the late Curtis Mayfield's classic and oft-covered ballad "People Get Ready" (Bibb dedicates the album to Mayfield, whom he describes as "a masterful troubadour whose songs will keep on being sung"). Bibb turns Mayfield's "train of freedom" into a seafaring vessel, but the message is the same: "Well, there's a ship called love gettin' ready to sail, people I know you know it's time to get on board…"
The brief followup track, "Victory Voices," is not about war or conquest in the conventional sense, but rather an invitation to overcome the prevailing state of disharmony and replace it with a universal sense of freedom for all, regardless of race, creed or nationality. Further in, "I'll Never Lose You," accented by gospel vocals and subtle horn arrangements, brings it back to a more personal level with a singer professing his loyalty to his lover.
Bibb borrows heavily from the reggae tradition on the island-flavored "Turning World," a track that features an engaging opening vocal line by Bibb's young daughter, Matilda Mandolina Bibb. The song is an invitation to all people to "keep on loving and leave all this useless suffering far behind," and in so doing take the world to a better place.
The quiet and pensive "When I Hear the Waves" draws on biblical imagery and references and celebrates the eternal nature of the ocean and the sun that rises over it. Throughout the piece, the singer looks forward to that time when he can step to the edge of the water and "lay my burden down." The closer, "Praise 'n' Thanksgiving," is just as spiritually charged as the opener, with lyrics that encourage shedding material worries and appreciating life's gifts and their source.
Eric Bibb's journey is ongoing. He has criss-crossed the world over the years, doing his best along the way to make it a better place with simple but profound songs and messages. His newest recording follows in that refreshing tradition. He invites you to get on board A Ship Called Love and be a part of the journey.
Bibb joins fellow bluesmen John Mayall & the Blues Breakers and Robben Ford in an eight-week tour of the U.S. that runs from September 21 through November 20.
Eric Bibb's A Ship Called Love (CD-83629) is scheduled for release on September 27, 2005.