ERIC BIBB | Cheltenham Jazz Festival

The blues are often under represented at UK jazz festivals, but Cheltenham’s commitment is unwavering.  Saturday’s headliner was the first minister of rhythm and blues Booker T. Jones, and on Sunday Eric Bibb brought his trademark sound of easy-going blues and golden voice to Cheltenham’s town hall to play a selection of familiar favourites and material from his new album ‘Migration Blues’.

Bibb’s deep honeyed voice bears some comparison to Gregory Porter (who headlined the festival’s closing night on Monday), but is perhaps less pursuing of the invention and creation that has helped propelled the latter to stardom.  Instead, Bibb’s soft grooves on folk tunes feel instantly familiar and comforting. The moaning blues guitar of fellow blues troubadour Michael Jerome Brown added welcome harmonic edge.

A moving performance of ‘Brotherly Love’ (“before it’s too late, replace fear and hate with brotherly love”) added depth to Bibb’s repertoire, a message of tolerance and love that received affirmative applause from the audience. It was ‘Don’t let Nobody ever drag your spirit down’, fondly referenced by Bibb as his personal theme tune, that most satisfied the fans.  Even Bibb’s wide-brimmed panama hat could not hide the wider smile that grinned beneath, mirrored by the smiles of the audience who wallowed in the warmth of his performance.

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