Bibb's multicultural blues gumbo

"I do like touring," he said. "It's something that's working well for me. I've been able to see positive results from touring in terms of lifting my profile. I don't jump freight trains, but I hang out a lot in airports. My wife is also my tour manager. We get to see wonderful places together. Even though it's a lot of hard work and sometime we want to be home, mostly we're happy to have a lifestyle that gives us so much."

Eric lives in Helsinki, Finland. He's lived for years in Scandinavia - which seems a bit odd for a man whose music comes from the Mississippi Delta.

"Well, I went to Paris from New York. Paris was the Mecca for expat musos. I met some great musos. I ran into (rock 'n' roll pioneer) Mickey 'Guitar' Baker when I was 19 and hung out with him for a while. Then some friends from Sweden invited me to Stockholm. I got a chance to make some recordings. I was able to dive deep into pre-war blues style. I got more blues nutrition and education than if I'd remained in New York.

"I live in Helsinki now. My wife is Finnish though she grew up in Australia. It's good for her to reconnect to her Finnish roots. I really enjoy Finland when I'm there."

These days Eric Bibb plays a lot with Swedish guitarist Staffan Astner. Staffan is featured on Eric's live album Troubadour Live!. They also played together when Eric and he performed at last year's Bluesfest in Byron Bay. Staffan will accompany Eric for the Lismore gig.

"Staffan Astner is one of the finest guitar players I ever worked with. His vocabulary when it comes to blues and R&B is phenomenal. Playing with him is a joy and an education. Together the two of us can cover a lot of space. And he loves Australia."

Eric has a distinctive finger picking style. It's as much folky as it is bluesy. It certainly is a lush backing for his smooth-as-honey voice.

"I'm not a lead guitarist in the sense I don't really solo with single notes, but Staffan is a master of that and also very knowledgeable of harmonies," Eric said. "My finger style came to me from the 60s folk scene - to be able to accompany oneself with one instrument, the guitar had to be full sounding. If you were going to be a one man band you had to have an accompaniment that supported the vocal.

"What was important to me was to capture a captivating bass line on the top strings. I love to hear a bass part in my guitar part as well as a harmony. I don't use a pick. Ry Cooder once said, 'Why would I put anything on my hands when we have this great invention, the human hand?'"

As well as touring all over the world, Eric Bibb spends a lot of time in the recording studio. A lot of time. He has recorded over 20 albums. He has just finished a new album called Deeper in the Well, recorded in Louisiana.

"I'm really happy with it," he said. "I wanted to make an acoustic band album. I wanted to play live and basically present a gumbo of older styles - like blues Zydeco and Cajun blues."

You will no doubt hear some of these new tunes when Eric Bibb and Staffan Astner play the Star Court Theatre in Lismore this Saturday, March 3, from 7pm.

Tickets are $59 from or from the Star Court booking office in the Star Court Arcade. For more info phone 6622 5005.

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