ERIC BIBB, JOSH WHITE JR.
Guitarist and singer Eric Bibb is a leading light of the blues revivalist movement, largely because he's not afraid to get his fingerprints all over the folk traditions that some of his peers treat as holy relics. For 1999's Home to Me, rereleased last year by the EarthBeat! label, Bibb wrote or cowrote ten of the thirteen songs, and his lithe acoustic fingerpicking and honey-lemon vocals are backed by chunky percussion, burbling keyboards, and tubular-toned electric guitar leads. Bibb sticks to tradition on acoustic blues numbers like the prison-farm lament "No More Cane on the Brazos," his youthful-sounding voice grating with despair and anger; on a delicate pop-soul ballad like "For You," on the other hand, he evokes the soaring spirits of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. A popping funk-blues bass line propels "World War Blues," and on "Walk the Walk" a jumpy pop-rock drum pattern helps intensify the urgency of his lyrics. Plenty of revivalists sound like they're reading from someone else's yellowed songbook even when they play their own tunes, but Bibb brings immediacy to everything he touches. Opening act Josh White Jr. sings in a pristine croon like his legendary father, his diction virtually devoid of any ethnic or regional nuance. On last year's Cortelia Clark (Silverwolf), his relentless earnestness drains the pathos from the title ballad and emasculates his father's swaggering blues anthem "Evil Hearted Man"--White's tenderness, for all its generosity of spirit, sometimes feels more like naivete. On his reading of the Sinatra standard "One for My Baby," however, White's soft-edged tenor and spot-on intonation come off suave and elegant. And on his arrangement of James Taylor's "You Can Close Your Eyes" he joins Cliff Gracey and keyboardist Billy Alberts in shimmering three-part gospel harmony that transcends the self-pitying narcissism of Taylor's lyrics. At this concert Bibb and White will each be accompanied by an acoustic bassist. Sunday, February 18, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000. White will also give a free in-store performance Saturday, February 17, at 3 PM at Borders Books & Music, 150 N. State; 312-606-0750.