Behold, how good and how pleasant for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.” — Psalm 133
The blues has a spiritual side which is every bit as important to the make-up of the blues as is the physical side. That’s right! Man’s (and woman’s) spiritual life can be just as visceral as the rest of life. Nobody knows this better than blues singers. They might claim that the “blues is just a bad dream” but there’s a real element of hope in the blues. That bad dream will not last forever; there’s a way out of it! This album, recorded by three blues performers, is a fine example of how that hope works.
Eric Bibb, Rory Block and Maria Muldaur each has a solid solo career. Each one brings his or her separate gift to this collaborative project. The album begins with a gospel call and response on “Rock Daniel.” Think of the Fairfield Four tune from the *O Brother Where Art Thou* soundtrack. Now think of it with Maria Muldaur and Rory Block adding vocals. Very tasty. Next Eric Bibb takes the lead on a shuffle entitled “Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down.” The ladies provide some stunning background vocals.
“Get Up Get Ready” swings, as Maria takes a featured role. Block adds jazzy blues guitar, and Chris Burns makes his presence known with some solid piano licks. Upright bass is played by Michael “Mudcat” Ward, and Per Hanson adds drums throughout.
Rory Block sings the lead on Bill Withers’ classic “Lean On Me” with high harmony added by Muldaur. Burns lays down the framework with fat piano chording. Bill Withers is a lost treasure, and deserves a greater audience for his marvelous soulful songs.
Muldaur looks back to the Queen of the Blues in a smouldering version of “Bessie’s Advice.” She and Bibb co-wrote this tune, which depends on Burns’s piano, some quiet fingersnaps, and Maria’s husky vocals.
Bob Dylan’s “born again” period produced a series of pointed and memorable songs. Probably the most recognizable one is “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Eric Bibb gives it a ride accompanied by Burns’s keyboards. Muldaur and Block provide the backing vocals while Bibb sings Dylan’s lyrics in silky r&b tones. “Good Stuff” shows Bibb’s acoustic guitar skills. Block is no slouch on the six string either as she shows on “Maggie Campbell.”
The trio sound as if they were born to sing together. They capture the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the spiritual and the physical aspects of a life of blues. The sound is up to Telarc’s high standards. Producer Randy Labbe manages to capture pristine sound that never loses the essential humanity of the performers. Warm and real. There are 13 songs on this album. Each one adds to the magic. Recommended.