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CD Review: Eric Bibb

The Deal: Smooth, soulful, gospel-flavored blues with a rootsy, folky underpinnings.

The Good: Though labeled a bluesman, what Bibb does falls somewhere between gospel blues/rock and folk, like a gentler version of Taj Mahal. His voice is like honey-coated burrs – there's just enough hoarseness to give it character. Even celebrity guest Bonnie Raitt's slide on "If Our Hearts Ain't In It" doesn't detract from Bibb's gorgeous delivery. You find yourself wanting her solo to be over with so you can get back to listening to Bibb. The title cut, along the lines of Curtis Mayfield's gospel-soul hymn "People Get Ready," sounds like a collaboration between The Ojays and The Dixie Hummingbirds. If Bibb ever decided to be an evangelist, he'd make a fortune. His message always goes down easy, presented sensibly and gracefully. "Deep In My Soul" features some tasteful backing from sacred steel icons the Campbell Brothers, and even though the guitar work shimmers brilliantly, it never overshadows Bibb's hushed, reverent vocals. Even when Bibb is tackling big issues like civil rights ("Step By Step") his delivery is understated but there's plenty of backbone.

The Bad: The only problem you have with a Bibb record is picking out your favorite song because they all become your favorites.

The Verdict: This guy is habit forming, but it's a habit you won't want to break.

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