Eric Bibb wrote this song some years ago, but had not recorded it yet. He feels it has the spirit and the meaning of the holidays, even though it isn't a "Christmas Carol" as such. Perhaps that's because it carries a broader meaning, to be included in every faith's celebrations this time of year. We agreed.
Eric is better known in Europe than in the United States, but that may be changing. We were blown away upon hearing his recent CDs, and when he came to town for a concert, he was most gracious in talking to us about being on "Ornaments." He liked the idea. It was producer Joe Gunderman that asked if Eric would want to perform a song with his famous father, Leon. It did involve some extra effort, as Eric lives in Sweden and Leon lives in Vancouver. But it caught Eric's imagination, and when he returned to this continent for a late summer tour, he made plans to go up and see his dad. And reserve some studio time.
We had a chance to interview them together, and Mark Urycki, WKSU news reporter, asked them how the project had gone.
ERIC: "Recording with my dad is an extreme pleasure. I've been around his own recordings through my upbringing and to finally be collaborating with him as a peer is a real thrill for me. In fact, I'm the producer and I've just been told I pass muster so my dad would like me to be his producer on his next projects."
LEON: "I've been in the studios many times. I've watched Eric in this particular one song production and he's pains-taking, and very exacting (laughs) on me as well. I like the way the sound has come out. We've created, I think, a very nice song, and the production of that song is very much attributable to Eric's experience."
Leon Bibb grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, but made his name in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the '50s and '60s. He is a classically trained singer who grew up with all kinds of influences, including spirituals played by his Aunt in church. When Leon put together a folk act, all of those influences came together, and he covered a lot of musical ground. He included, "field hollars, chain-gang songs, spirituals, and English, Scottish and Irish ballads." One of the places he took his folk act was to Russia. Being politically active at the time, what with one thing and another, he ended up as one of the performers who got blacklisted. But he continued to play college campuses, as they would take folk performers, most of whom were "known to be left of center."
Leon didn't stop with music, though. He was trained as an actor and appeared in several productions, T.V. shows, and was on the Tonight Show.
Eric grew up exposed to all this. His father introduced him to all the greats of folk in that era, including Dylan who gave him guitar tips, Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez. His Godfather was Paul Robeson.
Qiu Xia He (pronounced Chu-Sha Her) plays the pipa, the Chinese lute, on this recording. She is the leader of a musical group called Silk Road Music. She is a native of China, but lives in Canada now. That's where Eric met her at a folk festival and asked her to play on this recording.
A lot more about Eric is on his web page, linked below. Suffice to say, the two of them coming together to record for our show, and adding Qiu-Xia, is a tremendous honor. We thank all three of them for their ornament.