April 9 2019 - By George Luke
The warm-hearted, folk-blues singer from New York (via Sweden) had a week-long residency at the legendary London jazz club this week and played to a packed house every night. I was there for the second day of the performances. The previous night, Van Morrison made a surprise guest appearance. Would some other big name turn up and surprise us tonight?
Alas, no. But it didn’t matter; surprise guests are fun, but Eric is more than capable of keeping a crowd captivated on his own. So too was his support act, Montréal-based blues singer and two-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner, Michael Jerome Browne. Michael also played in Eric’s band, alongside Neville Malcolm on bass, Staffan Astner on guitar and Paul Robinson on drums, with Eric’s wife Ulrika Bibb popping up occasionally to sing.
Although this tour was meant to promote Eric’s new album ‘Global Griot,’ Eric only sang one track from it: ‘Needed Time,’ an old Gospel song Taj Mahal taught him. The closest we got to the concept of the new album (in which he collaborates with musicians from across Africa and the Caribbean), was when he told a story about his first trip to west Africa and sang a song he’d written about meeting the Malian singer Habib Koité - one of his collaborators on the new album. Again, it didn’t matter. Eric’s warmth and charm coupled with the stellar musicianship on display made you feel like you hadn’t missed anything.
Eric’s theme song, ‘Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down’ provided a fitting close to a sublime, intimate evening. We poured out of Ronnie Scott’s, our spirits lifted.