Eric Bibb's records with Needed Time's - `Spirit & the Blues' and `Good Stuff' - are available on Opus 3 Records, via Direct Distribution Roger Trapp
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In a bumper week for the blues, the possible highlight is a chance to compare and contrast Eric Bibb, star of the current vogue for acoustic blues, with Taj Mahal, old master and one of the younger man's inspirations when the two play together at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on 17 July. Though Mahal's latest, "Senor Blues" is winning ecstatic praise after a lean period, life just seems to get better for Bibb. On the strength of two records largely composed of country blues and gospel released by an obscure Swedish label, he is the toast of just about everybody. Bibb, who returns to the UK for the Cambridge Folk Festival on 25 July, is not the only young performer ploughing the acoustic blues furrow these days. But what distinguishes him is his ability to appeal to folks who would normally run a mile from the blues. Which is pretty much the case with Robert Cray (above), who starts a short UK tour in Glasgow tomorrow (Manchester on Monday, Shepherd's Bush Empire on Tuesday). Purists berate him for sounding too soft, but there is little doubt that he almost single-handedly rejuvenated the blues market in the early 1980s. The latest Cray offering, "Sweet Potato Pie" offers no real surprises, but, like most of its predecessors, it is a hugely-accomplished set that should do wonders for anybody still mourning the end of Stax. While Cray's audiences will no doubt find themselves nostalgic for a particular era, those listening to Bibb are liable to find themselves bounced about from time to time and style to style. Be prepared for anything from a man who has managed to make two of the most authentic-sounding downhome records of recent years - in Sweden with European musicians.