December 2004

Eric Bibb, Rory Block, Maria Muldaur - Sisters & Brothers
Telarc SACD-63588
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2004

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

With Eric Bibb’s signing to Telarc Records, the seeds for this recording could finally be planted. Rory Block and Maria Muldaur have already released a number of wonderful efforts for the label. Bibb has done estimable work on a number of labels, and he released his first Telarc disc a few months ago. Sisters & Brothers demonstrates that bringing these three together in an intimate setting in Unity, Maine was an inspired idea.

Please don’t mistake this for an all-star date where the closest the leaders get to each other is the cover photo. Nothing could be further from the truth. Right from the opening track, an a cappella rendition of "Rock David," all three musicians are playing together and singing harmony on one another’s songs. Bibb and Block handle all the guitar playing, backed up by Chris Burns on piano and/or Wurlitzer, Michael "Mudcat" Ward on bass, and Per Hanson on drums.

This is honest, rural, backcountry blues by three artists who were weaned on the stuff, especially Muldaur, who has been singing songs like this her whole life. Listen to her confident handling of Bibb’s "Bessie’s Advise" for a prime example. And the recording meets the standards set by the performances. Vocals are true, instruments are rock-solid, and the soundstage is nicely defined. I hope this is the first in a run of albums featuring these three. Every layer, from CD to stereo SACD through surround SACD is good, better, best (and I’ll leave it to you to decide your personal preference). Don’t let this album’s 24-bit PCM origin dissuade you from giving it a try. This is a wonderfully fine-sounding blues disc. It’s already one of my favorites.