Album Review of
Praising Peace: A Tribute to Paul Robeson

Written by Joe Ross
October 7, 2014 - 12:00am EDT
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

A father-son duo, Leon and Eric Bibb sing with much sentiment. Eric was raised in the 1960s in New York City, and his friends and influences included the likes of Odetta, Pete Seeger, Son House. He's a self-professed "bluesy troubadour" who views Paul Robeson as a great role model and man with a big soul. This album is a strong tribute to Paul Robeson and his impact as a singer, actor, peace activist and champion for racial equality.

Little Known Facts: A Princeton native, Paul Robeson lived from 1898-1976. He was a star football player at Rutgers, held a law degree and starred in movies. Robeson is godfather to both Eric and his twin sister. Leon Bibb did some concerts in the 1950s with Belafonte, Poitier and others to try to help Robeson get his passport back after he had travelled to Russia.

The Songs: Big Paul Robeson's signature song "Ol Man River" is followed by 13 songs (all but 4 from Robeson's repertoire). Various classics ("Danny Boy" and "The Water is Wide" and "Joe Hill") and spirituals ("Weeping May" and "A Home In That Rock") make up the set that conveys many moods. Many are given lean and soothing arangements with accompaniment by Bill Sample's piano or organ, but a handful of others have full ensembles. All songs on the 43-minute project include: 1. Prelude (Ol' Man River) 2. Joe Hill 3. Praising Peace 4. Put on Your Robe Son 5. Motherless Child 6. Home in That Rock 7. Weepin' Mary 8. House That I Live in 9. Shenandoah/The Water Is Wide 10. On Our Journey 11. Danny Boy 12. Deep River 13. Ol' Man River 14. Friend Like You

The Musicians: Leon and Eric do all the singing. Eric also picks some acoustic guitar. Other contributing musicians from the Vancouver, B.C. sessions include Bill Sample, Miles Hill, David Sinclair, Tom Keenlyside, Finn Manniche, and Jingles. Four other songs were recorded withothers in Arkansas, Sweden or London.

Of Special Note: Eric Bibb's own composition "Put on Your Robe, Son" is an uplifting alusion to the inspiring qualities of Paul. "On Our Journey," inspired by Paul's presence, was co-written by Eric and Paul. The album closes with Eric's "A Friend Like You," written for his 84-year-old father.

Any recommendations: There are liner notes from Paul Robeson, Jr. but very little bio information included about his father. Not many know that he was targeted in the 1950s as a suspected Communist by the House Unamerican Activities Committee.

Their Bumpersticker Might Say: Let's celebrate the human spirit and kinship

The Bottomline Is: The sweet melodies and uplifting messages of these superb folk and spiritual songs are an aural celebration of Americana that is every bit as good as Robeson's own "Ballad for Americans" and "The Power & The Glory" releases.