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February 20, 2014

Eric Bibb, Ruthie Foster to bring ‘Joy!’ to Rose-Hulman

TERRE HAUTE — He has been compared to blues greats like Taj Majal and John Lee Hooker. Blues Revue said she sings with a “full-on blast of soul.”

Grammy nominees Eric Bibb and Ruthie Foster will join forces Friday night at 7:30 on Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall stage as they present “Thanks for the Joy!”

Bibb comes by his roots music, and musical roots, honestly. His father is Leon Bibb, an acclaimed singer and a fixture of the 1960s New York folk scene who gave him a guitar at age 7 and introduced him to icons like Pete Seeger. Eric’s godfather was actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson, and his uncle was jazz pianist and composer John Lewis.

It is little wonder that Bibb’s musical creations are as nuanced as the blend of influences that shaped his talent from a young age.

Playing professionally by age 16, Bibb’s early gigs included a stint in the house band for his father’s televised talent show, “Something New.”

In the ensuing years, Bibb has recorded 35 albums, appeared on countless radio and television shows and traveled the world. He’s played in venues across Europe and Australia, and across the United States from B.B. King’s club in New York to the Bluebird Café in Nashville.

Bibb’s music crosses genres from folk to gospel-infused acoustic blues and country. In it he offers an optimistic spirit in difficult times, marked by the ability to see himself in other peoples’ shoes.

Bibb has been nominated for multiple awards in several categories. In addition to the Grammy nominated “Shakin’ a Tail Feather” children’s album (with Taj Mahal and Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir), other noted albums include “Friends,” which featured Odetta, Charlie Musselwhite, Guy Davis and Mahal as special guests and two collaborations with his father, “A Family Affair” and “Praising Peace: A Tribute to Paul Robeson.”

Foster effortlessly and powerfully blends soul, blues, rock, folk and gospel.  

Her amazing voice has taken her from a church choir in rural Texas to a Grammy nomination. But the journey was not without a few bumps and potholes along the way.

After serving a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band, Foster ended up in New York City, where a major-label development deal fell apart. Foster then took a hiatus from her musical career while caring for her ailing mother back in Texas.

When she resumed her music career in Austin, she became a regular nominee at the Austin Music Awards, winning Best Folk Artist in 2004-05 and Best Female Vocalist in 2007-08.

Further honing her musical style by incorporating a touch of blues and soul to her folk roots, Foster earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album on 2009’s “The Truth According to Ruthie Foster.” She then won Blues Music Association awards for both Best Traditional and Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist in back-to-back years — a testament to her impressive range and broad appeal.

Foster has collaborated with a diverse list of artists including Warren Haynes, Big Head Todd, Bonnie Raitt and Paul Thorn. She’s a regular favorite at an equally diverse list of festivals such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Monterey Blues Festival, Merlefest and the Kate Wolf Festival.

Her latest release, “Let It Burn,” is an eclectic collection of cover songs and originals. Foster’s renditions of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” John Martyn’s “Don’t Want to Know,” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” showcase her talent as an interpretive singer.

“When it comes to songs, often older ones, I love it when they find me and that’s what happened with ‘Ring of Fire.’ I put myself inside of that song, which speaks to the passion of a new relationship,” she said.

Her strong roots in the church are evident in offerings such as the original “Lord Remember Me.” She explained, “I haven’t lost my gospel in the way I approach a song.”

Tickets for Eric Bibb and Ruthie Foster are $18-22 for adults and $10 for students, and may be purchased at hatfieldhall.com, by phone at 812-877-8544 or in person at the Hatfield Hall ticket desk. For complete season information, including artist videos and more, visit hatfieldhall.com.

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