On Feb. 12, the Weis Center for the Performing Arts hosted a unique event downtown at the Campus Theatre. Blues musicians and longtime friends Ruthie Foster and Eric Bibb performed for the packed theater, giving Lewisburg a taste of folk, country, and blues.
The night was divided into two separate performances. Foster was the first to play, accompanied by a drummer. Her folksy interactions with the audience and the absence of a full band on stage kept the performance intimate, despite the calls of standing-room-only by the ushers.
Foster’s style is incredibly unique–something like Johnny Cash meets Otis Redding. On guitar, she is tight and powerful, hitting chords with strength while still allowing room for some slight improvisations between verses. Her voice was commanding and invoked a Gospel sound, blending effortlessly with her unique combination of folk and blues. The sound on drums was not overwhelming and helped bring out the subtleties of her guitar–at one point, the audience heard nothing except for the sound of her drummer playing spoons. As the audience clapped along, Foster played intermittent chords. She performed a variety of songs that she wrote, most notably a slower variation of “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash that she referred to as a “love song inspired by his admiration for his wife, June.”
The second half of the concert featured Eric Bibb, a Grammy-nominated artist from New York. His style–much older, resembling that of the classic southern Blues musicians–complemented Foster’s. He evoked an elegant simplicity that resonated on similar themes of community, hardship, and struggle. Bibb brought in an accompanying guitarist, who used his slide to interject small solos over his melody, bringing a characteristically southern twang to his music. He began his set with a powerful five-bar blues, but effortlessly transitioned to softer, slower songs without altering the atmosphere of the theater. Bibb’s entire performance felt like watching a man jam in the comfort of his own living room, giving the whole venue a familiar, inviting feeling.
The audience was energetic and reacted enthusiastically to both musicians. Elizabeth Cahill, a local resident, said that she has “known of Eric for almost eight years,” and said she was excited to see both him and Ruth live.
“They were great tonight,” Cahill said. “Both picked great accompanying musicians and I thought that this was an incredible opportunity to see two very talented musicians do what they love in a very small setting.”