Published May 17, 2015Most people think Marc Ribot should stick to guitar and stay away from singing, but I beg to disagree. There is not much reason to argue about the strength of his string work. The stuff he's done as a sideman is great, and playing with his own trio, he always blows the room apart. For some people, this in itself can be too much. Ribot's ability to slide back and forth between tunes (Is that John Lee Hooker's "Little Wheel?" No wait, it's B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone." No wait...etc.) is ambrosia to some, and a symptom of ADD to others. So be it.
People seem to agree that his collaborators, Ches Smith and Shahzad Ismaily (also of Secret Chiefs 3), are great players. And they'll admit that Ribot's dense Ernie Isley/Hendrix tone recreations are pretty amazing. But almost no one digs his singing.
Come on, people! Tonight (May 16), when he sang Serge Gainsbourg's "Drowned Woman," he demonstrated (as Gainsbourg himself did) that it's not about the notes, but the feeling. By this measure, Ribot is a very cool vocalist; he's just working a different tradition. Get with it!