Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes
Artist DescriptionJustin Robinson and the Mary Annettes' debut full-length, Bones For Tinder, paints a much more vivid picture of this eclectic individual than his work in the Carolina Chocolate Drops ever did. "Bonfire" and "Nemesis and Me" recall the crepuscular indie rock of the Go-Betweens, while the slowly unspooling lyrical intro to "Kissin and Cussin" flirts with sepia-tone hip-hop. "Ships and Verses" dishes out grooves that could prompt the foot soldiers of Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation to bust out in a buck and wing or a merry minuet, as mandolin and fiddle licks run rings around Motown handclaps. For "Vultures," strokes across the autoharp ride skeletal funk breaks with the surprising grace of an equestrienne sitting sidesaddle. It is impossible to pigeonhole the Mary Annettes. "I couldn't characterize it in any one genre," concurs Robinson. "It's what I like, which is lots of different things… and everything I've been influenced by."
Robinson dropped his formal music studies during middle school, but when he arrived at college, his interest was reignited. Back home, Justin had chuckled when he saw his neighbors singing off-key on the local public access shows, or the family phone picked up a nearby religious broadcasting station. Now, in an unexpected twist, he missed these rootsy sounds. "When I came to school, I noticed their absence." So he sought them out, listening to the Chieftains, Alison Krauss, and Dolly Parton's The Grass Is Blue. Meanwhile, he also delved into Cuban and Puerto Rican grooves from the '60s and '70s.
While studying at UNC Chapel Hill, Justin met kindred spirits Rhiannon Giddens and Don Flemons at a Black Banjo Gathering. "We were all young, we were all black… and we were all interested in the same obscure traditions." As the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the trio would tour the world and record three critically acclaimed albums, including 2010's Genuine Negro Jig, which won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Recording. But after five years, Robinson elected to leave. Focusing exclusively on a single pursuit simply ran contrary to his nature.
"I'm an explorer by nature, and I always have been," he concludes. "I've always wondered what's on the other side of the ridge.” So long as he regales us with the sights, sounds and tastes of where his adventures lead, we hope Robinson never stays in one place for too long.
"Folk music, even loosely defined, is rarely this rivetingly unpredictable."
-Jennifer Kelly, Blurt-Online.com
"Bones for the Tinder picks up more or less where Genuine Negro Jig left off. Robinson and his backing band, the Mary Annettes, play a range of postwar styles—from r&b to Motown soul to hip-hop—on old-school folk instruments. "
-Stephen Deusner, American Songwriter