Bhi Bhiman / Justin Robinson & the Mary Annettes
Show DescriptionBhi Bhiman is an American original, yet he seems transported from an era in which songs were more important than the pretty faces that delivered them. His rich, bellowing tenor can soothe or explode at a moment’s notice. His lived-in, knowing delivery belies his years. His songwriting, too, is quick to captivate: a mix of humor and deep empathy puts him in the company of distinguished (and much older) lifelong songsmiths like John Prine, Nick Lowe and Randy Newman. And Bhiman’s technical, emotive guitar playing rises to the challenge that his striking voice presents.
Justin 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."