Bhi Bhiman / Justin Robinson & the Mary Annettes

There's plenty extraordinary about Bhi Bhiman besides the sharp juxtaposition between his family's origins (his parents emigrated from Sri Lanka) and his embrace of Americana roots. For one, he has an astonishing voice that evokes everyone from Bill Withers to Nina Simone, yet remains totally his own: a sometimes twangy, sometimes throaty, powerful instrument of odd but compelling timbre, complicated by operatic inclinations, the dusty whine of a Midwestern drifter, and a touch of classic soul. Bhiman's folkie guitar picking suggests a contemporary Woody Guthrie, but his arrangements have subtle international touches; both Afropop and Caribbean steel drums on "Time Heals," for instance. His songs are treasure troves of memorable characters, vibrant wordplay, and wry references to a wide array of cultural artifacts, from the Temptations to Wal-Mart to the cheating lover who's "cattin' 'round like a harlot in a Shakespearean play." Opening will be former Carolina Chocolate Drop Justin Robinson and the four piece Mary Annettes. Their 2011 debut, Bones For Tinder, is an idiosyncratic mix of jagged contemporary music extracts, classical, Appalachian, and blues played mostly on acoustic instruments running from banjo and lap steel to viola. (Photo by Matthew Washburn)
Thu., July 19, 8 p.m., 2012

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1601 University Ave. W.
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