It’s nice to be back. During my European excursion with my old flatmate we managed to catch Josh Ritter’s magnificent show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The Paradiso is a beautiful venue and Ritter delivered a killer set with the Royal CIty Band, bringing the songs of The Beast in its Tracks to full, brimming life. Old standards were also mixed in (including Ritter’s beautiful, solo take of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’) and throughout the gig Ritter grinned and bounded around like an excitable spaniel. I could easily fill this article with a note-by-note play of the show, but the reason I’m writing this is to share the music of one Bhi Bhiman (pronounced ‘Bee Bee-man’), who supported Ritter at the show.
A former member of San Francisco’s Hippie Grenade, Bhi Bhiman’s folk-country singer-songwriter (and other double-barrel categorisations) leanings completely bely his early influences of AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, who Bhiman cites as a particular influence. Picking up the guitar as a teenager when a sporting injury temporarily put him out of action, Bhiman eventually decided to pursue a career in music and has honed his storytelling skills into something very special. On his second album, Bhiman (produced by Josh Ritter producer/band member, Sam Kassirer), his stories range from women and blood (the signatures of country ballads) to railroad drifters and North Korean prisoners. He is also capable of skillfully reinterpreting songs on his damn fine covers EP Substitute Preacher, songs from which I will share in an upcoming Cover Me. His rocksteady rhythm guitar playing keeps the songs chugging along and is reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s sound, but on tracks such as ‘Mexican Wine’ and ‘Time Heals’ he also shows influences of World music, particularly South African melodies.
Other than his storytelling skills and his ear for a sublime melody Bhiman’s most outstanding quality, the one that caught my attention in Amsterdam, is his crisp and emotive vocals which cut right through the mix. His vocal delivery and timing are flawless, demanding attention and carrying the listener into the stories he spins. He is a truly remarkable performer and is sure to become a heavyweight figure of New Americana, concealed by a benign, welterweight appearance.
Bhiman and Substitute Preacher are both available now on Tummy Touch Records. Bhi Bhiman will also be supporting Chris Cornell on his upcoming US tour.