Bhi Bhiman’s voice is distinct and powerful. In fact, his delivery is as textured and girthy as the mighty redwood trees near his home in San Francisco. Apologies for the hyperbole, but both the above sentences offer insight into Bhiman’s self-titled release, Bhiman. His vocal abilities and crafted Americana-style songs are excellent. This said, having his album rest on those laurels seems like it might have been a bit boring for Bhiman, and hence, many of his lyrics are, at minimum, tongue in cheek. The result of this mix of talent, skill, and farce is a refreshingly modern and insightful album.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the vocals on Bhiman is Bhiman’s perfect a control of his vibrato. This control brings to mind R’n’B miracle workers Howard Tate. Honestly, the way Bhiman slides up to his high notes in the opening track ‘Guttersnipe’ is as smooth as one of The Four Tops sliding ahead of the group for his solo.
The music on the album is well written in a way that makes it seem clear that Bhiman has thoroughly studied the idioms of American music. That thorough study, however, led him, on occasion, to use images from traditional American music that feel out of place on the album. ‘Kimchee Line’, ‘Cookbook’ and ‘Ballerina’ are good litmus tests for whether one will enjoy Bhiman, as they are the most overtly political, wry, and reliant on a tension between traditional music and a modern perspective.
‘Eye on you’ would be a great song for aspiring singer/songwriters to learn. It feels like Bhiman is writing what he knows, and it is really satisfying. Also, by this point in the album, he somehow has built an atmosphere where it feels totally normal for him to sing the phrase “you’re hanging up on my calls and always busting my balls”.
Though there were a few out of place moments on the album, the talent, style and wit make Bhiman a great listen. It is surely deserving of the rave reviews that it has received thus far, and harbinger of very good things to come from Bhi Bhiman.
Words: Paul Kellner