Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes

Last night I went to Kings, for the Mt. Moriah record release party. Apologies to Mt. Moriah, and to the Organos; I was there to see Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes. (And then I ended up drinking PBR and having girl talk at a patio table on Hargett Street, so it was a one-band weekend. )

I wanted to see this band, in particular, because I saw Justin Robinson play last year, twice, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. At the last show, at Lincoln Theater, there were some enigmatic goodbye moments, and then there was a solo piece Justin did as a thank you to his band mates. It felt final, and it made sense a few weeks later when the band announced a new lineup, and everyone wished everybody well. I thought their last album was masterful, and the Grammys thought so too, and I was really curious to see who Justin Robinson is, post Chocolate Drops, post Grammy win.

I’m not actually sure yet, and I get the sense that he’s not, either, which has to be a pretty interesting place to be in, musically. I mean, we’ve all been at a starting-over place before; post-graduation, post-breakup, post- move to a new city; places where we get to decide what’s working and worth keeping, what needs to be thrown out, and how much space to make for something new.

The band made some jokes about how hard they are to categorize; there was definitely roots music in there, and a little bubblegum pop, and a Blondie cover, but with a banjo and fiddles and a viola. Very eclectic. The best moment of the show for me, though, was when the band did a spooky, riveting number called “Vultures.” I’ve never seen anyone do that to an autoharp before (actually, I’ve never seen anyone do much of anything to an autoharp before) but he put on these wicked fingerpicks, wore that thing like a weapon, and transcended the crowd at Kings and took us to a haunted, surreal place for the space of the song. And now I’m curious again, to see what happens next.

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