Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Jon Ashley at Echo Mountain Studio, Asheville, NC
The dinner party that we're currently attending has seemed normal, so far, except for all the talk about the butcher bird. We can look around and see the other folks gathered around the table in their finest clothing and heirloom accessories. The men are in their seersuckers, suspenders and vests and the women are in flowing, but light and airy summer dresses. The hats and umbrellas were all left by the doorway, in the foyer with the echoes, the dissipating greetings and smiles. Everything is going down smoothly - the wine, the lamb and the homemade pie. It's been an evening that's loosened up appropriately, with the Jazz Age music playing lightly from the parlor, a few rooms over.
Justin Robinson, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, conjures up this kind of imagery with his sweet and effortless tones and the colorful words that he writes for he and the Mary Annettes. He's always come from a bygone day, where one could argue that things were easier, while being unquestionably harder. He comes from a time when leisure time was absolutely earned and, at the end of a hard work day, one cleaned up, put some tonic in their hair and on their cheeks and they sat down to a meal that was a culmination of the previous 10-12 hours of backbreaking labor. There were pipes to smoke, right after the blue trout were pulled out of the lake, strung up and deboned.
The North Carolina band, made up of Robinson, Elizabeth Marshall, Kyra Moore, Sally Mullikin and Josh Stohl, is an ambidextrous configuration, working backwards and forwards, multiple angles and moods, while still seemingly bringing it back to having a couple snakes in one hand and a few birds in the other. It's sweet, Southern music for those who can't help but feel that times are tough and there's not enough sweetness in the world to combat that. These are scenes where the stars are made out of iron, where there's a box of magic and there are plenty of old battle scars - illuminated and ready to innumerate - as Robinson and the ladies so wonderfully sing.