Singer-songwriter and guitarist Bhi Bhiman doesn't need much to ignite a fury of fascinating expressions; only the simplest of recording set-ups of guitar and vocal mics plugged into his laptop. Yet, even with such simplicity, he projects a towering voice that so urgently grabs your attention, you hang onto every word he sings. Bhiman's latest recording, Substitute Preacher 2, features a new set of mesmerizing acoustic covers in a series that follows his wildly popular 2013 EP (volume 1) of the same name. Fans will be treated to Bhiman's truly original takes on classic hits such as "My Best Friend's Girl" (The Cars), "Back In Black" (AC/DC), "Magic Carpet Ride" (Steppenwolf), "Paranoid" (Black Sabbath), and "My Way" (Frank Sinatra).
Bhiman's foray into recording covers (Substitute Preacher 1) was such a hit that his rendition of "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits garnered several sync placements, including for an Apple Watch commercial starring Alice Cooper. The track further landed in a series of Xfinity commercials. The same year Substitute Preacher 1 was released (2013), Bhiman took the stage at Carnegie Hall for a tribute show hosted by The Roots to commemorate Prince; other special guests included Elvis Costello, Talib Kweli, and Chris Rock.
Bhiman's take on "When Doves Cry" was reported on by Rolling Stone, who said, "But maybe the best performance of the evening -- or at least the most memorable -- was Bhi Bhiman's solo acoustic take on 'When Doves Cry,' his vocals giving off a haunted air that left the crowd speechless." Entertainment Weekly touted, "Perhaps most astonishingly, folk guitarist Bhi Bhiman transformed 'When Doves Cry' into a foreboding murder ballad. In spinning the song in a different direction, Bhiman made a song everybody knew backwards into a wholly new thing."
Substitute Preacher 2 revisits his passion for devouring songs written by artists he loves. For Bhiman, it's not simply playing the piece just as the original artists' would. He approaches covers as if it's a standalone new song that he personally wrote himself. Bhiman reflects, "I'm still writing new original songs and will have a new album coming out, but I've always learned other people's tunes. I have an intense interest to dive into their craft and style. I end up playing all the parts, from extensive rock guitar solos to studying the intricacies of the arrangements, melodies, and rhythms. I guess you could say Im a bit obsessed with turning these songs inside out."
Substitute Preacher 2 opens with AC/DC's "Back In Black." Bhiman goes back in time with a Johnny Cash-meets-the-Everly Brothers style on this rock anthem as if it were the original composition. The standout single "My Best Friend's Girl" by The Cars introduces syncopated West African guitar lines into a mix of Americana and Reggaeton. A country blues vibe reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt takes over "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf. Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" is made into a plaintive folk murder ballad, and "My Way" by Frank Sinatra might be the most rewarding risk Bhiman has taken as an artist. Substitute Preacher 2 constitutes primarily of live takes with only vocals and guitar with minimal overdubs. The EP is co-produced by Sam Kassirer.
Over the course of his career, Bhiman has developed a dedicated following after the release of four acclaimed studio albums. His 2019 album, Peace of Mind, launched as a podcast, with each episode revealing a new song, political theme, and a conversation with a lauded special guest, such as author Dave Eggers. Since its release, Bhiman has worked behind the scenes on diverse projects from acoustic versions of "Faith" by Galantis x Dolly Parton and "Unwell" by Steve Aoki x Kiiara featuring Rob Thomas. He has also worked with actor Keegan-Michael Key, rapper/director Boots Riley, and late iconic musician Chris Cornell.
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Substitute Preacher 2
1. Back In Black
2. My Best Friend's Girl
3. Magic Carpet Ride
5. My Way