Briar Rabbit doesn’t hide from his roots. He prides himself on his legendary lineage (he’s B.B. King’s nephew), and the vibrant Chicago singer-songwriter has no problem candidly calling it for what it is.
“It’s really just a fun fact that tends to open the door [for listeners], but you really can’t compare us,” he says of his famous uncle. “I lucked out by not being a blues guitarist — the comparison between us can’t be drawn. I wasn’t trying to hoodwink anybody, though.”
If anything, Briar Rabbit’s debut album “From Your Bones” is less of a lure and more of a reward. Full of lush traditional harmonies and a palpable emotional gravity, his warm tenor takes the lead on every song. Lyrically, the album offers stark truths that effortlessly captivate audiences. He keeps this sentiment prevalent at his live show as well, which comes to Club Passim in Cambridge with Eric Stepanian on Wednesday.
“Performers don’t really talk to the crowd. They may comment on what they’re wearing or make some kind of joke. But at this stage, you’ve got to step your game up,” he says. “Talk to them — they’re human. I bring a lot of energy to my performances — mainly, I just sweat a whole bunch and talk to people.”
And the people have no problem talking back. “You know what I hear often? I saw posters of you and didn’t think you’d sound like that at all!”
Teetering on the brink of folk, Briar Rabbit is honest about the stereotypes surrounding black artists.
“It’s hard being culturally defined — some people expect R&B or hip-hop from me, but everyone who comes to my show is just really interested in hearing good music.”
While he’s still making a name for himself, he knows what type of concert-goers he manages to draw.
“My demographic is still growing, so I don’t really know the diversity of my audience in terms of race or anything,” he says. “But in terms of lame people versus awesome people, only awesome people tend to watch my shows.”