Saturday, June 23, 2007

An encounter with the Tucson's "Godfather of Cow Punk"...Al Perry.

Yesterday Tucson treasure and Club Congress fixture Al Perry appeared on Access Tucson's The Bunny Show, hosted by our friend Bunny Uriarte, and played his witty and sardonically self-deprecatingly little ditty "Loserville":

This is the house
That all my troubles built
I live at the end of Blue Street
In a town called Loserville.
When your true love's gone
And you're down to your last cent
In this neighborhood
There's always a place to rent.

Afterwards at the customary free dinner provided by Bunny and her mom and director Martha McGrath, we had a chance to chat with this local legend whose dedication to quality roots music stands in stark contrast to a pop culture where "merchants of swill" seem to garner most of the laurels and airplay. Al and "T.S. Minton Blogs Guy" Steve Minton discussed a variety of musical trends and notions:

- How Tucson has produced acts of such indubitable musical integrity as Stefan George; Luca; Giant Sand; in my estimation himself; and yet few have burst into the national consciousness (Linda Ronstadt of course is a delightful exception). We both enthused about Stefan George: an awesomely adept guitar virtuoso whether it's country, folk, or blues that comes to hand; a grizzly-voiced singer with rich conviction, soul, and lovely harmonies with his partner Lavinia White; a writer of lyrics with profound meaning and depth...all in all, a great total package who deserves more recognition. (George was also a resident with yours truly at the Cascabel Clayworks hippie commune in the mid-70s, see below.)

- His influences: Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, among others; these acts account for the "cow" part of Perry's label as "the godfather of cowpunk." But what about the "punk" part of that moniker? Al mentioned the fact that rock music had reached such a nadir in the late 70s, dominated by performers I have elsewhere dubbed "bland corporate shit-rock", i.e. Styx, Toto, Foreigner, et al. that the only music at the time to burst on the scene with any quality and vitality was punk. He was impressed by the high-energy country rock acts that emerged in the 80s who fused punk intensity with country stylings, such as the Blasters and Jason and the Scorchers. Thus we arrive at "cow punk"...and our ears are enriched by it.

- How would a beginning Bob Dylan or Janis Joplin fare on American Idol? Not to well, we concluded: they lacked the requisite plastic Hollywood appearance; they had creaky and unusual (although incredibly emotive) voices; they were too blazingly original for a culture that enshrines corporate product over distinctive genius. Either of them though had more talent in their pinkie than anyone who's ever appeared on that Idol show. And even with a current musical scene where there's plenty of excellence (I think of most of the stuff on Tucson's 92.9 The Mountain, i.e. Norah Jones, The Killers, Augustana, and on 92.1 KXCI Community Radio, i.e. The White Stripes, The Shins, and other pleasing oddities they play from avant-garde to Americana) we both were stumped to name an artist of recent note who qualifies as epically great, i.e. an artist whose scope and depth could shake the foundations of our culture (as Bob Dylan and The Beatles did in the 60s). Sure Prince was an example of that level of protean musical skill, at least in his output a decade and two ago; even he though couldn't cut to the marrow of our culture as the aforementioned did.

Here's an excerpt from his site

Perry is known throughout the world for his genuine love of almost all forms of music, although he has a particular affinity for Link Wray, Buck Owens, and Brian Wilson. His prodigiously eclectic tastes are reflected in the bands and musicians with whom he has played throughout his career: blues with the Subterranean Blues Band, rockabilly with the Psyclones and Hecklers, cowpunk with The Cattle, heavy metal country with Gila Bend, 60s garage with The Marshmallow Overcoat. The list of genres and musicians is virtually endless. In live performances, Perry moves seamlessly from original songs to surf instrumentals to covers of Merle Haggard, Porter Wagoner, Cream, or obscure groups that have long since vanished from the cultural radar.

Al Perry has always been an alchemist of sorts, transforming his ongoing musical education into songs that have delighted and amazed his fans and fellow musicians for years. "Always a Pleasure" continues that proud tradition. The music on this CD is stripped down and muscular, devoid of ostentation, brutally honest and elegant at the same time. The singing is also a revelation; soft and seductive, with almost no barrier between Perry and the listener. "Always a Pleasure" is, indeed --as one critic called it--an "instant classic."

The album can be ordered from Al Perry at the address below for $12 ppd. in the US, $14 ppd for the rest of the world. CD-Rs and singles can also be obtained, just ask.

Al Perry
PO Box 40421
Tucson, AZ 85717 USA

Al Perry's Clambake

KXCI Community Radio 91.3, Mondays at 10pm
Click here for live streaming.

No comments: