ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 17, 1996
I remember when I was about 13 years old and my guitar teacher had his students put on a recital in some big old rented hall. If I recall correctly, the highlight of my performance involved some nervous noodling on an unspectacular rendition of everybody’s all-time fave “Camptown Races”. When Big Apple blues rocker Bill Perry was also 13, he played his first talent contest, but he wasn’t saddled with an instructional number from Alfred’s New Guitar Course.
His band rocked out with Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”, and they won.
“It went over well,” recalls Perry, calling from the road en route to a show in Sioux City, Iowa. “I was so nervous at first that I didn’t think my guitar was working, but I had just forgotten to turn the volume up.”
Twenty years later, Perry has no problem cranking up either his Gibson ES-335 or his Fender Strat, as one listen to his new album, Love Scars, will attest. Growing up amid a musical family in the upstate New York town of Chester, Perry first caught blues fever listening to his dad’s old records.
“My grandmother played organ in the church, and my mother played drums, but I was more into my father’s Jimmy Smith albums, which had Kenny Burrell on guitar.”
Perry claims that he hardly has time to listen to other guitarists these days, although when he takes off on one of Love Scars’ many fierce solos, his sustained attack is reminiscent of Irish string-bender Gary Moore’s recent work. Perry performs strictly original material on his debut CD, but some of the tunes have such a genuine old-time blues feel that you’d almost swear he’d snuck in a couple of standards.
“Well, that’s good,” says Perry “That’s a compliment. I mean, I write a lotta my own songs, so why do somebody else’s? We do a lot of covers in the live show, but I like to write.”
Perry says his favorite in-concert cover tunes these days include Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get?”, both of which could make the set list when his four-piece band kicks off a three-night stand at the Yale on Monday (October 21).
Love Scars was released on the Pointblank label, which specializes in product by such noted blues artists as Johnny Winter, John Hammond, and John Lee Hooker. According to the liner notes, it was recorded, mixed, and mastered in six days. (“On the seventh day, we rested and turned it up loud!” writes Perry in the CD credits. “You should too!”)
“I can’t see myself in the studio two or three weeks makin’ an album,” he says. “If the band’s prepared, if everybody knows their part, then what’s the problem? Play the songs, you know what I mean? That’s how I look at it. ’Cause I’m not into a lotta overdubbing and stuff like that; I just like to go in there and get it on the first or second take. And even if there’s a little mistake in there, it’ll capture the feeling, and that’s the difference. I can tell an album that’s been recorded in five months, with like the squeaky-clean production, and that’s not me.”