Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Elvis Perkins in Dearland may fit easily into the folk category, but one of the most striking qualities of Perkins’ music is his ability to pull the best from past decades in music history (decades dominated, ironically, by his namesake) and write them, maybe not into a single song, but a singe album, the self-titled “Elvis Perkins in Dearland,” which came out earlier this year. Referencing everything from blues to R&B to good ol’ barnstomping rock ‘n’ roll, Perkins’ performance is as confident as his songwriting. Listening to one of his albums is a bit like taking a step back in time (even his bandmates’ names are old timey: Brigham and Wyndham!); His yips and warbling echo Buddy Holly and some of his lyrics are straight out of the Old Testament, but the effect that all these styles have when played in harmony is a sound all his own.
Ending the tour for the album in New York this past weekend, Perkins was in top form. As professional is he his prolific, Perkins is not only a seasoned musician but a capable bandleader who knows how to put on a show. Followed by his three bandmates, the whole ensemble made their entrance at the Bowery last Friday night marching band-style with Nick Kinsey strapped into a big drum, setting the pace. Between the four of them they play 10 instruments, including the trombone, harmonica and the harmonium. But backed for the first time by strings (introduced as his ” dudes from Julliard”) the songs were bigger and richer and had the audience clapping their hands nearly the whole set through. Watching the band play together, it struck me how easy Perkins makes the whole effort look; No sooner had he slipped on a different guitar than he had a song pumping out of it. Now that he seems to have mastered what was once uncovered ground with this last album, it’ll be exciting to see where he goes next.